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“The goal of preservation is to protect our historic built environment as a living, functional part of our lives; there is no better way to understand history than to be able to encounter it physically.”
– Simeon Bankoff
Simeon Bankoff is the Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council, a position he has held since 2000. Mr. Bankoff has focused his entire professional career on historic preservation in New York, and is a renowned expert on the city’s built environment. His work encompasses land use, zoning, affordable housing, and adaptive reuse, and, as a result, is at the forefront of New York City’s historic preservation movement.
A fierce defender of New York’s historic neighborhoods and buildings, Mr. Bankoff is regularly called on for advisement, testimony, and comment by civic, cultural, and media entities. He serves as the Historic Districts Council’s primary spokesperson, and works closely with the Board of Directors and Advisers to formulate the organization’s strategic direction and policy.
Before joining the Historic Districts Council, Mr. Bankoff was senior staff at the Historic House Trust of New York City, where he coordinated programmatic oversight of more than 20 historic house museums throughout the five boroughs. He has also worked with the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center, where he helped initiate its acclaimed Cultural Medallions program.
Mr. Bankoff has lectured for graduate and undergraduate classes at Columbia University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Hunter College, New York University, Pratt Institute, and Sarah Lawrence College. He has also participated in cultural exchange programs concerning urban preservation with groups from Europe and Asia, and wrote a featured column for The New York Times.
Mr. Bankoff holds a Bachelors of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Master of Historic Preservation from the Pratt Institute.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mr. Bankoff resides in the borough’s Windsor Terrace neighborhood.
Director of Communications and Programs
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Michelle Arbulu is the Historic Districts Council’s Director of Communications and Programs, and has been with the organization since 2009, when she began as a volunteer researching historic districts in the Bronx. Ms. Arbulu is responsible for both in-house and outreach communications, and disseminates hard news, action alerts, policy statements, white papers, and programming support.
Ms. Arbulu manages the Historic Districts Council’s online presence, and helps coordinate the organization’s extensive website, e-mail, and social media content. In addition, she oversees the creation and production of printed matter for the Council’s activism and special events.
Ms. Arbulu is also responsible for all of the Historic Districts Council’s free and fundraising events and programs.
Ms. Arbulu attended the University of Mary Washington, where she studied Historic Preservation. She also took classes in Historic Preservation at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen in New York City.
Born in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Ms. Arbulu lives near the Jackson Heights Historic District.
Director of Advocacy & Community Outreach
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Kelly Carroll is the Historic Districts Council’s Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach, a position she has held since 2014. She serves as the organization’s primary liaison to a network of over 500 local activist groups and facilitates both local and citywide preservation campaigns.
Prior to joining the Historic Districts Council’s staff, Ms. Carroll served as Director of Preservation for Landmark West!, where she coordinated campaigns to preserve significant structures on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She also conducted an historic resource survey of Prospect Cemetery for CTA Architects and served as an intern at the Historic Districts Council while attending graduate school.
Ms. Carroll has loved architecture and cities since childhood, and began her historic preservation career as a teenage employee of the Smith-McDowell House in Asheville, NC. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where she was honored with the Hugh T. Lefler Award on North Carolina History for research and writing. She also earned her Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University, where she focused on preservation planning.
One of Ms. Carroll’s proudest moments at the Historic Districts Council was securing the Vanderbilt Family’s support for landmark designation of their family mausoleum in Staten Island.
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Helen Freeman is the Historic Districts Council’s Development Manager, a position she has held since 2019. She is responsible for HDC’s development efforts for corporate, foundation, public and individual giving, including fundraising campaigns, grant writing and reporting, and events.
Ms. Freeman attended Bryn Mawr College, where she studied Classical & Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology. She also holds a Master’s Degree in History of Decorative Art from the Bard Graduate Center on the Upper West Side. Prior to joining HDC, she managed the membership program for The Frick Collection for over ten years.
A long-time New York City resident, Ms. Freeman lives in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan.
Public Relations Specialist for Hispanic Communities
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Diego Robayo is the Historic Districts Council’s Public Relations Specialist for Hispanic Communities, a position that he has held since August 2017. He is responsible for helping New York City’s Spanish-speaking communities preserve, improve, and celebrate historic elements of their built environment.
Mr. Robayo is originally from Colombia, where he went to college. He holds a major in journalism and a minor in marketing. Prior to joining the HDC, Mr. Robayo was interning at a Hispanic advertising agency in NYC.
He worked as a journalist in Bogota, where he had the pleasure to cover the death of one his favorite writers, Gabriel García Márquez, an experience that he describes as “full of emotional connections.” After working as journalist, Mr. Robayo joined the internal communications department of company in Bogota, where he worked along with the NGO Transparency International to spread the value of honesty across the organization. He received financial aid from this company to start a Masters program in Strategic Communications at Columbia University. Mr. Robayo graduated from Columbia University in 2018.
Manager of Preservation and Research
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Brittney Thomas is the Historic District Council’s Manager of Preservation & Research, a position she has held since 2019. She is responsible for reviewing work proposed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, researching historic properties throughout the city, and delivering HDC’s testimonies at public hearings. Ms. Thomas also manages “Six to Celebrate”, a program that selects six local preservation groups to receive guidance each year. Using research, technical knowledge, and public outreach, Brittney helps these groups to formulate preservation goals.
Prior to joining the Historic Districts Council, Brittney held research and program internships with Village Preservation (GVSHP). She also assisted in researching and archiving historic collections at The Archive of Contemporary Music.
Ms. Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a minor in history from SUNY Cortland, a Master of Science in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh, and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from Northwestern University. She also studied Archaeology through the University of Reading.
Brittney grew up in Tottenville, Staten Island, where her love of historic buildings and neighborhoods first blossomed. She currently lives in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill Historic District.