Had she not gone all-in for Christine Quinn’s mayoral run in 2013, which left her without the kind of relationship that Valerie Berlin enjoys with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, this partner at lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns would enjoy a loftier professional perch in the city. Nevertheless, her considerable influence and ability to sway legislation continues through her close ties with the governor in particular, not to mention her voluminous Rolodex as a vice chairwoman in the state Democratic Party.
The Pride Power 50: 11-50
The Pride Power 50: 11-50
In this special section of City & State, we recognize 50 people in the LGBT community who are key players in the world of New York politics and government. 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 partnered on this project with Benjamin Ryan, an editor at large at POZ magazine, where he covers the science of HIV. Ryan 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.
As New York celebrates LGBT Pride Month, we’re pleased to present the Pride Power 50, Nos. 11 through 50.
Newly ascended to the helm of the sprawling State University of New York system, which serves 1.3 million students annually and employs more than 90,000 faculty and staff, Chancellor Kristina Johnson brings to the job a wealth of experience in the scientific and technology sector. An engineer and inventor, she holds over 100 patents. Boasting fine-tuned political skills and a growing relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Johnson was an undersecretary in the Obama administration’s Energy Department.
This well-connected veteran of the Paterson administration is a go-to guy for providing straight talk political counsel sans sycophancy, making connections and getting dollars flowing for candidates and causes. A former Jesuit priest who officiated at John F. Kennedy Jr.’s wedding and presided over his funeral, Charles O’Byrne is a Hetrick-Martin Institute executive board member, steering committee member of the Association for a Better New York and the executive vice president for policy at Related Cos.
After spearheading both Christine Quinn’s and Melissa Mark-Viverito’s successful bids for New York City Council speaker, this founding partner of influential lobbying firm Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC came up short last year by backing Mark Levine, only to see Corey Johnson get the top spot. Nevertheless, Jon Del Giorno maintains strong ties in the City Council and with the mayor. He’s also known for repping various important unions, including the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.
This veteran of the Bloomberg administration and the Human Rights Campaign is a well-connected political strategist with a history of working in front of and behind the scenes on behalf of LGBT causes. A key player in the successful campaign for same-sex marriage in New York state in 2011, Brian Ellner also co-founded Athlete Ally, which promotes LGBT equality in sports. Today he exerts his influence as general manager for public affairs and issues advocacy at the powerhouse communications and marketing firm Edelman.
President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union since 1998, Stuart Appelbaum holds strong influence, given New York’s considerable retail sector. After backing Christine Quinn for New York City mayor in 2013, he endorsed Bill de Blasio’s re-election and endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo even before Cynthia Nixon jumped into the race, calling for a united front in Albany. He’s also fought for paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage.
Once a year, Ethan Geto has his photo taken back to back with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to see who’s taller. Truth is, they’re about the same lofty height. A public affairs and strategic communications guru, this longtime political insider’s towering influence comes in no small part from his tight relationships with numerous power players; he can get just about anybody on the phone. He’s also a board member of the New York City AIDS Memorial.
Her obit opener is already engraved in gold: Roberta Kaplan is the civil rights attorney heroine who got the Defense of Marriage Act struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. A founding partner of Kaplan & Co. LLP, she knows and is beloved by everyone and generously supports the LGBT cause. Appointed to co-chair the Gay Men’s Health Crisis board in 2014, Kaplan has been instrumental in righting the nonprofit. Power couple alert: Her wife is Democratic Party activist Rachel Lavine.
A billionaire heir to the medical supply firm Stryker Corp., which his grandfather founded, Jon Stryker is a top global funder of LGBT causes. The trained architect has funneled more than $500 million into the Arcus Foundation since 2000; and as founder and board president, he has shepherded the group in supporting LGBT human rights worldwide. Locally, he sits on the board of Friends of the High Line and also recently joined the storied ranks of the Museum of Modern Art trustees.
As executive vice president at the Greater New York Hospital Association, David Rich is responsible for lobbying and advocacy work for the more than 300 hospitals in the Northeast region that the group represents. He helped guide New York state through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of Medicaid. The Columbia University graduate started out in Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration and as an aide to U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Well-connected with both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – to the point of pay-to-play favoritism, critics argue – Donald Capoccia is a managing principal at BFC Partners, where he develops public-private affordable housing projects, including LGBT-focused endeavors. He sits on the Real Estate Board of New York and founded the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. A central player in amfAR’s recent financial imbroglio, he was among those effectively forced off the charity’s board.
Editor-in-chief of New York magazine since 2004, this publishing boy wonder – he cut his teeth at The New York Times Magazine – has ripened into middle age while keeping the glossy scrappy and relevant. The magazine may skew national, but Adam Moss has maintained a commitment to covering local political concerns – a president springing from our midst has made such boundaries more porous – and has top talent like Andrew Sullivan and avid LGBT ally Frank Rich speaking truth to power.
Spiritual leader is much too tepid a term to describe Sharon Kleinbaum. This senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah is revered as a beacon in the LGBT community thanks to her guidance during the AIDS crisis; her emphasis on social issues, including fighting for racial justice and protecting immigrants; and for participating in the #Resist movement. She is now basking in a power couple honeymoon phase after marrying American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
For an openly gay Latino man to sit in the C-suite of one of New York’s titanic financial firms is a Very. Big. Deal. Ascending to the chief financial officer position at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last year, R. Martin Chavez leads by example, standing out and proud in his position and helping to liberalize Goldman’s stance on LGBT equality. With a Ph.D in medical information sciences from Stanford University, he’s also a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.
A wünderkind ever on the rise, this son of Ed Koch’s chief of staff has headed up the New York practice of Tusk Strategies since 2012, where he’s masterminded local campaigns on behalf of clients such as the Times Square Alliance and, to famous success, Uber in its battle against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Bloomberg administration vet may have come up short backing Christine Quinn for mayor, but he did help maneuver Corey Johnson into the council speakership.
This Obama and Clinton bundler – Hillary held her thank you party for campaign fat cats at his pad – is a veteran political adviser whose hand is on the spigot when candidates come calling. Close with New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen since their days at Amherst College, Charles Myers, who is chairman and founder of Signum Global Advisors, has served as a board member on the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and is on the board of the uber-posh Central Park Conservancy.
Love it or hate it, Airbnb has been one of the most significant disruptors to hit New York’s economy, padding local pockets but also apparently contributing to rising rents. As the vacation rental website’s head of public policy for New York, Josh Meltzer is driving the raging battle in Albany to secure its local footprint. Meltzer cut his teeth at Empire State Pride Agenda, advising Jon Stryker, and as then-state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s deputy chief of staff.
As executive director of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Wendy Stark is leading the beloved Manhattan-based nonprofit as it expands its vital reach into other boroughs, including the Bronx and Brooklyn. Born out of the AIDS crisis, the organization has matured into the nation’s gold standard for providing culturally sensitive, affordable health and mental health care to LGBT individuals. Today, Callen-Lorde is an important research hub and stands at the vanguard of the city’s transgender care community.
This ordained minister shepherds some of New York City’s most vulnerable citizens as president and CEO of Housing Works, the thriving thrift-store-supported nonprofit that provides housing and other vital services to homeless and low-income people with HIV. A major player on the governor’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic Task Force, he secured a major commitment for housing in the governor’s budget. He also is a leader in the push for supervised injection sites for drug users.
The first female executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Glennda Testone has maintained its venerable place at the heart of the LGBT community in New York City. She oversaw the gorgeous $9 million renovation of the West Village facility and has expanded and strengthened the nonprofit’s services. Married to Jama Shelton, she is a member of Cuomo’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic Task Force, the Women’s Building Advisory Circle and the state LGBT Memorial Commission.
As then-President Bill Clinton’s adviser on gay and lesbian rights, Richard Socarides broke new ground for gay visibility and influence in politics – this from the son of psychoanalyst Charles Socarides, a prominent proponent of conversion therapy. The onetime lawyer maintains a strong media presence on CNN and Bloomberg TV and through essays in The New Yorker. He is currently the global head of public affairs for Gerson Lehrman Group and a SUNY trustee appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
When Kelsey Louie was tapped for the CEO position at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 2014, the world’s oldest HIV services organization was in crisis itself, plagued by mismanagement and bad press. Louie has taken a data-driven approach to getting GMHC back on its feet, securing the nonprofit’s vital place as a central player as both a service provider and HIV-related policy advocate as New York City and state politicians seek to move closer to ending the epidemic by 2020.
As CEO of the HIV services organization Harlem United since 2015, Jacquelyn Kilmer holds a vital place in the city’s fight against the epidemic, considering the high rates of the virus among African-Americans. The former Denver law firm partner joined the nonprofit in 2010 as director of special projects and swiftly ascended through the ranks. During her time at the helm, Harlem United, which serves more than 16,000 New Yorkers, has opened a new, state-of-the-art health care facility on 133rd Street.
As the LGBT population ages, including those living into old age with HIV thanks to effective treatment, Michael Adams’ role as CEO of SAGE, the national advocacy and service organization for LGBT seniors, is steadily assuming greater importance. Adams is a go-to guy when politicos need to confer about LGBT senior-related concerns. The nonprofit is partnering with Donald Capoccia and BFC Partners to develop New York City’s first subsidized housing site for LGBT seniors.
Since founding the Ali Forney Center in 2002, Carl Siciliano has grown the nonprofit into the nation’s premier service provider for homeless LGBT youth. Named a White House Champion of Change by then-President Barack Obama, he’s known to ruffle feathers by going it alone and has challenged religious institutions to support his cause. Recently, he went off message in the homeless advocacy community by pushing New York City Hall for more homeless youth support, even after a huge recent boost in city funds.
The Republican remains in gay purgatory, most notably due to the use of same-sex marriage as a wedge issue during the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, which he managed. Nevertheless, the Ken Mehlman has been influential in LGBT politics since coming out in 2010 and has certainly done penance, including by opening his checkbook, advocating for same-sex marriage, and, recently, through establishing a social-good impact investing venture at KKR & Co. L.P., the investment firm where he is global head of public affairs.
When policymakers want to craft proposals for LGBT youth services, Thomas Krever is the man to provide them wise counsel. As CEO of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation’s largest LGBT youth services nonprofit, he directs programming for at-risk youth as well as outreach to thousands of other young people in need. HMI is among 15 organizations to share the $30 million recently made available by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for mental health services.
For a quarter century, David Kilmnick has led what is now the LGBT Network, a consortium of Long Island nonprofits. Recent efforts to expand into New York City, including opening an LGBT center in Long Island City and planning a location in the Bronx, have rankled some who criticize him as an outsider who doesn’t reflect local demographics. A source of wisdom on Long Island LGBT concerns for politicos and business leaders, he spearheaded the New York Mets’ Pride Night.
A veteran of ACT UP and co-founder of its offshoot, Treatment Action Group, Peter Staley has left behind rabble-rousing activism and honed a highly effective style of arm-twisting diplomacy on behalf of the HIV cause. He was an architect of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 blueprint on ending the AIDS epidemic and was also instrumental in pressuring the state Attorney General’s Charities Bureau to force Kenneth Cole from the amfAR board due to the charity’s troubled series of financial transactions with Harvey Weinstein.
Louis Bradbury is a member of Brock Capital Group LLC and was previously CEO of the Fortune 500 company Revere Copper & Brass. His efforts as a philanthropist included serving on the board of Gay Men's Health Crisis during the 1990s, eventually as president; on the board of Empire State Pride Agenda from 2011 through 2014; and more recently as board president of The Calamus Foundation, which supports HIV and LGBT services, including organizations such as SAGE and the Ali Forney Center.
A pioneer in the transgender rights movement, Melissa Sklarz has served for decades in the trenches of community boards, Democratic clubs and progressive advocacy, and now is finally running for an Assembly seat in Queens. Sklarz, who became the first transgender New Yorker elected to office in 1999, as a judicial delegate in the 66th Assembly District, helped secure transgender civil rights protections from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
A well-connected lion of the LGBT movement, this longtime civil rights activist and political operative has a record that stretches back to partnering with Harvey Milk to battle the Briggs Initiative against gay teachers and later combating the push to quarantine people with AIDS. One of the founders of the first gay political action committee and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, David Mixner is also a prolific writer and has staged his trilogy of monologues to benefit LGBT causes.
This political consultant has a couple of blights by association on his résumé: He worked on finance operations for Eric Schneiderman’s 2010 run for state attorney general and was a staffer for Anthony Weiner’s 2005 New York City mayoral bid. That aside, David Mansur is a man on the make, attracting top clients, such as former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. He recently raised, pro bono, nearly $100,000 for TransPAC, which pushes for transgender rights legislation in Albany.
A partner at powerhouse real estate developer Millennium Partners, Mario Palumbo Jr. has received accolades for driving the LGBT Center’s recent $9 million capital campaign. This son of a Democratic state senator and state attorney general in West Virginia is on the Real Estate Board of New York and is chairman of the board of Friends of The High Line, having been instrumental in transforming the abandoned railway into today’s public park – prompting a West Side real estate boom.
Founder and president of Longview Capital Advisors, which provides capital to the real estate industry, Mitchell Draizin is a donor, bundler and political relationship builder who has guided many gay rising stars, including New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council members Carlos Menchaca and Ritchie Torres. Draizin co-founded the Bronx LGBTQ Center, co-founded the CUNY LGBTQI Student Leadership Program and sits on Hunter College’s advisory board for its LGBT Social Science & Public Policy Center.
A consultant on media relations, government relations and crisis communications, John Gallagher recently handled public affairs outreach behind LaGuardia Gateway Partners’ pursuit of the LaGuardia Airport revamp. Having honed his skills as a spokesman for then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration and various state senators, this former Empire State Pride Agenda board member harnesses his political know-how to advise LGBT organizations on their agendas.
A veteran LGBT activist and progressive political organizer for the past five decades who has served a storied roster of politicos, including Mario Cuomo and David Dinkins, Allen Roskoff exerts his influence with notoriously strident force. He has long ruled the roost at the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a progressive politics stop in the LGBT political club circuit. Those who dare cross him risk depiction in his holiday card, in which he lambastes adversaries through unflattering caricatures.
As chairman and CEO of DDG, Joe McMillan has overseen the real estate firm’s massive expansion since its founding in 2009 to today’s $2.5 billion portfolio. The company now has offices in three cities and has an ever-expanding footprint in New York City. An Army veteran, McMillan got his start on Wall Street in private equity and hedge funds and is now on the boards of the Real Estate Board of New York and the Municipal Art Society of New York.
There’s a good chance you’ll see Ann Northrop at any major LGBT street protest or community meeting. The former network TV producer has been making continuous waves since she taught the ACT UP activists how to drop a juicy soundbite during the height of the AIDS crisis. Today, she’s part of a movement seeking to put the activist bent back into the New York City LGBT Pride March and continues co-hosting her long-running news show, “Gay USA.”
Since the 1970s, Andy Humm has used the blended role of LGBT activist and journalist to become a vital community voice. He has been a spokesman for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a New York City Commission on Human Rights commissioner, director of education at the Hetrick-Martin Institute and has co-hosted the news program “Gay USA” since 1985. He was a part of the quarter-century push that finally got LGBT people accepted into the St. Patrick’s Day parade last year.