By Bryan Fumagalli

The Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) of Peekskill was expanded to nine members at Monday night’s Common Council meeting. Once certification by the state has been finalized, the new local law—which was passed unanimously by the Common Council following a recent public hearing—will be official and three new members can be appointed.

“I am thrilled and gratified by the CAC expansion,” said Councilwoman Kathie Talbot. “Since the spring, I have worked with CAC’s chair, Kay Barthelmes and our city manager, Richard Leins, to guide the process through the mechanics of city government necessary to make an even a simple change like this. Our CAC has been incredibly active in a variety of important environmental initiatives in the city and, with the addition of three more highly talented and accomplished members, there is so much more that can be done.”

• About the Conservation Advisory Council

The three new members are as follows:

Michael Shank, Ph.D., is head of Communications for the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in New York City, where he handles communications for Professor Jeffrey Sachs and SDSN’s work on the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Courtney Williams, Ph.D., is a scientist and cancer researcher for a biopharmaceutical company. She holds a B.S. in molecular biochemistry and biophysics from Yale University and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University.

Vanessa Agudelo has been an active volunteer with the CAC and worked on applying for a tree inventory grant as well as writing a letter to the U.S. Coast Guard voicing the CAC’s opposition to the establishment of permanent docking sites for barges along the Hudson River, from Yonkers to Kingston.

Shank, Williams and Agudelo will join Barthelmes, Vice Chair Jeff Miller, John Drake, Leigh Draper, Dorothy Leslie and Lise Prown on the council.

“Recently we all sat down informally to get to know each other and discuss common interests and issues we can tackle together,” Barthelmes said. “I was very excited about the meeting and there is a lot to do. We must work hard to preserve the wonderful natural assets we have here in Peekskill while moving towards resource sustainability including stronger recycling, greener energy and diligent clean water and air stewardship.”

As is required by the state, the CAC is finishing a Natural Resources Inventory (NRI), which will be a comprehensive digital compilation of maps, geographic features, wetlands, steep slopes and open spaces as well as cultural aspects like Peekskill’s involvement with the Underground Railroad.

“We have been working on it off and on for four years with John Drake now leading the effort,” Barthelmes said. “The DEC has given us assistance and the new city planner Jesica Youngblood will be helping us too.”

Also in the works is an educational video on backyard projects to retain rainwater from flowing into the street and then the Hudson River.

The next meeting of the Conservation Advisory Council is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 in the first floor Conference Room at Peekskill City Hall. For more information or to volunteer, contact City Manager Richard Leins at