Apr. 28, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
The Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) held its annual Green Gala Wednesday, April 26, at Terrace on the Park. During the gala, APEC honored three individuals — Mark Weprin, Walter Mugdan and Patricia Ornst — for their environmental work.
Several Queens leaders were on hand at the gala, with many of them discussing their experiences working with the honorees as well as APEC. Among those present were Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Council members Vickie Paladino, Shekar Krishnan, Linda Lee, Sandra Ung and James Gennaro and Association for a Better New York CEO Melva Miller.
A former City Council member, Weprin is now vice president of government affairs for Invenergy. The company is a global developer and operator of sustainable energy solutions. It has worked on 195 projects across four continents, generating energy for over 9 million homes and developing over 30,000 megawatts.
Weprin was presented with the Corporate Green Energy Award by Richards.
“[Mark Weprin] is somebody who’s done a lot of incredible work, not only in the government space, but the sustainability space as well,” Richards said. “[It’s] truly it’s an honor to give you this award. We know that you’re going to continue to do great work in moving our city into a greener direction.”
Weprin praised APEC for educating both kids and adults about the planet and climate change’s effects on it. He also credited APEC for inspiring him to join Invenergy.
“What’s great about what I’m doing every day is I feel like I’m doing God’s work,” Weprin said. “Climate change, as everyone in this room knows, is real. We [at Invenergy] are committed to renewable energy in the world, in this country and in New York State. New York state is leading the way in goals to get to renewable energy. By 2030, 70% of our energy is going to come from renewable sources. By 2040, 100% will be no fossil fuels involved in our energy in New York state.”
Mugdan is president of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, which focuses on the concentration, preservation and restoration of the remaining undeveloped wetlands and wooded uplands of the watershed at Udalls Cove. He is also the deputy regional administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2. For about 10 months, he served as the acting regional administrator in 2021 during the presidential transition period. He was presented with the APEC Green Leadership Award by Council Member Gennaro.
“What a great job he’s done over his 48-year career,” Gennaro said. “He joined the EPA in 1975, five years after it was created. He has also authored dozens of articles and is a frequent speaker on environmental topics. He’s been a proud member of APEC since 1976. I can’t think of anyone more worthy of praise from this organization.”
According to Mugdan, he was inspired to make a career in environmental law while in college when a guest speaker discussed this topic, which had not yet existed at the time. Shortly after graduating from law school, he was hired by the EPA to work for their New York office.
“I love my job at Udalls Cove as much as I love my day job at EPA,” Mugdan said. “I only have one regret in my career, and that is that I never had the chance to enforce laws aimed at combating global warming. That is because there are no laws at the federal level that do that. In fact, history will condemn, as the greatest failure of my generation, that we knew the problem, we knew what needed to be done, but we lacked the political will to do it. Fortunately, in the past couple of years, we’ve started to turn a corner. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the world depends on the young people today.”
Ornst serves as the managing director for state and local government affairs at Delta Airlines. She was presented with the Corporate Friend of the Environment Award by Melva Miller. According to Miller, when the creation of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance began to come into fruition, Ornst began working with private and public stakeholders to ensure the park has the resources it needs, continuing to do so to this day.
“[Ornst] sits on many boards across the city,” Miller said. “Even when she needs to get off some of those boards, she makes sure they are in good shape, they have good members and that they are in good hands, as she cares about them.”
Miller also stressed the important role Ornst has played in the city’s economic recovery through her work at Delta, helping to bring more tourists to New York City. Ornst has done this by being instrumental in the redevelopment of JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 and leading a project for Delta’s overhaul of Terminal C at LaGuardia Airport.
“Delta is proud to support APEC’s mission over the last several years,” Ornst said. “It’s been quite an honor to be here and receive this honor tonight. At Delta, we pride ourselves in being true corporate partners in the community where we live and where we work. As an airline, we are doing everything we can to be a sustainable partner. We are doing that by removing plastics from planes and trying to reduce our carbon footprint every single day.”