sbankoff[at]hdc.org | 212-614-9107 x15
“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, and writes and delivers testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission which is regularly published in NYC real estate media.
Kelly is an adjunct instructor in the Certificate in Historic Preservation Studies program at New York University’s School of Professional Studies in the Center for Applied Liberal Arts. She created, developed and teaches Preserving a City of Historic Neighborhoods, a required course in the program.
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. Her master’s thesis developed a preservation plan and researched the history of an abandoned textile mill village in North Carolina which was adapted and published as a book, We See What We Want to See, in 2018.
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 a historic resource survey of Prospect Cemetery in Jamaica, Queens for CTA Architects.
In addition to receiving community preservation awards, highlights of Kelly’s work include researching and writing the Request for Evaluation for what would become the Bay Ridge Parkway/Doctors’ Row Historic District in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 2019, and providing research and counsel to the East 25th Street Historic District Initiative, the first historic district designated in East Flatbush, Brooklyn in 2020.
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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.