Since 2011, when she assumed the role of the head of this conservancy for under-resourced communities in the five boroughs of New York, Marton works with some big names: Founder Bette Midler, board members Michael Kors (celebrity designer), Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone founder/publisher), and Maria Rodale (multimedia publisher), among many others. They entrust and empower Marton, her staff, and volunteers to build green spaces that make life better for New Yorkers of all stripes.
“Leadership and sustainability are the same thing,” Marton says. “It’s about systems persisting over time. You want to manage resources as well as staff to continue after you are gone. Just as you would want resources flowing in a systemic way, you want your staff and your board to function to the best of their ability.”
But you can’t operate on gut feelings alone; accountability matters. “We know that seeing and experiencing nature and exercise, that air and water quality, can affect lifespans, birth weights, local economies, and civic engagement,” she says. “We are partnered with hospital and research institutions to determine if we can conclusively link green spaces to how people are able to live their lives.”
“It’s important to mentor anyone you can, male and female,” Marton shares. “I tell people there are two important things: to know yourself and to be honest about your skills, including where you can make improvements. Also to take chances. That builds leadership skills.” She adds that compassion, empathy, tough persistence, and not being defensive when wrong help get things done.
Her grandmother, born in Hungary and a refugee from communism, ranks up there with The Divine Miss M (Midler) as her inspiration.