The 2017 New York City Power 100
The 2017 New York City Power 100
How do we define power in New York City politics in 2017?
It’s safe to say that we are still parsing the ripple effects of the national election, and how it could impact the local power structure.
Look no further than Donald Trump himself. When we debuted our Power 100 list in February 2013, Trump was the symbolic No. 100 – Mr. Irrelevant in city politics – a reality TV star and carnival barker who openly flirted with running for political office, but was otherwise little more than the unofficial founder of the Barack Obama “birther” movement. Four years later, Trump is in the Oval Office and firmly in the top five on the 2017 power list.
But Trump’s election has also led to the mobilization of advocacy groups, nonprofits and even some legislators. Service providers and government bureaucrats who work on behalf of marginalized communities – including the homeless as well as undocumented immigrants – will join forces in resisting some of Trump’s controversial proposed policies. With Trump in power, we could no longer view political power strictly through the prism of proximity to City Hall. This year, we’re giving extra weight to individuals determined to protect New York City’s interests from the whims of an unpredictable president.
After all, in the city government landscape, the status quo is more or less entrenched. Mayor Bill de Blasio may not have the approval ratings to completely insulate him from a primary challenger as he begins his re-election campaign – and he is always at risk of being big-footed by his nemesis Gov. Andrew Cuomo – but as of press time, none of his biggest rivals has taken a brave step forward. Assuming that holds, de Blasio is likely to cruise to a second term, meaning those individuals and entities he counts as allies – including labor and business leaders, lobbyists, City Council colleagues and his top staff – get a nice boost on the list or remain mostly unchanged.
As is the case every year, our editorial team settled on these rankings after weeks of vigorous debate. We approached the list with the requisite diligence – pitches were considered, sources were consulted and nearly every individual drew healthy skepticism in some form. It goes without saying that some will disagree with our choices, but we are confident that the final product accurately reflects the political landscape.
So without further ado, we present the 2017 New York City Power 100.
The Queens borough president is enjoying a quiet renaissance in her borough, which has drawn tourists from around the globe while also attracting the attention of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is planning an overhaul at JFK Airport while a similar project at LaGuardia Airport is already underway. The former city councilwoman has garnered less attention than the city’s other borough presidents, but she is pushing a few of her own initiatives, including a soccer and hockey arena at Willets Point.
When Carlo Scissura left recently to head the New York Building Congress, Andrew Hoan replaced him as president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the largest such entity in the state. Previously, as chief of staff under Scissura, Hoan had a hand in the tremendous growth in member businesses, and Hoan will continue advocating on their behalf while navigating contentious projects like redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory, rezoning Empire Boulevard and the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar line.
As a close friend of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sid Davidoff often talks to the press regarding the mayor and has served on his re-election finance committee. As investigations into the de Blasio administration advance, the mayor has cut back his contacts with lobbyists like Davidoff. But they remain close – de Blasio officiated Davidoff’s 2014 wedding, after all – and the Lindsay administration alum’s lobbying firm remains in the top 10 in the city based on revenues.
Mercury has a good working relationship with the New York City mayor’s office, even if the firm's attempt to ban horse carriages in Central Park fell short. Still, the revolving door between Michael McKeon's firm and City Hall could potentially pay dividends. Austin Finan, a former senior vice president at Mercury, is now one of the mayor’s press secretaries. Former City Hall employee Rachel Noerdlinger, who worked closely with first lady Chirlane McCray, is now a managing director at Mercury.
Greenberg Traurig has long represented clients with interests before the city, and Edward Wallace’s institutional knowledge as a former city councilman is a real asset for the company. The firm bolstered its City Hall ties by hiring ex-Councilman Mark Weprin as a shareholder for its government law and policy practice. The firm has also been gearing up for the 2017 election, bundling money for both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott Stringer to aid their re-election campaigns.
Linda Sarsour was an outspoken leader of the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., joined a lawsuit the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed challenging President Donald Trump’s immigration ban and built a national profile as executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. While she's leaving the organization – and despite claims that she’s a Hamas and Islamic law sympathizer – New York’s Arab-Americans will still rely on her to speak out for many others who cannot.
As the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Julie Menin is off to a strong start. She’s spearheading One Book, One New York, the largest community reading program in the country; boosting local TV show production and diversity among writers; and made New York the first U.S. city with a major initiative to help women in film and theater. Plus, she negotiated the return of the Grammy Awards to New York in 2018.
Sister Paulette LoMonaco has led Good Shepherd Services for more than 30 years, which itself is a testament to her ability to adapt and be flexible while managing 80 programs for more than 30,000 children, teenagers and families in struggling city neighborhoods. She’s unafraid to challenge anyone whose policies threaten the individuals she serves, and her wealth of experience gives her a reservoir of wisdom that city officials regularly tap when looking for the provider perspective.
John Catsimatidis' weekly radio show lands guests that would be the envy of most national newsrooms. His deep pockets and prolific campaign donations may have something to do with the widespread appeal of “The Cats Roundtable.” And when not booking big names like Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Dick Cheney, Catsimatidis seems to be relishing chatter about him running for mayor. Even if he stays on the sidelines, Catsimatidis’ campaign contributions make him a player in both major parties.
As the head of the New York City Central Labor Council, an umbrella group for the city’s labor unions, Vincent Alvarez has worked behind the scenes on labor issues across the five boroughs. It's an especially important role in light of recent minimum wage increases, affordable housing legislation and rules to protect freelancers. Alvarez was a key advocate against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed horse carriage ban and has urged City Hall to address the uptick in construction worker deaths.
From leading headline-grabbing protests against Mayor Bill de Blasio at his Brooklyn gym to accusing de Blasio of having police officers’ blood on their hands, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch has long been a thorn in the mayor’s side. Now, a tentative contract with City Hall giving rank-and-file cops raises of more than 11 percent could finally mark a hard-won peace, but Lynch could also leverage his victory by backing a law and order mayoral candidate to challenge de Blasio.
Keith Wright said that win or lose the primary race to succeed U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, he would not run for re-election in the Assembly – and he followed through. Wright joined the lobbying firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, raising eyebrows since he’s still chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party. But, the political position keeps him in the game, picking which candidates get the county’s backing, and he could play a role in the mayoral and City Council speaker races.
All of those individuals rounded up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the New York City area could become Steven Choi’s clients. As executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Choi advocates on behalf of nearly 200 groups representing New York’s immigrant communities. Anticipating a long struggle, engaged donors have already boosted NYIC's coffers. It will be Choi’s job to spend that money wisely and keep his groups informed and empowered in the era of President Donald Trump.
David Rivel runs The Jewish Board, the state's largest social services provider and one of the biggest in the nation. In 2015, it began providing services that had been delivered by the bankrupt Federation Employment & Guidance Service, expanding its reach to more than 40,000 downstate clients with a budget of $250 million. The organization's scope – providing children's services, mental health care and housing to New Yorkers in need – makes Rivel an influential voice in city government.
Christine Quinn lost the 2013 mayoral primary to Bill de Blasio, but she has gone on to land several marquee posts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped elevate Quinn to vice chairwoman of the state Democratic Party. She also took the helm of Win, New York City's largest provider of shelter and supportive housing for homeless families, giving her a platform to address the homelessness crisis that is dogging her old rival and positioning her as a potential de Blasio challenger.
Stuart Appelbaum, who has led the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union since 1998, has been a boisterous advocate for workers’ rights and causes, which have seen a resurgence lately. RWDSU, which represents a wide swath of retail and service workers, has been an advocate for increasing workers’ wages and reducing “on call” scheduling. And with their early re-election endorsement, Mayor Bill de Blasio can look forward to 40,000 reliable foot soldiers this campaign season.
With Betsy DeVos’ appointment as U.S. education secretary, school choice advocates and charter school proponents seem primed to take advantage of the new national environment. Merriman, who enjoys a less contentious relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio than Success Academy's Eva Moskowitz, may be best positioned to leverage the federal shift in priorities into increased funding and additional growth for the more than 200 charter schools that serve more than 100,000 students across the five boroughs.
U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican-American in Congress, is also the House of Representatives first member who was previously an undocumented immigrant – giving him an informed perspective as Democrats push back against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The Harlem and Bronx representative is seeking to join the powerful Congressional Black Caucus despite trying twice to unseat U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. Espaillat has tremendous shoes to fill and the Latino community will be watching closely.
A ban against immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries, a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, a threatened Muslim registry and we're not even through President Donald Trump's first 100 days. One very vocal New York City deterrent has been Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, which advocates for immigrant communities. The organization has been at the forefront of demonstrations against anti-immigrant policies and we don’t see that changing any time soon.
Kyle Kimball had big shoes to fill when he replaced John Banks at Con Edison, the politically well-connected energy utility, in the summer of 2015. But the former president of the New York City Economic Development Corp. has delivered, securing Con Edison's first rate hikes since 2012, which should help in upgrading technology and weathering storms – and delivering shareholder returns. On the minus side is this month's $153.3 million settlement for the 2014 East Harlem gas explosion.
Michael Woloz, a partner at the public affairs firm Connelly McLaughlin and Woloz since 2011, possesses a wealth of knowledge about the nuts and bolts of New York City – from real estate to energy to taxis – and how to navigate the regulations governing these industries. Although not among the city's top 10 in lobbying, CMW has ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, represents major clients like Verizon and remains a go-to firm for marketing, strategy and communications work.
As president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, John Samuelsen speaks on behalf of 41,000 transit workers. After allying with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and railing against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s progressive chops, Samuelsen was nominated to serve on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. His job has kept him busy lately as he worked to strike a deal to give his members raises and navigates a power vacuum at the top of the MTA while Cuomo takes ownership of projects like the Second Avenue subway.
Nicholas Baldick’s ties to Bill de Blasio run deep – both worked on Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign – and he’s one of several confidants tasked with re-electing the mayor. One of de Blasio's so-called “agents of the city,” he has lobbied on matters before the city, notably Fortis Property Group’s rezoning at the site of Long Island College Hospital in de Blasio’s former City Council district. Baldick’s firm was also in charge of the now-shuttered Campaign for One New York nonprofit.
The architect of the "Dante" ad that helped propel Bill de Blasio to victory in 2013, John Del Cecato will again be heavily involved in the mayor’s re-election strategy. To the extent that de Blasio fancies himself a national progressive leader, Del Cecato has been a key adviser, forming The Progressive Agenda Committee nonprofit to advance national issues important to de Blasio and helping to organize the failed Progressive Agenda forum during the Democratic presidential primary in Iowa.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, is a genial and outspoken representative of the Roman Catholic Church and its many parishioners in New York City and across the state. Not only does he get directly involved with city issues – including a recent pledge to raise $100 million for human services organizations – but he has taken high-profile stands on decisions by President Donald Trump, such as praising restrictions on overseas abortion funding while calling for a welcoming attitude toward immigrants and refugees.
In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s influential inner circle, Alphonso David is a point person on various New York City issues, including criminal justice and gay rights. Well-versed on policy matters, he also serves as something of a spokesman for the governor, delivering speeches and giving interviews to make the executive branch’s case. David, who is gay and spearheaded Cuomo’s push to legalize same-sex marriage, is increasingly invaluable as the governor seeks to outflank Mayor Bill de Blasio on the left.
As assistant to the vice president of Communications Workers of America District 1, Bob Master demonstrated his influence in steering last year’s successful 40,000-member, six-week strike against Verizon. As co-chairman of the state Working Families Party, the outspoken voice on the left and longtime friend of Mayor Bill de Blasio also acted as a surrogate for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' Democratic presidential primary bid and helped mobilize the persistent challenge to Hillary Clinton from the party’s left flank.
Rebecca Katz and Bill Hyers are partners on Hilltop Public Solutions' New York team, and despite no longer having official roles on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s staff, they continue to advise the mayor informally. Hyers was de Blasio’s campaign manager in 2013, but likely won’t have a formal role this year. Though, he fiercely defends the mayor’s agenda on social media. Katz was a trusted de Blasio communications strategist at City Hall and remains close with the mayor’s top staff.
He has yet to match the longevity of Robert Morgenthau, but Cyrus Vance Jr. is gradually building up his own record. In recent years, the feds have spearheaded investigations of New York elected officials, but Vance’s office has joined other prosecutors on the trail of Mayor Bill de Blasio, recently interviewing the mayor about questionable fundraising in the 2014 state Senate elections. Vance’s office brought another high-profile case to a close this year with Pedro Hernandez’s conviction in the murder of Etan Patz.
Carlo Scissura has come a long way since he declined to make a bid to succeed his boss, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, in 2013. Instead, he took the helm of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which was already a powerhouse, and substantially increased its membership. He's now aiming to use a similar approach to reinvigorate the New York Building Congress and increase its relevance after recently taking over as its president and CEO.
As majority leader, New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is officially the council's second most powerful member. But his influence has also come through more individual efforts and an independent streak, as he has publicly challenged President Donald Trump on a number of issues while also taking on Mayor Bill de Blasio over an affordable housing project. And he brings home the bacon, securing baseline funding for libraries, a major priority in his home borough of Queens.
Given Bill Thompson’s credentials in public education, including a stint as president of the former New York City Board of Education, heading the CUNY board of trustees is a perfect fit. The success of the former city comptroller and two-time mayoral candidate in transforming New York City's public higher education system partially depends on Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepping back and allowing appointees like Thompson to make the changes that need to be made.
Stanley Brezenoff will need to muster all of the considerable experience and influence he has to nurse this system of 11 hospitals – reportedly facing a potential $1.8 billion budget gap in 2020 – back to health. He has to generate revenue while avoiding hospital closures or layoffs and continue to serve the majority of the city’s uninsured and undocumented – a population whose numbers are only likely to explode if President Donald Trump’s plans concerning the Affordable Care Act are realized.
Héctor Figueroa is a behind-the-scenes player, but the head of the 163,000-member service workers’ union is one of labor's top policymakers. While some unions vented frustration with Mayor Bill de Blasio over policy disagreements or fundraising investigations, 32BJ SEIU has been a loyal ally, backing his affordable housing plan and minimum wage increase. An early pre-Thanksgiving endorsement from the union could be a big reason why there hasn’t yet been a serious primary challenge for de Blasio.
James Milliken took over a higher education system in 2014 that educates hundreds of thousands of students and has a long history of providing a step up for lower-income families. Three years in, he has weathered several challenges. The former president of CUNY’s City College stepped down under a cloud of scandal, allegations of wasteful spending abound and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried to seize control and slash state funding. After a few recent high-profile staff changes, insiders wonder what Milliken's future holds.
Republicans control Washington, D.C., but it's unclear where the state's senior GOP congressman sits in the new balance of power. While the Long Islander doesn't represent New York City, he has fought on its behalf. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, the Senate minority leader, may end up sidelining King as President Donald Trump's go-to for New York matters. And while King defended Trump's immigration ban, he's downplayed the president's infrastructure plan and the pledge to repeal Obamacare.
Just a few years ago, District Council 37 had a reputation as a diminished labor union. Since taking over in 2014, Executive Director Henry Garrido has brought activism back to the forefront of one of the largest municipal labor unions, added members as the city increased its head count, collaborated with City Hall to cut health care costs and campaigned to turn dues-payers into active members. Perhaps that’s why DC 37 is an obligatory campaign stop for elected officials citywide.
The host of the eponymous "The Brian Lehrer Show" has enjoyed nearly unparalleled access to Mayor Bill de Blasio since the city's top elected official began making a weekly appearance on the WNYC show. Lehrer's long reporting career has not stopped de Blasio from criticizing his questions or framing of current events, but the host has deftly handled the mayor. Lehrer's interviews matter even more with a mayor who restricts off-topic questions from the City Hall press corps.
One of a few high-level holdovers from the Bloomberg years, Gregg Bishop has been on the rise in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration. He served previously as assistant commissioner and deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Small Business Services before landing the top position at the agency in the fall of 2015. Under a mayor not known for having business savvy, Bishop's work is critical – especially as de Blasio refocuses on job growth during his re-election year.
Still in his 30s, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo has been chairman of the Bronx County Democratic Committee for two years and is an influential player in New York politics. His ascension as party boss was expected to give the likable politician a greater voice to the next generation of politicos. Crespo, who also is chairman of the Assembly's Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, has kept a low profile, but his ties to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. help him get things done.
While she was as shocked as anyone with the 2016 presidential election results, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez remains as active as ever. She was one of the first elected officials to rally against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. She’s involved not just in her district – which spans Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan – but in other areas that require her assistance. Her longstanding working relationship with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer gives her an edge here and in Washington, D.C.
Kathryn Wylde is the well-respected conduit between the private sector’s business leaders and a progressive mayor who needs to keep economic growth humming. Her Partnership for New York City successfully advocated for extending mayoral control of the public schools to keep the workforce strong. She will continue to look out for her constituents' bottom line when it comes to city policies and legislation, including a proposed commercial rent tax and property taxes.
The mayor’s agenda may be dead on arrival in Albany, but in New York City it’s a different story – and Jon Paul Lupo is a big part of that. The former consultant for New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is working primarily with the City Council, which has rubber-stamped most of the mayor’s legislative priorities. But with a new City Council speaker in 2018, it might be tougher for Lupo’s lobbying to gain traction, depending on who lands the legislative body’s top spot.
The New York Bay has not shrunk during James Oddo’s tenure as Staten Island borough president, but it may feel like it has on Staten Island. Several significant developments are taking shape in Oddo's borough, including what’s believed to be the world’s tallest observation wheel, new outlet malls and the first new Staten Island Railway station since 1971. Mayor Bill de Blasio has also visited Staten Island more frequently and makes a point of highlighting its projects.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is nearly universally loved in political circles – and perhaps the sense that she's not angling to advance to a higher office has something to do with the respect she has earned from her peers. Her policy expertise and mastery of land use has given her considerable sway over development in Manhattan, as evidenced by her ability to send a $1.5 billion redevelopment plan at South Street Seaport back to the drawing board.
Gary LaBarbera’s union members could end up as a huge beneficiary of the handshake agreement on 421-a, as developers would be forced to pay construction workers an average of $60 an hour on certain residential projects in Manhattan. LaBarbera is also lobbying for a New York City Council bill requiring construction workers involved in projects of a certain size to receive union apprenticeship training – another boon for his membership – though the mayor has come out against this proposal.
After Bill de Blasio was elected mayor, Frank Seddio got behind City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, de Blasio's preference for City Council speaker. The pivot frustrated county leaders in the Bronx and Queens, who had another candidate in mind, but it served Seddio and his Brooklyn Democrats well during the mayor's first term. With elections coming up again this fall, it remains to be seen whether Seddio will be able to cut another deal that helps the borough.
Nisha Agarwal’s office administers the city's municipal ID card, runs and provides oversight for immigrant legal services programs and works to get immigrants access to health care. Agarwal has also signed off on efforts to protect undocumented children in public schools and was on the ground at JFK Airport as immigration ban protests unfolded. Under President Donald Trump's administration, it’s hard to see how the power she wields doesn’t come under increased demand on behalf of her constituents.
Brooklyn may not be the center of the universe, but Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is certainly making it known that the borough is relevant, politically and otherwise. In addition to constantly talking about Brooklyn’s opportunities for doing business and its potential for building new housing, the former NYPD police officer has been an outspoken proponent of criminal justice reform and isn’t shy about speaking out on controversial cases and issues.
The billionaire, who is still the most influential and arguably the best former mayor of New York City, nearly ran for president last year. Of course, the operative words are "former" and "nearly." Yet Bloomberg still wields power – locally through his former aides and allies, and nationally through funding for issues like soda taxes. The Republican turned independent boldly took down Donald Trump at the Democratic National Convention and continues to challenge Republicans on gun control, immigration and climate change.
Suri Kasirer’s firm consistently ranks near the top of all lobbyists in New York City and Albany because she does her homework and gets things done at the intersection of state and city government. Her clients include major real estate developers, Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits. As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s cozy relationship with lobbyist and fundraiser James Capalino has been threatened due to various probes, Kasirer may find herself with an even larger piece of the pie.
Dominic Williams was one of Bill de Blasio's first hires after winning the 2013 mayoral election. The loyal acolyte goes back to de Blasio’s tenure as public advocate and has become an indispensable asset to his inner circle. Williams works closely with de Blasio’s first deputy mayor, Anthony Shorris, on managing traffic between the various city agencies. He has also taken a substantial role in shepherding the mayor’s priorities through the city budget process.
Like another famous New Yorker from a prosperous real estate family, Rob Speyer has capitalized on his role. In 2015 it was announced that he would succeed his father, Jerry Speyer, as sole CEO of Tishman Speyer. Rob Speyer recently agreed to stay on another year as chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, an influential industry trade group. Although Rob Speyer came out in support of the governor’s replacement plan for 421-a, it will cost developers.
As long as David Greenfield remains chairman of the New York City Council's Committee on Land Use, he will have an outsized influence on city government – from rubber-stamping the mayor’s affordable housing plans to leveraging his position to horse trade legislatively with fellow City Council members. And with Mayor Bill de Blasio eager to secure the Orthodox Jewish voting bloc for his re-election, he will need the support of Greenfield, who has become a key power broker in that community.
The Rudin family has long been known for its real estate business as well as its civic engagement. Bill Rudin is carrying the torch not only as the CEO of Rudin Management company, a major office building manager, but as chairman of the Association for a Better New York, which championed the city’s revitalization efforts during its severe fiscal crisis in the 1970s. Now ABNY hosts events with some of the biggest names in New York politics, such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Housing policy is a major pillar of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing agenda, and insiders say very little gets accomplished on that front without Jumaane Williams’ signoff, given his position as chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings. A longtime activist for police reform and against gun violence, Williams was influential in pushing City Hall to create the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence, an idea born out of a bill that Williams co-sponsored.
To survive and thrive as a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle, you always have to be thoroughly prepared and on top of your game. Melissa DeRosa, who has risen from the role of communications director, not only has earned her boss’s trust, but she has been able to walk through the fire unscathed. At the same time, she has helped move Cuomo’s interests in New York City despite the governor’s testy relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is frequently mentioned on the list of New York City Council members jockeying to succeed Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker, but first she may need to fend off a primary challenge. Her power currently derives from her position heading the City Council’s Committee on Finance, which plays a lead role in the city's budget process. Ferreras-Copeland has been firm about urging city agencies to find savings, and will likely make that a focal point of budget negotiations in the coming months.
Since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was formed in the 1960s, it has never been led by a woman. That changed, at least on an interim basis, when Ronnie Hakim was promoted in January to fill in as the authority’s executive director. Hakim, who has more than two decades of experience at the MTA and most recently served as head of New York City Transit, could move up the list if she is appointed to the position permanently.
If there was any doubt as to which political reporter has the most all-around credibility in New York City, then consider as proof Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to select NY1's political program "Inside City Hall," masterfully hosted by Errol Louis, as the venue to make his weekly TV appearance. Louis is fair, at times probing and persistent with his questions, and his insights into politics always make for interesting television. His weekly Daily News column only broadens his influence.
Letitia James’ power derives primarily from the prominence of the people she represents – New York City’s public. And if probes into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s possible campaign finance law violations and pay-to-play political nonprofits sink him, next in line for the office would be this champion of free school lunches, chief critic of the city Administration for Children's Services and enemy No. 1 of city slumlords. Recent election cycles have set the bar so high that it’s easy to say “stranger things have happened.”
Some New York City Council members grumble privately about Ramón Martínez’s control over which policies and legislation advance in the legislative body, but in his pivotal behind-the-scenes role he has proven his value to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and, some argue, to the city as a whole. His approach to the needs of the City Council members and their districts is described by some insider observers as merit-based, although his enemies describe him in unprintable terms.
Maria Torres-Springer’s new role as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development gives her significant say in shaping the city’s landscape – and in the strategies Mayor Bill de Blasio deploys to reach his ambitious affordable housing goals. Torres-Springer appears to have secured the mayor’s trust, moving to HPD from previous roles as commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services and as president of the New York City Economic Development Corp.
It’s been a roller coaster ride for Patrick Foye. Coming on early in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first term, his tenure was overshadowed by Bridgegate. And while Foye blew the whistle on that scandal, he did not get named to a newly created position of CEO and was on the verge of leaving in 2016. Persuaded to stay on, he has continued to oversee some of Cuomo’s biggest infrastructure projects, including the Gateway rail tunnel under the Hudson River and an overhaul of LaGuardia Airport.
When Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office, the emphasis on his Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic deaths gave city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg significant clout. Her influence now hinges on the mayor's efforts to portray himself as busy with the nuts and bolts of governing while also boasting about how many miles of roads the administration has repaved. Trottenberg also has her hands in the MTA as a city representative to its board.
While U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is sending mixed messages about a potential challenge to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Brooklyn Democrat is on an upswing. He enjoyed national visibility during the 2016 presidential election, and his leadership in Washington, D.C., and on local issues is earning him a reputation as a serious hands-on politician – including a behind-the-scenes role in the Brooklyn district attorney race. Jeffries could end up being mayor of New York City or even the state’s first African-American U.S. senator.
The Park Slope lawmaker is known to have a mind for policy, particularly among the progressive crowd currently running City Hall. As a founder of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus, Lander has sway with the mayor, a self-proclaimed progressive, and the City Council speaker, a fellow caucus member who reached her leadership position with significant help from the group. Lander’s influence is far-reaching enough that, for a time, he was dubbed the "shadow speaker."
Neal Kwatra has friends in high places, but operates behind the scenes. Before launching Metropolitan Public Strategies, Kwatra worked for the New York Hotel Trades Council and for state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Since opening his communications and strategic consulting firm, he has allied with Mayor Bill de Blasio, helping the mayor’s nonprofit to support affordable housing, United for Affordable NYC, and with Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a re-election campaign strategist.
Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. has powerful friends – and knows how to leverage them. Diaz’s relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo most recently helped him secure a loan to revive a transformation of the Kingsbridge Armory into an ice rink complex. Diaz’s bond with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and state Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein bolsters his borough. Diaz doesn't seem to need Mayor Bill de Blasio – so much so that Diaz has openly weighed challenging him.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler strikes a balance between his interests as a local power broker and his influence in Washington, D.C., as a senior congressman – occasionally even wading into citywide races to help clear the field for his allies. Recently, Nadler has been a vocal face of the resistance against President Donald Trump, moving quickly to help Muslim immigrants detained at JFK Airport and introducing a "resolution of inquiry" which could force Trump to produce his financial and tax records.
James Capalino is known as the fundraiser that helped Mayor Bill de Blasio get elected – and the top lobbyist who represents a number of major clients with business before the city. Despite probes into his dealings and the cold shoulder he’s supposedly being given by de Blasio, there’s no evidence he has lost business. A veteran of city politics, Capalino will find a way to get things done. And despite their precarious relationship, de Blasio likely hopes that includes getting re-elected.
Airbnb has faced fierce resistance in New York from officials and advocates pushing for more regulation of the home-sharing website. That’s partly because of Peter Ward, whose 32,000-member New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council has also been instrumental in the statewide minimum wage push and the city’s affordable housing expansion. Ward is close to not only Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but also President Donald Trump, who is no stranger to running New York hotels.
In newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew may have met a foil greater than Eva Moskowitz, Mulgrew’s longtime rival. And while his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio may have drifted a bit over the past year, they still enjoy an unusually cozy alliance, with the UFT giving the mayor an early re-election endorsement. And Mulgrew is warming to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is increasingly rediscovering his progressive side.
In recent years, his relevance within New York City’s changing Democratic Party may have declined, but as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus – the fourth-ranking position in the House Democratic leadership – Joseph Crowley is as strong as ever. His importance to New York City makes Crowley a player in Washington, D.C. Locally, his support will be sought by many in the 2017 and 2018 elections, and his backing will be crucial for candidates vying to be the next City Council speaker.
Richard Buery's early career focused not on politics but supporting youth by building and leading nonprofits, including as the first black leader of the Children’s Aid Society. Yet he has been pressed into service managing universal pre-K, mental health and, most recently, directing the mayor’s efforts to increase the number of contracts awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses. Considering his successes thus far, this could be a big year for Buery and the city.
A decade into the job of carefully monitoring billions of state dollars, the general consensus is that Thomas DiNapoli has performed well. The comptroller has watched over workers' retirement funds responsibly, and his manner in dealing with other government officials has gained him respect. While his primary responsibility is at the state level, he regularly weighs in on New York City matters, including the budget outlook, demographic changes and the shortcomings of city agencies.
Thanks to a handshake agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York reviving the 421-a tax break, the pockets of John Banks’ REBNY members should grow quite a bit fatter. Assuming the state Legislature codifies the deal, developers will get a 10-year extension of the tax break, which has accounted for a significant chunk of the affordable housing projects in recent years. While REBNY has deep roots in Manhattan, under Banks it has also expanded its footprint to the outer boroughs.
As the longtime head of the health care workers union 1199SEIU, George Gresham runs New York’s largest labor union, which is quick to mobilize for progressive causes and candidates. While that’s easier because of his support for Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, he’s also helped the state Senate GOP retain its commanding presence in Albany as a sweetener for helping push through the minimum wage increase.
With the uncertainty surrounding how much federal money the city will receive from President Donald Trump, the forthcoming budget could be one of the most important negotiations of Dean Fuleihan’s career. Not only will Fuleihan have to contend with possible federal cuts, the state budget proposal includes some small cost shifts to the city and de Blasio has ordered agencies to come up with an additional $500 million in savings to prepare for a possible economic downturn.
The challenges facing Steven Banks are growing – but so is the mayor’s reliance on him. Mayor Bill de Blasio integrated Banks' Human Resources Administration with the Department of Homeless Services and placed the combined entity under his purview. Given the growing number of homeless New Yorkers and frequent complaints about the shelter system, Banks has his hands full. But the mayor is also sorely in need of the former Legal Aid Society leader’s expertise.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand typically lets U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer take the reins when it comes to looking out for New York City’s interests, but the rise of President Donald Trump has emboldened her and she will likely be a vocal critic if he cuts federal funding to the city. New York's junior senator has even popped up on short lists of 2020 presidential candidates. She has indicated that she’s not interested, but she will be a coveted ally for whoever does run.
The progressive public relations firm that helped hoist Bill de Blasio into the mayoralty in 2013 will need more creativity this year to keep him there for a second term against a resurgent Republican Party, plenty of possible Democratic competitors and some trust issues with the electorate. As candidate de Blasio looks to build support, chances are he'll be seeking a few clandestine emails full of advice from these trusted – and powerful – agents of the city.
With more than four decades of experience, Carmen Farin?a is what Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted in a chancellor of New York City’s vast education system. Her on-the-ground approach has helped make significant changes, including the successful implementation of universal pre-K and rising high school graduation rates. There were early concerns with Farin?a’s micromanagement, and she’s been grilled by lawmakers and attacked in the tabloids, but if she retires in 2017 as expected, she’ll go out with some serious accomplishments.
Against expectations, state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan guided his Republican conference to enough victories last fall – along with negotiations to continue alliances with the Senate Independent Democratic Conference and state Sen. Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with the GOP – to maintain control of the upper house in Albany. And while he represents part of Long Island, his deals on issues like the minimum wage have an outsized impact on New York City.
Anthony Shorris is a classic manager who prefers to stay out of the spotlight and focus on the nuts and bolts of governing. Unfortunately, Shorris was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons last year, taking full blame for allowing a former Manhattan nursing home for HIV/AIDS patients to become a luxury condo. The administration brought in Laura Anglin to help with Shorris’ vast portfolio, but the hire could also be an indication that he might not stick around for a second de Blasio term.
While some still doubt what Chirlane McCray actually brings to City Hall, the one person with whom the first lady has the greatest influence is her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Apart from the political instincts and advice she shares with de Blasio, McCray has driven city policy by passionately bringing to the forefront the need for treatment of mental illness. She also runs the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which has raised tens of millions of dollars.
Phil Walzak has worn many hats in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, from press secretary to top adviser – quite an ascent for a guy who wasn’t well known before the 2013 campaign. Insiders say Walzak is best suited in a campaign-type atmosphere, so it makes sense that he was one of the first de Blasio aides to transition to the re-election campaign, where he will take the lead alongside 2013 holdovers Nicholas Baldick and John Del Cecato.
Emma Wolfe arguably has the toughest job in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration: pushing forward a policy agenda that occasionally gets stuck in the mud, particularly in Albany where the mayor has few allies. Wolfe’s loyalty and deep familiarity with de Blasio’s political whims solidify her as a powerful figure, but with federal investigations supposedly looking into her role in alleged illegal fundraising on the mayor’s behalf, she could become an Achilles' heel for her boss’s re-election campaign.
Melissa Mark-Viverito is wrapping up her tenure as the first Latina speaker of the New York City Council. An ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio, she didn’t wield the full powers of her office, and progressives were disappointed that she derailed the Right to Know Act, a major police reform bill. Nevertheless, she’s still a tough voice on immigration reform, and has made significant progress on criminal justice reform. The big questions now are what she’ll manage to get done in her last year – and what she plans to do next.
Scott Stringer clearly has his eye on running for mayor. But unless Mayor Bill de Blasio lands in legal hot water soon, the New York City comptroller may have to put off his aspirations for another four years and instead run for re-election. That wouldn’t be the worst outcome for the city, which has benefited from Stringer’s solid first term, in which he has issued audits and reports on pressing matters, such as homelessness, that hold City Hall accountable.
When state Sen. Jeff Klein formed the Independent Democratic Conference in early 2011, the four-member breakaway group had relatively little power. Fed up with the chaotic Democratic leadership, Klein had just resigned as deputy minority leader – and the IDC allowed him to immediately regain the title of leader, albeit of a much smaller conference.
Over the past six years, his maneuver has looked increasingly savvy. After the 2012 elections, he formed an unprecedented power-sharing agreement with state Senate Republicans that allowed him to join closed-door budget talks with the governor. But while he capitalized legislatively, and in delivering funds to his Bronx district, Klein faced several challenges. State Sen. Malcolm Smith joined the conference, bringing diversity to its ranks, but he resigned in disgrace. The mainline Democrats mounted primary challenges against several IDC members, although they fell short. State Sen. Dean Skelos, Klein’s governing partner, resigned due to corruption charges. And Klein’s agreement to join a doomed effort to elect a Democratic Senate majority left mainline Democrats feeling even more bitter than before, especially when Klein continued to cooperate with Republicans.
Now, the IDC is again on the upswing. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan has continued the partnership with Klein, despite some grumbles from upstate Republicans. The IDC’s ranks have been bolstered with the addition of state Sens. Tony Avella, Marisol Alcántara, Jesse Hamilton and Jose Peralta – and while several of the new recruits are under attack, Klein has a record of strong fundraising and successfully defending his members. Klein can point to the passage of major legislation, including the legalization of medical marijuana and, more recently, paid sick leave. If things keep going in this direction, the mainline Democrats may want to take state Sen. Diane Savino's advice, who argued to unite the party, “they should make Jeff Klein the chair.”
Alicia Glen is a power broker due to her prominent role tackling one of the city’s most pressing crises: the need for affordable housing. In fact, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that with the help of the deputy mayor, he has created or preserved more than 20,000 affordable housing units per year – putting the city on track to hit the mayor’s ambitious 200,000-unit goal. In fiscal year 2016 alone, the city said it had secured 23,284 affordable housing units, the second-highest amount in city history and the most since Ed Koch was mayor. Some advocates argue that this is all still too little, too late, and that the definition of affordability doesn’t reach some residents in the greatest need, but Glen forges ahead. She has managed to consolidate and retain power even as other architects of the city’s affordable housing goals – such as Vicki Been, former commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Carl Weisbrod, former chairman of the New York City Planning Commission and director of the Department of City Planning, have moved on. In his re-election year, de Blasio has expanded his focus to creating more well-paying jobs, another area that Glen will have to spearhead as economic development czar. She’s already working on plans to capitalize on the Made in New York program and invigorate the manufacturing sector. She’s aiming to draw additional jobs with a new incubator for media and fashion jobs in Brooklyn, a technology incubator in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, another technology hub near Union Square in Manhattan and an applied life sciences research campus that might spur 16,000 new jobs. Glen’s aggressive efforts have led some to argue she’s trying to be a female Robert Moses. She doesn’t too much mind the comparison, if it implies she’s got a reputation for getting things done.
James O’Neill lacks the star power of his two immediate predecessors, Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly. But despite spending his entire career in the force, the New York City Police Department veteran has brought a fresh approach to the department.
After serving more than three decades in the NYPD – including a stint with the Transit Police, which eventually merged with the NYPD – O’Neill was elevated last year from chief of department, the NYPD’s highest uniformed position, to commissioner.
Among his top priorities are expanding a neighborhood policing initiative that was already being carried out before his promotion last year. He supported the shift away from the controversial stop-and-frisk policing, which began its dramatic reduction near the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term. O’Neill’s views align well with his current boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran on a pledge of improving police-community relations and curtailing discriminatory or abusive policing tactics.
Despite some gains on this front, the city’s crime-fighting approach has its critics. Reformers cite the high-profile deaths of Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham and what they argue is a failure to hold accountable the police officers who killed them. Some have called on O’Neill to reject the “broken windows” policing model popularized by Bratton. Others have complained that he is yet another white man to fill the role. The commissioner has resisted President Donald Trump administration’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants, but some observers say the city could do more to protect them.
Perhaps his most critical task will be continuing to keep the city’s crime rate at or near record lows, which will be especially important as the mayor gears up for his re-election campaign. So far, the official statistics have pleased de Blasio, who refers to his commissioner simply as “Jimmy.”
It’s amazing what keeping your nose to the grindstone for two years has done for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s image. Listening to the members of his large and diverse Democratic conference and coming back to them to get their feedback while proceeding with budget negotiations hasn’t hurt, either.
By no means are things going completely smoothly for Heastie, but it’s worth remembering the speculation that other politicians might go down with former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, his disgraced predecessor. When Heastie was elected to replace Silver in early 2015, many thought that he didn't have what it took to be speaker.
Heastie came out swinging while remaining fully aware that he had to define a leadership style of his own. For the notoriously shy and quiet leader, this was a makeover. One advantage was that his progressive agenda on issues like raising the minimum wage and creating a paid family leave policy was in sync with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s priorities. And yet Heastie had to deal with the governor’s political concerns of any perceived downstate favoritism, which the speaker has learned to work with and maneuver around when necessary.
Also factoring into the Bronx politician’s standing on this list is his status back in the district. His push for “Raise the Age” legislation on the age of criminal responsibility resonates there, even though it has yet to advance in Albany. He also stood firm in opposing the 5-cent plastic bag fee in New York City, citing the impact on downstate residents in the face of criticism from environmentalists and the editorial boards. The upstate-downstate dispute reflects the fact that while he’s often Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most important ally in Albany, Heastie's first priority is delivering on the needs and desires of his conference.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman first made his mark nationally by investigating the big banks whose misdeeds helped spark the Great Recession. But the “Sheriff of Wall Street” has a new street to police. Over on Pennsylvania Avenue, executive orders have been pouring out of President Donald Trump's desk that threaten to roll back regulations, protections and rights that affect New Yorkers and their businesses. With Congress in Republican hands and seemingly unwilling or uninterested in challenging Trump, many liberal-minded individuals are arguing that the states will have to take on the role of upholding the law – and perhaps the Constitution itself – in the courts. It is the job of the attorney general to represent the state government in legal actions, so that positions Schneiderman as a point person on the front lines of the defense against Trump’s policies.
Squaring off with Trump is not new to Schneiderman. He began investigating Trump University in 2013, and in return Schneiderman got the full Trump treatment: nasty personal attacks on Twitter and elsewhere, false allegations of bribery and extortion, plus a countersuit. Eventually, after stating he’d never settle, Trump ponied up $25 million. Since then, Schneiderman has been investigating the Donald J. Trump Foundation, despite the president’s attempts to dismantle it. He’s also digging through heaps of potential conflicts of interest in Trump’s business dealings and signed on to the federal lawsuit against Trump’s immigration ban. Schneiderman reportedly is being looked to as a possible national leader of blue-state attorneys general ready to resist the administration’s legislative proposals. Claiming that mantle would elevate Schneiderman’s profile to the national level once again – and make him a top Trump target as the two New Yorkers prepare to spend the foreseeable future at each other’s political throats.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had a remarkable year in 2015, headlined by the indictments and convictions of the two most prominent state legislators – former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. The buzz around Bharara was palpable, with armchair prognosticators wondering whether he would be teeing up a run for mayor or governor in the near future. Last year proved to be significantly quieter, at least as far as bringing down marquee political targets, but Bharara still managed to secure a corruption indictment for Joe Percoco, the former right-hand man to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which could prove to be a thorny situation for the governor as he approaches re-election in 2018. While it looked like the clock might be running out on Bharara’s investigations into New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a somewhat surprising decision, President Donald Trump requested that Bharara stay on as U.S. attorney. How this impacts de Blasio’s re-election campaign is anyone’s guess; pay-for-play allegations are notoriously difficult to prove, and even some legal experts were surprised that the Silver and Skelos indictments resulted in convictions. Despite Bharara’s occasional self-promotion, few political observers expect that he will drag out the de Blasio investigations to significantly impact the mayor’s re-election. De Blasio clearly knows that a potential indictment is dangling over him – or members of his inner circle – like the sword of Damocles, and his meeting with Bharara to discuss the investigations could have been an attempt to allay those concerns. City and state legislators will remain on their toes as long as Bharara is a U.S. attorney. His appetite for public corruption cases may not result in the kind of substantive ethics reform that good government advocates are clamoring for, but he remains the most feared watchdog in New York.
President Donald Trump is the leader of the free world, the commander in chief of the strongest military on the globe and the subject of perhaps the most media attention in history – but he’s not the most powerful politician in New York.
How can that be? Quite simply, his scope is far broader than the five boroughs. He is dramatically reshaping U.S. foreign policy, upending long-held assumptions in international affairs. His early policy moves, driven by executive orders, are reversing many priorities of Barack Obama's administration. Although he is a native New Yorker – he was born and raised in Queens and became a celebrity in Manhattan – he represents a much larger constituency than the voters in New York City. In fact, much of his base of political support derives from very different parts of the country, including struggling Rust Belt cities, conservative swaths of the rural Midwest and economically challenged areas in the South. Since being elected, Trump has turned out to be much more like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz than anything resembling Cruz’s quip about Trump’s supposed “New York values.”
Of course, none of that diminishes the long-lasting impact that Trump and his administration are poised to have on New York City. One of his earliest moves was a ban on immigration from a number of predominantly Muslim countries. JFK Airport was where one of the major rallies erupted in response, befitting the city’s history as a welcoming point for immigrants. Although the order was blocked in the courts, the president is moving to tackle immigration in other ways, including increased enforcement of undocumented immigrants. Elected officials and advocates have mobilized against the move, with Mayor Bill de Blasio insisting that New York City will remain a sanctuary city and will not cooperate with the federal government.
Additional Trump policies threaten to alter or undermine the status quo in New York City. The potential repeal and replacement of Obamacare could leave many New Yorkers without health care or force city and state officials to scramble to fill a massive budget gap. The nomination of Ben Carson as secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is a warning that the federal government could no longer prioritize federal housing funds, a major city priority. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos could shift the emphasis away from public schools, while the Republican Party’s stance on organized labor could undercut a powerful constituency in New York. Trump’s embrace of stop-and-frisk policing aligns with the views of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but the city has largely moved on to new models.
Of course, it’s still early, and Trump has made enough stumbles that it’s unclear how competent his administration will be – and how much of an impact he will actually have on his hometown.
In his first year in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio was at the top of our New York City Power 100 list. The next two years he came in at No. 2, supplanted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This year, de Blasio falls one spot further to No. 3, behind Cuomo and a brand-new No. 1.
Some of the decline is out of his control. The governor, a savvy operator whose policy flexibility stands in stark contrast to de Blasio’s instinctive progressivism, has capitalized on the state’s authority over the city and largely outplayed the mayor in their rivalry. National politics have overshadowed the mayor as well, with the two major presidential candidates hailing from New York and a handful of Empire State Democrats now jostling for position as the liberal answer to President Donald Trump.
In other ways, de Blasio has arguably been his own worst enemy. He failed to anticipate the threat that Albany could pose in blocking his agenda on mayoral control and the 421-a real estate tax credit. He invited political battles with state Senate Republicans and even the governor. He quickly sought to position himself as a national progressive leader, despite a reputation for showing up late – or not at all – at home.
On the policy front, his record has been mixed. With the help of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Bratton’s successor, James O’Neill, de Blasio has kept crime rates low while taking steps to reform the police department. He has achieved successes with his universal pre-K and affordable housing initiatives. His Vision Zero effort to eliminate traffic deaths has made substantial progress. But the administration has been hobbled by the homelessness crisis, with the shelter population reaching record highs despite an influx of spending. Local residents and elected officials have shot down proposals for new shelters, even as critics blame the mayor for putting too many homeless people in hotels.
The perception of de Blasio will be consequential this year since he’s up for re-election. He recently downplayed some of the biggest challenges facing the city, instead touting a plan to create more well-paying jobs and highlighting new affordable housing strategies. While the mayor’s approval ratings are lackluster, he is still the strongest mayoral candidate in early polls. The rise of the GOP nationally may also help de Blasio avoid a primary challenge as Democrats rally around their own, and the mayor has made a point of speaking out against Trump’s most controversial moves.
But the biggest question marks, of course, are the multiple investigations into fundraising by de Blasio and his allies, including the possibility that donors received preferential treatment thanks to their contributions. If de Blasio weathers this storm, he seems to be set to coast to re-election.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has landed at the top of the New York City Power 100 for two years, but this time around national political winds have upset the pecking order.
That’s not to say that the governor, who drops one spot to No. 2, has lost much influence over what goes on across the five boroughs. Just this month, in a brazen display of the state’s supremacy over the city, Cuomo went along with the state Legislature to block the city’s 5-cent fee on plastic bags.
The move is just the latest instance of the governor taking on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and, more often than not, gaining the upper hand. Ever since their dispute over how to pay for an expansion of universal pre-K, Cuomo has challenged the mayor on the minimum wage, housing funds and the 421-a real estate tax credit. In recent years, Cuomo has used de Blasio as a measuring stick to prove how progressive he can be.
In other cases, the governor has used the state’s purse strings to tie up the mayor. Last year, Cuomo threatened the City University of New York with major budget cuts. And he has provided support to potential mayoral challengers, such as Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., who has benefited from state funding for commuter rail stations and a state loan to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a ice rink complex.
The governor’s mission to rebuild critical infrastructure has also meant frequent forays into de Blasio’s backyard. When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Second Avenue subway was nearing completion, Cuomo seized control and took credit when it opened by the end of 2016. On the heels of a project that already broke ground at LaGuardia Airport, Cuomo unveiled a plan to overhaul JFK Airport – although it’s debatable whether the fancy new terminals will do much to reduce flight delays. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the governor’s 2017 agenda was a deal to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which was billed as a critical safety precaution for the downstate area but could end up raising electric rates in the city.
At the same time, Cuomo is careful to balance his policies and priorities in order to remain palatable far beyond the downstate region, undoubtedly with an eye on securing a strong re-election victory in 2018. Unlike de Blasio, who is under the cloud of investigation, an unrelated investigation into a number of Cuomo allies left the governor virtually unscathed.
If everything plays out just right, Cuomo could find himself in position to run for president in 2020, which could easily return him to the top of our list.
During his 17 years in the U.S. Senate, Charles Schumer has cultivated a reputation as a consummate deal-maker – a shrewd politician more likely to broker a deal that benefits his constituents than to obstruct in the name of partisanship. But after the election of Donald Trump as president and Schumer succeeding Harry Reid as Senate minority leader, the question that many New Yorkers and Democrats were asking is whether his affinity for compromise was the right strategic tactic to deal with an incoming president whose agenda could upend many of the legislative successes under President Barack Obama.
While Republicans have firm control in the U.S. House of Representatives, in the U.S. Senate their majority is a razor-thin 52-48. Through Obama’s two terms, Republican senators set a precedent of requiring a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority to get any major legislation passed. Schumer could easily adopt a similar strategy – blocking everything, including conservative U.S. Supreme Court nominees, a tax cut for the wealthy, the repeal of Obamacare or the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, all of which could affect millions of New Yorkers.
Schumer has always been a fierce defender of New York’s interests, but he will now have to balance that with the competing priorities of senators from Massachusetts to Montana. It was easier for Schumer to lobby a friendly Democratic White House to secure funding for New York’s anti-terrorism funding, Superstorm Sandy recovery and various mass transit projects. But don’t rule out Schumer trying to appeal to Trump’s Big Apple roots to get what he wants. Schumer has received more donations from the Trump family than any other U.S. senator, a good starting point for any legislative or budget negotiations. Schumer’s effectiveness as an Empire State advocate will also have direct and indirect consequences for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both of whom are approaching re-election. Trump has signaled his intention to slash funding for New York City, mostly due to its status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants and refugees. If Schumer can beat back those cuts, it would be a major boon to the New Yorkers who benefit from those resources and for de Blasio and Cuomo – who rely on federal funds to accomplish legislative priorities in public education, public housing and security.
The Democratic Party is floundering nationally – Republicans control a majority of governorships and state legislatures, and the prospects of flipping the House or Senate in 2018 appear to be slim. Under these circumstances, Schumer’s U.S. Senate minority is the last bastion of actual Democratic power. How he wields that power remains to be seen, but millions of Americans – and New Yorkers – will be watching and waiting.