Civic Engagement Commission Members

Members

Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director of the Civic Engagement Commission, is a Bronx resident and has been dedicated to building an inclusive public square for almost two decades. For the past three and a half years, Sayeed has been a Senior Advisor in the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, where she has strengthened the civic engagement of a diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Muslim constituency. Prior to this, she worked for over seven years at the Interfaith Center of New York, bringing together New York’s diverse grassroots religious leaders with secular and city agencies, and implementing an extended collaboration between Catholic and Muslim social service providers. Sayeed also taught Communications to graduates and undergraduates at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs for five years. Through her years of volunteer work with diverse Muslim organizations, including Women in Islam, Inc., she has been an avid promoter of interfaith relations and Muslim women’s public engagement. Sarah holds a B.A. in Sociology and Near East Studies from Princeton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Communications from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. She also holds a certificate in Reconciliation Leadership through the Institute for Global Leadership and is an alumna of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI) Fellows program.

Murad Awawdeh is a Brooklyn resident and Arab-American Muslim son of immigrants. He is the Vice President of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition where he oversees the community, member, civic and political engagement departments. In addition to serving as Vice President of Advocacy for the New York Immigration Coalition, Awawdeh also serves as the Political Director for the New York State Immigrant Action Fund. Awawdeh is the President of Yalla Brooklyn, which is an organization committed in engaging Arabs and Muslims in the electoral process. He also is the President Emeritus of the Muslim Democratic Club of NY, the Chair of the Immigration Committee for Justice 2020 Initiative, and is a board trustee of New York University Family Health Centers.   

Holly Bonner is a Staten Island resident who is legally blind and the founder of Blind Motherhood. Bonner suffered a rare complication while battling breast cancer in which she lost her eyesight at the age of 32. Bonner founded an online blog, Blind Motherhood, which is dedicated to proving that blind and visually impaired parents execute their parental duties independently, effectively and safely. In addition to her online blog, Bonner also is a contributor to NBC’s TODAY Show as a Parenting Columnist, Coordinator of the American Foundation for the Blind’s ‘Blind Parenting Series’, an Adjunct Psychology Professor at Metropolitan College of New York, and the Staten Island Borough Coordinator for VISIONS Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired. She previously was the Director of Education & Outreach for Illuminart Productions. Bonner received a Master’s of Social Work from Colombia University School of Social Work and is a candidate for her Doctorate in Ministry at New York Theological Seminary.

Amy Breedlove is a Brooklyn resident, self-identifying member of the LGBTQ community and is a Business Strategist at Urban Quotient. She’s a consultant to various architectural and design firms and also serves as the President of the Cobble Hill Association. Breedlove is a board member, treasurer and Chair of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee of Stonewall Community Development Corporation, an organization focused on developing affordable and supportive housing for LGBTQ seniors. She received degrees from the University of the Arts in Pennsylvania, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and ESSEC Business School in France.

Donna Veronica Gill is a resident of Manhattan and a Higher Education Officer at Hunter Bellevue School of Nursing. Along with her work at Hunter Bellevue, Gill works with and advises the New York State Youth Leadership Council, which works with immigrant youth through various programs including leadership development and educational advancement, on Higher Education and educational funding. Gill is lifelong resident of Harlem, a member of Community Board 10, and volunteers with CUNY’s Citizenship Now program, which helps immigrants complete applications for citizenship, DACA, TPS and other programs. Gill received her Degree in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College.

Jose Hernandez is a Bronx resident, paraplegic and is the President of United Spinal Association’s New York City chapter. Hernandez became paralyzed when he was a teenager and works closely with disability rights groups. He volunteered with the Wheels of Progress Inc., served on the organization’s advisory board and has helped them redesign and maintain both their website and social media. Hernandez previously worked as the Communications Coordinator for Concepts of Independence. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University.

Linda Lee is a Queens resident and the Executive Director of the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (KCS). Linda started at KCS in 2009, is a member of Community Board 11 in Queens, was a recent board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City, is part of the leadership team at New Vision Covenant Church, and is a National Advisory Committee member of NYU's Center for the Study of Asian American Health. Linda has been recognized as a recipient of the Stars Under 40 Award from Schneps Communications and 40Under40 Award as a rising star from NY Nonprofit Media. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Barnard College, and Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University.

Annetta Seecharran is a Queens resident, non-profit leader and is the Executive Director of Chhaya CDC. Before joining Chhaya CDC, Seecharran was the Director for Policy and Advocacy for United Neighborhood Houses, a Program Director for International Youth Foundation, and Executive Director of South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!). She is a current and former member of several local and national boards including Chayya CDC and a founding member of New York State Immigration Action Fund. Seecharran received degrees in non-profit management from both Harvard Business School and Colombia Business School.

Anastasia Somoza is a Manhattan resident, the daughter of immigrants, and the New York City Council's first-ever liaison to the disability community. Somoza is a lifelong advocate for the disabled, having been born prematurely, with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. She is a renowned public speaker on disability rights. Her advocacy work began at the age of 9, when she had the opportunity to ask President Bill Clinton to help mainstream her twin sister Alba into the New York City public school system. She has spoken around the world, including at the Democratic National Convention. In March of 2017, she began working with the Center for American Progress to raise awareness about what is at stake for Americans with disabilities. Somoza holds a degree from Georgetown University.

Anthony Harmon serves as the United Federation of Teachers’ director of parent and community outreach; the director of Dial-A-Teacher, the union’s homework help service; the director of the Albert Shanker Scholarship Fund; and the chair of the UFT African Heritage Committee. Harmon was elected as an AFT vice president in July 2018. In addition to his UFT duties, Harmon still manages to serve in many other capacities, including as the president of the New York City chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a member of the national board of directors of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the president of the New York branch of the NAACP, a delegate to the New York City Central Labor Council, a member of the board of directors of the New York State United Teachers, a member of the board for the Greater New York Labor and Religion Coalition, a member of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and a delegate to the AFL-CIO convention. In May 2018, he was elected as executive vice president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, one of the constituency groups of the AFL-CIO. 

Charles Apelian, appointed by Queens Borough President Katz, is a Queens resident and community leader with extensive experience in local public policy. He serves as Vice Chair and Land Use Chair of Queens Community Board 7, where he has prioritized the input and interests of diverse communities and has helped guide rezonings to make way for developments such as Flushing Commons, Willets Point, and the College Point Police Academy. An engineer by trade, Mr. Apelian also serves as an associate trustee of Northwell Health System and is a board member of the Long Island Hearing and Speech Society at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

Eve Baron, appointed by Brooklyn Borough President Adams, is a Brooklyn resident and Chair of the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment in the School of Architecture at the Pratt Institute. Baron brings extensive experience in higher education, advocacy and government. Previously, she was Adjunct Associate Professor in the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment and Senior Fellow for Planning and Policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development. Most recently, she was Academic Program Manager of Urban and Community Studies at The Murphy Institute in the City University of New York’s (CUNY) School of Professional Studies. 

Lilliam Perez, appointed by Bronx Borough President Diaz, is a Bronx resident and Vice President of Government & Community Relations at Montefiore Health System. Perez grew up in the Bronx and has received numerous recognitions for her political activism, including being named one of “40 Rising Stars Under 40", The Next Generation of Political Leaders in New York by the City Hall News. Prior to her current position, she worked as Chief of Staff for District Office Operations for former State Senator and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, where she collaborated with numerous organizations dealing with social justice issues such as education and immigration reform, political empowerment and women’s rights. She is a founder and former board member of the Latina Political Action Committee, former board member and treasurer of the Dominican Women’s Development Center and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Perez holds a B.A. from Long Island University.

Lori Fiorito is an award-winning Staten Island realtor and passionate community advocate. An alumnus of Edward R. Murrow High School (Brooklyn), Ms. Fiorito received her associate’s degree from Kingsborough Community College.

In 1986, she began working for Abiding Real Estate, and is currently working for DiTommaso Real Estate, a career that afforded her the flexibility of balancing both work and family life. Throughout her children’s education, Lori took an active role within various Parent Teacher Associations (PTA’s). She has served in the capacity of both PTA President and Treasurer for the Michel J. Petrides School, IS 2 Egbert Intermediate School, and PS 41 respectively. In addition to her PTA service, Lori also served as a member of the School Leadership Team (SLT) for each of these Staten Island public schools. Since 2014, Ms. Fiorito has also been employed with the school food department with the New York City Department of Education.  

For eleven years, Ms. Fiorito has helped coordinate the collection and distribution of gently used furniture, clothes, books, and housewares for needy families across the borough. She served for nine years as the Vice President of the Grant City Civic Association, until the organization closed in 2016. The holiday season is especially busy for Ms. Fiorito, who assists 2018 Staten Island Advance Woman of Achievement, Zulma Cruz, with her annual Adopt-A-Family Toy Drive. For the past three years, Lori’s invaluable work in this effort has helped to match hundreds of children with generous families who grant their holiday toy wish.

Lori is a professional member of Soroptimist International of Staten Island. She has been honored with the PTA Volunteer Award at both IS2 and the Michael J. Petrides School.  Ms. Fiorito has also been recognized with multiple awards from DiTommaso Real Estate including the Million Dollar Award, Multi-Million Dollar Award, and Partnership Award.

Lori resides in Grant City with her husband, Bruno, and their three sons, Joseph, Michael, and Mario.

Mark Diller, appointed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, is a member of Manhattan Community Board 7, and has served as Board chair, co-secretary, and by turns as chair of the Preservation Committee, Youth, Education & Libraries Committee, and various task forces.  Mark also currently serves on CB7’s Public Housing Task Force and its Strategy and Budget Committee.  Mark has been a presenter at each of the District 3 Community Education Council’s Harlem Schools Summits, and has served in leadership roles on several ad hoc working groups that have succeeded in increasing equity and inclusiveness in admissions to public schools at every level and in adding new seats at developer expense to facilitate those goals.  Prior to CB7, Mark was a PTA president and School Leadership Team chair.  Mark’s day job is the practice of law, with recent experience representing musicians, artists, authors, small business owners, and consultants, and formative experience litigating infringement, complex commercial, federal securities, and fraud claims.  Mark holds a JD from the Fordham University School of Law and a BA from Columbia College.