Founding Story

It all started when…

The Rewild Initiative had originally been founded by environmental analyst David Jakim in January 2017 with the aim to protect existing biodiversity and rewild public spaces to benefit wildlife at the Port Washington peninsula.

In the fall of 2018 a group of concerned citizens organized by activists Hildur Palsdottir and Patti Woods got together at the Port Washington Public Library and discussed urgent matters of local and immediate environmental and public health. ReWild Long Island was born out of that meeting to increase biodiversity in both public and private spaces using native plants.

In the Fall of 2018, ReWild Long Island started our first Fall Planting with seven Pioneer families joining together to ReWild their yards, guided by Landscape Architect Rusty Schmidt, Founder of Long Island Native Plant Initiative. A seed donation from an anonymous donor greatly accelerated the growth of the nascent organization. Even in the first season, ReWild Long Island drove two public ReWildings at Whitney Pond Preserve and Sands Point Preserve.

This effort was redoubled in Spring of 2019, when ReWild Long Island worked with 16 families to transform their yards with native plantings, while engaging 32 additional families who started adding natives to their existing gardens. In addition, ReWild Long Island was able to work with five public institutions on their ReWilding including a 1200 square foot planting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Manhasset and The Science Museum of Long Island in Plandome.

Our work was well received and spread through word of mouth. You can learn of our early successes through the stories told by our pioneer families on the blog pages, or check out the Newsday article on ReWilders or this video that ran on CBS nationally.

ReWild Long Island was incorporated in July 2019 as a non-profit corporation with the New York State Division of Corporations and State Records. The organization is in the process of filing as 501(c)(3) organization with the IRS.



Our Mission

ReWild Long Island works with communities on Long Island to protect and improve the biodiversity, resilience and health of regional ecosystems by adopting sustainable horticultural practices centered around native plants.

We work to introduce native plant based gardens in public and private spaces, transforming them into thriving micro-habitats for a variety of insects, bees, birds and butterflies. In addition, our mission is to educate the public at large the value of ReWilding, as well as to advocate for change in community practices and regulations.

We aim to replace conventional landscaping with wildlife-friendly vibrant natives in many homes and public lawns in Port Washington, bringing the benefits of conserving water, using fewer resources and bringing more bees/birds/butterflies to people’s lawns.

What we´ve learned at Rewild is that it only takes a handful of like-minded to raise the awareness and inspire repair and restoration. Rewild is now ready to shift the cultural narrative away from perfectly maintained toxic spaces, towards responsibility and dedication to life-sustaining habits.

It starts with the very ground of our being, the Earth we all live on. 

Rooted in the soil we grow, we now have more than 50 families dedicated to creating earth-friendly habitats in their yards. Join us as a member, contributor, ReWilder or to start a chapter in your own neighborhood.


Organizer Bios


Annemarie Ansel

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Growing up alongside her grandfather who had a farm in Queens, gardening became deep rooted in AnneMarie’s nature. As a member of the Green Sanctuary at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock she helped develop their Community Garden and taught Organic Gardening as well as various other gardening courses to members. AnneMarie Ansel worked as a Computer Programmer for the NYC Board of Ed., leaving the work force to raise her family. Using her front yard to teach neighbors about the importance of organic/pollinator/wildlife gardening and giving tours, it wasn’t long before she joined Rewild where she can complete her mission to reach a wider community.

AnneMarie serves as the Treasurer on the Board of ReWild Long Island.

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Adria Defalco

Adria is Director of Finance and Administration at the Queens Botanical Garden, in Flushing, Queens. Previously, she was at State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College as the Chief Business Officer.  Adria graduated with a bachelors from Case Western Reserve University with a major in Management and Operations Research from the Weather School of Management, and a minor in mathematics.  She also graduated with a masters of science in Non-Profit Fundraising Management from Columbia University.

Currently, Adria is an active volunteer with the Billion Oyster Project.  Previously she has volunteered at the North Shore Animal League America as an adoption volunteer; Harnas USA (a branch of a Namibian wildlife sanctuary) as a Board Member and fundraising consultant; the Jorge Posada Foundation as a mentor; and a volunteer reader at Read Ahead (formerly known as Everybody Wins! New York).

Adria currently serves as a Director on the Board of ReWild Long Island.


David Jakim

David Jakim, M.S. Environmental Geoscience, M.A. Earth Science Education, Is a lifelong resident of Port Washington. Since 2012, Jakim has worked to protect special places and has done award-winning work in environmental analysis and conservation in Port Washington and in New York City with Queens College. Jakim founded and is Director of the ReWild Port Washington Initiative and the Port Washington Monarch Butterfly Alliance in 2017.

David serves as Chief BioDiversity Officer for ReWild Long Island.

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Hildur Palsdottir

Dr. Hildur Palsdottir received a PhD in Biochemistry from the Max-Planck Institute of Biophysics, where she studied Cellular Bioenergetics.

She worked as a research scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and New York University Medical School until she founded Sol Center in Port Washington in 2017. She is dedicated to mindful environmental stewardship and enjoys lecturing in schools and community centers about mindful and sustainable living. She contributes to the weekly Earth Matters column in the Island Now newspaper. Hildur is a certified mindfulness meditation instructor and educator, serves as President of the Board of Trustees for Science Museum of Long Island and is dedicated to bringing mindfulness and sustainability to STEAM education for all ages.

Hildur serves as Communications and Social Media Director on the Board of ReWild Long Island.


Raju Rajan

Raju Rajan is a technologist with a strong communitarian ethic. He came to the United States from India to obtain his PhD in Communication Networks at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has enjoyed a long career as researcher, consultant and architect in Information Technology.

His strong entrepreneurial ethic has led him to found two IT start-ups, as well as a number of community groups aimed at organizing people for systemic change. He is currently active with Long Island Together, a progressive collective that organizes around education, immigration and social change, as well as ReWild Long Island, which brings native plants to public spaces and private yards.

Raju resides in Port Washington, NY, with wife Sonia Arora who is an educator/community organizer, son Kabeera Singh, a Schreiber High School student, and cat, Lucky, who does nothing.

Raju serves as the President of the Board of ReWild Long Island.

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Pat valente

Pat is a resident of Manorhaven and a committed gardener and environmental advocate. A Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, she is an avid gardener who also knows that re-introducing plants that flourished on Long Island for thousands of years is important to the local environment. Pat has been the driving force behind the Manorhaven Nature Preserve located on Manorhaven Boulevard between the Port Washington Senior Citizens Center and Manorhaven Beach Park.

Pat Valente serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors of ReWild Long Island.