The 2021 New York City Power 100: 11-50

The political players who are saving their city.

The 2021 New York City power 100

The 2021 New York City power 100 Taiga/Shutterstock

11. Mitchell Katz & Dave Chokshi

President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals; Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

New York City Health + Hospitals

New York City’s public hospitals have been the front-line defenses against a COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Dr. Mitchell Katz scrambled to build up a medical supply stockpile and was entrusted by the mayor to lead the city’s contact tracing program, despite a history of the health department handling such efforts. With COVID-19 rates rising again this fall and winter, public hospitals have canceled elective surgeries while vaccinating health care workers.

Dave Chokshi, the new commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Dave Chokshi stepped into a volatile situation in August after the previous health commissioner quit following a monthslong feud with the mayor and clashes over who should manage the city’s contact tracing program. But Chokshi, who previously served as the public hospital system’s chief population health officer, has handled public health crises and logistics before. He’s helping roll out the city’s vaccine distribution plan.

12. Michael Gianaris

State Senate Deputy Majority Leader

New York State Senate

State Sen. Michael Gianaris has deftly adapted to the rising progressivism in his Astoria district while maintaining his position within the Democratic Party establishment. The state Senate’s No. 2, who has pushed for a suspension of rent and mortgages due to COVID-19 and the recession, entered 2021 with a veto-proof majority. Gianaris is celebrating the passage of his automatic voter registration law, and his push to increase taxes on the wealthy is reportedly on the table.

13. Corey Johnson

New York City Council Speaker

New York City Council

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson seriously contemplated a bid for mayor last year. But a bruising budget fight in which police reform activists blamed him for not doing enough to slash NYPD funds (and vandalized his boyfriend’s pad) and the punishing toll of the pandemic left him exhausted. Johnson announced in September he was suffering from depression and wouldn’t seek the mayoralty, reconfiguring the calculus of the race. Now he’s focused on overhauling the city’s onerous land use process.

14. Michael Mulgrew

President, UFT


The powerful union leader isn’t afraid to torch City Hall to keep his members safe at work. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to shutter schools in March until Michael Mulgrew began pressing the city about the risk of exposure. Then Mulgrew said teachers were prepared to strike if schools lacked ventilation, soap, personal protective equipment and a nurse on site. He’s pushed for more COVID-19 testing at schools too, and the city is finally listening.

15. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Member of Congress

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Phil Pasquini/Shutterstock

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes news whenever she speaks publicly. She received global praise for her remarks denouncing workplace sexism after Rep. Ted Yoho insulted her, and she helped Democratic insurgents Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman win competitive primaries. But while the Queens-Bronx Congress member has challenged her city to cut the police budget, centrists have attacked her for popularizing pithy yet controversial catch phrases like “defund the police.” 

16. George Gresham

President, 1199SEIU

George Gresham
Kevin Coughlin/Office of the Governor

The head of the city’s largest union has been a relentless advocate for health care workers before and after the pandemic began. George Gresham demanded more protective equipment for hospital workers and paid sick time for nursing home workers. When the state health commissioner said there was plenty of PPE distributed, Gresham countered that his members still didn’t have enough. He’s now making sure the city vaccinates health care workers on the front lines.

17. Dermot Shea

Commissioner, New York City Police Department

Dermot Shea

When thousands of New Yorkers marched following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, the NYPD met protesters with brutal tactics including kettling. Dermot Shea, appointed commissioner in late 2019, denied using the practice and claimed protesters intended to burn property. But officers’ misconduct led activists to call for cuts to the NYPD budget (the Council shifted $1 billion) and a Department of Investigation report found cops “heightened tensions” and used excessive force.

18. Cyrus Vance Jr.

Manhattan District Attorney

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is likely a lame duck and declined to prosecute Donald Trump’s children in 2012, but he may be the one person who can now hold the former president accountable for his actions. While an impeachment conviction seems unlikely in Washington, Vance’s office has been slowly gathering evidence in a criminal probe of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns. Vance’s prosecutors let slip in court papers they were examining possible tax, bank, and insurance fraud charges – which are not subject to a presidential pardon. 

19. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand
U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s fortunes changed when Georgia’s runoff election resulted in Democratic control of the Senate. Now the former presidential candidate could be in position as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee to demand accountability from officials responsible for failing to protect Congress from an insurrection on Jan. 6. She also pushed a bill for more vaccination distribution resources for New York.

20. Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Ray McGuire, Dianne Morales, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley & Andrew Yang

Mayoral Candidates

Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Carlos Menchaca, Ray McGuire, Dianne Morales, Loree Sutton, Maya Wiley, and Andrew Yang
New Yorkers for Donovan; Garcia Campaign; Jeff Reed/New York City Council; lev radin/Shutterstock; Hallie Easley; Loree Sutton for Mayor; Celeste Sloman; Yang for Mayor

Read story here.

21. Gregory Meeks

Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee

Gregory Meeks
Office of Congressman Gregory Meeks

The Queens Democratic Party boss saw his clout increase in Washington following Eliot Engel’s primary loss. Rep. Gregory Meeks succeeded Engel and became the first African American to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee, fending off Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro. His first task will be to reinvigorate a depleted and demoralized State Department, and his willingness to work with Republicans might not hurt. And he’s already weighing in on New York City’s 2021 races.

22. Jumaane Williams

Public Advocate

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
Celeste Sloman

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has long led the way on social justice, so it was no surprise to see him demanding better data on COVID-19 rates among Black and Latino people and calling for reusable personal protective equipment for health care workers. He used his bully pulpit to explain why George Floyd demonstrators were so fed up with police misconduct. Williams chided the mayor for not closing businesses fast enough, and he still made time to single out the city’s worst landlords.

23. Jerry Nadler

Chair, House Judiciary Committee

Congressman Jerrold Nadler
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Jerry Nadler has been grappling with one crisis after another. In 2019, he took up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and served as impeachment manager in the Senate, which voted to acquit. Then, after COVID-19 hit, Nadler sought to stem the spread in federal jails, obtain federal aid, and make it easier for households to apply for bankruptcy. With Democrats controlling Washington, the veteran Congress member is looking to turn the page on the Trump era. 

24. Carolyn Maloney

Chair, House Committee on Oversight and Reform

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
Phi Nguyen

Rep. Carolyn Maloney took over the Oversight Committee when Elijah Cummings died unexpectedly, and then she later won the seat outright. But her reelection was far more challenging. Maloney led Suraj Patel by only 648 votes in an unofficial machine count and wasn’t declared the winner until six weeks later due to mail-in ballot delays. Maloney later probed those election delays, hauling Postmaster General Louis DeJoy into an oversight hearing in September.

25. Nydia Velázquez

Chair, House Small Business Committee 

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
Celeste Sloman

Rep. Nydia Velázquez worked feverishly on Capitol Hill to ensure that unemployed workers and small business owners whose livelihoods were devastated by the coronavirus pandemic received relief. The Brooklyn Congress member, who announced early on that she had likely contracted COVID-19, went back to work introducing a Puerto Rico self-determination bill, drawing attention to COVID-19 outbreaks in federal prisons, and tracking Paycheck Protection Program fraud to make sure large corporations aren’t scooping up aid meant for smaller ones.

26. Emma Wolfe

Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Administration

Chief of Staff to Bill de Blasio Emma Wolfe
Celeste Sloman

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s longest-serving top aide was promoted at the start of the pandemic to a new role as deputy mayor, which includes the proviso that she’s second in line of succession if the mayor can’t do his job. Emma Wolfe certainly knows the rigors of the office. She liaised with other governmental agencies, managed a diverse and sometimes divided staff, and plotted the mayor’s political strategies with less sleep than the mayor gets.

27. Dean Fuleihan

First Deputy Mayor

Dean Fuleihan
Photo by William Alatriste for the New York City Council

New York City First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan helped guide the mayor while making several tough decisions during the coronavirus crisis. Fuleihan made a plan to close schools in March and shift the city’s 1.1 million students to a remote learning program. Then he made the case to borrow billions to close a $9 billion budget hole. By October the former budget chief canceled a $900 million retroactive payment to teachers to stave off municipal layoffs.

28. Vicki Been

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development

Vicki Been

The mayor’s development agenda took a back seat to the urgent demands of the pandemic while a stark budget could limit revenue for his housing plan. Yet Deputy Mayor Vicki Been managed to finance 30,000 affordable homes, struck a deal to repair 1,700 public housing units, and put the Gowanus rezoning on track. But a wave of renter evictions, an unemployment rate around 11%, and hollowed out business districts pose ongoing challenges.

29. Melanie Hartzog

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services

New York City Budget Director Melanie Hartzog
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Melanie Hartzog changed posts from budget director to the deputy mayor overseeing public health matters in City Hall’s latest game of administrative musical chairs in October. As new hospitalizations topped 200 per day in December, Hartzog took the helm of a new COVID-19 Vaccine Command Center to ensure shots are distributed to health care and nursing home workers, and is leading a vaccination campaign to get the public on board.

30. Kyle Bragg

President, 32BJ SEIU

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Kyle Bragg spent much of the pandemic ensuring his building service workers, who can be essential lifelines to older residents, stay safe on the job, and that contracted airport workers continue working at JFK and LaGuardia despite travel slowdowns. Bragg is also looking to expand future opportunities for his members by negotiating with the developers of a $2 billion Flushing waterfront project and opposing a surcharge on second homes in the city.

31. Neal Kwatra

Founder and CEO, Metropolitan Public Strategies

Neal Kwatra
Photo by Laura Brett Metropolitan Strategies

Neal Kwatra's Metropolitan Public Strategies has led the charge on some of the most high-profile policy fights in the city and the state in recent years, helping boost census outreach in New York City, advocating for police reform and accountability with the New York Immigration Coalition, and positioning the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council as one of the most influential unions in the state. Kwatra has also worked on expanding offshore wind. 

32. Suri Kasirer

President, Kasirer

Kasirer Founder and President Suri Kasirer

The No. 1-ranked lobbyist has close ties throughout the de Blasio administration and the City Council (two alums work for Speaker Corey Johnson) and the deep knowledge of the city’s inner workings that only comes with years of government relations experience. She’ll have to work her magic again heading into 2022, developing relationships with scores of candidates running for local office and working with a new administration on behalf of her many clients.

33. Valerie Berlin & Jonathan Rosen

Principals and Co-Founders, BerlinRosen 

Valerie Berlin and Jonathan Rosen.
Thomas Hoeffgen

Known for engineering Bill de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral primary upset, BerlinRosen co-founder Jonathan Rosen publicly chided the mayor’s early coronavirus response as “pathetic” and “self-involved.” He has since hunkered down with co-founder Valerie Berlin and their families to form their own quarantine bubble. The firm celebrated its 15th anniversary with a rebrand and a new website that helps clients navigate the coronavirus crisis. They’ve advised a long list of campaigns, including Brad Lander’s city comptroller bid.

34. James Capalino

CEO, Capalino

CEO of Capalino James Capalino

The prolific lobbyist and fundraiser – his firm hauled in the second highest compensation in 2019 worth $11.9 million – understands how the city is changing. These days James Capalino is advising developer clients to listen to and satisfy neighborhood groups, which have more leverage than ever to torpedo major projects. And he’s been working to help NRG Energy sell Astoria on its plan to upgrade its oil-burning infrastructure with natural gas.

35. Emily Giske, Mike Keogh & Juanita Scarlett

Partners, Bolton-St. Johns

Emily Giske
Mike Keogh
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Bolton-St. Johns is perennially among the top-performing lobbyists in New York City and statewide, a testament to the talented team of professionals the company has assembled. Emily Giske, a multitalented lobbyist and public affairs strategist, is also a New York superdelegate and state Democratic Party vice chair. Mike Keogh is a savvy behind-the-scenes operator, while top-notch communications pro Juanita Scarlett has bolstered the work since coming on two years ago. 

36. Errol Louis

Host, “Inside City Hall," NY1

Host of "Inside City Hall" Errol Louis
Guillaume Federighi/City & State

NY1 icon Errol Louis is one of the few broadcast journalists who can adeptly switch between national political analysis, like his take as a CNN analyst on Donald Trump’s motives in vetoing a defense bill, and municipal ones, like getting Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to acknowledge his gentrification remark was a gaffe. Undecided voters should tune into “Inside City Hall,” where Louis will be interviewing a parade of mayoral, comptroller, borough president and City Council hopefuls.

37. Rafael Salamanca Jr.

Chair, New York City Council Land Use Committee

New York City Councilman Raphael Salamanca
Celeste Sloman

When New York Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. announced his candidacy for Bronx borough president in November, he was considered a front-runner. Last month, however, he opted to seek another term in the City Council, where he has flexed his muscle as the influential land use chair. The former community board district manager cited a desire to continue serving his South Bronx constituents, but he might also have a shot at being the next council speaker.

38. Kathryn Wylde

President and CEO, Partnership for New York City

Kathryn Wylde
Partnership for New York City

In response to the city’s abrupt pandemic downturn that led to the loss of a million jobs, Kathryn Wylde mobilized business leaders to meet the mayor in July and discuss solutions. But when she wasn’t satisfied with his response to those recommendations, Wylde solicited CEOs to write an open letter demanding he immediately address quality of life issues. With little sign of change, Wylde’s deep-pocketed members are seeking a bigger say in who becomes the next mayor. 

39. Patrick Foye & Sarah Feinberg

Chair and CEO; New York City Transit Interim President, Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Pat Foye
Marc A. Hermann

Interim Transit President Sarah Feinberg
Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin

After a wretched year in which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority lost more than half of its riders, Pat Foye had a New Years gift when the president signed a COVID-19 relief bill unlocking $4 billion for the transit network. The stimulus allowed Foye and Sarah Feinberg, who oversees New York City’s subways, to halt thousands of layoffs temporarily, postpone a fare hike, and avert drastic service cuts. The MTA also celebrated on New Year's Eve with the unveiling of Moynihan Train Hall.

40. Rick Cotton

Executive Director, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Rick Cotton
Port Authority

Rick Cotton fully recovered after becoming one of the first prominent New Yorkers to test positive for COVID-19. But the Port Authority still isn’t at full health, with many New Yorkers avoiding its airports, bridges and tunnels, resulting in a $1.2 billion construction budget cut. Yet the authority’s overhaul of LaGuardia’s Terminal B is impressive, and the federal government is now looking to invest in infrastructure, like the Gateway Program and a new Manhattan bus terminal the Port Authority wants. 

41. Stephen Ross

Chair and Founder, Related Cos.

Chair of Related Companies Stephen Ross
Related Companies

Still smarting from the attention his Donald Trump fundraiser received in 2019, Stephen Ross wouldn’t reveal who he supported in 2020. Locally the billionaire developer is prepared to raise $100 million to influence the mayoral race, donating $1 million to a new independent expenditure committee in December, but he hasn’t endorsed anyone yet. Meanwhile, Hudson Yards complex has struggled to keep luxury tenants like Neiman Marcus, and its success will be a bellwether for the city’s recovery.

42. Douglas Durst

Chair, The Durst Organization

Douglas Durst.
The Durst Organization

Leading developer Douglas Durst took over as chair of the influential Real Estate Board of New York during the most volatile period the industry has faced in 11 years. Residential rent in Manhattan fell this year,and many midtown offices remain vacant. But Durst, whose notable properties include One World Trade Center and One Bryant Park, knows how to rebuild in times of crisis, and leasing for his Long Island City project should begin this spring.

43. James Whelan

President, Real Estate Board of New York 

REBNY President James Whelan
Real Estate Board of New York

James Whelan has devised creative strategies to stimulate New York City’s real estate market after construction filings dropped 22% and property sales fell $1.2 billion last year. The REBNY president called for an extension of the state’s eviction moratoriums, hired consultant Patrick Jenkins to help spur job creation, and is encouraging the city to make it easier for developers to convert empty office buildings and hotels into housing.

44. Grace Meng 

Member of Congress

Grace Meng
United States House of Representatives

45. Yvette Clarke

Member of Congress

Rep. Grace Meng was so fed up with former President Donald Trump blaming China for the coronavirus that the House passed her resolution denouncing anti-Asian scapegoating and requiring authorities to track and investigate COVID-19-related hate crimes. After its passage, Meng received a barrage of racist voicemails. The Democratic National Committee vice chair plowed ahead securing $180 million in federal funds for houses of worship and $166 million for Elmhurst Hospital, the epicenter of the pandemic’s first wave.

Yvette Clarke
U.S. House

Rep. Yvette Clarke took to heart the lessons of her 2018 reelection contest, which she narrowly won, as she beefed up her presence in the district, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. It may have helped that she had three rivals instead of one, but she still secured a solid 62% of the vote. Clarke has also sought greater oversight of technology companies with a bill banning facial recognition software in public housing.

46. Eric Gonzalez

Brooklyn District Attorney

Eric Gonzalez
Courtesy Brooklyn District Attorney's Office

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to adjust to how his office handles sensitive cases and prosecutes certain crimes. The reform-minded prosecutor announced early on that he would not prosecute some low-level offenses. As instances of abuse have increased during the pandemic, his domestic violence bureau has worked to ensure spouses reporting abuse can continue to do so safely. And his office opened a new gun violence unit to focus on the small number of individuals responsible for the spike in shootings.

47. Melinda Katz

Queens District Attorney

Melinda Katz
Lynn Savarese

In her first full year as Queens district attorney after a topsy-turvy recount, Melinda Katz was busy prosecuting hate crime assaults and investigating fatal car crashes and underaged sex stings. She made a slew of promises for criminal justice reform, but upset progressives for not ending cash bail immediately upon her inauguration and declining to release lists of abusive police. However, she has taken concrete steps to ensure a more fair process for defendants.

48. Darcel Clark

Bronx District Attorney

Darcel Clark

Since Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark was sworn in for a second term a year ago, she has steered her office through a tumultuous time. One flashpoint came in Mott Haven in June when police kettled peaceful demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd. Clark eventually dismissed 300 disorderly conduct summonses that arose from the event, but 56 prosecutors from her office called on her to do more to combat police brutality. 

49. Michael McMahon

Staten Island District Attorney

Michael McMahon

Michael McMahon’s position as a liberal-minded prosecutor in a conservative borough means he sometimes upsets everyone. His release of the “autonomous zone” bar owner who hit a sheriff with his Jeep despite facing multiple felonies earned condemnation from the mayor, the governor and the Legal Aid Society. McMahon did disclose thousands of records of police misconduct, but essentially cleared an officer accused of planting marijuana in the cupholder of a driver despite footage of the incident.

50. Chirlane McCray

First Lady

Chirlane McCray

New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, has never approached her position as a ceremonial role, instead taking on high-profile projects and serving as a trusted confidante for her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio. However, her ThriveNYC program mental health initiative has been a target for criticism, the Task Force on Racial Equity and Inclusion she co-chairs has yet to produce any results, and following her husband’s stumbles over the past year she opted against running for Brooklyn borough president.