“I was born and raised in Brooklyn but my family is from St. Vincent, W.I.,” says Nicole Robinson -Etienne whose work is pleasantly unusual, particularly for someone with a B.A. in Political Science and Urban Studies and a law degree.
Robinson-Etienne is the assistant director of Government and Community Affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) New York Aquarium and Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn. She liaises with state and city elected officials, government agencies, community boards, the amusement industry, and community stakeholders.
She also has been actively engaged with the newly formed Alliance for Coney Island and the ConeyRecovers campaign that mobilized efforts to assist local residents in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Previously, Robinson-Etienne was an immigration attorney in a small law practice working on asylum and family unification cases.
She later went on to work as special counsel to Assemblywoman Rhoda S. Jacobs, for more than eight years helping constituents expedite and resolve problems relating to the delivery of social services. She assisted clients with immigration related concerns, developed a summer resource guide for parents and managed special events including health fairs, job fairs, educational workshops, and an annual luncheon for senior citizens.
These skills came in handy when she transitioned to work in Coney Island where she engaged residents and stakeholders in dialogue around the issue of the Strategic Plan for Coney Island.
About her current work she says, “I am proud of my efforts to connect children to nature by providing access to the New York Aquarium through our community access and education outreach programs.”
“Growing up in the Caribbean, you are surrounded by water,” she says, “and have a seamless connection to the natural world around you. New York City is a city of islands and also surrounded by water but our children don’t have that same connection.”
With delight she describes the first exhibit at the NY Aquarium: a replication of Glovers Reef, a coral reef system located in Belize, home to marine creatures — eels, Atlantic rays, French angels and Cuban hogfish.
She says, “It’s that first moment of awe that you see in a child’s eye when they visit the aquarium that inspires me to want children of all ages, but especially urban children of Caribbean descent to have that same experience.”Nicole also spends her free time mentoring young women and volunteers as a leader and coordinator of six Girl Scout troops at PS 276 in Canarsie, Brooklyn.