Staff & Board

Staff

Betsy Plum, Executive Director, has spent her career in the social justice field. Before joining Riders Alliance, she served as the Vice President of Policy for the New York Immigration Coalition. While at the NYIC, Betsy led multiple winning policy campaigns, oversaw robust rapid response efforts and organizational growth, and helped set the vision for what a more inclusive New York must look like. She joined Riders Alliance in 2020 bringing her commitment to build a stronger, more thriving New York and a belief that we arrive at this place by investing in our public systems and holding those in power accountable. In addition to her role at Riders Alliance, Betsy serves on the Board of Directors of Central American Legal Assistance and is a Sterling Fellow, a network of systems leaders working to increase economic mobility across New York City, with racial equity as a central guiding value. She is a graduate of Bard College and the London School of Economics.

Caitlin Pearce, Deputy Director, oversees campaigns and organizing for the Riders Alliance. She brings a decade of experience in labor advocacy and a passion for making New York City a better place to work and live. Caitlin previously served as Executive Director of Freelancers Union, where she fought to expand protections for independent workers, led a grassroots coalition to pass landmark wage theft legislation, and built a national model for worker-led organizing, growing the union’s membership to half a million freelancers. Caitlin holds a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, where she researched cooperative movements, and a Bachelor’s degree from Bard College.

Danna Dennis, Community Organizer, has been building communities and fighting for positive social change for years. As a college student at SUNY Herkimer, she represented her freshman class in student government and coordinated public relations for the Black Student Union. Danna is a longtime volunteer in the Seventh Day Adventist Church where she has served as a youth leader and planned mission trips and conferences, convening more than eleven hundred people. Before joining the staff of the Riders Alliance, Danna worked in the health care field and was a volunteer leader at the Riders Alliance fighting for better C train services and affordable MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers on the Fair Fares campaign.

Danny Pearlstein, Policy and Communications Director, started advocating for better transit in high school and developed his passion for politics and organizing while working in neighborhood groups and city government. He came to the Riders Alliance from the New York City Council where he was chief of staff to Committee on Land Use Chair David Greenfield and counsel to Courts & Legal Services Chair Rory Lancman. Previously, he represented injured workers and low-income tenants in court. He has degrees in environmental studies and urban planning from Cornell and law from Cardozo.

Jolyse Race, Senior Organizer, has been a community and labor organizer for over seven years. She began organizing while earning her BA in Anthropology at Michigan State University. During undergrad she worked to organize an undergraduate student union and ran campaigns to decrease tuition and improve policies responding to sexual assault on campus. She spent years fundraising for organizations and projects that directly support those with marginalized identities in her community. Jolyse also spent two years organizing for Michigan State University’s Graduate Employees Union where she played a crucial role in raising membership and finishing a successful contract campaign. She is excited to continue her commitment to social justice by fighting for better public transportation in New York City.

Kristin Wright, Human Resources and Operations Manager, brings to the Riders Alliance her passion for advocacy and political action, developed through over fifteen years of civic community engagement. She grew up in California and studied Political Science at the University of British Columbia. Central to Kristin’s role at the Riders Alliance is her belief that progressive change begins with a dedication to equity and social justice. She strives to provide a foundation of investment in personnel’s growth and development in all aspects of the Riders Alliance’s work. She is driven by a commitment to supporting, empowering, and facilitating the work of her fellow staff members.

Mayra Aldás-Deckert, Lead Organizer, mobilizes the Riders Alliance’s grassroots base of transit riders and leads the organization’s campaigns. Mayra has been a strong advocate for immigrant communities for years. Before joining Riders Alliance, she was the Director of Community Engagement at the New York Immigration Coalition where she managed a number of initiatives, implemented outreach strategies to engage New York City’s diverse communities, and served as the main coordinator of the NYIC’s Key to the City Initiative. Mayra is a graduate of Brooklyn College with a B.S. in Business Management and Finance. In Ambato, she completed three years of Commercial Engineering with a focus in Management and Business Planning at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. A native of Ecuador, Mayra moved to New York City with her family in 2005. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

Sophia Zarsky, Development and Events Manager, brings years of experience managing creative, inclusive and participatory programming and events. Born outside of Boston, Sophia majored in Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto where she became passionate about fostering equity, diversity, and vitality in social justice spaces. She brings this commitment to her work in designing unique and meaningful programming to create a deep sense of belonging within communities.

Board of Directors

Tolani Arike Adeboye is the Senior Director of the Office of Data Management at the New York City Department of Education, where she leads state and Federal reporting initiatives, academic data infrastructure and governance efforts, and strategic data management. Tolani is a lifelong public transit user and is particularly concerned about access for under-served communities and low-income riders. She joined the Riders Alliance as a member-activist in 2012 and is a proud resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Errol Cockfield is a strategic communications executive and crisis management expert who has helped numerous high profile organizations and individuals protect their reputations and advance brand goals. Most recently as Senior Vice President for Communications at MSNBC, Cockfield was responsible for setting the communications and media strategy, and partnering with editorial and business leads as the network evolved to a multi-platform destination for news and perspectives. Prior to MSNBC, Cockfield oversaw a mix of public affairs and crisis management engagements as a senior vice president in Edelman NY’s Corporate and Public Affairs division. Cockfield was press secretary to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and his successor David Paterson. He was also chief of staff and communications director to the Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate. Cockfield is also a diversity, equity and inclusion advocate, speaker and writer.

Amanda Farias is an Assistant Director at The Consortium for Worker Education, where she leads a workforce development and job training program in the transportation sector, getting Bronxites into the middle-class through lifelong careers in unionized jobs. Amanda is a lifelong Bronxite and public transit user; she cares deeply about accessibility throughout NYC and how that impacts under-served communities of color, low-income New Yorkers, and particularly how economic insecurity and safety intersect for women using our transit system. You can find her avoiding delays by debating using the 6 or 2 train in the morning, and dodging bad weather by waiting for the Q40/42. Amanda has a B.A. and M.A. from St. John’s University in Public Administration.

Mark Foggin is a civic sector management consultant firm helping nonprofit, public sector and other mission-driven organizations that focus on economic and community development. He previously co-founded the consulting firm Public Works Partners and, before that, spent more than a dozen years in the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations. Mark has lived in four of the five boroughs and is an enthusiastic multimodal commuter.

Michael Freedman-Schnapp is an urban planning and public policy expert working for Forsyth Street Advisors, an advisory and asset management firm focused on affordable housing, real estate, and municipal/impact investment. He was previously the Director of the City Council’s Policy & Innovation Division and Director of Policy for Council Member Brad Lander, where he was critical to the planning and implementation of the largest participatory budgeting process in North America. He teaches urban planning and policy courses at the Pratt Institute and the NYU Wagner School.

Kei Hayashi is an economic development and real estate professional who has spent time working in both the public and private sectors. She is the founding partner of BJH Advisors, a real estate advisory firm that specializes in tax policy and public-private partnerships, including examining creative funding mechanisms for transit infrastructure and industrial infrastructure. Kei has done a lot of thinking about how to support public goods such as the industrial assets, public open space, transit, and affordable housing. Kei has a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a M.P.A. from Princeton University.

Asa Johnson brings a range of experience to the field of social justice philanthropy and a commitment to building a truly participatory democracy. Born in New York City, Asa is a lifetime MTA commuter. Immediately after graduation, he went to work for the Howard Dean campaign. His experience in that election, trying to build lasting grassroots participation in get-out-the-vote efforts, led to his abiding interest in integrating community organizing with civic participation. For the last ten years Asa has been in hospitality and is an owner of Bar Meridian in Prospect Heights.

Benjamin Kabak is the author of Second Avenue Sagas, a widely read blog that focuses on issues involving mass transit in New York City. He is a graduate of NYU Law School and an attorney at Bortstein Legal Group in Manhattan.

Theodore A. Moore is the Senior Director of Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition where he supports the development of local and regional campaigns. He brings over 15 years of non-profit and political advocacy experience, having previously worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for former NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in the Policy & Innovation Division, as the National Lead Organizer with the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United), with ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, and with the Working Families Party. Theo is also a founding member of New Kings Democrats and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn movement Center, a Black-led, membership-based organization of primarily low-to-moderate income Central Brooklyn residents. He’s a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, born and raised in the East Flatbush section of the borough, and a long-suffering Mets fan.

Richard L. Oram has an urban transport career spanning 40 years, as a Federal and local employee, consultant and business owner. He earned a US Department of Transportation Outstanding Public Service Award in 1980. In 1990 he formed Commuter Check Services Corp., a national marketing and financial service to facilitate mass use of tax-free transit benefits. He has degrees in economics and business administration from Lehigh University, a master’s degree in urban planning from London School of Economics, and published doctoral work on the economic history of public transport in the US and UK. In 2003 he co-founded Sun Farm Network, an innovative New Jersey solar energy company. He now chairs the Fund for the Environment and Urban Life.

Jeremy Soffin is a Senior Vice President at BerlinRosen, a public affairs and communications firm in New York. He previously worked as director of media relations at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), where he served as chief spokesman for the agency that runs New York’s buses, subways, suburban commuter rails and various bridges and tunnels.