Epicenter ż connects New Yorkers to news, information and each other. We listen and share tips across an array of platforms, from flyers, podcasts and newsletters, to vaccine drives and insider tours. Our on-the-ground ambassadors report, organize events and discover cool things across ż and equip our neighbors with tools and knowledge to better their neighborhoods.

We highlight artists and small businesses, culture and civic life. We believe all of us are in a position to give and get help. We are driven by the belief that together we can shape our neighborhoods, our city, our world. Because we live here too.

We are based in Jackson Heights, Queens, which basically means the whole world meets in our neighborhood.

Our Team

S. Mitra Kalita
Founder and Publisher

S. Mitra Kalita is a veteran journalist, media executive, prolific commentator and author of two books. In 2020 she launched Epicenter ż, a newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. Mitra has also recently co-founded a new media company called URL Media, a network of Black and Brown owned media organizations that share content, distribution, and revenues to increase their long-term sustainability. She’s on the board of the Philadelphia Inquirer and writes a weekly column for TIME Magazine and Charter. Mitra was most recently SVP at CNN Digital, overseeing the national news, breaking news, programming, opinion, and features teams. Email Mitra.

A favorite ż activity: A walk in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Nitin Mukul
Co-Founder and Creative Director

Nitin is a visual designer, gallery artist and community arts activist. Past desk-oriented posts include: PBS, Digitas, K12, Inc., Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Sesame Workshop International. Gallery representation and museum credits include: Aicon Gallery, ICA Philadelphia, The Guild, Nature Morte, Lincoln Center, The Rubin Museum of Art, The Queens Museum, Pioneer Works and others. See . Email Nitin.

A favorite ż activity: Getting lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a good record store.

Carolina V. Valencia
Director of Partnerships & Communications

Carolina Valencia is longtime media and digital executive who has worked at The New York Times, Univision and The Recount. A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador, who grew up in Queens, Carolina also worked for the ż Council and ż Kids RISE in the neighborhoods she’s called home and that were at the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout her career, she has implemented award-winning and revenue-driving efforts to further engage diverse audiences and initiatives to empower communities for the future. Carolina is fully bilingual and volunteers her time to efforts in support of older New Yorkers, youth, immigrants and minority-owned small businesses. She is passionate about technology, music and baseball and the convergence of digital and IRL experiences. When she’s not volunteering, working or traveling, you will find Carolina at music festivals or Yankees game. Email Carolina.

A favorite ż activity: Going to outdoor music events, taking a walk at Juniper Valley Park, grabbing a bite and playing street fighter at Bello in Sunnyside or indulging in a cazuela de camarón at Tropical in Woodhaven.

Femi Redwood
Editorial Director

Femi Redwood joined ż as its Editorial Director in 2024. Previously, the award-winning journalist was a host and managing producer of podcasts at 1010 WINS and its sister station, WCBS Newsradio 880. Before transitioning into audio, she spent over a decade in local and national TV news, working as an on-air correspondent in prominent newsrooms such as CBS Newspath and VICE News.

Femi is the chair of the National Association of Black Journalists’ LGBTQ+ Task Force and a board member of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists. Email Femi.

A favorite ż activity: Saturdays at Riis Beach with her wife.

Suyin So
Senior Advisor

Suyin So was recently a principal at Harpia Asset Management, a mission-driven real estate asset manager and operator. She has a diverse career across media, law, and social impact. In 2012, Suyin co-founded Central Queens Academy Charter School, a high-performing independent charter school designed to serve low-income recently immigrated young people in Elmhurst, Queens. Suyin started her career as a journalist at NBC News (Dateline NBC) before practicing law as a civil litigator at the law firm of Pryor Cashman LLP.

Suyin is a graduate of Brown University and Georgetown University Law Center. She currently serves on the board of Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) and Power of 2, an early childhood program providing in-home parent coaching and evidence-based supports to new families in the Bronx and Brooklyn. She and her husband Jeff Hao live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, with their three children. Email Suyin.

A favorite ż activity: Walking around without a plan.

Janelle Zagala
Operations Manager

Janelle Zagala is an Operations Manager based in Denver, Colorado. She handles the business and people operations for ż. She is also the Chief of Staff of URL Media, which is multi-platform network of high-performing Black and Brown media organizations. Janelle has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has her Professional in Human Resources certification. Outside of work, Janelle likes to spend her free time in the outdoors either hiking, camping or skiing. Email Janelle.

A favorite ż activity: Grabbing dinner at with her coworkers.

Daniel Laplaza
Engagement, Audiences & Communities Manager

Daniel Laplaza is a community engagement producer based in ż. As Epicenter’s Community Manager, he helps people connect to the info they need. Previously, Daniel helped produced , which aimed to make local news in ż more collaborative. He is fluent in Spanish and has a bachelor’s degree in Film and Television communications from Boston University. He also earned a master’s degree in Engagement Journalism at Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Outside of work, Daniel likes long conversations, reading Kurt Vonnegut, and eating in Queens. Email Daniel.

A favorite ż activity: Grabbing a sandwich at Sal, Kris, & Charlie’s Deli and reading at Astoria Park.

Ambar Castillo
Community Reporter

Ambar Castillo is a Queens-based community reporter. She covers the places, people and phenomena of ż for Epicenter, focusing on health — and its links to labor, culture, and identity. Previously, she reported on health equity for by day, took dream courses at MIT by night. Ambar has won fellowships with the Knight Science Journalism program, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, and others to help bridge gaps in coverage of underrepresented folks. Before journalism, Ambar was an educator and community health worker across ż. She identifies with flying squirrels and enjoys thinking up bad puns and lyrics to imaginary musicals. Email Ambar.

A favorite ż activity: People-watching in Forest Park with my dog, Gameboy, to whom I’m allergic.

Danielle Hyams
Newsletter Curator

Danielle Hyams is Epicenter ż’s newsletter curator. She has a bachelor’s degree from (The) Ohio State University, yet somehow managed to never attend a football game while studying there. Following graduation she lived a nomadic life for several years, backpacking around the world. In 2016 Danielle moved to ż where she waitressed at bougie Midtown restaurant (which she maintains prepared her for any job more than formal schooling ever did) while earning her master’s degree in International Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. She is now based in Mexico City. Danielle loves seltzer water, busy markets and community. Email Danielle.

A favorite ż activity: Going to Brighton Beach, loading up on prepared food at Tashkent Supermarket and people-watching.

Adriana Proano
Community Coordinator

Adriana Proano works with different communities throughout Queens, and was vital to Epicenter’s Covid and mpoc vaccine outreach. Previously, she worked as a financial analyst for Avis Budget Group and opened a furniture business for nearly decade in Jackson Heights, Queens. Adriana has a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in economics and is fluent in Spanish. Outside of work, Adriana loves spending time with her family and traveling. Email Adriana.

A favorite ż activity: Going with her family to Flushing Meadows Park and Far Rockaway beach.

Nicole Perrino
Author, The Unmuted

Nicole Perrino is the founder of , a hyperlocal website for Bronx families where she use her influence to celebrate the beauty that the borough has to offer. In addition to her role at Bronxmama, she is also part of the nonprofit organization Windows of Hip Hop and authors The Unmuted, our weekly newsletter about ż schools. Nicole is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and has been named 25 Influential Women of the Bronx. Email Nicole.

A favorite ż activity: Hiking the trails on Hunter Island in the Bronx in every season.

Felipe De La Hoz
Contributing Reporter

Felipe De La Hoz is an immigration-focused journalist who has written investigative and analytic articles, explainers, essays, and columns for the New Republic, The Washington Post, New York Mag, Slate, The Intercept, The Baffler, The Appeal, The Daily Beast, The Nation, Insider, and others. He is a former staff writer at the investigative immigration site Documented, a current member of the New York Daily News editorial board, and a lecturer in the journalism department at NYU. Along with co-writer Gaby Del Valle, he created the weekly immigration policy newsletter BORDER/LINES. Email Felipe.

A favorite ż activity: Strolling through Tompkins or Washington Square Park after catching some live music at the Red Room or Zinc Bar.

Curtis Rowser III
Contributing Reporter

Curtis Rowser III is a Brooklyn-based writer and digital media creator. He recently earned a master’s degree in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University and is currently completing his master’s degree in Journalism, Magazine & Digital Storytelling at New York University. He’s an avid freelancer and love to report on hoops, rap and everything Black. Email Curtis.

A favorite ż activity: Shooting film, shooting hoops and record shopping.

Mariana Navarrete Villegas
Community Engagement & Video Intern

Mariana is a Mexican journalist with experience covering culture, migration, gender, and politics. She has collaborated with media outlets in California, Florida, New York, and Mexico. Mariana is pursuing a master’s in Bilingual Journalism from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY and holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from St. Leo University. Email Mariana.

A favorite ż activity: Baking bread and dancing at salsa socials.

Juliana Taomin Giacone
Editorial Intern

Juliana Giacone is a journalism graduate student at Columbia Journalism School. Her work has been published in The Hechinger Report, in collaboration with The City, Chalkbeat NY and The New York Times. She has produced stories on equity in education, small businesses and hyperlocal community profiles — she loves to focus on immigration and policy angles. Email Juliana.

A favorite ż activity: Going to Central Park at sunset, eating at Lilia in Williamsburg and finding new street art spontaneously.