The staff of Gardens Rising is headed by Aziz Dehkan, NYCCGC Executive Director, who works together with Beverley Love as the Administrative Assistant, Charles Krezell as the Program Director, Gianni Simplicio as the Bookkeeper, Crystal Gaudio as the Project Manager, Ann Lee as the Webmaster, Sara Romanoski as the Communications Manager, and Loretta Yong as our Community Organizer.

As the project continues, a consultant team of Engineers, Landscape Architects and Designers will be hired as subcontractors through a competitive process.

Meet the staff members

Aziz Dehkan (


He was born and raised in New York City. Earned a degree in Biological Sciences from Rutgers University in 1976, built a passive-solar house and started one of the first organic farms in New Jersey. After 12 years, he went into the environmental business, specializing in the disposal of hazardous waste materials.

As a community activist, Aziz became a member of his local planning board, and then served as a board member of two non-profit agencies devoted to helping women recover from domestic abuse and breaking the cycle of poverty.

He created a regional major gifts program for the Humane Society of the United States, which led to senior development positions at the NYC Coalition for the Homeless; STRIVE, an East Harlem-based organization, advocating for effective workforce development opportunities; The Fortune Society, where the formerly incarcerated are empowered through services and advocacy, and Mother Jones magazine.

Currently, Aziz is president of the Eighty20 Group, a fundraising consultancy.

Beverley Love (

Our Administrative Assistant has worked as a strategic interventionist, helping retail merchants resolve operational issues, and expand their business operations. Beverley was general operations manager of the East New York Food Co-op, where she trained and supervised paid high school interns for leadership roles under the East New York Farms Youth program. Along with her work for Gardens Rising, she is a small business owner and volunteers as a mentor at the NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship). Beverley is a member of the Green Oasis community garden.

Charles Krezell ( Krezell

Our Gardens Rising Project Director, Charles is a producer and director, known for Medium Hot (2008), Bigger Than the Beatles, Obama and the Peeps (2010) and Toxic Soup (2010).

He  served on the NYC Community Garden Coalition board from 2011 to 2015 as  the NYCCGC Treasurer.

He is the founder and president of LUNGS (Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens) and is a member of DeColores Community Garden on East 8th Street, where he has been an active East Village gardener since 1996.

Gianni Simplicio (

He holds a BA in Economics and Political Science from Lehigh University, and a Masters in Business from New York University. For the past eight years he has worked as a management consultant and accountant for non-profit, philanthropic, and religious institutions.

His hobbies include wood and metal working, electronics construction, 3D design and printing, playing paintball, and attaching LEDs to everything. He has a particular interest in the technological and economic feasibility of alternative energy, distributed networking, and permaculture gardening.

Gianni is a member of La Plaza Cultural. He lives in the East Village with his wife, two adorable guinea pigs, and two happy 8-year old rescue goldfish.

Crystal Gaudio ( Gaudio

Crystal is a licensed landscape architect with 12 years of experience, designing and managing both public and private landscape projects. She founded Rubus Landscape Architecture in 2013 after working for seven years with the Prospect Park Alliance where she was the project landscape architect for both the LeFrak Center at Lakeside and the Restoration of Music Island and the Shelly White Esplanade, including 26 acres in the southeast part of Prospect Park. She is excited to join the NYCCGC and the Gardens Rising project, where her construction experience and respect for community constructed spaces will aid the building of appropriate storm water infrastructure in the beautiful Loisaida gardens.

Ann Lee (

With decades of experience, Ann Lee has worked with ad agencies, community organizations, consulting firms, publishers and startups in many diverse industries including architecture, consumer goods, entertainment, fashion, finance, and technology. During that time she’s picked up a bit of know-how and some great strategies on process to fit each working situation. See her work here. She also volunteers at a local food coöp and community garden. Photography, dance, crafts, music and travel fill her spare time.

Sara Romanoski (

Sara studied urban planning at Hunter College and led advocacy campaigns throughout the Lower East Side. Romanoski previously served as executive director of the East Village Community Coalition promoting retail diversity, organizing local merchants, and advocating for the neighborhood’s preservation. She was a leader of a community-supported agriculture group based out of an LES community garden for many seasons. Sara is proud to be a part of Gardens Rising for its commitment to community preservation, open space, and equal access to resources for all residents.

Loretta Yong (

Loretta is the Community Organizer who is working with youths from Summer Youth Employment Program this summer. She is currently attending Binghamton University studying Biology with a focus on animal sciences and behavior. Last summer, she became involved in community gardens through Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens (LUNGS) and returned to learn more about green space in the city and how change can occur in the city.