Hudson Square Connection Staff
Ellen Baer has been the Hudson Square Connection’s President and CEO since its official opening on July 1, 2009. She is ultimately responsible for all the BID’s activities, and reports directly to the Connection’s Board of Directors. Under her direction, the Connection has led Hudson Square’s transformation from a 20th century industrial district to an authentic 21st century neighborhood characterized by environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Prior to joining the Hudson Square Connection, Ellen developed and implemented public-private real estate partnerships in New York City and nationally for over 25 years. She spent two years as Senior Vice President for Development Strategies at the Tarragon Development Corporation, which she joined after 12 years as a Partner at the economic development and real estate consulting firm of HRA Advisors, Inc. Previously, her career in New York City government spanned 14 years during which she served as Chief of Staff to the First Deputy Mayor, Vice President for Waterfront Development at the Public (now Economic) Development Corporation and Director of the Concessions Division for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Ellen is currently the Co-Chair of the NYC BID Managers Association, advocating for issues of importance to the City’s 72 BIDs and to the thousands of businesses they represent. She is a former Board member of Women Executives in Real Estate (WX), Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and the International Economic Development Council. Ellen holds a BA from Hamilton College and an MBA from Baruch College.
Ellen is a big Yankee and Jet fan, a lover of the spoken and written word, and a political junkie.
Suzy Changar is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the Hudson Square Connection. She is responsible for creating a marketing campaign and press strategy, with the goal of putting Hudson Square on the map by beautifying the area and enlivening the streets, creating a green, connected and environmentally sustainable community, and increasing retail offerings and Hudson Square’s general desirability as a commercial location.
Before joining the Hudson Square Connection, Suzy was a freelancer on two projects – the River To River Festival in which she developed a local marketing and press campaign which garnered close to two billion impressions in the last two years, and the International Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences, where she coordinated a three-day business-to-business festival for television executives from around the world. During her early career Suzy worked in the music industry coordinating events and tours nationally and internationally. Suzy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the American University.
Suzy loves to run in the park, listen to live music and has the gift of gab.
Sean Vera is the Marketing Coordinator at Hudson Square Connection. He is responsible for maintaining the website, monthly and weekly newsletters, and our social media accounts.
A native New Yorker, Sean graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BA in Political Science and Economics. At Loyola, he served as Student Body President and as Communications Director for the 2011 National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference, among other roles. He has worked on numerous political campaigns, including for the Illinois State Senate and the United States Congress, and is the Senior Advisor to the New York State Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council.
Sean enjoys spending time listening to good music, enjoying a well-made lemon bar, and walking around to explore the streets of New York.
Michael Portegies-Zwart is the Planning Associate at the Hudson Square Connection. He is responsible for the development and implementation of programs and projects designed to improve the streetscape.
Prior to joining the Hudson Square Connection, Michael completed several assignments with organizations dealing with environmental issues in New York City. Michael obtained his BS from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, and earned his Master’s degree in Urban Environmental Management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He completed internships with the World Food Program in Rome, Italy, and the Clinton Climate Initiative, and also spent 27 months as an Environmental Action volunteer with the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa.
Michael is a fan of the AS Roma soccer team, enjoys playing the leisurely game of Pétanque and likes to cook.
Jake McNally is the Senior Associate, Operations and Economic Development at the Hudson Square Connection. He is responsible for managing the BID’s operations program, economic development research, budgeting process, and financial reporting. In addition, he serves as liaison to the BID’s Board of Directors and the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
Prior to joining the Hudson Square Connection, Jake was a fellow in the Office of Management, Budget, and Public Programs at the New York City Parks Department. As a fellow, he coordinated with internal divisions to analyze program performance and improve operational tracking methods. He also supported the development of new Transitional Jobs training programs. Jake holds a Master’s Degree in City & Regional Planning from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from Binghamton University.
Jake enjoys running, jazz fusion, and tilt-shift photography.
Kayla Watkins is the Community Moderator at the Hudson Square Connection. She is responsible for maintaining our social media accounts and creating a digital community and resource for the people that live and work in the neighborhood.
A native Floridian, Kayla graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in journalism. There she interned for several magazines, before making the move to New York. Prior to joining the Hudson Square Connection, Kayla worked as freelance journalist and social media manager.
Kayla enjoys writing, fashion and exploring the city.