The 2020 Albany Power 100: 51-100

Who holds the most power in New York State?
Who holds the most power in New York State?
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Who holds the most power in New York State?
Power 100

The 2020 Albany Power 100: 51-100

This year, the coronavirus upended the balance of power in state government.

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51. Tony Utano

President, Transport Workers Union Local 100

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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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Tony Utano has led 41,000 of New York City’s transportation workers through hairy contract negotiations with the MTA, but now the Transport Workers Union faces its biggest crisis yet with the coronavirus. As the virus takes a toll on front-line transit workers, Utano has worked to ensure that those employees receive personal protective equipment and that families of workers who died in the line of duty receive benefits.

52. Andrew Pallotta

President, New York State United Teachers

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NYSUT

The head of one of New York’s largest unions – whose members include teachers, college professors and other education staff – pushed back against potential cuts to the state’s education budget, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned were imminent if the state does not receive federal aid. Andrew Pallotta, a former New York City elementary school teacher, said now is the time to invest in education rather than take away resources.

53. Kristina Johnson

Chancellor, State University of New York 

COVID-19 forced universities to rapidly shift classes online earlier this year, but Kristina Johnson was an advocate for online education even before the pandemic disrupted campus life. To help transition to online learning in April, SUNY distributed more than 8,800 laptops to students in need. In 2018, Johnson successfully pushed for the implementation of the Excelsior Scholarship providing tuition-free education to students earning less than $110,000 per year.

54. Corey Johnson

New York City Council Speaker

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New York City Council

No longer the new kid on the block, the 38-year-old speaker is in the midst of his third city budget as a counterweight to Mayor Bill de Blasio – but he’s still got big ideas, like proposing city control over mass transit. Corey Johnson was relatively quiet on Albany issues this session, as the city dealt with the coronavirus, but he’s working hard to make the right connections ahead of his likely 2021 mayoral run.

55. Shannon Tahoe

Interim State Education Commissioner

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New York State Education Department

Shannon Tahoe was appointed to her current role in November, a few months after MaryEllen Elia stepped down, and she has been working with lawmakers to shape education policy during a time of crisis. Amid the sudden shift to online learning, Tahoe has called attention to the fact that many families lack internet access. With the search for a full-time commissioner now underway, could Tahoe be a candidate?

56. Bea Grause

President, Healthcare Association of New York State

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Hospital budgets have taken a hit in recent months – like the rest of the economy – as health care providers postponed lucrative elective surgeries while spending more on personal protective equipment for staff. Bea Grause, a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening advisory board, sees modest signs of hope in recent federal funding for rural New York hospitals – which were struggling before COVID-19.

57. Pat Kane

Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association

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Even before taking over the New York State Nurses Association at the end of 2019, Pat Kane had been helping it transition from a membership organization to a real labor union – which has proven to be critical during the coronavirus pandemic, when nurses need solidarity more than ever. And now that the world is acknowledging nurses as heroes, lawmakers will be very eager to align themselves with the 43,000-member union.

58. Steve Bellone

Suffolk County Executive

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Suffolk County Executive’s Office

Despite leading Suffolk County on Long Island, Steve Bellone is no stranger to Albany. A close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Bellone recently served on the governor’s second Medicaid Redesign Team, which was tasked with finding $2.5 billion in Medicaid savings. Downstate, Bellone has made it his goal to reform Suffolk County government, and he has worked alongside Republicans in his swing county.

59. Harold Iselin

Managing Shareholder, Albany Office, Greenberg Traurig

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Greenberg Traurig

As New York responds to the coronavirus pandemic, health care providers and operators – especially those housing and caring for the elderly – are in the middle of the maelstrom. Experts like Harold Iselin, a veteran lobbyist with extensive expertise on health care policy, are in demand as the industry grapples not just with the rising death toll, but also major policy changes and potential funding cuts. 

60. Mary Sullivan

President, Civil Service Employees Association

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Mary Sullivan was settling into her job as leader of the public sector union when Gov. Andrew Cuomo instituted pay freezes for some 80,000 workers in an effort to manage the state’s ailing budget. Sullivan, a union activist for more than 35 years and CSEA’s first new president in 25 years, said freezing the salaries of frontline workers in a time of crisis is “inexcusable.”

61. Wayne Spence

President, Public Employees Federation

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New York State Public Employees Federation

Wayne Spence said the state’s health department “missed the mark” with its too-lax guidelines for how essential workers could return to work after a COVID-19 diagnosis, putting people at risk of infection. Spence, who was reelected in 2018 as president of the union, criticized officials for failing to provide adequate protective equipment for union members working at a psychiatric facility where a large outbreak occurred. 

62. Mike Elmendorf

President and CEO, Associated General Contractors of New York State

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New York State Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America

Members of Mike Elmendorf’s trade association can expect to resume work on their projects earlier than those in other industries. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that construction would be among the first industries to reopen after a weekslong interruption to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Public health is “priority No. 1,” Elmendorf said – but some developers have voiced concerns about worker safety on construction sites. 

63. Jefrey Pollock

Founding Partner and President, Global Strategy Group 

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Global Strategy Group

Jefrey Pollock was at Global Strategy Group when it launched in 1995, and since then, it has grown from a New York-based boutique polling firm to a Democratic consulting powerhouse with clients all across the country. Pollock’s firm has done polling and consulting for top Democrats in New York, including for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, both Michael Bloomberg’s and Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaigns, and Melinda Katz’s Queens district attorney bid last year. 

64. Susan Arbetter

Host, “Capital Tonight," Spectrum News

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Susan Arbetter, the longtime host of “The Capitol Pressroom,” made the jump from radio to TV last year, taking the reins of Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight” from Liz Benjamin. Arbetter started out at “The Capitol Pressroom” in 2009, interviewing many of the most influential figures in state politics, from the governor on down. Now she will be holding the state’s power players accountable on the capital’s leading political television program. 

65. Kathy Hochul

Lieutenant Governor

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Charged with reopening Western New York after the coronavirus shutdown, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is sounding a hopeful note, saying she sees opportunities for innovation and progress as the state enters a so-called new normal. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that the indefatigable Hochul is still spreading the governor’s message all across the state – even if it’s on the phone instead of on the Thruway. 

66. David Hoovler

President, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York

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District attorneys are in the spotlight more than ever nationwide, and that’s especially true in New York, which just enacted major changes to bail, discovery and speedy trial laws – and then changed them again. The association and David Hoovler, its president, were some of the most influential players in the legislative process. The group’s members won some changes they wanted, particularly in regard to speedy trial reforms.

67. Richard Donoghue

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York

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U.S. Attorney's Office

Richard Donoghue criticized New York’s recently enacted bail reform law, saying it made “a bad situation worse” after a suspected serial bank robber was arrested on suspicion of committing a bank heist shortly after his pretrial release. Donoghue recently filed an opposition to “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli’s motion for release from prison, which the disgraced pharmaceutical executive submitted claiming that he plans to develop a cure for COVID-19.

68. Patrick Jenkins

Founder, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates

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Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates

Patrick Jenkins’ government and community relations firm represents a number of top-tier clients with business before the state, including Charter Communications, CVS Health, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, charter schools, accounting firms and casino and gambling interests. While he is known for his friendship with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Jenkins has also worked for such politicians as Carl McCall, Eliot Spitzer and Rep. Gregory Meeks.

69. Sean Doolan

Principal, Hinman Straub

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The coronavirus pandemic has completely disrupted state politics, largely putting legislating on hold while posing new challenges to companies and sectors regulated by the state. In this new uncertain climate, Sean Doolan and his law firm have plenty of work to do. Health care providers and insurance companies – two sectors where Hinman Straub has plenty of experience – have been particularly hard hit. 

70. Dennis Trainor

Vice President, Communications Workers of America District 1

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Communications Workers of America

At CWA District 1, Dennis Trainor commands the 700,000-member union of telecommunications, media and other workers across the Northeast, and his position has only grown more influential during the coronavirus crisis. The union recently struck an agreement with Verizon on paid sick leave for its workers, and Trainor was named to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Labor and Workforce Sector Advisory Council.

71. James Capalino

Founder and CEO, Capalino+Company

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James Capalino is known for his deep knowledge and strong relationships in New York City, dating back to his experience in the Koch administration. But his scope extends beyond the five boroughs, with an impressive roster of clients that has placed his firm in the top 10 by compensation in both the city and the state. Among the clients he has represented in recent years are Airbnb, Related Companies and Uber.

72. Mylan Denerstein

Partner, Gibson Dunn

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A former legal adviser and chief counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mylan Denerstein is weighing in on key issues during the coronavirus pandemic as part of the governor’s 116-member reopening advisory board. Denerstein, who is the co-chairwoman of the Public Policy Practice Group at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, recently co-authored an op-ed disputing President Donald Trump’s claim that he has authority to order businesses to reopen.

73. Leonard Schleifer

Co-founder, President and CEO, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

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Photo courtesy Regeneron

When Leonard Schleifer isn’t working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on strategies to reopen New York, he’s overseeing the development of a potential antibody treatment for COVID-19. Since co-founding Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in 1988, Schleifer has become a leading pharmacy executive. The challenge with a coronavirus vaccine is not distribution, he recently said, it’s producing enough to inoculate the world’s population. Locally, his son is battling for Rep. Nita Lowey’s open seat.

74. Beth Finkel

State Director, AARP New York

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AARP

With New York’s senior population growing, Beth Finkel warned in April that cuts to services for the elderly in this year’s state budget will have a long-term impact. COVID-19 has made 2020 a more stressful year than most for older New Yorkers – who are more likely to become seriously ill – and Finkel has been busy sharing insights on how nursing home residents can stay healthy. 

75. Rich Bamberger & Maggie Moran

New York Managing Director; Managing Partner, Kivvit

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Rich Bamberger; Kivvit

The public affairs firm Kivvit has a growing nationwide presence, with offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Miami, but its roots are in New York and New Jersey. Maggie Moran has a wealth of campaign experience, including managing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s successful 2018 reelection. Along with Rich Bamberger, a former Cuomo communications director, Moran and her team represent a variety of clients, including SUNY and FWD.us New York.

76. Basil Seggos

Commissioner, State Department of Environmental Conservation

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NYSDEC

If the $3 billion environmental bond approved by lawmakers in April is certified by the state budget director and wins voter support in November, Basil Seggos will oversee its implementation – which will include restoring wildlife habitats and mitigating flood risks. For now, Seggos, who previously served as deputy secretary for the environment for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is working to coordinate coronavirus testing and the gradual reopening of the state.

77. Gil Quiniones

President and CEO, New York Power Authority

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NYPA

Gil Quiniones acted quickly as the coronavirus crisis intensified in New York in March, isolating critical employees in the agency’s power plants to ensure services would continue without interruption. With the recently announced sale of bonds earmarked for environmental projects, the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility has plans to ramp up transmission of clean energy and “lead by example in the responsible reopening of the state’s economy,” Quiniones said.

78. LouAnn Ciccone

Program and Policy Secretary, Assembly Democratic Conference

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New York State Assembly

LouAnn Ciccone brings expertise and experience as a top staffer in the Assembly, having served as program and policy secretary under then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and staying on when Carl Heastie took over in 2015. The first woman to the role, Ciccone has been a trusted adviser to Heastie as the conference contends with major changes, from Democrats taking full control of Albany last year to the threats posed by COVID-19. 

79. Blake Washington

Secretary, Assembly Ways and Means Committee 

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New York State Assembly

The state Legislature has ceded control to the governor during the coronavirus epidemic. But with state lawmakers reconvening, there’s plenty of work for Blake Washington, a key Assembly Democratic staffer handling fiscal matters. If the federal government fails to bail out New York, there will be massive mid-year state budget cuts – and Washington will be on hand if lawmakers want to have a say in what’s on the chopping block. 

80. Shontell Smith

Chief Counsel, State Senate Democratic Conference

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New York State Senate

Shontell Smith certainly knows what it’s like to be in the minority in Albany, having spent more than a decade working for the state Senate Democrats. But ever since the 2018 elections, Smith has enjoyed life in the majority while serving her conference in a top staff position. Smith said that her boss, the powerful state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is like a “second mother” to her.

81. Michael McKeon

Partner, Mercury

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Michael McKeon’s firm does a lot of things well. Need a consultant to run a policy or political campaign? Looking for a well-connected government relations representative to lobby state lawmakers or the governor? Seeking a savvy communications pro? McKeon, a former communications director in then-Gov. George Pataki’s administration, can do a lot of these things himself – and if he can’t, he has colleagues, Democratic and Republican alike, who can. 

82. Eric Linzer

President and CEO, New York Health Plan Association

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Timothy H. Raab

Since taking over the New York Health Plan Association in 2018, Eric Linzer has battled on behalf of the health insurance industry, most notably in the effort to prevent state lawmakers from creating a single-payer health system in New York. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has Linzer contending with more immediate challenges, including unexpected costs, declining revenue, new state restrictions and the loss of customers due to rising unemployment.

83. Rick Ostroff

President and CEO, Ostroff Associates

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In his three and a half decades in state politics and government, Rick Ostroff has worked in the state Legislature and in the Executive Chamber under then-Gov. Mario Cuomo – and since 1995, he has been advising clients on a wide range of issues, including economic development, financial services and tax policy. While building his firm into a top-10 player in state lobbying, he has also been a champion of efforts to battle leukemia. 

84. Kenneth Riddett

Lobbyist, Riddett Associates

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The New York State Trial Lawyers Association is a force in New York politics, thanks in part to Kenneth Riddett, who lobbies for its legislative priorities in Albany. The organization is now grappling with the policy impact of the coronavirus pandemic, pushing back against liability waivers for businesses against workers’ claims from coronavirus infections. Riddett also represents such players as Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, FanDuel and DraftKings.

85. Alfonse D’Amato

Founder, Partner and Managing Director, Park Strategies

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Park Strategies

Since exiting the U.S. Senate two decades ago, Alfonse D’Amato has continued his political career in the private sector. In 1999, he founded Park Strategies, a leading consulting, lobbying and regulatory affairs firm in Albany, Long Island and New York City. And while he was one of New York’s leading Republicans when he was in office, he has supported candidates in both parties, including President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

86. E.J. McMahon

Founder and Research Director, Empire Center for Public Policy

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The head of the fiscally conservative watchdog Empire Center for Public Policy sided with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his decision – unpopular with union leaders – to delay a planned 2% pay raise for state workers. But E.J. McMahon remains a Cuomo critic, saying he and other governors need to manage their budgets better instead of looking to the federal government for financial help during the pandemic.

87. James Cahill

President, New York State Building and Construction Trades Council

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NYS Building & Construction Trades Council

The head of the union representing more than 200,000 construction workers is among 116 industry leaders advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo on reopening the state. A union member for more than 50 years and a member of the New York State AFL-CIO Executive Council, Cahill praised the state’s expansion of prevailing wage laws this year, calling the measure “monumental.”

88. Carlo Scissura

President and CEO, New York Building Congress

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New York Building Congress

The construction industry is doing “a balancing act” during the coronavirus pandemic as developers try to keep workers safe while continuing work on critical projects, Carlo Scissura said. A former head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Scissura has been tapped to serve on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening advisory board as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s construction and real estate reopening council.

89. Sonia Ossorio

President, National Organization for Women New York City

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Lynn Savarese

Sonia Ossorio’s organization has been at the forefront of efforts to advance women’s rights for more than 50 years, with legislative successes last year including the Reproductive Health Act and the Child Victims Act. Ossorio is a staunch ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who championed her organization’s legislative priorities. In 2018, Cuomo donated $111,000 he received from disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein to a charitable organization affiliated with Ossorio’s. 

90. John Flanagan

State Senate Minority Leader

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Mike Groll

John Flanagan will be retiring this year after more than 30 years in the state Legislature, but in the meantime he has joined other Republican lawmakers in calling for an investigation into New York’s response to coronavirus outbreaks that spread rapidly in nursing homes. He also blamed recently enacted bail reform laws for a rise in crime, helping pave the way for legislative tweaks earlier this year.

91. Nick Langworthy

Chairman, State Republican Party

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When Nick Langworthy took over as the leader of the state’s Republican Party last summer, he was immediately faced with the formidable task of returning the minority party to relevance. And while he possesses strong political instincts, his early and avid support for President Donald Trump is a turnoff for many New Yorkers, and the coronavirus pandemic has boosted support for the state’s leading Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

92. Tonio Burgos

CEO, TBA

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TBA

The head of one of New York City’s top lobbying firms, Tonio Burgos represents clients in such industries as health care, transportation and labor – including the Greater New York Hospital Association, Montefiore Medical Center, Pfizer and RWDSU – all of which are dealing with significant pandemic-related challenges. Burgos, who has five decades of experience in government and legislative affairs, served for 15 years under then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. 

93. Sochie Nnaemeka

State Director, Working Families Party

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Sochie Nnaemeka

Taking the state party over from WFP stalwart Bill Lipton was going to be hard enough. But to take it over during an election year, when the party is trying to avoid dying by being kicked off the ballot at the hands of the governor? Sochie Nnaemeka, a political and union organizer, is up for the challenge, along with politicians who seek the third party’s endorsement as a sign they’re aligned with the progressive left.

94. Helene Weinstein

Chairwoman, Assembly Ways and Means Committee

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New York State Assembly

After health care workers faced potential retaliation because they spoke out about shortages of personal protective equipment without their employer’s permission, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein introduced a bill amending the whistleblower law to include more employee protections. Weinstein, the longest-serving woman in Assembly history and chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee, was among the first state lawmakers to test positive for the coronavirus in March.

95. Leecia Eve

Vice President of Public Policy, Verizon 

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Anthony Alvarez

As the daughter of longtime Assemblyman Arthur Eve, New York politics runs in Leecia Eve’s family, but the Verizon public affairs executive has carved her own path. A former adviser to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and onetime candidate for state attorney general, Eve’s work at Verizon has recently focused on the rollout of 5G technology. She was recently named to Cuomo’s advisory board on reopening the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. 

96. Ted Potrikus

President and CEO, Retail Council of New York State

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Milo V. Stewart Jr.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on retailers across New York – after shopping malls and business districts were shuttered in March – and Ted Potrikus says it’s too early to tell if they will rebound after restrictions are eased. In the meantime, Potrikus hopes consumers will support local shops by visiting RetailNewYork.com, a website created by the Retail Council that now includes more than 400 businesses in the state.

97. Elizabeth Peralta

Executive Director, National Supermarket Association

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St. Joseph High School

Earlier this year, Elizabeth Peralta was grappling with the enforcement of the plastic bag ban in supermarkets across New York City, but her immediate concerns abruptly pivoted to the coronavirus pandemic: social distancing complaints against grocery stores and dealing with declining consumer demand for certain foods. Peralta, whose Queens-based organization teamed up with Lyft to provide seniors with free rides to the supermarket, is on the governor’s reopening advisory board.

98. Patrick Purcell

Executive Director, Greater New York LECET

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Greater NY LECET

The coronavirus threat delayed the rollout of a new prevailing wage law until 2022, but its passage this year was a victory for Patrick Purcell and other construction union leaders. Purcell – who runs the Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, which spent more than $2.1 million in lobbying in 2018 – has been particularly active in recent years, leading a super PAC that helped the Democrats take the state Senate.

99. Anthony “Skip” Piscitelli

Counselor and Senior Adviser, CMW Strategies

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CMW Strategies, which recently changed its name from Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, has established itself as a leading lobbying firm in New York City. Now it’s expanding in Albany, opening a new office and bringing veteran Skip Piscitelli aboard. Piscitelli worked in New York City’s Office of State Legislative Affairs under three mayors – Michael Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins – and at the former lobbying powerhouse Wilson Elser.

100. William Barclay

Assembly Minority Leader

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New York State Assembly

With COVID-19 cases declining in New York, William Barclay called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give up the emergency powers he assumed in early March, arguing– unsuccessfully – that state government was not designed for “one-person rule.” Barclay, who lives in a small village near Lake Ontario, is focusing on restarting the upstate economy and working with industry leaders and other elected officials to come up with a plan.

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