Board and Staff
Board of Directors
Stephen H. Shane (Chair)
Julia C. Kou
Victor J. Papa
Victor J. Papa, President, has been on the staff of Two Bridges since 1996. For over a decade, he has championed recreational access to the East River Waterfront, which is finally coming to fruition as the city implements its plans for the East River Waterfront Esplanade and Pier 42 Park. He also spearheaded the designation of the Two Bridges Historic District, the Chinatown & Little Italy Historic District, and the Bowery Historic District, to celebrate the history, culture, and architecture of the Lower East Side while preserving affordable housing. In 2009, Victor initiated the first Annual Marco Polo Day to celebrate the history and future of Chinatown & Little Italy. This annual event continues to grow in scope and popularity. Mr. Papa leads Two Bridges’ efforts to identify and pursue opportunities to preserve and create new affordable housing in the neighborhoods we serve.
Elisa Rae Espiritu, Director of Development & Communications, joined Two Bridges in June 2012 and oversees the organization’s fundraising initiatives and events, all of which aim to highlight the rich residential, commercial, and cultural life of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A New York City native, Elisa has over a decade of experience working with many premiere non-profit organizations in the greater NYC area, including The Posse Foundation, The Chinatown Working Group, and the Council of Urban Professionals. Elisa holds a B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy from NYU Steinhardt.
Hannah Fleisher, Planning Project Manager, is an urban planner with a focus on community needs assessments, public engagement, and equitable development. She holds a Hon. BA in Geography and Philosophy from the University of Toronto, and an MSc in Urban Planning from Columbia University. Prior to joining Two Bridges, she conducted planning projects and research with communities in the Bronx (NY), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Yangon (Myanmar) and First Nations Reserves in Northern Ontario (Canada). She advises Two Bridges' advocacy and planning projects - including the NeighborFood Program, the Two Bridges Partnership for Health - and represents the organization in public planning and design processes.
E. Francine Gorres, Director of Community Programs, joined Two Bridges in April 2015 and guides the mission and vision of Two Bridges Community Programs in close collaboration with Two Bridges senior staff. Over the past ten years, Francine has worked with immigrant and underserved youth and families in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Prior to joining Two Bridges, Francine worked directly with low-income, high school youth and families at Asian American LEAD (Washington D.C.), and developed and implemented data evaluation and performance management tools to better measure programmatic outcomes. Francine holds a B.A. in Human Services from Villanova University where she minored in Psychology and Sociology.
Kara Isabella, Neighborhood 360° Fellow, is a designer from Cleveland, Ohio, but has called the Lower East Side home since 2014. She recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts with her MFA in Design for Social Innovation. For her thesis Kara created Backyard Lots, a program that transforms vacant lots into safe and convenient recreational outlets for the youth of Slavic Village (Cleveland, OH). Kara has worked in the marketing departments for Ann Taylor and American Greetings and has also worked for UNICEF where she created the brand and narrative for UNICEF's new Policy Planning Unit. Currently, Kara works at Two Bridges through the NYC Department of Small Business Services as a Neighborhood 360° Fellow.
Debbie Leung, Housing Referral Advocate, has been working as a bi-lingual (Chinese-English) tenant advocate in the Chinatown community for over 35 years. She is well known to the Asian community, especially to those in need of assistance in tenant-landlord issues. Her work responds to the needs of vulnerable low-income families, and allows Two Bridges to take an active role in important advocacy work, social service referrals and tenant-landlord court appearances.
Jake Menichino, Manager of Community Programs, is an arts educator and designer in NYC. With an M.S. in Art & Design Education from Pratt Institute, Jake instructed students in the K-12 range during school hours, summer camp, afterschool, and weekend programming. After volunteering as an instructor and arts coordinator, in 2013 Jake made the leap into the managerial role of Program Director of the rising arts non-profit, Artistic Dreams International Inc, expanding and managing visual arts sites at NYPL branches and public schools in West Harlem. Prior to joining Two Bridges, Jake spent time as a Program Director for a DYCD SONYC afterschool program at a community center on the Upper East Side. In addition to an M.S., Jake holds degrees in graphic design and illustration, all from Pratt Institute.
Wilson Soo, Director of Administration, was born and raised in the Lower East Side. For over 10 years, Wilson has worked for local non-profit organizations that provide much needed services to the Chinatown, Little Italy, Lower East Side and the Two Bridges communities. Since joining Two Bridges Neighborhood Council in 2004, Wilson has worked closely with community-based organizations; he represents Two Bridges on issues pertaining to the advocacy and development of the community, including the Chinatown Working Group and Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance. Wilson is a Public Member of Community Board 3’s Waterfront Subcommittee. At the Chinatown Summer Street Festival in August 2011, Wilson was honored by Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) “for his dedication and contribution to building green and healthy communities."
July Dongning Yang, Two Bridges Music Director, was born and raised in Shenyang, Northeast China, and began her music training at the age of 4. After graduating from the preparatory department of the Shenyang Conservatory, one of the top music schools in China, she moved to NYC to continue her education. July Yang holds a Bachelor's degree from Manhattan School of Music and a Master's degree in piano performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music.