Chairman and CEO, Red Apple Group
Few people in the city have more deep ties to politicians, on both sides of the aisle, than the grocery store magnate, who is a prolific fundraiser – most notably for the Clintons. The onetime GOP mayoral candidate clearly cares deeply about the city and has remained active in political conversations since his 2013 campaign loss, both through his pocketbook and on the airwaves. His weekly radio show frequently features top political guests with national profiles.
There aren't many 85 year-olds as active as the mighty Lion of Harlem. He also knows the political mazes of the city and the halls of power in Washington, D.C., better than anyone. After 45 years of service in elected office, Rangel has decided to retire undefeated. What’s remarkable is that all of the contenders vying to replace him in Congress are coveting his endorsement – a telltale sign of Rangel’s legendary staying power in New York City.
President, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association (Teamsters Local 831)
You might not think of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association as a politically powerful union, but Nespoli’s membership is vital to the everyday operations of the city. That Nespoli also negotiated a handsome new contract for his members in March speaks to what has been a productive working relationship with City Hall. Nespoli was also instrumental in negotiating health care savings for all of the municIpal labor unions as head of the Municipal Labor Committee.
CEO, The Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services
Even before The Jewish Board acquired $75 million in city contracts to administer behavioral health programs following the collapse of the Federation Employment & Guidance Services (FEGS), it was one of the city’s largest social services nonprofits. Now it’s far and away the biggest, serving more than 43,000 New Yorkers. Rivel has been running The Jewish Board since 2011, driving the 140-year-old institution into the 21st century with a more data-driven approach to administering services.
Chairperson, NYC & Company
Chairperson of New York City’s tourism arm, NYC & Company, amid record numbers of visitors to the city, president emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, board member of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, and the list goes on … Rafferty has her hands in so many important organizations in New York City that it would be hard to imagine the Power 100 list without her.
Senior Partner, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron
Getting your start in the Lindsay administration and working directly or indirectly for each subsequent government at City Hall certainly helps get you on this list, but Davidoff’s close relationship with Mayor de Blasio seals the deal. Hizzonner even officiated Davidoff’s wedding in 2014. Sid was also recently cited in a New York Post feature as one of the few lobbyists to get face time with the mayor, which has to be good for business.
CEO, New York City Charter School Center
The face of charter schools in New York City for the past decade has been Eva Moskowitz, but a recent spate of bad press led by the New York Times may have charter advocates wanting to promote a new spokesman. Merriman is the likely person. He’s spent almost a decade as a leading voice for the success and promotion of charters in New York City, taking a less fiery approach than Moskowitz but still effectively pushing pro-charter policies.
Vice President of Government Relations, Con Edison
Speculation swirled around who would land this important position after predecessor John Banks left Con Edison for REBNY. While Kimball’s tenure as president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation was relatively brief – he was a Bloomberg holdover – few doubt his understanding of how the city works and the intersection of the public and private sectors. Kimball’s role here is essential to the city, and with Frances Resheske by his side, he’s a no-brainer for this list.
Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association
While NYSNA is a statewide shop, the political clout of 37,000 nurses certainly weighs in heavily on New York City issues given amount of hospitals and other health care delivery in the city. As we highlighted last year, Jill has reinvigorated the union since joining in 2012 and has NYSNA pressuring City Hall and Albany on a near-daily basis on issues like staffing, hospitals closures and more.
New York City Council Deputy Chief of Staff
As one of very few holdovers from the Bloomberg administration, Martínez knows that it's his ability to get things done that matters. He is absolutely indispensable to City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, and that alone keeps him on this list. He's involved in everything that is important to his bosses and yet he goes unnoticed by most – that has a high value for those who trust him to get things done. And that’s what we call power.
New York City Councilman
In his first term as a City Council member, Torres has demonstrated political savvy and courage that belies his age – 27. Since breaking with the Bronx Democratic Party and backing Melissa Mark-Viverito for speaker, Torres has become one of the few outspoken voices against the de Blasio administration on issues like public housing and policing. While he probably won’t make a run at Council speaker in 2018, Torres is widely considered to be a rising star among city politicians.
Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for International Affairs
It’s no secret that Mayor de Blasio wants to boost his international profile. The person tasked with accomplishing that feat is Abeywardena, who has worked behind the scenes to organize the mayor’s many appearances with prominent people like Pope Francis and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate and Wills. She was also instrumental in organizing the mayor’s impromptu trip to Paris in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Partner, Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz
Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz has become a go-to public affairs firm in New York, with consistent appearances among the City Clerk’s top 10 government relations firms in New York City. From corporate clients to trade associations and some of the city’s biggest real estate shops, Woloz and CMW have done well over the past year. CMW and its clients were also big bundlers for de Blasio, which we hear gets you some juice at City Hall.
President, New York City Central Labor Council
Alvarez’s power lies in his role as the face of the umbrella organization for all of New York City’s municipal unions. While the Central Labor Council does not have the political clout that some of the private sector unions like 1199 and 32BJ enjoy, they still are active on certain issues. Alvarez was reportedly one of the union leaders cautioning City Council members against voting for Mayor de Blasio’s controversial horse carriage bill.
Senior Vice Chancellor, CUNY
If you don’t know Jay Hershenson, chances are you aren’t on this list or don’t play in politics or government in New York. The longtime senior vice chancellor at the City University of New York is the go-to guy to get things done at CUNY. With his understanding of how the university system works, and the power structure of New York, our Power 100 list would be incomplete without him.
New York Co-Chairman, Greenberg Traurig
The former councilman-at-large and one of the city’s premiere land-use experts runs Greenberg Traurig’s New York office. Wallace runs point on some of the largest real estate and land-use deals in New York City, often using his expertise to educate current city government officials on the process and making his recommendations for tackling housing and other big issues facing the city.
President, Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York
Recent labor negotiations were so intense that at times Cassidy threatened to sue the City Council, but he was still able to get most of what his members needed. Recently Cassidy has been a more visible presence than ever before. This newfound public voice has made it clear that firefighters – whose bravery this city depends on daily – take a back seat to no one. The political muscle that comes from Cassidy’s endorsements makes him a player worth noticing.
President, Transport Workers Union Local 100
Despite being the head of a union that negotiates its contracts with the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Samuelsen has taken a more public role as an attack dog against the de Blasio administration, and has smartly cozied up to Gov. Cuomo. Samuelsen’s membership is obviously rooted in the city, and he is one of the more press-savvy union leaders, as evidenced by his media blitz calling for an investigation into the carriage horse controversy.
A former Mario Cuomo guy and longtime parks advocate, Mike Klein also daylights as principal at mega law firm Dentons, which acquired McKenna, Long & Aldridge late last year. Klein and his firm represent some of the biggest companies in the world in New York and beyond, with deep relationships in New York City and Albany, and on the national level.
President, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York
When it comes to defending New York's Finest, Lynch has no equal. When Mayor de Blasio described the conversations he's had with his son Dante about interacting with the police, Lynch wasted no time in calling the mayor a cop hater. He doesn't care what is said about him. All that matters to Lynch is that NYPD officers are respected and that their sacrifice is reflected in their salaries and benefits. Hard to argue with that if you're paying dues.
Managing Director, Kivvit Consulting
Rich, Bam – whatever you want to call him – the former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and current managing director of Kivvit Consulting in New York City has worked with Maggie Moran and others to build one of the top consulting shops in town, boasting some of the biggest business and labor interests in New York as clients. Keep an eye on Rich and Kivvit this year.
Jimmy Van Bramer
New York City Council Majority Leader
While his title as majority leader doesn’t carry much additional weight at City Hall, the Queens Democrat knows how to wield his political power to secure more resources for pet projects like funding for libraries, or to help out political allies. He works hard to maintain a strong public image, though privately he is polarizing. Still, he’s a potential candidate for speaker after the 2017 elections and appears to be lining up some powerful friends ahead of that fight.
President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Appelbaum is the voice for one of the fastest-growing sectors in the city as president of the RWDSU, and he now has a national platform in his role as executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers. He doesn’t have an especially strong working relationship with City Hall, but he knows how to work the media, and for that reason Applebaum can’t be ignored as a player in the city’s labor community.
Archbishop of New York
The boisterous shepherd has a flock of more than 2.6 million, and he is not shy to speak out on issues of importance to local government. Because of this, Mayor de Blasio wasted no time in seeking the Cardinal out as a partner on many important issues, from implementing universal pre-K to addressing homelessness and building more affordable housing. Of course, a visit from Pope Francis also helped give Cardinal Dolan a boost in stature.
Now that Chancellor Milliken has settled in he has begun to put his mark on the third-largest public university system in the country. While the funding stream for CUNY is something of a political football at present, Milliken still has one of the most powerful positions in New York City, controlling thousands of employees and an immense budget and resources.
New York City Councilwoman
To the extent that she is the City Council’s point person during budget negotiations with City Hall, Ferreras-Copeland remains one of the few Council members whose voice carries real weight. She also is often mentioned as a candidate for speaker when Melissa Mark-Viverito’s term expires, and her recent outspoken stance on issues such as the “tampon tax” is an indication that she intends to be at more active in shaping policy this year to build her profile.
While she represents parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, her constituency also extends in many ways to the millions of Puerto Ricans across the country, and she is often called on to advocate for or shine a light on issues of importance in the U.S. territory. That, combined with her influence on city Democratic politics, including her criticism of the Brooklyn machine and support of many up-and-coming lawmakers, lands her on the list.
President, New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association
Reforming incarceration policies has become the topic du jour of late, with a focus on Rikers Island. It’s clear Seabrook will have a major voice in this debate as it continues. He’s a fierce defender of his 11,000 members and is quick to push back against those seeking to crack down on corrections officers. Yet, like some labor leaders, he’s not so tone deaf as to stand in the way of change when the political tides are against him.
State Director, Working Families Party
The Working Families Party is enjoying an unprecedented time in New York City, with a progressive mayor and City Council, so the party has focused its efforts on Albany, where Lipton is leading the charge to advocate for many liberal policies city leaders want, but cannot implement without state help. And since it’s an election year, Democrats thinking of ignoring the WFP could find themselves on the wrong side of its get-out-the-vote movement in an unexpected primary challenge.
Counsel to the Governor
David is among the most trusted voices in the Cuomo administration on many of the issues facing residents of New York City, including criminal justice, race, labor and civil rights. He is also the face of many of these issues, delivering speeches and making media appearances to make the executive branch’s case for new policies and reforms. He’s been with the governor dating back to his time as attorney general, and we know loyalty is valued in the Cuomo camp.
Director, New York City Department of City Planning, Chairman, New York City Planning Commission
While the big-picture vision on housing and city planning still runs through Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Weisbrod is a respected voice on the nuts and bolts of housing policy. While you won’t see him quoted in magazines like his colleague Glen, insiders say Mayor de Blasio relies on Weisbrod to give an honest take on how his policies are received in the business and real estate communities, two sectors Weisbrod worked in for years and still has many important relationships.
CEO, Cablevision; Executive Chairman, Madison Square Garden Company
The sports and entertainment mogul makes our list for the significant donations his companies make to state and city lawmakers, including Gov. Cuomo. MSG and Cablevision have also become soft landing spots for many prominent politicians, most recently Cuomo’s former right-hand man, Joe Percoco. While Knicks fans may have legitimate criticisms about how the team is run, in the political world you can’t deny that Dolan and his empire are influential players.
Manhattan District Attorney
While Vance has definitely not scored as many headlines for cracking down on Wall Street banks, he has managed to secure about $1 billion in settlement funds in the past year from banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas. And he is reinvesting that money in interesting ways to improve law enforcement, from technology upgrades for the NYPD to improving lighting and security at NYCHA facilities to providing employment opportunities for convicts re-entering society.
Executive Director, District Council 37
DC 37’s political power languished for years under previous leadership, but labor insiders say that Garrido has returned a measure of credibility to the city’s largest municipal union. Garrido isn’t necessarily a leading voice on the sexy policy fights like raising the minimum wage, but the union’s membership growth since Mayor de Blasio took office is a testament to a more productive relationship with City Hall than under Michael Bloomberg.
President and CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Chamber are both scorching hot brands and arguably at their historical peak in terms of popularity and power. It doesn’t hurt that Scissura is also a popular name-check for both the mayor and the governor. Rumblings are that he is on the short list as next head of the Partnership for New York City. Those are the rumblings, so we’ll be watching.
Staten Island Borough President
Oddo has gone out of his way to ensure that Staten Island will shed its label as the “forgotten borough.” Not only is Oddo at the forefront of a vocal push for a slice of the city’s tourism pie – with huge development projects like the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets in the pipeline – he also continues to push City Hall and the federal government to expedite Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts, including a seawall to protect the island.
New York City Councilman
Greenfield has one of the plum positions in the City Council as chairman of the Land Use Committee. Practically every facet of the mayor’s housing plan needs Greenfield’s sign-off, which means he can wield that power to help win support for legislation that’s favorable to the Orthodox Jewish community, such as the recently passed bill that funds extra security guards for Yeshivas. Greenfield has also seized the mantle of the de facto political voice for Orthodox Brooklyn.
New York State Assemblyman
While we'd like to convince ourselves that party bosses don't matter much anymore, the reality is that their roles have evolved but are very much still relevant. The most recent example is Crespo, who was selected to lead the Democratic Party in the Bronx. His likable personality and close relationship with the Assembly speaker give Crespo a solid foundation on which to build. And his growing influence with "minority" state Legislators makes him a rising political powerhouse in the city.
Maybe all the buzz about the Brooklyn Democrat running for mayor in 2017 is just talk. But there is a lot of smoke surrounding the up-and-comer. This month, de Blasio crashed Jeffries’ keynote speech in Albany on Caucus Weekend, raising eyebrows. And recently Al Sharpton suggested he could carry on the legacy of Rep. Charles Rangel. In the end he may not challenge the sitting mayor, but for now the buzz is making people pay attention to him.
Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
Everyone at City Hall and in Albany knows Giske and her firm, Bolton-St. Johns. Handling the big-dog clients and scoring some major victories across New York has kept Giske and Bolton-St. Johns on our power list year after year. Being in the trenches with BSJ partners like Giorgio DeRosa and Mike Keogh certainly doesn’t hurt her position as one of our New York City Power 100.
Manhattan Borough President
It's reassuring that even in the borough that Donald Trump calls home, a pompous approach doesn't automatically make you successful. Au contraire! It's Brewer’s diligent work and practical policy stances that reassure Manhattanites that their world-famous island’s daily affairs have a capable administrator. The thoughtful approach that Brewer gives to the demands and concerns of Manhattanites brings a much-needed sense of normalcy. It's that consistency that makes her among the smartest and most effective of the city's political class.
Partner, Mercury Public Affairs
Mike McKeon and Mercury Public Affairs have been among the top consulting shops in the city for some time now, and they seem primed to stay there for a long while. With smart moves like picking up Rachel Noerdlinger after her City Hall exit and bolstering the Albany staff, McKeon and crew won’t be dropping off this list anytime soon.
President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York
In theory, LaBarbera should be higher on this list given the city’s boom in real estate development, but his relatively low ranking is a testament to steadily losing market share of construction to the private sector. LaBarbera also finds himself at odds with City Hall in fighting for a prevailing wage on affordable housing construction, and he helped contribute to the expiration of the vital 421-a tax break, which could see the Building Trades marginalized even further.
Chancellor, New York State Board of Regents
Tisch’s term as chancellor of the board of regents ends in March, but her influence on New York City politics and the state’s education policy likely will not diminish. She is a wealthy philanthropist who sits on the boards of many organizations, has lots of powerful friends and is a proficient political fundraiser. It is unclear what her next chapter will be, but it’s hard to envision her not being a player in city politics for years to come.
New York City Councilman
Williams has long been one of the few City Council members with a political profile outside that legislative body, owing to his activism on issues like policing and gun control. But he is also in a unique position of power as chairman of the Housing and Buildings Committee and given the importance of the mayor’s signature affordable housing program. Insiders say Williams is also deftly maneuvering behind the scenes to position himself for a run at Council speaker in 2018.
Legislative-Political Coordinator, Communications Workers of America, District 1
Master is the political director for one of the more organized union memberships in the city, the Communications Workers of America, District 1, and is also a longtime de Blasio ally dating back to the mayor’s previous life as a City Councilman. After waging a long and largely successful battle against Cablevision over union busting, Master is setting his sights on Verizon for failing to providing fiber optic cable and Internet service citywide.
Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman
The boisterous veteran of Brooklyn’s political clubs has emerged as a bridge builder instead of a vindictive dictator, a charge his predecessor, Vito Lopez, wore as a badge of honor. Seddio calls his approach “Cannoli Diplomacy,” and it appears to have helped him unify the party on many levels, allowing him to flex political muscle in citywide fights, including the election of Melissa Mark-Viverito as City Council speaker and the elevation of Carl Heastie to Assembly speaker.
Founder and President, Kasirer Consulting
Year after year Kasirer and her firm are among the top consultants in New York City. Kasirer Consulting’s clients include some of the biggest companies in New York City. While they were displaced from the top slot last year, they remain among the elite lobbying and consulting firms in New York City – Kasirer, Omar Alvarellos, Julie Greenberg, Peter Krokondelas and other associates are go-to consultants for companies with business before the city.
Assemblyman and Manhattan Democratic Party Chairman
If there’s one word that describes Wright, it’s smooth. He plays the political game as well as anyone. Wright parlayed a play for Assembly speaker into pole position as the establishment candidate in the hotly contested Democratic primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. Wright appears the front-runner, and as Manhattan Democratic County Chairman he has deep connections with many lawmakers and could make their lives difficult if they backed one of his opponents in the June primary.
Executive Director, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Foye is on his way out, which is the only reason the 59-year-old, who has adeptly run the archaic political patronage mill since 2011, drops on this list. With the Port Authority undergoing an overhaul following the Bridgegate scandal, Foye has announced he will step down as executive director. But he leaves behind a legacy of putting the needs of the far-reaching agency before politics – even if he didn’t always get credit for doing so.
New York City Public Advocate
While James is no longer perceived to be part of the de Blasio team, the Public Advocate has yet to distinguish herself in a manner that would make her an independent force within New York City government. It's not for a lack of trying. James is visible when issues come to the forefront of average New Yorkers’ concerns. But after two years in office, she still seems to be struggling to carve out a more prominent role in the city’s body politic beyond her place in the mayor’s line of succession should some misfortune befall de Blasio.
Counsel to the Mayor
Wiley is among a small circle of City Hall advisers with direct access to the mayor. Typically the counsel to the mayor serves in a strictly legal capacity, but de Blasio has given Wiley a more outsized policy portfolio – playing a key role in expanding broadband access citywide and building out the city’s tech footprint. From an equality and inclusion standpoint, Wiley has also been instrumental in helping find ways for City Hall to better utilize MWBE contractors.
State Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader
Through calculated dealmaking the senator has been able to carve out a place protecting the future power and influence of his conference as well as himself. Senate Republicans need to keep him happy so they can have a cushion of votes to keep business moving. And if Democrats regain control of the chamber, they will need to broker a deal with him. All the while, his Bronx district benefits from his elevated status.
The veteran of U.S. House of Representatives is a mainstay in city politics and a top liberal voice that politicians and insiders often take their lead from, such as when he called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush or criticized the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters. His seniority makes him a go-to advisor on many issues, particularly transportation, infrastructure and the judiciary. Despite Democrats being out of power in Congress, he still makes our list.
Publisher, New York Daily News
While Mort Zuckerman made his bones with Boston Properties, his ownership of the New York Daily News is the primary reason he lands on this list. Whether it’s the Daily News editorial board banging away at the mayor or governor, or a front-page advocacy campaign against horse carriages, the Daily News still packs a punch when it wants to. For how much longer? No one knows.
Executive Vice President and Director, Forest City Enterprises
The real estate mogul is often under fire from community groups in Brooklyn alleging that he hasn’t lived up to his agreement to build affordable housing and create jobs for low-income workers at the Atlantic Yards Project, but the negative press hasn’t appeared to hurt Ratner. In fact, he seems to be as strong as ever thanks to his close relationship with the de Blasio administration as one of the real estate industry’s most vocal supporters of the mayor.
Brooklyn Borough President
Borough Presidents don’t have huge budgets and can’t influence policy too much, but they do have a public platform. And no BP uses that platform better than Adams, both as a cheerleader for economic development in Brooklyn and as an ambassador for criminal justice reform as a former cop. He’s made no bones about his desire to run for mayor in 2021, and it looks like he’ll use his current position to help build his resume in the meantime.
Partner, Hilltop Public Solutions
Katz left the Mayor’s Office in March after serving as a special adviser, but insiders say she still stays in contact with de Blasio in her current role as a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, specifically overseeing the Campaign for One New York – the nonprofit arm that promotes the mayor’s agenda. Katz is also close with first lady Chirlane McCray and helped promote her agenda.
While New York City is unquestionably blue, the U.S. House of Representatives is red, and in an era of hyper-partisan politics King is the city’s biggest advocate on the winning team. Overall funding and aid from Congress has definitely decreased in the current political environment, but King has still been able to forcefully advocate for the city, especially when it comes to Homeland Security, the Zadroga Act or securing funding to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.
General Manager, Uber NYC
We saw the full influence of Uber last year when the booming tech company was fighting for survival. Having already hired political insiders like Matt Wing, the organization lined up some of the city’s top lobbyists and consultants to launch a full-scale pushback against pro-yellow cab policies. And they won. Mohrer and the Uber staff haven’t rested on their laurels, either, cutting fares in the outer boroughs and expanding the company’s reach into other markets in New York.
The Queens Democratic Party chairman still has an iron grip on the county party despite some setbacks in recent years, and even though some elected Democrats are in open defiance of him and the machine. And sources tell us he is already rebuilding relationships in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2013 city council speaker’s race when he was cut out of the final deal that elected Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Chairman and CEO, News Corporation
The conservative media magnate may have more of national presence, but his ideology and influence can also be clearly seen in his prize New York City publications – the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. You just have to look at the negative coverage Mayor de Blasio receives in Murdoch’s papers, as well as the mayor’s direct confrontation with the Post, for evidence that the administration is concerned about what they publish.
Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives
Riding high off of his successful work on the creation and implementation of Mayor de Blasio’s universal prekindergarten program, Buery has since been used in a more utility role, plugging policy holes that have opened up over the past year – which speaks to his capable presence in and around City Hall. Being one of the more comfortable media personalities working out of the mayor’s office certainly helps with his visibility, too.
President, United Federation of Teachers
Mulgrew and the UFT have gotten much of what they have asked for over the past year, which speaks to their bargaining power, but much remains on the New York City and Albany education agendas for this year. With education consistently among of the hottest topics in city politics, Mulgrew and his 200,000 members in New York City are sure to continue to wield immense power.
First Lady of New York City and Chairwoman, Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City
The visibility of de Blasio's spouse during the mayoral campaign and her presence from day one of the administration may have heightened expectations of the role she would play as first lady. There's no doubt that McCray’s influence on the mayor impacts his overall management style, but that appears to be a double-edged sword. It seems that after two years in office, the very knowledgeable McCray has not lived up to expectations of what her real influence and power could be.
President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
The advocate for the city’s business interests may not have the influence she commanded during the Bloomberg years, but she has still been able to make a lot of friends in the de Blasio administration by lending her organization’s heft to several of the mayor’s proposals. Wylde has voiced strong support for NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton and inserted herself into the education discussion, partnering with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and lobbying Albany for mayoral control to be extended.
President, 32BJ SEIU
Year after year Figueroa remains one of the pre-eminent labor and Latino voices in New York City and beyond. With 70,000 members in New York, some argue 32BJ SEIU has organizing ability, presence and power above that of other larger labor unions. Whether it’s as the public face of the “Fight for $15” campaign or being a key backer of Mayor de Blasio’s housing initiatives, Hector is definitely a power player in city politics.
New York City Budget Director
When you are the person closest to an $82 billion budget, you can wield a lot of power. While the mayor outlines the administration’s goals, crunching the figures and finding creative ways to present the spending plan can go a long way to reaching those goals. Fuleihan has a long career of doing just that. Fuleihan’s experience in the state Assembly also gives the mayor a trusted connection to Albany, where the administration’s allies are few and far between.
With Capalino+Company likely to be top dog on the New York City lobbyists list in terms of revenue and number of clients – and some big hires made since our last New York City Power 100 ranking – Jim Capalino and his shop should be all smiles. With key staff like Jeanne Mullgrav, George Fontas, Travis Terry, Tunisha Walker, and others making the magic happen, 2016 is looking up for Capalino+Company.
President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council
In just three years since Bill de Blasio took office, Ward has become one of the mayor’s most important political allies. The city’s boom in tourism has been great for Ward’s members, but he has also expanded his political operations, taking a key role in whipping City Council votes for the mayor’s affordable housing plan. De Blasio has repaid the favor by cracking down on Airbnb, an ever-present threat to Ward’s union.
Host, NY1 Inside City Hall
If you want to get a message to New York City’s political crowd, there is no better venue than “Inside City Hall” – but you had better do your homework. Louis’ knowledge of the city and thoughtful questioning forces guests to defend their positions and leads to some great television. The credibility of the program also makes it the go-to place for leaders like Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito when they want to push their agendas.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Chief of Staff
There’s been a lot of shakeup in the Cuomo administration in the past year, and one person who has benefitted with added responsibility and trust has been DeRosa. She is among the few people who has the governor’s ear and is often called upon to coordinate with the the New York City Council and the de Blasio administration. With tensions between the two likely to continue rising, DeRosa’s skill and resolve are sure to be tested in the coming year.
New York City Council Deputy Majority Leader
Going well beyond his duties as chairman of the New York City Council Rules Committee, Brad Lander has proven to be an articulate spokesman with the media. Case in point: his role as the Council member best equipped to answer questions about the unpopular pay raise the Council awarded itself. In addition, Lander's power comes from his colleagues, who trust him to get legislation moving and passed in the chamber.
CEO and Founder, Metropolitan Public Strategies
In Democratic politics in New York you usually have to align yourself with a specific side or ideology – picking one shade of blue. Kwatra is the rare consultant who comfortably wears hues from azure to zaffre. He is often called on to bridge gaps between dueling Democrats, including Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio. His experience helping unions with politicians – and in turn getting unions out to vote – makes him often sought by lawmakers heading into election years.
New York City Schools Chancellor
Fariña has begun to put her stamp on the city’s education system in part by visiting as many schools as possible. Some may see her presence on the ground as micromanagement, but the veteran educator appears to be having an impact as graduation rates have ticked up. Whether she has been given free reign by the mayor or is simply showing her grit, it’s clear that Fariña is implementing change day by day and school by school.
President and CEO, Tishman-Speyer Chairman, Real Estate Board of New York
For decades the real estate industry has wielded significant influence over politicians and policy in New York City. The main power broker for these interests has been Rob Speyer. Still in his mid-40s, he took over as the top man at Tishman Speyer Properties last year. His ability to raise vast sums for candidates coupled with his skill and desire to play the political game secured him a prominent place on this list.
Ruben Diaz Jr.
Bronx Borough President
While plans to convert the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a world-class ice center have yet to coalesce, there's no doubt the borough president has delivered on some major projects. Díaz has been smart about his friendship with Gov. Cuomo, and has used his charismatic personality to rise above the Bronx Democratic County organization. Some consider him a potential mayoral contender in 2017. He hasn't denied that he would consider a run, which should worry Mayor de Blasio.
Chairman, Association for a Better New York; Chairman, Real Estate Roundtable; Vice Chairman and CEO, Rudin Management Company Inc.
The Rudin family has been among the strongest advocates for making New York City a better place to live and work, through good times and bad. Today, ABNY’s breakfasts and galas attract a who’s-who of New York power brokers. In addition, the organization advocates deftly on behalf of its members to support or oppose policy proposals or development ideas. Rudin’s ties to the city run deeper than his vast commercial and residential holdings.
New York City First Deputy Mayor
If New York City was an army, Shorris would be the four-star general on the front lines. For the past two years he has managed day-to-day operations for Mayor Bill de Blasio, mostly behind the scenes, but can step in front of the media to eloquently outline new policy positions by the de Blasio administration. His experience serving Mayors Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg as well as Gov. Mario Cuomo has made him an invaluable aide to de Blasio.
John Banks III
Filling legendary REBNY leader Steven Spinola’s shoes is no easy task, but Banks appears to have taken it in stride. His blue-collar background and deep connections to City Hall and Albany have allowed him to advocate adeptly for real estate’s interests at a time when the whole industry is under a microscope. The expiration of 421-a may be a black mark on his legacy, but we’ll wait and see what happens with the budget in Albany before passing judgment.
State Senate Majority Leader
In an increasingly blue state, Flanagan is a firewall to many liberal policies sought by the Democratic Assembly. The Republican conference he leads has a narrow majority, but it is enough to block legislation or force Democrats to the negotiating table. Last year Flanagan went through a learning curve stepping in for Dean Skelos. This year, his mettle will be tested both in the legislative deals he cuts and in whether he can hold onto the majority in November.
Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning, New York City Mayor’s Office
Walzak developed a close bond with Mayor de Blasio during the 2013 campaign that has served him well as he’s climbed the ladder to become an integral part of the mayor’s circle of advisers. Since his promotion from press secretary to senior adviser, Walzak has seen his role evolve significantly. Where he once was intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of the press office, he now handles more big-picture messaging for de Blasio.
Gresham remains the city’s most influential labor leader on the strength of the sheer size of 1199’s membership – it is still New York City’s largest private-sector union – as well as the sophistication of its political operation, although it does considerably more business with the state than the city. Gresham has also become something of a go-between for Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo on their overlapping policy agendas, which includes the “Fight for $15” campaign.
Chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transit Authority
Prendergast has received praise from almost all corners for his leadership and transparency since taking over the MTA in 2013. He will face many tough budget decisions in coming years but has proved himself up to the task with a blunt approach and strong convictions. He now has another six years in charge after his reappointment by Gov. Cuomo. The added job security should afford him more power over the upkeep and transformation of our subways, buses and rails.
Valerie Berlin / Jonathan Rosen
Don’t take our word for it – just listen to what government watchdogs said last year when NY1 did extensive reporting on the consulting firm’s close relationship with the de Blasio administration. Those watchdogs like to use BerlinRosen as an example of a system they view as flawed, which just adds weight to the argument that the growing firm is having a clear impact on the policy decisions being made in the city.
Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration /Department of Social Services
By any standard, Banks brings a treasure trove of hands-on experience and credibility to his new role in the de Blasio administration. He is among the few exceptional and well-deserved appointments this mayor has made. In fact, by many accounts, Steven should hold the title of deputy mayor. He's a powerful addition to the mayor’s cabinet and offers a voice that, if listened to, will improve the de Blasio administration's image and credibility.
New York City Intergovernmental Affairs Director
As one of Mayor de Blasio's most trusted advisors, Wolfe carries a level of influence and power in the administration that is undeniable. Yet the consensus among city and state officials is that she's not much help to them. Many of the complaints are as basic as struggling to get her to return calls in a timely fashion. Wolfe doesn’t seem bothered. This appears to be a case where as long as the boss is happy, nothing else matters.
New York State Comptroller
Wall Street may be under attack on the 2016 presidential campaign trail, but the pensions of tens of thousands of New Yorkers depend on the performance of the markets and the acumen of DiNapoli’s office, which is responsible for the $184 billion New York State and Local Retirement System. Now nine years into the job, DiNapoli has flexed the muscle of his office to change corporate boards and become a trusted watchdog of municipal budgets throughout the state.
It’s tough to wield power when you’re in the minority – especially with Congress as dysfunctional as it is now – but the junior Senator has not let these circumstances stop her from establishing herself as a leading voice on several key issues. She is the leading advocate for cracking down on sexual assault in the military and implementing paid family leave across the nation. She also has been a leading advocate for health benefits for World Trade Center first responders and pushed to end of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy toward gays in the military. An adept fundraiser and tireless worker, Gillibrand doesn’t face re-election until 2018, making her a powerful ally to have for the next three years. And while the Senator may not be too focused on shaping policy in New York City, she is quick to lend a hand to local officials and is a coveted endorsement for any aspiring Democrat. These are good habits for any up-and-coming politician who might be seeking higher office or a role in the next administration.
New York City Comptroller
Stringer’s comfort level has definitely increased in his role as overseer of New York City’s coffers and the man responsible for conducting timely audits of municipal agencies. At times it seems like he’s the only adult in the room, and this has given the comptroller a legitimate leg up in powerful circles and the media.
As the city political class works around issues that are paramount to the metropolis’ present and future, Stringer appears to be focused on providing reality checks to the de Blasio administration's often overly ambitious plans. Case in point: the homeless audit that Gov. Cuomo – during his State of the State address – asked the comptroller to conduct.
Stringer could have and should have spoken out about the huge raise City Council members gave themselves, but he remained mute on the issue. That may have been politically astute, but was not very comforting for those who believe the matter was mishandled by the City Council. It wasn’t Stringer’s finest moment, but he otherwise seems to have a steady grasp of his responsibilities as comptroller.
Former New York City mayor, businessman and philanthropist
Any doubts of Bloomberg's relevance within the body politic of New York City have been wiped out since his emergence as a possible third-party candidate in the raucous and contentious 2016 presidential race. The former three-term mayor didn't need this type of attention. However, given the morass of both parties’ nomination races, Bloomberg’s record of achievement as chief of the most complex metropolis in the United States makes him a serious contender. Whether or not he decides to run, many candidates are taking the possibility as a threat to their chances of victory.
Of course, the founder of Bloomberg Associates doesn't need to make the run to prove that he's powerful. Two years after leaving office, his influence in New York City is almost intact. His surrogates – many of whom are on his payroll – directly or indirectly still convey his concerns to those currently running the city. And of course, any of the movers and shakers in media, business, philanthropy or the clergy in New York City will always pick up the phone if it's Michael Bloomberg calling.
New York City Council Speaker
While the perception is still that the speaker is beholden to the mayor’s legislative and political agendas, the reality is that Mark-Viverito has been acting increasingly independent of de Blasio. On issues of significant public interest and media scrutiny, she has strengthened the Council’s independence from the executive side of City Hall.
The most telling sign of the Speaker’s newfound independence? Her recent State of The City speech in the Bronx. Mark-Viverito’s bold proposal to form a commission that would devise a plan to close Rikers Island wasn’t fluff. Mark-Viverito’s idea has since been opposed by the mayor and other parties with vested interests.
However, it has gained support from Gov. Cuomo. The Speaker has wisely made nice with Cuomo and made it clear that she wants no part of whatever feud exists between him and de Blasio. A surprise nod for the speaker’s controversial proposal came from first lady Chirlane McCray. For many, that is another sign that Mark-Viverito’s has found her own independent voice as a leader in the metropolis.
New York Attorney General
It’s hard to get bad press when you’re the attorney general. By nature, any news the office makes is ostensibly good news – a crackdown on price gouging, winning a boatload of settlement money or investigating nefarious activity in various industries. Schneiderman has proven to be one of the more skillful politicians at balancing the duties of his office while also advancing his public profile, even if his pathway to higher office – perhaps a run for governor – is blocked for the foreseeable future.
Schneiderman’s most headline-worthy investigation arose from his legal fight against daily fantasy sports websites DraftKings and FanDuel, which led to a brief injunction blocking the sites from doing business in New York. But Schneiderman also managed to extract millions in settlement money from Morgan Stanley for its creation of mortgage-backed bonds that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. Schneiderman’s windfall of settlement funds has given Gov. Cuomo a lot more money to play with, and will likely be distributed through state programs, such as building affordable housing and supportive housing for the homeless.
New York City Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development
It’s pretty rare to see any major variation in the ranking of the top 10 most powerful city politicians, but Glen skyrockets up this list because of her increasingly visible and vital role as Mayor de Blasio’s top deputy. Glen’s position also dovetails with one of the mayor’s signature programs – the creation and preservation of 200,000 units of affordable housing – and de Blasio has given her enormous leeway as the primary negotiator (and cheerleader) for that initiative. Insiders say that the city’s entire housing apparatus runs through her office.
Glen’s Goldman Sachs pedigree and brusque manner – her informal tagline for the housing plan, per New York magazine, was “We’re getting shit done” – has certainly not won over housing advocates or community boards who want deeper affordability in the program. But Glen has helped forge an important alliance with real estate developers who could have easily balked at a mandate for affordable housing development. If Glen can help clear the housing program’s next hurdle, City Council approval, her influence in City Hall will be further solidified.
By the time last year’s Power 100 list went to press, Heastie had been Assembly speaker for only a few weeks following the indictment of Sheldon Silver. With Silver now firmly out of the picture, Heastie will have the opportunity to define his leadership style and emerge from the shadow of his predecessor during this legislative session. Heastie is now the gatekeeper for Mayor de Blasio’s legislative agenda in Albany, and the development of that alliance, as well as Heastie’s relationship with Gov. Cuomo, will determine how much he can deliver for the five boroughs.
So far, Heastie has come out swinging, pushing for a renewal of the income tax surcharge for the wealthiest New Yorkers and tax cuts for the middle class. Heastie’s progressive agenda on programs like raising the minimum wage and creating a paid family leave policy dovetail with Cuomo’s priorities, but the governor has been wary of any perceived downstate favoritism and will likely leave some of Heastie’s wish list on the cutting room floor to remind the newbie speaker who’s really in charge.
Bratton has proven to be one of the few city officials that de Blasio has allowed to truly run his own shop, a tacit acknowledgment of how crucial the police commissioner has become in maintaining the detente with the police unions that have caused the mayor trouble in the past. But Bratton’s long leash has gotten him into trouble with the press, as he is prone to going off-message or making borderline insensitive remarks – such as his suggestion that women adopt a “buddy system” when going out at night.
Bratton has not only gotten what he’s wanted from the mayor, including an additional 1,300 officers in last year’s city budget, he’s also managed to keep crime at record lows, even when accounting for the vast changes in policing practices, including doing away with stop-and-frisk and instituting community policing on a piecemeal basis. With de Blasio’s first term winding down, it remains to be seen how long Bratton will stay on as commissioner, but as long as he’s here he will remain an outsized presence, for better or worse.
City & State dubbed 2015 “The Year of Preet” and for good reason – no one did more to fundamentally alter New York’s political landscape than Bharara, who successfully indicted and won convictions against two of the most powerful state politicians, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos. Bharara has been one of the most effective crusaders against corruption in recent memory, making politicians think twice when it comes to illicit behavior. Even his announcement of non-indictments elicit a sigh of relief – just ask Gov. Cuomo. But Bharara’s greatest success might very well be the prominence he’s given to ethics reform in city and state government, to the extent that the looming threat of further indictments has forced the Legislature to take it seriously.
Bharara keeps his future ambitions close to the vest, and he will be a formidable candidate for whatever office he decides to pursue down the road, be it governor or mayor. Should a Democrat win the White House this year, Bharara will also likely be on the short list of candidates for attorney general.
Even in the Senate minority, Schumer remains highly influential on both the local and national stages. Schumer’s politics can be polarizing – his vote against the Iran nuclear accord won him no fans on the left, even if they satisfied his pro-Israel supporters – but he is one of the savviest negotiators in the Senate, and a relentless cheerleader for his home city.
Schumer was instrumental in securing funding for the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel, and he continues to lobby the federal government for Sandy recovery funds, most recently for repairs to the L subway line. And he’s not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the Obama administration, as his recent tiff over cuts to New York City’s anti-terror funding showed.
Nationally, Schumer stands to succeed Harry Reid as Senate minority leader, and could wield even more power if the Democrats retake the Senate in November. Schumer will also play a key role in determining whether President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee gets a confirmation hearing. By the end of 2016, Schumer could be the most powerful Democrat in the country.
Bill de Blasio
Mayor de Blasio’s first year in office was defined by rookie mistakes and naiveté – namely, overestimating his political standing in Albany. Unfortunately, year two of his administration not only picked up where the first left off, but added a toxic feud with Gov. Cuomo and a range of quality-of-life issues to the mix. But even amid the unforced errors, puzzling optics and middling poll numbers, de Blasio appears to have done just enough from a policy standpoint to keep the wolves at bay as he approaches re-election.
At the beginning of the year, de Blasio worked to smooth over tense relations with the NYPD. Unfortunately, as that feud simmered down, his relationship with Cuomo began to boil over, culminating in a June interview on NY1 in which de Blasio said that the governor appears to have a vendetta against anyone who disagrees with him.
Those remarks proved to be the tipping point in the de Blasio-Cuomo relationship. And while the mayor struggled to navigate his agenda around the governor, Cuomo began systematically co-opting de Blasio’s progressive agenda, from raising the minimum wage to fighting homelessness.
De Blasio’s policy team struggled to control the city’s fast-growing homelessness crisis, throwing a ton of money at the problem to little avail. But advocates praised the mayor’s $3 billion plan to take ownership of supportive housing development without the state’s help.
But even as the mayor’s tepid poll numbers reflected a perception that the homelessness crisis had significantly altered the city’s quality of life, de Blasio still managed to find some success in bridging the inequality gap. Pre-K enrollment continues to boom, with nearly 70,000 four-year-olds filling open seats and even more expected in 2016. And even as Cuomo has tried to claim ownership of issues like raising the minimum wage and enacting paid family leave, de Blasio managed to do both – guaranteeing a $15 minimum wage for 50,000 city workers and giving six weeks of fully paid parental leave to city workers as well.
Those victories might be sufficient to quell the rampant speculation that de Blasio will face a formidable Democratic challenger in 2017. But so much of his legislative agenda sits in Albany’s hands, and unless the governor has a sudden urge to work cooperatively with City Hall, de Blasio will have to be satisfied with being only as powerful as Cuomo wants him to be.
As long as Gov. Cuomo deigns to assert his authority over Mayor de Blasio, he will remain the most powerful politician in New York City, but 2015 revealed a new wrinkle to Cuomo’s bullying: co-opting many of the mayor’s progressive ideas as part of a wholesale leftward shift.
Cuomo’s big-footing of de Blasio began in 2014 during negotiations over how to fund the mayor’s universal pre-K program, and intensified during the 2015 legislative session, when it appeared that he was simply toying with de Blasio. With every strong-arm tactic, the governor reminded the mayor that his legislative agenda would go only as far as Cuomo wanted it to. Cuomo attempted to cut off funding for city homeless shelters, demanded the city make a more substantial commitment to the MTA’s capital plan and yanked $100 million for the New York City Housing Authority for much-needed repairs off of the table.
These actions suggest that Cuomo has done more to harm New York City than to help it, but power lies in obstruction, too. The governor’s refusal to guarantee de Blasio mayoral control of the school system beyond one year, while subsequently boosting city charter programs, is a testament to that.
Cuomo has also managed to claim ownership of progressive issues that de Blasio once had all to himself, calling for a statewide minimum wage of $15 months after the mayor called for similar action. And while de Blasio has assumed the admirable task of creating or preserving 200,000 affordable housing units, Cuomo’s announcement of his own affordable housing plan means that the mayor must now compete for federal housing bonds with the man who essentially controls the purse strings.
And even as Cuomo has blocked the mayor’s agenda from gaining traction, he still has managed to curry favor with city residents by promising massive investments in infrastructure – including an overhaul of LaGuardia Airport and the development of a new Penn Station. These proposals helped Cuomo achieve a 65 percent approval rating in New York City, versus 50 percent for de Blasio, according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll.
Cuomo’s political maneuvering appears to have succeeded in humbling de Blasio, even as the mayor continues to decry the “semi-colonial” dynamic between the city and the state. The mayor’s budget testimony in Albany was far more subdued than in the past, focusing on smaller, more realistic asks. Whether that leads to a more favorable outcome during budget negotiations is, naturally, entirely up to the governor.
Cuomo also appears to have put any possible legal concerns behind him. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced in January that there was insufficient evidence to bring a case against the governor for shuttering the Moreland Commission. Free of the bad press from that unseemly episode, Cuomo can now govern the state and wield his power in the city uninhibited.