Executive Leadership

Luis Garden Acosta, Founder & President.  Luis is an American pioneer for community driven, human rights activism. In 1982, he founded El Puente with the mission to inspire and nurture leadership to end community violence while organizing for democratic action, healing and all human rights.

His passion for social action, ranging from education reform to environmental justice, from parks and open spaces to community wellness and culture is rooted in his commitment to the primacy of community.  Given his vision, El Puente, as the name implies in Spanish, “bridges” major initiatives in health, the environment, education and the arts, incorporating them all in a holistic, goal oriented membership for community members of all ages. The “Green Light District”, a projected 10 year initiative, takes El Puente’s holistic action planning door to door, engaging, virtually, every family in transforming Luis’ home community, the Southside of Williamsburg to America’s model neighborhood for community health and environmental wellness. READ MORE



Frances Lucerna, Co-Founder & Executive Director. Frances has been a pioneer of community arts and education for the past 30 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education and Dance from Hunter College and Masters of Arts, in Education and Supervision, from Bank Street College.  She danced professionally for 10 years and in 1980 returned to her community Williamsburg, Brooklyn and founded the Williamsburg Arts & Culture Council for Youth, a performing and visual arts program for adolescents. In 1982, Ms. Lucerna became co-founder of El Puente, a nationally recognized community/youth development organization nurturing holistic leadership for peace and social justice.

As Artistic Director of El Puente, with the Williamsburg Arts and Culture Council as its cornerstone, Ms. Lucerna developed Brooklyn’s most comprehensive Latino Arts and Cultural Center, providing pre and professional training in five arts disciplines. She has also nurtured three professional performing companies in Dance and Drama comprised of El Puente youth, and has produced and presented the talent of local as well as international artists to the community. In 1998 El Puente received the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ “Coming Up Taller Award” in recognition of its outstanding community arts programs. READ MORE  


Eugenio (Gino) Maldonado, Co-Founder & Chief of Operations. Gino is a graduate of Queens College, and was on the original development team Luis Garden Acosta put together in 1982 to create El Puente in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where Mr. Maldonado had grown up. Since 1994 he has been the Chief of Operations of El Puente. Throughout his life, Mr. Maldonado has dedicated himself to the betterment of his community. Aside for his leadership at El Puente, he has been a motivating leader for fair housing for the Latino Community in Williamsburg. 
He is a founding Board Member of Beginning with Children, a local charter school created by parents and community leaders for elementary and intermediate  education. For over 45 years Mr. Maldonado dedicated himself to the development of his community providing youth and adult educational, college bound program activities, employment opportunities, housing rights, voting rights and immigration services.  

Mr. Maldonado, Gino as we all know him, has been an activist for advocacy groups dedicated to organizing community efforts for fair housing environmental justice and education reform. He has been affiliated with organizations such as Willamsburg Coordinating Community/Fair Housing Committee,“Los Sures”/ Southside United HDFC, Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, Williamsburg Queens College/ Adult Collegiate Education, Montefiore Hospital Rehabilitation Center, Salud Coalition,I have a Dream Foundation, Flight 587 Victims Services, CUNY Citizenship NOW, NYC  Employment and Training Coalition and Williamsburg Legal Services Advisory Committee. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Community Driven Solution INC., and Brooklyn Latino Democratic Club.


Theresa Doherty, Deputy Director for Programs. Theresa joined El Puente in 2006, having been drawn to its renowned work in the arts, social justice, and community development. She currently oversees youth and community program development at El Puente’s 4 youth leadership centers, and manages government contracts and foundation grants for El Puente’s initiatives in education, the arts, health & wellness, and environmental advocacy. She is also on the development team of El Puente’s Global Justice Institute, a leadership training institute to mentor other practitioners in the El Puente approach to holistic human rights-driven community development and action.

Beyond El Puente, Theresa is a member of the Citizens Union’s Municipal Affairs and Local Candidates Committees, and is active in the Southside CSA. She has worked in NYC nonprofits for 15 years, and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College, CUNY.