For the past two decades, almost nothing could happen in Queens politics without the approval of Gerard Sweeney, Michael Reich and Frank A. Bolz III. These three lawyers may live on Long Island, but they have practically run the Queens County Democratic Committee. Their power will now most likely decline after the boss of the so-called Queens machine and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Joseph Crowley, unexpectedly lost in the Democratic primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political newcomer and former Bernie Sanders volunteer. But until the machine is dismantled, the trio can still exert their political influence that spans from New York City Hall to Albany. Reich serves as the executive secretary of the Queens Democratic Party, Bolz is its law chair and Sweeney is the party’s key strategist – and also has the lucrative job of handling wills and estates as the appointed counsel to the Queens public administrator. The lawyers also pick judicial candidates who sail through thanks to the support of the party.
Queens Power 50; 10-50
Queens Power 50; 10-50
In this special list, we recognize the 50 people in Queens 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 reached out to insiders and experts to compile this list, 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.
The Mattone Group has developed the Jamaica Center, restaurant row near the Queens Center mall and other prominent Queens properties. The family, which supports local charities and veterans groups, donated $3.5 million to launch The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law at St. John’s University School of Law. Several family members attended St. John’s University, including founder Joseph Mattone. Joseph’s sons Carl and Michael now run the politically connected company, managing more than 2 million square feet of property in several states.
Silvercup Studios’ founding more than three decades ago in Long Island City was a catalyst in reviving the area. Started by brothers Stuart and Alan Suna, it has had numerous hits, such as “The Sopranos,” “30 Rock,” “Sex and the City” and “Ugly Betty,” and continues to contribute to the neighborhood. In addition to its two shooting locations in western Queens, and a new facility in the Bronx, in recent years the company has ventured into the real estate business, developing luxury Long Island City condominiums.
The once mostly industrial neighborhood of Long Island City has been undergoing unprecedented development. As president of the Long Island City Partnership, a group advocating for its economic development, Elizabeth Lusskin has been driving the neighborhood’s transformation into a thriving business and tourism hub, while making sure that it preserves its authentic character amid new apartment buildings, boutique hotels and trendy restaurants.
Queens has been the bastion of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 3 for decades. The Flushing-based union even built Electchester, a 2,500-unit housing development for its members in 1949, under the leadership of legendary business manager Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Today, his grandson and fourth-generation member of Local 3, Christopher Erikson, runs the union. His goal is to keep union benefits for the workers in challenging times, especially as Local 3’s members have been on strike for more than a year against Spectrum.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association since 1999, is known for his aggressive approach with City Hall. Lynch grew up and still lives in Bayside, where he remains involved in local issues. Earlier this year, he served as the grand marshal of the inaugural St. Patrick’s Day parade in the neighborhood. One of his two sons, also named Patrick, may follow in his father’s footsteps – he was recently tapped to be a union delegate at the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct in Jamaica.
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo driving a $10 billion project to overhaul Kennedy Airport, there could be new terminals, an expansion of the Van Wyck Expressway and the makeover of Jamaica Station. One of the largest and busiest airports in the country, JFK employs about 37,000 people and handles nearly 60 million passengers a year. Michael Moran took over as general manager in 2014, after more than two decades working at all three major metropolitan area airports.
Michael Woloz is a force to be reckoned with among New York City’s top lobbyists. A partner at Connelly, McLaughlin & Woloz, he represents dozens of prominent clients, from trade groups to cultural institutions and nonprofits, including the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the Museum of Modern Art and The Legal Aid Society. The Astoria resident with close ties to the mayor is active in his home borough as well, where he serves as the male chair of the Powhatan and Pocahontas Regular Democratic Club.
During each election season, candidates running in New York City, state and national races highlight their support for public schools as they seek the United Federation of Teachers’ backing. Dermot Smyth, the Queens political action coordinator for the union, which is one of the country’s largest, has organized teachers to get behind candidates as well as various causes. He has also gained a reputation as a fighter seeking to improve working conditions for teachers in the borough, where classroom overcrowding is a problem.
Travis Terry has worked since 2002 for Capalino + Company, one of New York City’s top lobbying firms. Known for helping elect Mayor Bill de Blasio, the firm also represents dozens of companies in various fields, from technology and real estate to education and culture. Since becoming chief operating officer in 2007, Terry has guided clients through the regulatory and legislative processes. The Forest Hills resident is also involved in Queens, including advocating for QueensWay, a proposal to create the borough’s version of the High Line.
Mark Weprin has served as a Queens assemblyman, a member of the New York City Council and as deputy secretary of legislative affairs to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Now, he utilizes his experience and connections at Greenberg Traurig, which he joined last year to represent real estate clients. Weprin is a member of a prominent political family that goes way back with the Cuomo clan. Weprin’s father, Saul, was the Assembly speaker when Mario Cuomo was governor. Mark’s brother, David, currently serves in the Assembly.
The Parkside Group, a prominent lobbying and consulting firm with close ties to the Queens County Democratic Committee, has been involved in many political campaigns in New York City and Albany. The firm recently played an important role in choosing Corey Johnson as speaker of the New York City Council. Evan Stavisky, a partner with the firm and its public face, has a deep understanding of New York government as well as its political stakeholders, such as labor unions and public health groups.
Kaufman Astoria Studios, where “Sesame Street,” “Goodfellas” and “Orange is the New Black” have been filmed, has been so vital to the area that, in 2014, the Kaufman Arts District was formed. Hal Rosenbluth has worked for the studio for more than three decades, overseeing a major expansion in 2010 and the creation of the first outdoor working stage in the city in 2013. He has also been involved locally with Long Island City Partnership, the Queens Council on the Arts and Exploring the Arts.
A longtime district leader from the Lindenwood and Howard Beach area, Joann Ariola was named chairwoman of the Queens Republican Party last year, replacing former Rep. Bob Turner. Her goal is to unify the county party, increase its social media presence and back candidates with broader appeal. She has years of experience working with local communities, serving as president of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association and, prior to that, co-founder of the Lindenwood Alliance, which sought to promote cooperation between residents, police officers and elected officials.
Held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the U.S. Open tennis tournament is one of New York City’s largest sporting events, attracting 700,000 tennis fans each year to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Since 2014, the center has been undergoing a series of upgrades, including the addition of a retractable roof to the 24,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium and the construction the new Louis Armstrong Stadium. Daniel Zausner is the man behind the $600 million overhaul, scheduled to be completed ahead of this year’s tournament.
Amid Long Island City’s transformation, with residential towers popping up across the once industrial neighborhood, TF Cornerstone has reshaped the waterfront with its six-tower complex around the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign. The company was established by Tom and Fred Elghanayan after splitting from their brother Henry Elghanayan, who runs another development company. TF Cornerstone is planning a two-tower apartment building with nearly 1,200 units in Hunter’s Point South and has proposed a 1,000-unit apartment building with 100,000 square feet of light manufacturing in the Anable Basin area.
Correction: This profile originally misstated the number of towers TF Cornerstone has on the waterfront.
Michael Viggiano started out at Skanska in 1993 as a field engineer, and now oversees its operations from Boston to Washington, D.C. Skanska’s projects have transformed Queens, from rebuilding the Rockaway Boardwalk after Superstorm Sandy to building ferry landings on the peninsula, and overseeing the first span of the Kosciuszko Bridge, which opened last year. With its headquarters in the Bulova Building in East Elmhurst, a Skanska-led consortium is also doing the $4 billion rebuild of Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport.
With its portfolio including the 28-acre, $25 billion Hudson Yards megaproject, Related Cos. is one of the largest developers in the country. The company is making its mark in Queens as well. Frank Monterisi, its senior vice president and a native of Whitestone, has been in charge of several large projects in his home borough, including the first phase of Hunter’s Point South, and now a long-awaited Willets Point development, which Related is slated to build with Sterling Equities, the firm controlled by Mets ownership.
Resorts World Casino New York City, which attracts 10 million visitors a year, is one of the borough’s largest employers with about 1,100 workers. Its staff will soon double as the casino is undergoing a $400 million expansion featuring a 400-room hotel and new restaurants. Scott Molina, who took over last year as president and oversees all operations, makes it a priority to give back to the community through charity events, such as toy drives, and a job fair for locals.
Joshua Muss is the scion of a Forest Hills-based real estate dynasty. Muss Development, established by his grandfather, Isaac, in 1906, has become one of the largest real estate companies in the city, with more than 10 million square feet in its portfolio, including numerous residential and commercial buildings in Queens and beyond, such as Flushing Plaza, Forest Hills Tower and Jackson Heights Shopping Center. The family has also been active politically, contributing to New York City and state Democrats.
As the White House focuses on immigration, New York groups advocating for immigrant rights have their hands full, fighting to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, preventing deportations and keeping immigrant families together. In Queens, where nearly half of all residents are foreign-born, their efforts are critical. Ana Maria Archila, who emigrated from Colombia when she was 17, has been at the forefront of many of those battles. The Queens resident has also led efforts to help Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.
Under Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Queens College continues to shine as a crown jewel of education in the borough. The college is routinely listed in The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s top 100 “Best Value” colleges. Each year, it’s ranked among the region’s top colleges by U.S. News and World Report. Matos Rodríguez, who grew up in Puerto Rico, shares his bicultural experience with many of the 19,000 students attending the Kew Gardens Hills-based college.
With 18 local publications, covering primarily Queens but also Brooklyn and Long Island, Bayside-based Schneps Communications has become a publishing empire. Alongside its flagship publication The Queens Courier, the company also acquired Brownstoner, a real estate news website, and The Long Island Press, a free monthly. Joshua Schneps runs the company his mother, Victoria, founded more than 35 years ago. Schneps Communications also goes beyond publishing, organizing networking events attended by elected officials and operating the LIC Flea & Food and Astoria Flea & Food markets.
A Southeast Queens native and former Queens Chamber of Commerce president, Carol Conslato has long advocated for her borough’s business community. For over three decades, she has worked for Con Edison, where one of her tasks has been offering grants and support to local entrepreneurs and institutions, such as Queensborough Community College. She also serves on nonprofit boards, including Flushing Town Hall and the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. Since 2011, she has represented Queens on the New York City Regional Economic Development Council.
With about 20,000 students, St. John’s University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the country. Hired in 2014, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw is the first lay president in the history of the university. Gempesaw has been focused on enrolling more students, hiring additional faculty members and developing new facilities. Last year, the university opened its new Long Island Graduate Center in Hauppauge. The Queens campus also remains an engine spurring economic growth in the area.
As the Chinese immigrant population in Flushing has surpassed Manhattan’s Chinatown, the neighborhood has become a destination attracting New Yorkers and tourists alike with restaurants offering authentic Asian cuisine, specialty stores and bakeries. For more than two decades, visitors have also been coming to Flushing to watch the Lunar New Year Parade, the brainchild of Peter Tu, executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association. Tu, a Queens Community Board 7 member, is well-known among Queens elected officials as the voice of local residents.
As Southeast Queens combats crime, anti-violence group LIFE Camp has strived to bring positive change to the area. Founded by community activist Erica Ford, who has won support from police, elected officials and celebrities, the organization has developed a model to tackle gun violence by visiting crime scenes to mediate between gang members, preventing retaliation. Members also support victims of gun violence and engage youths in activities, such as the Urban Yogis program, which taught yoga to an inaugural class from the Baisley Park Houses area.
The Forest Hills Stadium is a neighborhood institution, hosting the U.S. Open until 1977 and numerous concerts in the 1970s. Thanks to Mike Luba of Madison House Presents, live music has returned to central Queens with artists like Drake, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Luba, who teamed up with the West Side Tennis Club to renovate the venue, is also involved in neighborhood issues. He and his team have provided funding for local murals, a street cleaning program and Christmas lights.
Born in Taiwan and raised in Flushing, Jukay Hsu has worked tirelessly to turn Queens into the next tech hub. A decorated veteran of the Iraq War and Harvard University graduate, he founded the Coalition for Queens in 2011, a nonprofit that teaches coding and job skills to underprivileged residents. His efforts have been backed by many influential supporters, including the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio, and sponsors like Google for Entrepreneurs and the foundation Robin Hood.
MoMA PS1 is one of the most important cultural institutions in Queens, attracting thousands of visitors with its exhibitions of contemporary art and Warm Up, its annual summer music series. Klaus Biesenbach, its director and MoMA’s chief curator at large, lives in Manhattan, but he has been quite involved in Queens. He is a fan of the Rockaways, where he owns a house and throws summer barbecues. After Superstorm Sandy, Biesenbach organized help for the area, and he supports local groups like the Rockaway Artists Alliance.
The New York Hall of Science, or NYSCI, is an interactive science center serving local schools and families with hands-on learning, a maker space and design lab. As a national expert in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education – or STEM – and NYSCI’s president and CEO, Margaret Honey has spearheaded science initiatives throughout Queens. Her goal is to make STEM education available to students from underserved communities and to cultivate the next generation of innovators. NYSCI is slated to open a pre-K center in 2020.
Since taking the helm at York College in 2005, Marcia Keizs is turning the university, which enrolls more than 8,400 students, into a Queens tech hub. It has been selected as a center for startups and expanding high-tech businesses as part of the Start-Up New York program and is planning a new Academic Village and Conference Center to house its School of Business and Information Systems. The native of Kingston, Jamaica, also serves on the New York City Regional Economic Development Council.
Long upstaged by Manhattan and Brooklyn, Queens is stepping out of the shadows, attracting tourists to its waterfront, museums, boutique hotels and microbreweries. Lonely Planet even picked the borough as the top place to visit in 2015. No one advocates for “The World’s Borough” better than Rob MacKay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corp. The self-described “cheerleader” of Queens also organizes popular events like Queens Taste and Queens Restaurant Week, promoting various ethnic cuisines and local restaurants.
Central Queens has become home to a large Bukharian Jewish community, with about 50,000 members residing mostly in Forest Hills and Rego Park. Boris Kandov is the president of the Bukharian Jewish Congress of the United States and Canada, a coalition of Bukharian associations, formed to help members integrate into American society while preserving their identity. As the community’s top lay leader, Kandov, who also co-owns a limousine company, is politically connected in the U.S. and Central Asia, where Bukharian Jews were from originally.
With residents from all religious backgrounds, Queens is a fertile ground for interfaith dialogue, which is Imam Shamsi Ali’s specialty. Originally from Indonesia, the peace activist moved to New York in the late ’90s and served at Manhattan’s Islamic Cultural Center for about a decade before transferring to Queens. Dubbed “Hip Imam,” Ali is friends with elected officials and celebrities. He also works with Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, to bring Jews and Muslims together.
Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor needs no introduction to residents of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where he lives and serves as a spiritual leader at the nearby Center of Hope International church. Taylor works to improve the quality of life in various public housing communities in Queens, the South Bronx and East Harlem. Urban Upbound, a nonprofit he co-founded in 2004, has since served more than 15,000 low-income residents, providing them with access to resources like employment services and financial counseling.
Dan Mundy Sr. and his son, Dan Mundy Jr., are lifelong Broad Channel residents who have been involved in every aspect of life in the neighborhood. The father-son duo are best known for their environmental activism. They founded Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and, in 2010, sued New York City, demanding that it better protect the bay’s ecosystem. After Superstorm Sandy devastated the area, they worked to improve the Build it Back program for local homeowners. Both were also featured in the 2016 documentary “Saving Jamaica Bay.”
Airport noise pollution has been a major quality of life issue in Southeast Queens. Longtime resident Barbara Brown has become a powerful voice advocating for alleviating the problem. She co-chairs the New York Community Aviation Roundtable, a group providing a forum for locals to voice concerns while seeking solutions. She also runs the Eastern Queens Alliance, a coalition of civic associations that urges the restoration of wetlands in Southeast Queens’ Idlewild Park Preserve and organizes environmental science workshops for children in the green space.
Since its opening in 1988, the Museum of the Moving Image has established itself as a leading cultural institution in Queens. Under the leadership of Carl Goodman, who was named its executive director after an expansion in 2011, the museum has increased its educational opportunities, offering many family-oriented activities, hands-on workshops and Summer Media Camp, where children learn about animation, game design, video production and puppetry. High school students can also take advantage of free programs at the museum’s Game Design Lab.
As regional vice president, Richard Dzwlewicz oversees TD Bank in Queens and the Bronx. With more than 30 locations in Queens and its support for local cultural institutions, the bank is among the most popular in the area. When not opening new branches, the industry veteran with nearly 30 years of experience serves on the boards of several Queens nonprofits, including the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and Long Island City Partnership. He is also involved with the York College Foundation and Helen Keller Services.
Despite the stunning primary defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley, his brother, attorney John “Sean” Crowley, remains an influential figure. The Forest Hills resident is a partner in the New York City office of law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, where he focuses on government affairs inside New York City Hall and Albany. He is also involved with the Woodside-based Emerald Isle Immigration Center and the MAZ Fund, which helps children with college expenses who have had a parent die as a result of a violent crime.