Michael Brady is the executive director of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District. Serving 200,000 individuals daily, the area is the Bronx’s most trafficked commercial corridor. Brady previously served as the director of special projects at the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp., leading the agency’s planning, land use and environmental departments. He has a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College and a master’s degree in public administration from New York University.
The 2018 Bronx Power 50; 11-50
The 2018 Bronx Power 50; 11-50
For a borough that had been all but abandoned for decades, the Bronx is bouncing back. It has new infrastructure projects in the works, major real estate developments underway and increasing attention from City Hall and in Albany.
Coinciding with the borough’s resurgence is an unmistakable rise in political power. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the city’s most influential politician in Albany, hails from the Bronx. Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. has a shot at becoming the city’s first Latino mayor. The borough’s Democratic machine is arguably the strongest in the city. And while state Sen. Jeff Klein, the former leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, has been ousted, his victorious Democratic primary rival – Alessandra Biaggi – joins fellow Bronxite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as two of the most prominent progressive candidates in the country who recently notched upset victories.
In this special feature, we take a closer look at the lesser-known – but no less influential – movers and shakers in the Bronx. Since we cover politicians on a day-to-day basis, we limited this list to those who are not strictly in government but instead influence it from the outside.
We reached out to insiders and experts to compile this list, ranking each person based on their accomplishments, their sway in political and policy matters, their economic clout, their philanthropic efforts, their ties to powerful politicians and the constituencies they represent.
We’re pleased to present the Bronx Power 50.
Sandra Lobo runs the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, a member-led grass-roots social justice organization that was founded in 1974. The organization seeks economic and racial justice, with initiatives targeting health care, energy policy and economic development. Lobo has been an outspoken proponent of affordable housing and a living wage. Lobo served as the director of the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice at Fordham University and worked at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Ironbound.
Mychal Johnson co-founded South Bronx Unite, a coalition advocating for the South Bronx. He sits on the boards of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, the Mott Haven/Port Morris Community Land Stewards and the New York City Community Land Initiative. He serves on the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s Watershed Advisory Committee of the Harlem River Watershed and Natural Resources Management Plan. He was selected to attend the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit.
A Colombian-born biologist and conservationist, Cristián Samper is the president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. He oversees the Bronx Zoo, among other urban parks. He was an adviser to then-President Barack Obama on his Council on Wildlife Trafficking. John Calvelli is the organization’s executive vice president for public affairs. He serves on a team overseeing work in government, community affairs and public policy. Calvelli previously worked for Rep. Eliot Engel, whose district includes part of the Bronx.
Abe Fernandez is the co-director of South Bronx Rising Together and the director of Collective Impact. Run by Children’s Aid, these programs focus on ensuring that kids in the South Bronx are healthy and ready for school so they can reach their academic potential and graduate from high school and go on to college. A Brown University graduate, Fernandez previously worked at the National Center for Community Schools, Union Settlement and Riverdale Country School.
Born in Pelham Bay, John Doyle has lived in the Bronx his entire life. Doyle ran for New York City Council in 2017 and previously worked for state Sen. Jeff Klein. He serves on the NYPD’s 45th Precinct Community Council and the City Island Civic Association. He works as the associate director of public affairs at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi, where he was instrumental in launching the Stand Up to Violence program, which aims to stop violence among youth.
Bill Aguado may be colorblind, but that has never stopped him from seeing the Bronx as a vibrant, colorful borough. Hailed by The New York Times as “arguably the Bronx’s biggest champion for the arts,” he has dedicated his career to promoting the arts in the borough. Aguado spent nearly 30 years as executive director of the Bronx Council on the Arts. As executive director of En Foco, he oversees an organization that aims to support artists of color in underserved communities.
Carrie Rebora Barratt is the New York Botanical Garden’s first female president. Appointed in July, Barratt oversees a storied institution that includes 250 acres, houses more than 1 million plants and hosts millions of visitors each year, including 90,000 children from the Bronx itself. Prior to taking the helm at the NYBG, Barratt served as an associate director at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was rumored to be in line for the directorship.
After serving for a decade as executive director of the Riverdale Neighborhood House, Carla Precht became the founding executive director of the Bronx Children’s Museum. Construction began in 2017 and it is scheduled to open in 2019. Under Precht’s leadership, the museum has secured millions of dollars in funding. Although there is not yet a brick-and-mortar museum, the organization serves 16,000 children annually, operating out of a purple bus as a mobile arts center.
Maria Torres is president and chief operating officer of The Point Community Development Corp., a nonprofit that promotes arts, culture and youth programs in Hunts Point. Torres helped found The Point in 1993 and has been involved ever since. Under her leadership, The Point has won awards from major players – including the mayor’s office and the Environmental Protection Agency – helped young people through its after-school programming and successfully advocated for more green space in the South Bronx.
Bishop John Jenik has served as the vicar for the Northwest Bronx since 2006. When The New York Times profiled him in 1996, he was leading masses and vigils in a bulletproof vest on the borough’s most heavily drug-trafficked streets in an effort to reduce crime. More than 20 years later, he still fighting for the borough’s denizens. He made news last year for helping to reopen some of the borough’s streets to be used for recreation.
A former war photographer for The New York Times, Michael Kamber returned in 2011 to the Bronx and opened the 1,000-square-foot Bronx Documentary Center in an abandoned building. Located in the South Bronx, the center has showcased documentary work to more than 25,000 visitors, an estimated 70 percent of whom are from the Bronx. The center prides itself on employing Bronx residents, showing pieces that are relevant to the community and highlighting local artists.
The Hunts Point Produce Market is a vast cooperative of farmers and importers that supplies 23,000 restaurants with food, employs 10,000 people and generates more than $2 billion annually. The market is the biggest piece of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which itself is the world’s largest. Joel Fierman and Joe Palumbo own businesses there and are co-presidents of the cooperative association, while Myra Gordon is executive director of the produce market.
Angelo Cabrera co-founded the Mexican American Students’ Alliance in 2001 in order to assist undocumented immigrant students who were trying to qualify for in-state tuition at State University of New York and City University of New York schools. Today, MASA assists Mexican and Latino youth and their families in the South Bronx by providing a host of services aimed at ensuring that minority students have increased access to higher education and are able to succeed once enrolled in college.
Eliezer Rodriguez is the executive officer of the Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors. He is a member of Bronx Community Board 11 and has also served as chairman of the board of managers for the Bronx YMCA. A lawyer by trade, Rodriguez lives in the Bronx with his family and coaches Little League. The first person in his family to obtain a college degree, Rodriguez has dedicated his career to helping minority communities in higher education, sports and even overseas.
Wilma Alonso has been the executive director of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District since its founding in 2005. The organization is responsible for improving one of the Bronx’s busiest shopping corridors, comprising more than 300 stores on Fordham Road alone. In that role, she serves as a liaison to the community and oversees programming, planning, development and budgeting. She previously served as the executive director of the Bronx Council for Economic Development for 10 years.
Juan Antigua serves as the New York City political director for the Working Families Party. Before joining forces with the party, he served as the campaign manager for New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres and went on to become his deputy chief of staff through 2015. Antigua has also worked on campaigns for New York City Councilman Francisco Moya, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and state Sen. Jeff Klein, according to the New York Post’s review of filings.
Michael Max Knobbe has been the executive director of BronxNet since 2002. The public access station, housed at Lehman College, informs the local community and trains Bronx students. Born and raised in the Bronx, Knobbe attended the Bronx High School of Science and Lehman College. Gary Axelbank hosts the BronxNet show “BronxTalk,” on which he interviews prominent politicians and addresses the issues of the day. He also hosts “The Bronx Buzz,” and recently started the Bronx-based website thisistheBronX.
Michael Benjamin is the associate editorial page editor for the New York Post, where he is responsible for writing pointed op-eds on a wide range of topics. Before working at the Post, he was a City & State columnist and managing editor for The Bronx Chronicle. Benjamin, a Bronx native, also represented District 79 in the Assembly from 2003 to 2010. He has worked as a public affairs consultant and as deputy chief clerk of the Bronx Board of Elections.
Nilka Martell founded Loving the Bronx to share the borough’s history, culture, architecture and character through tours, photos and articles. A licensed tour guide and advocate for Bronx parks, she is dedicated to telling the public about the borough’s important sites, such as the Bronx River. She has received numerous accolades, including being named one of 25 influential Bronx women by the Bronx Times. Martell is so involved in her neighborhood, she’s known as the “Mayor of Parkchester.”
Joe Hirsch is the long-standing editor of the Mott Haven Herald and The Hunts Point Express, two nonprofit newspapers covering underserved and underreported neighborhoods in the borough. He is a steady presence in those communities, attending meetings and reporting stories on a range of topics. The papers and their websites are staffed by students at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Hirsch mentors the students and introduces them to the goings-on in these South Bronx neighborhoods.
June Eisland is a board vice president for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and founder of real estate consulting firm Eisland Strategies. She also served on the New York City Council, where she fought against rent increases and rising MetroCard fares. She also chaired Bronx Community Board 8. She was recently inducted into the Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame for her decadeslong commitment to public service that focused on transportation and land use.
Karen Argenti has spent much of her life fighting to improve water quality and reduce pollution in the borough’s waterways. She sits on the board of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality. Argenti chaired Bronx Community Board 7 for 10 years and was a founder and board member of the Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association, the Friends of Jerome Park Reservoir and the Jerome Park Conservancy, where she was instrumental in the fight against the Croton Water Treatment Plant.
Laura Guerriero is the publisher of the Bronx Times. The weekly local newspaper has been around since the 1980s and is an important source for news about the borough. Guerriero is a member of the Bronx YMCA Board of Managers and has been honored by the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and the Liberty Democratic Association. She also has deep roots in the community as a lifelong resident of the Throggs Neck and Country Club sections of the Bronx.
Thomas A. Isekenegbe was appointed president of CUNY’s Bronx Community College in 2015. Located in the University Heights section of the Bronx, the college boasts an enrollment of more than 11,000 students. Isekenegbe is the sixth leader of the community college and is the first CUNY president from Africa. Previously, Isekenegbe, who was the first person in his family to attend college, held several positions at Cumberland County College in New Jersey.
Marc Jerome replaced his father, Stephen Jerome, as president of Monroe College in 2017. With seven buildings on its Bronx campus, Monroe College also has locations in New Rochelle, Queens and, yes, St. Lucia. Monroe College is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the most affordable colleges, making it an important educational resource for Bronx families. Jerome has worked at Monroe for nearly a quarter century.
Bronx resident Dianne R. Johnson is the director of community outreach services for Catholic Charities Community Services, an agency of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York. Under her leadership, a food hub opened in the South Bronx in 2016. The hub serves as a distribution center for fresh produce being delivered to soup kitchens and other, smaller operations that help Bronxites in need. In 2016, Johnson spoke on a United Nations panel discussion about poverty and homelessness.
Rabbi Avi Weiss started Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in 1999 and has been its founding president ever since. He also helped create Yeshivat Maharat, a yeshiva for women training to be Orthodox clergy, and he co-founded the International Rabbinic Fellowship. He has authored several books, including “Women at Prayer: A Halakhic Analysis of Women’s Prayer Groups,” “Principles of Spiritual Activism,” “Holistic Prayer: A Guide To Jewish Spirituality” and “Spiritual Activism: A Jewish Guide to Leadership and Repairing the World.”
Brad Silver is the executive vice president of the Bronx Jewish Community Council, a social services organization that houses one of the borough's largest food pantries. The organization serves 12,000 people per year by providing mental health care, housing assistance and case management advocacy. He is the founder of the supportive services program for seniors at Amalgamated and Park Reservoir housing. Silver has worked at the Bronx Jewish Community Council for 34 years.
David Shuffler heads Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, an organization that has been dedicated to rebuilding the neighborhoods along the Bronx River and in the South Bronx for nearly a quarter century. The organization emphasizes political education and organizing, as well as youth and community – and spiritual – development. Shuffler’s organization, which is part of the South Bronx River Watershed Alliance, has also been outspoken about the need to overhaul the Sheridan Expressway.
Maggie Scott Greenfield, an urban planner and environmental scientist, is the executive director of the Bronx River Alliance, an organization focused on cleaning up, protecting and restoring the Bronx River and its surrounding areas. The Bronx River Alliance has helped create 19 new acres of parkland and worked with more than 1,000 volunteers last year to plant trees and collect trash. Greenfield is also the Bronx River administrator for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
David Gómez is the president of the City University of New York’s Hostos Community College. More than 7,000 students attend Hostos, and more than half of its students are first-generation college students. Gómez, who took the helm in 2015, previously held a number of high-ranking positions at Kingsborough Community College. He has worked for CUNY for nearly 40 years and was an early champion of community colleges, which increase access to affordable higher education.
Bronxite Ethan Geto formed Geto & de Milly, one of the city’s top public affairs firms, in 1980. Geto has assisted numerous political campaigns as a policy adviser, press secretary and media consultant. He has worked with politicians from former Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams to former President Barack Obama. Geto, who has been involved in politics since his teenage years, was born and raised in the Bronx and attended DeWitt Clinton High School.
A former police officer, political activist and commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, Raul Russi, who was also the city’s first Latino sheriff, has worn quite a number of hats. These days, he is the CEO of Acacia Network, a giant in the world of health care. Acacia operates six licensed family health centers in the Bronx, houses approximately 550 homeless adults and provides substance abuse treatment to countless individuals struggling with addiction.
Steven Garibell is vice president of business development for TD Bank’s LGBTQ2+, which offers specialized banking services to clients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. In that role, he works through small business, commercial, wealth and retail networks to serve as a financial literacy advocate and provide training in financial well-being. He previously worked at Wells Fargo Bank, as well as Gap and Aeropostale. He attended Montclair State University.
Viviana Bianchi is the fifth executive director of the Bronx Council on the Arts since its founding in 1962. One of the backbones of Bronx culture, the council helps support thousands of artists and organizations through grants, awards, advocacy and more. The organization also operates a gallery and a writers center. When she was appointed last year, Bianchi, who has extensive nonprofit experience, said she would focus on fundraising and meeting the arts and cultural needs of underserved Bronx communities.
Larry Scott Blackmon is the vice president of public affairs for online grocer FreshDirect. When the company opened a facility in Port Morris, it was Blackmon’s job to address the community’s concerns. Previously, he worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and for numerous politicians, including former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He also ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat on New York City Council and was an adjunct professor at the Metropolitan College of New York.
David Gonzalez is an award-winning New York Times journalist. He is co-editor of the Times’ Lens blog and worked on the biweekly Side Street photo essay feature. He has served in several roles at the Times, including as Bronx bureau chief, and he is able to land stories about the borough on the front page. He is also a founding member of Seis del Sur, a group of Nuyorican photographers who have documented the evolving borough.
Erin Lee is a resident of Woodlawn and board president of Women of Woodlawn. She works as an occupational therapist with a focus on geriatric care. She has a background in public policy working for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Through Women of Woodlawn, Lee wants to provide resources to the neighborhood’s older adult population and its young families while also protecting and improving the neighborhood’s parks and schools.
Sandra Erickson has been active in the borough’s real estate market for decades. Apart from her own company’s work in the borough, she previously served as a president of Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors. She has also been engaged on political and policy issues both locally and nationally, as a longtime member of Bronx Community Board 7, serving on the state Real Estate Board and through meeting with members of Congress in Washington, D.C.