The New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (the Alliance) was founded in 2001 by a broad-based group of community, (traditional) environmental, faith, labor, academic, and civil rights organizations and individuals concerned about the increasing siting of toxic and hazardous facilities in communities of color and low-income communities. Many of these communities (also called “EJ communities”) were already burdened with large concentrations of pollution and the adverse health, economic, educational, and overall quality of life impacts associated with pollution.
Over the years, the Alliance has been involved in efforts to prevent and reduce pollution, especially in EJ communities. The Alliance has provided technical and organizing assistance to many communities around the state, at their request, when they have engaged in battles to stop pollution. The organization has created public policy initiatives; supported beneficial legislation on the state and federal levels; provided testimony at state and national public hearings on environmental proposals; provided educational awareness about environmental justice through articles, essays, studies, and presentations; and has helped raise public awareness and involvement about the issue.
Three major campaigns currently sponsored by the Alliance include the campaign with the Coalition for Healthy Ports, for “Good Jobs, Healthy Neighborhoods, & a Clean Environment,” lobbying for passage of an environment and health ordinance to address cumulative impacts in the City of Newark, and hosting regional Climate Justice Roundtables throughout the state.
Largely thanks to the efforts of the Alliance and its organizational partners, there is now a New Jersey Environmental Justice Movement that continues to take action to ensure that all New Jersey residents, regardless of their race, color, ethnicity, religion, or economic status, are able to live, work, play, worship, and attend school in clean, safe, healthy, sustainable environments.
For more information on our work, please see our 2016 annual report here: NJEJA 2016 Annual Report
Staff & Leadership Bios
Laureen Boles, State Director
Laureen Boles is the State Director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, an alliance of organizations whose mission is to promote equity in the implementation of statewide policies with environmental impacts. Under Ms. Boles leadership the Alliance, and its partners on the Newark Climate Resiliency Action Plan, won the Resource Efficiency Award from PlanSmart New Jersey.
At the national level, she co-created the Environmental Justice Act proposed by Sen. Booker (NJ) and Rep. Ruiz (CA), contributing language that requires improved access to infrastructure, responsible use of land and other natural resources, and the utilization of citizen science. And as a member of the Environmental Justice and Science Initiative, she is participating in an equity study of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to strengthen the evidence base for equitable climate resilience. Her participation in the equity study builds on comments she prepared on President Obama’s Climate Change Plan and presented at the Executive Offices of the White House. Laureen recently represented NJEJA and New Jersey as a panelist on the Environmental Justice Braintrust at the Congressional Black Caucus’ 2017 Annual Legislative Conference.
Ms. Boles’ background also includes more than 25 years of sustainable community development experience as a civil engineer and environmental planner at the City of Philadelphia. During her tenure at the City of Philadelphia she directed the design, implementation, operation, and maintenance phases of the city’s inaugural Storm Water Management Program, including nomination of the program for an Environmental Protection Agency Excellence Award.
Laureen’s academic experience includes teaching positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Cheyney University. With the Philadelphia City Planning Commission as clients, her students developed neighborhood plans for several communities in Philadelphia. Laureen has also consulted with the American Institute of Architects on neighborhood plans for New Orleans, Louisiana and Augusta, Georgia. Her commitment to community was recognized by an American Legion Martin Luther King Service Award.
Ms. Boles earned her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Howard University and her Master’s degree in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
Nicole Scott-Harris, Education Coordinator & Organizer
Executive Committee Member of League of Women Voters – NJ’s Young People’s Network, Coordinator for 2014 Coalition of Healthy Ports’ Newark Mayoral Forum, on “Good Jobs, Healthy Neighborhoods, and a Clean Environment”. AFSCME Political and Legislative Advocacy Coordinator in NYC with District Council 1707, Congressional Aide to former NJ Representative Steve Rothman (9th Congressional District), Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics Alumni Fellow, Rutgers Environmental Steward. Bachelors in Sociology and African American Studies, Rutgers University. Masters in Political Science, Rutgers University. Bachelors in Nutrition & Dietetics, Montclair State University.
Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq.,Director, Center for Urban Environment at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy
Co-Founder & President of NJEJA, Member of Coalition for Healthy Ports Steering Committee. Member of EJ Leadership Forum on Climate Change; Director, Center for the Urban Environment at Thomas Edison State College. Primary organizer, EJ and Science Initiative and Northeast EJ Attorneys Group. Member, NJ Clean Air Council, USEPA’s National EJ Council and Clean Air Act Advisory Committee. Recipient of USEPA Region 2 Environmental Achievement Award. B.A. Economics, Princeton University; J.D. , Harvard Law School; MPP, Kennedy School, Harvard University; Ph.D., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University.
Jerrell Blakely, Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools Now (HSN) – NJWEC
HSN is a dynamic coalition of over 40 community, union, and education advocacy organizations dedicated to ensuring that all of New Jersey’s students and educators work and learn in safe and healthy school facilities. Blakeley most recently taught Civics and History at his alma mater, Trenton Central High School-West, and served as an Organizational Development consultant with the New Jersey Education Association. Blakeley secured an academic scholarship to Howard University, where he earned a degree in History. Blakeley is a graduate of The Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where he earned an Ed.M. in the Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education as an Eagleton Fellow of Politics and Government.
Blakeley was a member of the Trenton Education Association and the NJ Education Association, where he served on the local and county Legislative Action Teams and was selected as one of 50 Emerging Leaders in the NJEA. He serves on the Mercer County Board of Social Services and was selected as a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow.
Ana Isabel Baptista, PhD, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School University.
Member of the Coalition for Healthy Ports and the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance. Senior National Environmental Leadership Fellow. Prior to the New School, Ana was the Director of Environmental Justice and Planning Programs for the community based non-profit organization, Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), where she oversaw a wide range of environmental justice, community development, planning and research projects. Ph.D. Urban Planning and Public Policy from Rutgers University where she completed her dissertation on state level environmental justice policy making across the US and was the 2013 Gustav Heningburg Civic Fellow.
Kerry M. Butch, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, Rutgers EOHSI
Kerry’s prior positions include serving as Executive Director (League of Women Voters of New Jersey), Urban Project Director (Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions), Executive Director (Asbury Park Consortium), and Community Organizer, (Ironbound Community Corporation and the Ironbound Committee Against Toxic Waste.) Notably, she produced the award-winning documentary entitled, “Greetings from Asbury Park” shown throughout the country and on PBS in 2009, and assembled the same crew to create “Storming for the Vote: Hurricane Sandy and the Election” for the LWVNJ in 2013.
Valorie Caffey, Consultant, Social & Environmental Justice
Co-convener/Co-Founder of NJEJA. Environmental Justice and Diversity Consultant, Adjunct Faculty, Beyond Diversity Resource Center, Chair, NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s EJ Advisory Council, VP, Ewing Park-Brae Burn Civic Association, Board Member emerita GreenFaith and New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Member, Ewing Township Sustainable Green Team. Co-chair, Gov-elect Corzine’s Environmental Policy Transition Team. Member/Workshop Designer & Facilitator, CARAT Team of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. Board Member emerita, Clean Water Action, Former-Director of Organizing, NJ Work Environment Council, Former-VP, USW Local 1-149. Youth supervisor/mentor. Published in literary journals. Elementary education major, history minor Trenton State College.
Theodore Carrington, Consultant, Social & Environmental Justice
Theodore (Ted) Carrington, former VP of NJ NAACP, is a long-time civil rights and environmental activist and former director of GreenFaith’s Environmental Justice Program. Ted is particularly skilled at speaking with African American and Latino congregations about environmental concerns. In his role at GreenFaith, he engaged faith-based and environmental groups about issues of environmental racism and injustice.
Bryana DeVeaux, Commissioner, Franklin Township Sewage Authority
Bryana started her environmental career as an active student at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. While she was a resident Eco-Rep and employed as the Assistant at the Office of Sustainability at the university, Bryana worked on the Climate Neutrality Plan of 2035 to reduce carbon emissions at Drew. She also began a collaborative research project on toxic emissions in the stats Pollution Prevention Program alongside faculty members from Rutgers University and Drew University. Their research findings won third place at the The New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS) competition in 2016. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability from Drew University in 2017. Bryana was recently appointed a Commissioner on the Franklin Township Sewerage Authority in Somerset County, and is a full-time legislative aide in the 17th Legislative District.
Avery Grant, Executive Director, Concerned Citizens Coalition of Long Branch
Mr Grant is a long-time resident of Long Branch and serves as Executive Director of the Concerned Citizens Coalition of Long Branch (CCCLB). CCCLB is a grassroots community organization, that formed in June 2002, to monitor the remediation of a 17-acre contaminated site of a former manufactured gas plant. CCCLB was the first State designated Environmental Justice Petitioner, under Governor McGreevy’s EJ Executive Order 96 in April 2004. Mr. Grant is also Vice President of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, and has served as a member of the State Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He serves on the Long Branch BOE and the Monmouth County Fair Housing Board.
He is a retired engineer, formerly employed as East Orange City Engineer and Director of Public Works. He is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, and a Vietnam Veteran,. He is also a retired Federal civilian Supervisory Engineer (GM-13).
Mr. Grant is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, City College of New York, the Polytechnic University of New York, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
Priscilla E. Hayes, Consultant & Environmental Educator
Priscilla has been an activist since her undergraduate work at Princeton University, where she was among the original founders of the Princeton University Women’s Center. Her work creating a student task force on Affirmative Action at Princeton inspired her to go on to Duke Law School, and then on to representing the New Jersey Department on Civil Rights. She subsequently did environmental law work, representing the New Jersey Priscilla E. Hayes has been an activist since her undergraduate work at Princeton University, where she was among the original founders of the Princeton University Women’s Center. Her work creating a student task force on Affirmative Action at Princeton inspired her to go on to Duke Law School, and then on to representing the New Jersey Department on Civil Rights. She subsequently did environmental law work, representing the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Priscilla did environmental policy work for fifteen years for the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) at Rutgers University, during which she won the Environmental Quality Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, for her work coordinating the Solid Waste Resource Renewal Group at NJAES. Also during her time at Rutgers, she became a member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance during its initial year of existence, bringing her civil rights and environmental work full circle.
Cynthia Mellon, Policy Coordinator, Climate Justice Alliance
Cynthia is Policy Coordinator of the Climate Justice Alliance. For seven years, she served as Environmental Justice Organizer for the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, NJ. She holds a Masters in Sociology of Law from the Instituto Internacional de Sociología Jurídica in Oñati, Spain and a certificate in Urban Agriculture from Farm School NYC. She is Co-Chair of the Newark Environmental Commission and Chair of the Environmental Justice Committee of the NJ Latino Action Network.
Ingrid Rosario, Esq., Ewing Green Team
Ingrid has a JD from Vermont Law School, where she concentrated her studies on water law and property law. She has experience working with environmental legislation and lands preservation. Ingrid received her MA in International Relations at The New School. Ingrid also brings a decade of experience in wealth management. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Ingrid has lived in Europe and South America. She speaks German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Estrella Sainburg, Organizer, GreenFaith
Estrella is an Organizer with GreenFaith. As Organizer, Estrella is working to support interfaith local community organizing for the environment in New Jersey and around the world. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Estrella graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. degree in International Development and Global Poverty. As a native Spanish speaker, she hopes to empower Latino communities in the United States to advocate and ensure a healthy living environment and harmonious relationship with the natural environment, as well as see more Latinos speaking about environmental injustices. She is motivated by her belief that we are God’s tools for creating spaces for the voices of the marginalized to be heard and for the environment to be treated with care.
Emeritus Board Members
Peter Montague, Ph.D., Journalist and Historian living in New Brunswick, N.J. He has co-authored two books on toxic heavy metals, and from 1986-2009 he published Rachelâ€™s Environment & Health News, providing weekly news and resources for environmental justice. He is presently writing a book about the intersection of problems affecting the natural and social environments (global warming, changes in ocean biota, decline of forests, loss of topsoil, the depletion of important minerals) and their negative impacts on economic growth and job opportunities. He serves on the board of directors of the Science & Environmental Health Network (Ames, IA), and is a founder and former steering committee member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.