Jessica Schumer has one of the most famous political names in Brooklyn, and she’s putting it to good use. After serving as policy director for vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in 2016, the Harvard University and Yale Law School graduate joined the effort to build a streetcar along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront. But the project is no walk in the park. Cost estimates keep rising – to as high as $2.8 billion – and the construction timeline keeps getting extended.
The Brooklyn Watch List
The Brooklyn Watch List
In our Brooklyn Power 50 list, we compile the key borough players in the world of New York politics and government, ranking each person based on their accomplishments, sway in political and policy matters, economic clout, philanthropic efforts, ties to powerful politicians and the constituencies they represent.
Now we shift to the future, with the Brooklyn "Watch List."
Featuring 10 younger Brooklynites who have already been making their mark, we look at the local movers and shakers who we’ll be keeping an eye on in the coming years.
Bob Bland started her career as a fashion designer, launching an apparel line in Williamsburg called Brooklyn Royalty before raising money to open a fashion incubator in the Garment District. Politics has since intervened. Bland is one of four women who organized the Women’s March on Washington, a demonstration that drew half a million people to Washington, D.C., after the inauguration and spawned hundreds of events in cities around the world. She’s now protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Yahdon Israel is well positioned to take the borough’s signature publication into its next phase. The fashionable and erudite editor-in-chief of Brooklyn Magazine is a champion of local millennial writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists and social activists, and manages the neat trick of being close to the zeitgeist even before anyone knows it’s going to be the zeitgeist. Plus, he knows where to get a decent fish sandwich on short notice – that’s Bed-Stuy Fish Fry, in case you were wondering.
Ashaina Cumberbatch has helped make New York Communities for Change one of the most prominent community groups in New York leading the resistance against what the organization calls “fascist and racist policies” and “economic repression.” As senior director and now racial justice campaign organizer, she has led efforts to demonstrate with fast-food workers striking for better wages, protested outside Trump Tower against the building’s energy usage and boosted insurgent progressive candidates in Democratic primaries this year.
May Boeve founded her environmental advocacy group 350.org with Bill McKibben when she left college. A decade later, she’s one of the leading climate change activists in the country – and one of the few women atop the field. Boeve has since organized the National Day of Climate Action, gotten herself arrested outside the White House while protesting the Keystone XL pipeline and slammed the current administration for its response to several devastating hurricanes.
Jennie Romer had been fighting a lonely battle against the use of plastic bags as an environmental policy advocate for years. The New York City Council passed a bag fee law, only to have it stymied by the state Legislature. But this year, Romer has started winning and the public stance against big plastic has gotten stronger. The governor introduced legislation banning plastic bags for shoppers. Moreover, Starbucks has plans to do away with plastic straws altogether.
The New Kings Democrats were the new kids on the block when President Barack Obama was elected a decade ago. Now they draw mayoral hopefuls to their events, have elected their own members to office and found jobs throughout New York City government. The club’s president, Brandon West, leads a vibrant and diverse group of activists still eager to carry petitions for favored candidates in stifling summer heat because they know it takes hard work to win in September.
In order to reach the mountaintop of state politics, Cynthia Nixon returned to the Hilltop – Hilltop Public Solutions – to find a campaign manager. She hired Hayley Prim, a de Blasio administration alum and veteran Democratic operative with experience raising money for then-Rep. Steve Israel. Prim is helping Nixon navigate choppy waters opposing one of the most prominent Democrats in the country in this highly visible primary. It’s a small risk with a gigantic payoff if Nixon and Prim are successful.
Since serving as Brooklyn community coordinator for the New York City Department of Education, where he helped launch the mayor’s ambitious Pre-K for All initiative, Christopher Durosinmi has switched gears and joined the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Brownsville native can be found chilling with sharks (and Rosario Dawson) at the New York Aquarium while pushing for the city to scrap plastic straws. Politics may yet be in his future, but for now there are some Central Park sea lions that need a little attention.
Tourism in Brooklyn is booming, and Mariela Estrella is working to make sure that visitors keep flocking to the borough and spending their money. The City College of New York alumna has worked with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for nearly two years as its director of tourism and business relationships, and she helped develop the “100 Adventures Passport,” a 481-page field guide of places to see and food to eat throughout Brooklyn’s many neighborhoods.