The 2021 Albany Power 100: 51-100
The 2021 Albany Power 100: 51-100
51. Gustavo Rivera & Richard Gottfried
Chairs, State Senate and Assembly Health Committees
The state Legislature’s health committee chairs, Bronx state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Manhattan Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, are behind a push that could finally bring a single-payer health care system to the state. Rivera - whose bill ensuring safe staffing at nursing homes and hospitals passed the Legislature - argued that a single-payer system would reduce health care costs for families. Gottfried, who introduced the bill in 1992, might finally have the votes to do it now that it has been unveiled as part of progressive Democrats’ “Compassionate New York” agenda.
52. Richard Maroko
President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council
Rich Maroko’s track record as a fierce negotiator has positioned him well to lead the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council during this perilous period for both the hospitality industry and its workers. An estimated 20% of hotels in New York City closed, with a similar fallout being felt statewide. Maroko has been a steadfast advocate through it all, winning vaccine eligibility for hotel workers across the state in February and continuing to build the union’s power beyond New York City.
53. Tony Utano
President, Transit Workers Union Local 100
Riders have slowly returned to the subway, exceeding 2 million a day for the first time in a year. The MTA has cut 4,000 jobs during the pandemic, and Tony Utano believes that fewer workers on the job could affect subway safety and reliability. An MTA survey found that 87% of straphangers had concerns about safety, and Utano has urged for more cops in stations after a spate of attacks against MTA employees.
54. Elkan Abramowitz & Rita Glavin
Defense Attorneys for Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has managed to hold onto power so far despite succumbing to the so-called third-term curse, and much of his resilience can be attributed to his persistence and political savvy. But if he’s going to survive multiples investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct and obfuscation of nursing home deaths attributable to COVID-19, he’ll need a big assist from the experienced attorneys he recently hired; Elkan Abramowitz of Morvillo Abramowitz and Rita Glavin, who recently left Seward & Kissel.
55. Charles Lavine
Chair, Assembly Judiciary Committee
Long Island Assembly Member Charles Lavine has long positioned himself as a crusader against government corruption and malfeasance – and now all eyes are on his committee as he oversees an impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The wide-ranging probe is exploring allegations of sexual misconduct, misuse of government resources, a cover-up of COVID-19 nursing home deaths and construction flaws on the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge – and all could result in toppling Cuomo from power.
56. Bea Grause
President, Healthcare Association of New York State
Like many in the health care sector, Bea Grause has had a lot on her plate during the pandemic. As she continues to lead the state’s hospitals through dire fiscal straits, Grause successfully advocated against the governor’s proposed 1% reduction in Medicaid rates. Grause, who serves on the state’s vaccine distribution task force, is also working to permanently expand telehealth access in the state.
57. Wayne Spence
President, Public Employees Federation
Wayne Spence isn’t opposed to having workers return to the office – as long as it’s determined to be a safe course of action. He has sought to protect his members during the pandemic by demanding state buildings to have stricter air filtration standards, suing for longer paid sick leave for workers and questioning why some employees were told to come back to regional offices despite a nine-month telework arrangement. Spence has also fought against the closure of three prisons.
58. Mary Sullivan
Mary Sullivan was furious last spring when the state suspended 2% of raises for public workers, many of whom are essential workers. Now, those employees will finally receive last year’s raises after the state budget restored $600 million in back pay. But Sullivan, who was elected Civil Service Employees Association president in February 2020, wasn’t happy about a provision that cut 200 beds for inpatient mental health services treatment for workers.
59. Mike Elmendorf
President and CEO, Associated General Contractors of New York State
Mike Elmendorf had a lot to smile about when the state approved over $6 billion in spending for its transportation capital program last month; the move followed two Department of Transportation reports that showed significant deterioration of the quality of the state’s roadways. Elmendorf is less thrilled about the NY HERO Act, which he said could burden workplaces with expensive safety protocols. He also mentioned that the legalization of recreational marijuana could increase liability costs at construction sites.
60. Brad Hoylman
State Sen. Brad Hoylman has introduced some of the most noteworthy legislation in the increasingly progessive state Capitol in recent years. This includes the Child Victims Act, the recent repeal of the “Walking While Trans” ban and legislation authorizing the state to share Donald Trump’s tax returns with Congress. The Manhattan lawmaker, who is in a competitive race to become borough president, has also pushed for a pied-à-terre tax, an audit of the 421a program and a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for college students.
61. Todd Kaminsky
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, the former federal prosecutor known for convicting former state Sen. Pedro Espada and former Rep. Michael Grimm, joined his Long Island Democratic colleagues in calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step down until the attorney general’s investigation is finished. Kaminsky has focused on cleaning up Nassau County by backing a $3 billion bond package for green buildings, extending sewers and rebuilding shorelines. He also called for a ban on miniature plastic shampoo and lotion bottles from hotels. With a likely opening, Kaminsky could jump into the race for Nassau County district attorney.
62. Julia Salazar, Jabari Brisport, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani & Marcela Mitaynes
The Socialist Caucus
In 2018, a little-known state Senate candidate named Julia Salazar ran with the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America, and upset a veteran Brooklyn lawmaker to win a seat in the state Legislature. Two years later, the DSA backed a small group of candidates – Salazar and Jabari Brisport for state Senate and Assembly candidates Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani and Marcela Mitaynes – who ultimately were elected. Since then, they’ve joined other progressive lawmakers – including DSA members Jessica González-Rojas and Emily Gallagher in the Assembly – to win a tax hike on the wealthiest New Yorkers while pushing for tenant protections, single-payer health care and other far-left measures.
63. Robert Jackson
Before he was elected to serve in the New York City Council and then in the state Senate, Robert Jackson was a key force behind the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that ultimately required increased school aid for New York City. As an elected official, the Manhattan lawmaker has put pressure on the state to live up to that court-ordered mandate. In a long-awaited victory for Jackson, the state Legislature finally succeeded in meeting those funding levels this spring.
64. Rick Ostroff
President and CEO, Ostroff Associates
After having worked in politics for more than three decades, Albany-based lobbyist Rick Ostroff has established deep roots in the Capital Region. Ostroff sought to convince the governor to boost capacity at gyms and recreation centers as the pandemic’s threat waned last summer. This spring, Ostroff and his wife pledged a $25,000 challenge grant to Feed Albany, the second-largest one-time donation in the nonprofit’s history. Among his clients are FedEx, Binghamton University and Everytown for Gun Safety.
65. James Capalino
James Capalino kept his multi-purpose government affairs operation humming during the coronavirus pandemic. His firm brought in $9.9 million in New York City lobbying compensation last year – only $2 million less than in 2019 – thanks to a Rolodex of clients that includes Related Companies, Airbnb, Uber, NRG and the Metropolitan Opera. His firm is also a top-10 lobbying shop on the state level.
66. Sean Doolan
President, Hinman Straub
Sean Doolan and his Albany law firm operate a lobbying outfit that’s perennially ranked in the top 10 in New York. Among his many lobbying clients are health care providers and insurance companies, which Hinman Straub has been advocating for as they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The firm's client list has also included Con Edison, the Association of Proprietary Colleges and the University of Rochester.
67. Patrick Jenkins
President, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates
The Queens-based political consultant has always had a lot of irons in the fire. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Patrick Jenkins has been consulting with the Real Estate Board of New York on job creation to help bolster the recovery. Jenkins is working with a slew of candidates this cycle – but he’s not a fan of matching funds, which he says uses taxpayer money for “vanity projects.” Other clients include the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Genting New York and Charter Communications.
68. Susan Arbetter
Host, "Capital Tonight”
Susan Arbetter took over hosting duties of “Capital Tonight” in 2019 from longtime host Liz Benjamin – and hasn’t looked back since. The Spectrum News host has made the program a must-watch hour of compelling interviews of the Capital Region’s most fascinating characters. She has used her show to guide viewers through complicated state budget forecasts, and the myriad of scandals enveloping the governor. She also went toe-to-toe with influential pols like Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger and Republican Rep. and gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin.
69. Camille Joseph-Goldman
Group Vice President for Government Affairs, Charter Communications
Following a distinguished career in government – working for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Rep. Anthony Weiner and on the campaigns of President Barack Obama – Camille Joseph-Goldman made a successful transition to the private sector while capitalizing on her relationship with key government and political figures across New York. The Charter Communications vice president also serves on the board of the National Action Network and the Citizens Budget Commission.
70. Dennis Trainor
Vice President, CWA District 1
Dennis Trainor and other labor leaders paid for a “thank you” ad this month aimed towards legislators for adding more funding for school aid, broadband and excluded workers to the state budget. But the CWA vice president isn’t resting on his laurels. He advocated for new health and safety protections in the workplace, which the Legislature passed through the NY Hero Act, and pushed for the addition of minimum staffing levels at nursing homes and hospitals.
71. Yuh-Line Niou
Ever since she was elected to the state Assembly in 2016, Yuh-Line Niou has represented change. She ran as a reformer, and won the seat of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of public corruption. She’s among a younger, more progressive cohort of legislators who are shifting New York politics to the left. She is also part of a small but growing number of Asian Americans in the state Legislature – and she’s speaking out loudly against anti-Asian hate crimes.
72. Jefrey Pollock
Founding Partner and President, Global Strategy Group
As a member of the governor’s inner sanctum, Jef Pollock, the nation’s preeminent Democratic pollster, had a yeoman’s task of tracking Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s popularity when his handling of nursing home records and a series of sexual harassment allegations broke. Pollock helped steer Cuomo as his poll numbers slid, calmly brushing off talk of primary challenges while the governor solidified his base in the Black community. Cuomo’s numbers among Democrats suggest he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
73. Shontell Smith
Chief of Staff and Majority Counsel, State Senate
As the top attorney for Senate Democrats, Shontell Smith has a “difficult and rewarding” job corralling the disparate interests of a diverse conference. But the newly formed Democratic supermajority has made running the Legislature’s upper chamber a little easier for her. So far this session, she has worked on a number of previously intractable issues when Republicans controlled the chamber. This includes ending long-term solitary confinement and election-related reforms.
74. Beth Finkel
State Director, AARP New York
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed just how unprepared nursing homes were for an outbreak – and how much more the AARP needs to advocate for seniors. Accordingly, Beth Finkel has demanded more accountability from facilities and more transparency from the Cuomo administration over records. Fortunately, the state budget included a 70% floor on direct spending for nursing home residents, and expanded telehealth services. It also included a $15-per-month high-speed Internet mandate that will help low-income New Yorkers, including seniors.
75. Maggie Moran & Rich Bamberger
Managing Partner; Managing Director, Kivvit
Kivvit is a one-stop shop for clients seeking political and government consulting services. Seasoned professionals on the team provide everything from advocacy on issues, to branding and crisis communications. The company has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston and Miami – as well as New Jersey, where Managing Partner Maggie Moran has deep ties, and New York, where Managing Director Rich Bamberger has plenty of experience in government and in media.
76. Gil Quiniones
President and CEO, New York Power Authority
When Indian Point Energy Center turned off its last nuclear reactor on April 30, energy leaders stepped in to keep the lights on everywhere else. Gas plants will pick up the slack, but Gil Quiniones wants to replace peaker plants with renewable energy sources and battery storage. Quiniones also promoted local efforts to reduce carbon emissions, such as installing solar panels on UAlbany buildings and a new transmission line between Marcy and New Scotland.
77. LouAnn Ciccone
Secretary to the Speaker and Policy Advisor, New York State Assembly
When Carl Heastie became Assembly Speaker in 2015, he knew enough to keep much of the chamber’s experienced senior staff in place, including then-legal aide and Brooklyn native LouAnn Ciccone. Ciccone has proven to be an adept policy wonk, and became the first woman to hold the position of secretary of program and policy. She manages 100 employees, helps steer state budget negotiations and has advanced several women’s health issues.
78. Blake Washington
Secretary, Assembly Ways and Means Committee
For the past six years, Blake Washington has occupied a key role in shaping New York’s roughly $200 billion annual budget, as well as projects and programs dotted around the state. Last year, Washington joined the governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team, which had the difficult task of curbing spending before federal aid arrived. This year, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee was able to set aside more funding for schools, small businesses and child care.
79. Eric Linzer
President and CEO, New York Health Plan Association
Health insurers took it on the chin last summer when state insurance companies tried to raise premiums to 12% before regulators rejected the request. But New York Health Plan chief Eric Linzer has found a more willing audience in Albany this year through embracing telehealth services, opposing increased taxes on health insurance and delaying a Medicaid carve-out for prescription drugs that treat HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Linzer’s next battle will be over a single-payer-style health care bill.
80. Sochie Nnaemeka
State Director, Working Families Party
The Working Families Party survived its greatest threat last November when it cleared a higher threshold of votes the governor imposed in order to stay on the ballot in future elections. Sochie Nnaemeka and her party proceeded to shiv Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his sexual misconduct allegations, and cheer the Legislature’s hike taxes on the wealthy to pay for education and health care programs – a long-standing policy cornerstone – in the state budget.
81. Sandra Doorley
President, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York
New York’s district attorneys have pushed for more money from the state to prosecute repeat offenders, assist in gun-related charges and fund online training. Now, Sandra Doorley and state prosecutors have new concerns about enforcing drugged driving after the state legalized recreational marijuana, and a proposed special investigatory commission on prosecutorial misconduct. Doorley may see Manhattan drop out of the statewide District Attorneys Association if a progressive candidate wins the crowded primary in June.
82. Sonia Ossorio
President , NOW-NYC
The National Organization for Women had been one of the governor’s strongest allies as they endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his 2018 primary against Cynthia Nixon. But the spate of sexual harassment allegations were too much for Sonia Ossorio, who first called for an independent inquiry into the accusations in February before demanding Cuomo resign from office following a female aide’s recounting of how the governor allegedly groped her at the Executive Mansion.
83. Ken Riddett
President, Riddett Associates
Ken Riddett has drawn on his expensive experience as a town justice and state Senate counsel to inform clients about what state legislators are looking for as a lobbyist. These days he’s repping a slew of sports world clients, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, FanDuel and DraftKings, who were no doubt thrilled when the state legalized mobile sports betting as part of the state budget. He’s also been a go-to lobbyist for the influential New York State Trial Lawyers Association.
84. Helene Weinstein
Chair, Assembly Ways and Means Committee
Southern Brooklyn Assembly Member Helene Weinstein could have called it a day after playing an instrumental role in shaping the state’s $212 billion budget, complete with new taxes on the ultra-rich and a historic increase on education. Weinstein has also backed a bill barring debt collectors from seizing federal stimulus payments, and is examining how the state can pay back a $4 billion federal loan for unemployment costs so employers aren’t burdened further.
85. Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel & Theo Oshiro
Co-Executive Directors, Make the Road New York
After Deborah Axt and Javier Valdés announced their resignations after nearly a decade as leaders of the progressive grassroots advocacy nonprofit Make the Road New York, the triumvirate of Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel and Theo Oshiro were promoted in April to succeed them. Lopez previously served as Make the Road’s deputy director and co-director of organizing, while Morel was chief of staff and Oshiro bolstered health policy and fundraising efforts.
86. Rebecca Bailin
Campaign Manager, Invest In Our New York Coalition
This month, Rebecca Bailin will wrap up her campaign to raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers – and she can consider her mission accomplished. In April, the state Legislature reached a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a tax hike making New York City’s millionaires subject to the country’s highest personal income tax rate while generating an estimated $4.3 billion annually. Bailin previously spent eight years at Riders Alliance, spearheading the Fair Fares campaign to provide discounted MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.
87. Carlo Scissura
President and CEO, New York Building Congress
New housing construction in New York City fell by 4,600 units to about 20,000 last year, the lowest level since 2015. It’s no wonder Carlo Scissura is cheering for the city’s reopening this spring and summer – including the resumption of $17 billion in city capital projects. Scissura is equally excited about the potential of billions of dollars in federal infrastructure spending the state would use to get Hudson River tunnel upgrades. He calls the program “the most critical infrastructure project in the United States.”
88. Hazel Dukes
President, NAACP New York State Conference
When the governor needed to salvage his reputation and shore up support among Democratic voters, he dialed Hazel Dukes. In early March, the longtime civil rights leader called demands for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation “premature,” and urged for a “fair hearing of the facts” before making any decision on his future in office. Two weeks later, Dukes appeared with Cuomo at a Black church in Harlem, and called him her “son” – a crucial part of the effort that seems to have stanched Cuomo’s bleeding in the polls.
89. Jesse McKinley
Albany Bureau Chief, The New York Times
Every elected official leaves office eventually – and in New York, it’s often under a cloud of scandal. As Albany bureau chief for the paper of record, Jesse McKinley is documenting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s slow-motion downfall – and his efforts to retain power despite multiple allegations of misconduct. In recent months, McKinley has dug up details on the Cuomo administration’s alleged efforts to hide COVID-19 nursing home deaths, exposed the special access Cuomo insiders had to coronavirus tests, and broke the news of Charlotte Bennett’s allegations of sexual harassment against the governor.
90. Matthew Cohen
President and CEO, Long Island Association
Matthew Cohen has big shoes to fill as the new leader of the Long Island Association, the preeminent business group covering Suffolk and Nassau counties. Cohen was named to the association’s top post in May, replacing Kevin Law, an experienced political player who is departing after a decade for a position with a real estate company. Yet Cohen has plenty of experience himself, including nearly a decade handling LIA’s government affairs and communications and stints with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and the Long Island Power Authority.
91. Steve Bellone
Suffolk County Executive
Steve Bellone has serious influence as the longtime leader of Suffolk County - one of the largest counties in the state - that has a population hovering at around 1.5 million. His centrist politics have served him well during the pandemic, as he’s led bipartisan calls for federal support and personal protective equipment. Speculation continues about Bellone’s political potential as a gubernatorial candidate, but for now, he seems focused on beefing up local vaccination efforts and securing his county’s budget.
92. Tonio Burgos & John Charlson
CEO; Albany Director, TBA
Tonio Burgos and John Charlson, formerly known as Tonio Burgos Associates, are steady presences at the state Capitol. They’ve represented a multitude of renewable energy industry clients, as well as more established natural gas companies. Other companies on their resume include American Airlines, Montefiore Medical Center and Pfizer. Burgos also retained his post last year with another four-year term as a Democratic National Committee member for his home state of New Jersey.
93. Anthony “Skip” Piscitelli
Counselor and Senior Advisor, CMW Strategies
Skip Piscitelli has brought more than 30 years of New York City know-how to CMW Strategies. He has served as state legislative affairs director in the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, as senior counsel to the Senate Majority Leader and as a partner at Wilson Elser. Piscitelli’s lobbying firm, formerly known as Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, represents an array of clients in the transportation, health care, real estate and cultural sectors, including many of the city’s iconic museums and theaters.
94. Leecia Eve
Vice President of Public Policy, Verizon
Former attorney general candidate and ex-Cuomo aide Leecia Eve has taken on a meaty role at Verizon, where she’s been a liaison to lawmakers while also serving as a New York commissioner at the Port Authority. The Port Authority is projected to lose $3 billion by March 2022, but an infusion of infrastructure cash could be coming from Congress. Verizon has fewer cash flow worries, having dumped Yahoo and AOL for $5 billion.
95. Patrick Purcell Jr.
Executive Director, Greater New York LECET and New York State LECET
Building workers suffered along with the real estate industry last year after construction activity plummeted to its lowest level in a decade. But New York’s reopening this spring, pent-up demand for new housing and a backlog of capital projects all have Patrick Purcell Jr., a leader of the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, and others on the team encouraged that construction will bounce back this year. The recovery has been an uneven one, as the country only added 266,000 jobs in April.
96. Mike Durant
President and CEO, Food Industry Alliance of New York State
As the leader of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State since 2018, Mike Durant has been advocating for companies in the grocery industry, including suppliers, wholesalers, supermarket chains and smaller convenience stores and independent shops. During the coronavirus pandemic, he has grappled with shortages, pushed for vaccine access for grocery workers and criticized new state workplace protections as too onerous. The Pataki administration veteran previously was state director for the National Federation for Independent Business.
97. E.J. McMahon & Bill Hammond
Senior Fellow and Founder; Senior Fellow, Empire Center for Public Policy
E.J. McMahon and Bill Hammond, who comprise Albany’s favorite wonky buddy-cop duo, aren’t afraid to throw down on Twitter with fact-backed arguments. McMahon called this year’s budget a “mid-2020s fiscal disaster in the making” due to lavish spending and a tax hike on upper-echelon residents while noting how many people are fleeing the state. Hammond tracked New York’s nursing home death statistics for months, and sued the state Department of Health to release its data.
98. Rob Ortt
State Senate Minority Leader
State Sen. Rob Ortt, who represents Niagara Falls, was something of a legislative Cassandra when he warned against the continuation of the governor’s emergency powers and failure to provide state tax breaks for pandemic unemployment. Ortt also decried a $2.1 billion budget expenditure on undocumented immigrants that he wanted for veterans or small business relief programs. Also, he claimed that newly proposed fees on fossil fuel companies will more than double the gas tax.
99. Will Barclay
Assembly Minority Leader
Will Barclay doesn’t have a lot of sway over the budget or which bills come to the floor, but he has raised the possibility of impeachment over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing home records. Barclay encouraged impeachment of the governor a month before the rest of Albany considered it, and pressured Democrats when Cuomo’s harassment allegations became public. Barclay’s priorities for the rest of session include impeachment, criminal justice and boosting Republican gubernatorial candidates for the 2022 race.
100. Lee Zeldin
Member of Congress
The next gubernatorial election in New York isn’t until 2022, but with Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing the worst crises of his three terms in office, Rep. Lee Zeldin is out campaigning early to become the Republican standard-bearer for the statewide office. But while Zeldin has been gaining support from GOP county leaders, it’s unclear how the Trump loyalist might win over moderates and independents in a state that’s been solidly blue for years.
Correction: An earlier version of this post included multiple errors in the entry about Hinman Straub's Sean Doolan. The incorrect details described different Sean Doolan who is also a New York attorney involved in health care policy in the state.