the team


Associate Director

A native New Yorker, Ellie became involved with RIF through her farm apprenticeship at Brooklyn Grange: the world's largest rooftop soil farm. In 2014, she began volunteering as a facilitator for the Urban Farm Recovery Project– a program in partnership with the farm that provides asylum seekers with a paid fellowship in urban agriculture. Growing, cooking, and eating food is her favorite mode of transcending barriers, celebrating difference, and connecting with her community.  Ellie speaks English, Spanish and Hebrew.

Maria Blacque-Belair

Executive Director

Maria BB established RIF as a welcome center for asylum seekers in 2006. She is a clinical social worker who has worked with refugees for the past twenty years. Prior to working in New York, Maria worked in major humanitarian crises in Iraq, Bosnia, and Rwanda. She also worked in the Romanian orphanages after the fall of dictator Ceausescu. Maria provides psychosocial assistance to relief workers at Doctors Without Borders (MSF/USA) on an as-needed basis. Maria is bilingual in French and English and speaks Spanish.

Board Members:  Carol Skyrm,  Shadrach Gonzalez Fher,  Audu Kadiri,  Bea Plasse