Westchester Magazine: Top 8 Leaders in Westchester

Westchester Magazine: Top 8 Leaders in Westchester

Three of Westchester Magazine’s top 8 leaders in Westchester County are from Pace. “The Riverkeeper” John Cronin, “The Eco-advocate” Nick Robinson and “The Cyber-Security ‘Type’ ” Logan Romm were all featured with interviews and photos among the top 8 in a recent article in the magazine.

From Westchester Magazine about the 8 leaders:

… “Westchesterites are looking at our biggest issues and, hopefully, will alter the way we live for the better. They’re impacting Westchester, New York, the USA, and the whole world. These are the 2013 Game Changers.”

About John Cronin, Senior Fellow for Environmental Affairs, Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies:

“You can go on your iPhone, and you can know temperature, humidity, and wind speed in Johannesburg, South Africa, in real time,” says John Cronin, senior fellow for Environmental Affairs at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies in Pleasantville. “But there’s nobody who can tell you—in real time—what’s in your glass of drinking water.”

The fact is disconcerting, but Cronin, 62, aims to change it. He’s organized dropping  sensors in the Hudson and its tributaries to monitor water quality and conditions. But Cronin wants to go further. In addition to changing how we keep our river clean—a project he’s been working on for 40 years—he wants to change the partnerships we enlist to help solve environmental problems.

In October 1973, Cronin was working painting houses when he met Pete Seeger at an event for Seeger’s environmental advocacy and educational vessel, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. The two men embarked on a volunteer project: As Seeger sang sea shanties and yodeled, the folk icon brought Cronin into the environmental world. Seeger would insist that, “‘if we all work together, we can clean up the Hudson River.’ I thought that idea was ludicrous,” says Cronin. “The River was huge, horribly polluted.” Nonetheless, inspired by Seeger, Cronin began a career in environmental issues, eventually taking stints advising Republican Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr., and Democratic New York State Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey.

“I was hooked,” he says. “I went from thinking Pete was out of his mind to thinking that, if you were determined enough, you could make an enormous difference.” Becoming the inaugural Hudson Riverkeeper in 1983, Cronin acted as the clean-water advocate for the River and its tributaries, which provide 9 million New Yorkers with drinking water.

Thanks to Cronin’s media savvy and some real luck—while filming a segment for NBC news, he came upon an Exxon oil tanker discharging pollutants just 1,500 feet from drinking water—and the program took off. Soon, there was a Soundkeeper for Long Island, then a Baykeeper in San Francisco. Today, there are more than 200 similar programs all over the world. During his time as Riverkeeper, Cronin took on all kinds of polluters: New York City, for instance, was dumping 1.5 billion gallons of sewage into the River every day. But many of those on the opposite side of litigation were corporations.

In the past decade, however, Cronin began to formulate different ideas about problem-solving on the environment. He felt that we were “mostly operating under twentieth-century models when twenty-first-century problems need all the talent, all the skills we can muster—no mater where they come from.” Enforcement was still a primary goal, he thought, but the expertise, technology, and capital available in the private sector were nothing to eschew, either. In 2004, he founded the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, which is today part of Clarkson University, with just this collaborative goal in mind.

One alliance, with Armonk-based IBM, has proved crucial in Cronin’s water-monitoring efforts. John Kelly, a senior vice president and director of Yorktown’s IBM Research (who oversees some 3,000 scientists in laboratories around the world), agrees that Cronin’s ideas are the future. “I think he embodies a visionary who can identify what’s really important through all the clutter. Other people were dreaming, but he knew what to do. His ideas are contagious, and he has the wherewithal to get it done.”

About Nick Robinson, University Professor and Gilbert & Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, Pace University:

“No, the fights for conservation and against climate change aren’t totally new. So, even if Pace University Law Professor Nicholas Robinson is at the center of both of those struggles, why do we think he also has the next big idea? It’s not just because he was around and affecting policy at the highest levels back when it was a new idea, although he was. Nor is it because his predictions about flooding recently have proven sadly accurate, although they have. It’s because, with all this experience, he knows exactly what we’re going to have to do about it all.

Robinson, of Sleepy Hollow, grew up mostly in Palo Alto, California, where he enjoyed outdoor activities like camping in the Sierras, but the East Coast-style air and water pollution he saw when he started college at Brown University in the early 1960s made him begin taking the study of environmental policy seriously. By 1972, just two years after Robinson graduated from Columbia Law School, New York had adopted his draft of the landmark Tidal Wetlands Act, and “the UN was waking up to the concerns of the environment,” says Robinson, 67. “I was asked by the Sierra Club to attend the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.”

In the late 1970s, Robinson helped found one of the first environmental law programs in the country at Pace Law School. He was an advisor to Governor Mario Cuomo, general counsel and deputy commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and a treaty delegate to the Soviet Union under five presidents. As if all of that weren’t enough, he’s even made his mark on the County’s cultural life, orchestrating the donation of the old Philipse Manor train station to the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center for its headquarters in the late 1980s before such plans for renovation and re-use were common.

But it’s his international work that set the stage for him to establish some of the most important coming trends in the environmental movement. He has helped instruct environmental groups on what legal systems they’ll encounter in writing international treaties, harmonized treaties on endangered species that migrate across borders, and helped establish trans-boundary cooperation for contested areas like the Arctic Circle. “But locally, the same issues play out,” he says. Dealing with climate change means finding money for repairs, reinforcing or altering infrastructure, managing native flora to mitigate flooding, drafting environmental impact statements, and taking other measures that Robinson has long been a part of.

“I’ve been working with the faculty at our Pleasantville campus to organize the Pocantico River Watershed Conservancy,” he said, 12 days before Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. “How should it be inter-managed to protect the downstream communities from flooding? It’s not a question of if; it’s only a question of when. We need to get ready for the ‘retreat from the coasts,’ moving infrastructure inland. If you have a road or a pipeline or a buffer right along a coastal area and you don’t help adapt where the river water can go, then you’re going to end up having storms cause a lot of property damage. We cannot save the Hudson River unless we better save the tributaries of the Hudson. We need to take the experiences we have around the world and begin actually solving our local problems. And then we have to share that with similarly situated people all over the world.”

About Seidenberg School student Logan Romm, keystroke biometrics researcher:

“If you’ve logged onto an online retailer’s website months after you last shopped there and found that you were still signed in or if you’ve ever noticed that your email was still logged in after returning from a vacation, then you can well imagine how easy it would be for a cyber bad guy to access your information. But if 27-year-old Logan Romm’s project takes off, those bad guys are going to have to work much harder.

The White Plains resident, who grew up in Rye Brook, has a full-time job as a marketing manager at Verizon, but it was his studies in Internet Technology at Pace University, where he earned his master’s in 2012, that are helping to close these security holes. Along with four other teammates (and dozens of graduate students who have put in time since the project started seven years ago), Romm is studying keystroke biometrics—in other words, identifying people by how they type—and developing its potential for security applications. There is, after all, a surprisingly large amount of data in keystrokes—how quickly people type certain letter combinations, how they scroll, if they prefer the number pad or the numbers above the letters—and, like a fingerprint or an iris, individuals’ typing characteristics are unique to them.

The applications of figuring out how to recognize those unique features are nearly limitless. Authenticating students taking tests online comes to mind. Corporations with proprietary research on their servers and governments with classified documents to protect are always looking for the next step in security. And, as Romm points out, this may be it. After all, passwords can be stolen or guessed, and a single entry often keeps users logged in to sensitive information for hours or even days after they leave the console. But monitoring keystrokes allows ongoing authentication of users, “so, even if an intruder gains access initially, if they are not behaving the way the actual user does then that access could be detected and the unauthorized user’s session could be terminated,” he says. The project’s director, Professor Charles Tappert, has been in touch with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the US Department of Defense, although nothing has been finalized.

Romm and his teammates began their work last year, but they were responsible for the meat of the seven-year-old project: collecting typing samples and analyzing them, including the first samples of people working on browsers.

“It’s getting harder and harder to create a secure a password,” Romm says, “but this definitely makes a lot of sense for the next level.”

Read the full article here.

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