The 2021 New York City Power 100: 51-100
The 2021 New York City Power 100: 51-100
51. Henry Garrido
Executive Director, District Council 37
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested he would need to lay off 22,000 workers by October to stabilize the city budget, Henry Garrido rushed to avert the bloodletting. The leader of the city’s largest municipal employees union said that would be unacceptable and pressured the mayor to postpone the cuts in order to buy more time to find $1 billion in savings. They made a deal to stave off layoffs through June 2021, although concerns about early retirement packages loom.
52. Gary LaBarbera
President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York
The construction industry has been pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, with new construction filings down 22% from last year amounting to a 10-year low with little hope for a quick rebound. Yet Gary LaBarbera has helped craft worker safety measures to keep projects moving, launched a new apprenticeship program, supported new projects like a natural gas power plant in Queens and the Crown Heights towers, and secured a long-sought state prevailing wage law that will go into effect next year.
53. Jacques Jiha
New York City Budget Director
When people are comparing the city’s budgetary outlook to the mid-1970s, you know you have a problem. Jacques Jiha, the former finance commissioner, succeeded Melanie Hartzog in October and set about resolving the city’s fiscal crisis. He has already sought to eliminate interest on some property tax payments, and his administration cut labor costs by $1 billion by putting off borrowing. He also is contending with next year's $3.8 billion budget gap, which a January preliminary budget closes.
54. Stuart Appelbaum
President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
The retail industry was already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic, which temporarily shuttered many stores while e-commerce giants delivered necessities for many New Yorkers. Stuart Appelbaum kept the spotlight on Amazon and meatpacking companies for failing to keep safe work environments or provide enough personal protective equipment and demanded store owners enforce mask mandates instead of letting workers diffuse conflicts. His next campaign will be to help Amazon warehouse workers who want to unionize.
55. Al Sharpton
Founder and President, National Action Network
The Rev. Al Sharpton is one of the most prominent civil rights leaders not just in New York but nationally, standing up for victims of police brutality and calling for social justice. His message is resonating now more than ever, with last year’s Black Lives Matter protests drawing attention to systemic racism in America. The MSNBC host is also sought after for endorsements, and is already playing a role in New York City’s crowded Democratic primary for mayor.
56. Andrew Rigie
Executive Director, New York City Hospitality Alliance
The coronavirus shutdowns caused New York to shed more than half a million hospitality jobs. Leisure and hospitality has rebounded nationally but not as quickly in the city, putting the spotlight on Andrew Rigie’s efforts to keep his industry afloat. Rigie has lobbied for dedicated grants to restaurants from Congress and protested the state’s closure of indoor dining – and the governor recently showed a willingness to reopen in the five boroughs.
57. Ritchie Torres
Member of Congress
The Bronx politician made history with Mondaire Jones as the two first openly gay Black men elected to Congress. Rep. Ritchie Torres had burnished his credentials in the City Council investigating NYCHA and empowering city watchdogs. He framed his primary against City Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr. – among other candidates – as a battle between good and evil. Torres doesn’t fit easily in any category, but identifies as progressive and pro-Israel – and not eager to join AOC’s squad.
58. Harry Giannoulis
President, The Parkside Group
Two years after helping flip the state Senate in 2018, Democratic campaign consultant Harry Giannoulis celebrated another successful election cycle. He had to wait a little longer this year, but when all the mail-in ballots were counted, Democrats held a veto-proof supermajority. Now the Parkside Group co-founder and his team will be tracking the state’s supposedly less partisan redistricting effort as well as scores of City Council, borough and citywide primary races.
59. Félix Matos Rodríguez
Chancellor, City University of New York
Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez made the tough decision to close CUNY campuses on March 11 after students petitioned to cancel in-person learning. Yet distance learning came with its own challenges for students. Meanwhile, the vast university system has struggled financially – Matos Rodríguez ordered furloughs for administrators and deferred a 2% salary increase for teachers, although two CUNY schools split a $60 million donation in December.
60. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn
Chair, Kings County Democratic Party
Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who leads the Brooklyn Democratic Party, has cultivated ties with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and sought to unify factions in a politically fragmented borough. The Haitian American lawmaker also helped win a number of races in Brooklyn in 2020 and will be looking for more in 2021. Yet she also made headlines for a battle over filling committee seats, which came to a head in two contentious 13-hour Zoom meetings.
61. Jason Goldman
Chief of Staff, New York City Council
As the knowledgeable and well-connected chief of staff to New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Jason Goldman keeps the legislative body running and helps manage which bills advance – a task that grew more complicated when the coronavirus pandemic required a shift to remote hearings. And while Goldman won’t be joining a Johnson administration next year – the council speaker ended his mayoral bid – he is sure to remain a political player into 2022.
62. Michael Dowling
CEO, Northwell Health
Northwell Health’s Michael Dowling has long been an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the governor relied on the veteran health care executive as perhaps his closest outside adviser in developing a hospital-driven strategy to stall the spread of COVID-19. Dowling’s vast health care network has treated over 50,000 COVID-19 patients, including 16,000 for inpatient treatment, by July, a situation Dowling described to CNBC as “all hell broke loose.”
63. Jon Del Giorno & Vincent Pitta
Founding Partners, Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno
Jon Del Giorno and Vincent Pitta will be in demand during the busiest campaign year in a decade. The powerhouse duo handle labor, campaign finance and election compliance matters as well as the concerns of restaurants, hotels, health care, construction, sports and entertainment companies – in other words, everyone who is trying to navigate how to run their business in the middle of a public health crisis. They’re both known for their philanthropy too.
64. Carlo Scissura
President and CEO, New York Building Congress
Carlo Scissura lobbied hard to oppose a construction moratorium during the coronavirus pandemic while working to ensure construction sites had safety protocols in place. New York restarted nonessential construction in June, but 2020 had the lowest construction activity in a decade. Scissura has also expressed concerns about political opposition sidelining major projects in the city, but he’s optimistic about infrastructure projects like Moynihan Train Hall stimulating the economy this year.
65. Rich Maroko
President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council
Rich Maroko took the reins of the Hotel Trades Council after Peter Ward retired in August with the hospitality industry in freefall. New York’s average occupancy rate hovered at 38%, and a significant number of hotels may never open again. Maroko was forced to close two employee health centers, but managed to get hotel owners to pay $500 million to employees, and pleaded for workers to receive vaccinations.
66. Jamaal Bailey
Chair, Bronx Democratic Party
The Bronx Democratic Party has undergone a transformation in one of the underreported stories of 2020. A new generation of millennial politicians has swept into power, and state Sen. Jamaal Bailey is seeking to bridge the divide with the party’s older, establishment Democrats. Bailey wants to include more people in the party’s leadership. And as chair of the state Senate Codes Committee, he’s equally focused on police accountability, passing 50-a legislation in Albany.
67. Sochie Nnaemeka
New York State Director, Working Families Party
The Working Families Party was forced to campaign for its survival after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his allies passed rules that jeopardized the third party’s automatic ballot line. The party met the ballot threshold in November, leaving Sochie Nnaemeka to redouble her efforts to take on corporate Democrats and support progressive candidates in 2021. The party, which notched some major congressional victories in 2020, is now handing out endorsements for City Council candidates.
68. Bradley Tusk & Chris Coffey
Founder and CEO; Head of New York Practice, Tusk Strategies
Bradley Tusk had success enabling Uber to thrive on New York City’s heavily regulated streets, so it makes sense that Andrew Yang – a techy mayoral candidate promising wholesale changes – would pique his interest. Tusk and Chris Coffey, who ran Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 mayoral campaign, are now advising Yang, who leads in an early survey of Democratic primary voters. Tusk Strategies has also worked with the Times Square Alliance, Bird and NYCLASS.
69. Keith Wright
Chair, Manhattan Democratic Party
Keith Wright is not happy about New York City’s switch to a ranked choice voting system for local primaries and special elections, so he is backing a lawsuit brought by six City Council members to try to block the measure. Whatever the result, the Manhattan Democratic Party leader and former Assembly member will be in demand as candidates across dozens of district, borough, and citywide races will vie for his support.
70. Marisa Lago
Chair, City Planning Commission
The pandemic put a pause on the mayor’s neighborhood rezoning plan. But Marisa Lago led a September restart of the land use review process, reviving the administration’s proposal for the Gowanus rezoning. Other projects weren’t as lucky. The City Planning Commission approved the Industry City rezoning, but it failed after opposition in the City Council, while a vote for a Flushing waterfront district was delayed again. An Obama administration alum, Lago reportedly advised the Biden transition team.
71. Gale Brewer, Ruben Diaz Jr., James Oddo & Donovan Richards
Borough Presidents, Manhattan; Bronx; Staten Island, Queens
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams might be mayor next year, and he’s not the only BP looking for a new job. Manhattan’s Gale Brewer, who has helped reshape local real estate projects, is running for her old Upper West Side City Council seat. The Bronx’s Ruben Diaz Jr., a cheerleader for development and job creation in his borough, had a shot at becoming mayor before stepping aside. All three Democrats – along with Staten Island’s leading advocate, Republican Jimmy Oddo – are term-limited. Meanwhile, their new Queens counterpart, Donovan Richards, will have to run again this year and already has at least one opponent in New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
72. Dennis Trainor
Vice President, CWA District 1
The Communications Workers Union chief has worked tirelessly to help stabilize New York City’s finances and those of the city’s denizens. Dennis Trainor stood with labor leaders and public officials to demand state and local aid in the federal CARES Act. And his union welcomed new members from climate change activist group Sunrise Movement and tech giant Google, the latter of which saw 226 employees sign CWA union cards after the company’s handling of sexual misconduct and internal dissent.
73. Michael Woloz
President, CMW Strategies
The taxi industry that lobbyist Michael Woloz has spent much of his career promoting has been crippled during the pandemic - he told the New York Times business was the “worst it’s ever been.” But his firm, a government relations heavyweight that raked in $3.14 million in city lobbying compensation in 2019, has clients in banking, transportation, energy and real estate too, including the Hotel Association of New York, the Central Park Conservancy and Home Depot. CMW is also expanding in Albany.
74. Brian Benjamin, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Zach Iscol, Brad Lander, Kevin Parker & David Weprin
New York City Comptroller Candidates
Read story here.
75. Daniel Nigro
Fire Commissioner, Fire Department of the City of New York
Daniel Nigro is the commissioner of the nation’s largest fire department. Under his watch, FDNY firefighters and emergency technicians have been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, exposing themselves to the virus to help New Yorkers in need. In March, 170 FDNY members contracted the coronavirus, and by December 5,700 had been infected and 12 had died. Nigro’s challenge will be encouraging vaccinations after 55% of firefighters internally surveyed said they don’t plan to take the vaccine.
76. Patrick Lynch
President, Police Benevolent Association
The head of New York City’s rank-and-file police union spent the summer defending his officers after police violently confronted George Floyd demonstrators, while also opposing a push to make police disciplinary records public. Patrick Lynch then went on to endorse President Donald Trump and speak at the Republican National Convention, saying Democrats “froze in the face of riots.” While he said he has no regrets about the endorsement, some officers are questioning his decision after the siege at the Capitol.
77. Susan Lerner
Executive Director, Common Cause New York
As awful as 2020 has been, good government advocates like Susan Lerner had much to celebrate, with more reforms on the way. State lawmakers reached a deal allowing automatic voter registration at DMVs, and barring an adverse legal ruling, voters will continue to be able to rank candidates in order of preference in city primaries and special elections. Lerner will have opinions on New York’s redistricting plan as well as proposals to speed up mail-in ballot counting and allow same-day registration.
78. Jon Silvan
Founding Partner and CEO, Global Strategy Group
Polling has gotten a bad rap in the media in recent elections, but accurate pollsters remain as valuable as ever to candidates and interest groups who want to get a snapshot of what the electorate is thinking. Expect Jon Silvan and his colleagues to play a crucial role in polling as well as shaping the 2021 elections – Scott Stringer has already hired Global Strategy Group to run his surveys.
79. Joseph Strasburg
President, Rent Stabilization Association
The pandemic-induced recession has brought economic pain upon millions of New Yorkers, but Joseph Strasburg doesn’t want policymakers to forget about independent property owners. New York lawmakers have extended an eviction and foreclosure moratorium multiple times during the pandemic, frustrating Strasburg, who argued the measure didn’t do enough to protect landlords from rising debt and delinquent bills. Strasburg is fending off new calls to cancel rent as COVID-19 rates spike again.
80. Edward Wallace
Co-Chair, New York Office, Greenberg Traurig
With the help of an all-star team of highly experienced government hands that includes Mark Weprin, Robert Harding, John Mascialino and Jonathan Bing, Edward Wallace has positioned Greenberg Traurig as a top consulting and lobbying firm in New York City. Wallace, who is often sought after to assist on major real estate projects, has advised the city’s three largest private universities, Extell Development and Silverstein Properties on their development projects.
81. Vincent Alvarez
President, New York City Central Labor Council
Now celebrating his decadelong run as president of the central labor council, Vincent Alvarez represents the interests of 1.3 million union members. Those numbers could well increase as workers’ concern over workplace safety conditions during the pandemic, especially at hospitals and in other essential sectors, could spur them to join the labor movement. But a significant threat may be from the mayor threatening municipal layoffs to keep the city solvent.
82. Steven Rubenstein
The death of Howard Rubenstein, the dean of public relations in New York City, was mourned in every corner of media, entertainment and the corporate world. His son Steven Rubenstein has built on his father’s legacy, representing New York’s most iconic institutions – including MoMa, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and The Partnership for New York City, to name but a few. As ABNY’s chair, he focused on census outreach while providing a platform for the city’s most powerful politicians.
83. Jed Walentas
CEO, Two Trees Management
The Walentas family made its name investing in Brooklyn’s fashionable DUMBO neighborhood. After the passing of matriarch Jane Walentas, who restored the Brooklyn Bridge Park carousel and brought arts programs to DUMBO, from lung cancer in July, her son Jed commemorated the legacy of his parents by giving away $200,000 each to five visionaries through the Walentas Family Foundation. Two Trees, meanwhile, ramped up development again this fall with a $194 million loan for its Ashland Place rental property.
84. Tony Utano
President, TWU Local 100
Transit employees have been ravaged by the pandemic at extraordinarily high rates – nearly 25% may have been infected and some 140 MTA workers died. Their suffering spurred Tony Utano to fight for trains and stations to be disinfected and safe, threaten a work slowdown if the MTA slashed jobs, and sue to block the MTA from closing station booths. He’s also pushing for transit workers to receive the next round of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
85. Anthony Constantinople & Perry Vallone
Principals, Constantinople & Vallone Consulting
Anthony Constantinople and Perry Valone have carved out a swath of influence in Western Queens and beyond when it comes to land use, environmental, and educational matters. Vallone has the city’s land use and review policy in his blood and has been adept at helping nonprofits secure government funding. Meanwhile, Constantinople has a long record of environmental stewardship as a New York League of Conservation Voters board member.
86. John & Andrea Catsimatidis
President, Chair and CEO, Red Apple Group, Chair, Manhattan Republican Party
Billionaire business mogul John Catsimatidis may be the Republican Party’s best shot at taking back City Hall, but it’s unclear whether the deep-pocketed donor will launch a mayoral campaign – in either party’s primary. His daughter, Andrea Catsimatidis, leads the loyal opposition in Manhattan as the GOP navigates a new era, with Donald Trump no longer in the White House – and not even returning to Trump Tower.
87. Adriano Espaillat
Member of Congress
Rep. Adriano Espaillat won a seat on the House Appropriations Committee in December, giving him a role determining how federal funding is distributed. The Washington Heights Congress member is also taking a key role encouraging Upper Manhattan and Bronx communities that have been ravaged by high COVID-19 rates to get vaccinated this year. And he is demanding accountability for rioters who stormed the Capitol and police who used aggressive tactics with Black Lives Matter protesters.
88. Camille Joseph-Goldman
Group Vice President, Government Affairs, Charter Communications
Camille Joseph-Goldman has been Charter Communications’ go-to government affairs expert for nearly five years. She was instrumental in launching the Black News Channel, the nation’s first 24-hour news channel dedicated to stories important to the Black community, and in boosting internet speeds across the state. Joseph-Goldman last year touted Charter’s moves to hire 1,500 New Yorkers, raise its minimum wage to $20 an hour, and provide free high-speed internet to students doing remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
89. Sheena Wright
President and CEO, United Way of New York City
Two weeks after the coronavirus forced New York into lockdown, the United Way launched a COVID-19 relief fund to support adversely affected communities. Sheena Wright and her colleagues continued to raise awareness about the deep racial disparities the pandemic exposed in health care and education with a report released in November. The United Way then joined forces with Black clergy to bring COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to churches in New York and four other cities.
90. Jamaal Bowman
Member of Congress
The former Bronx middle school principal pulled off the upset of the primary cycle when he trounced 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel with 56% of the vote. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who joined a state delegation that has grown younger and more progressive, made his mark calling for a reduction in police funding while criticizing former President Barack Obama. Yet while he’s a new member of the so-called “Squad,” he ultimately supported House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bid to stay in power.
91. Laurie Cumbo
Majority Leader, New York City Council
As the official No. 2 in the New York City Council, Laurie Cumbo works with the body’s borough delegations and helps negotiate the budget. She’s the first Black woman to hold the leadership post. The Brooklyn lawmaker is one of several City Council members who have joined with community groups in filing a lawsuit aimed at blocking the new ranked-choice voting system in New York City primaries and special elections on the grounds that it will disadvantage people of color.
92. Nicole Malliotakis
Member of Congress
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ victory over Max Rose was a bright spot for New York City Republicans thanks to a surge in turnout in Staten Island and southern Brooklyn. She has formed a conservative clique of Congress members called “Freedom Force” to counter socialism and the progressive “Squad.” Malliotakis is raising her visibility on cable news, but her opposition to certifying the presidential election of Joe Biden is fueling a bipartisan backlash.
93. David Greenfield
CEO, Met Council
David Greenfield has been at the forefront of distributing food to people in need since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The Met Council received $6 million from the city in April for food and protective equipment for volunteers, partnered with Uber to deliver 500 meals for Holocaust survivors and opened 101 food pantries for the high holy days. Greenfield has also criticized the city for replacing free groceries delivered to seniors with frozen meals.
94. James Merriman
CEO, New York City Charter School Center
Merriman and other charter leaders worried their schools risked being boxed out in New York City with the state’s refusal to lift the charter cap. But the de Blasio administration’s chaotic school closing and reopening decisions, as well as its harried blended learning model made parents consider shifting their children to charter schools which have handled remote learning more smoothly. Merriman has also sued for charters to be included in city COVID-19 testing plans.
95. Louis Coletti
President and CEO, Building Trades Employers Association
Lou Coletti, who represents contractors and subcontractors, warned in March that the pandemic could cost the construction industry billions. He helped get construction workers back to job sites safely during the first reopening phase and has sought to make a more inclusive workforce, but by the end of the year construction activity fell to its lowest level in a decade and a 22% decline from the first three quarters of 2019.
96. Mara Gay
Editorial Board Member, The New York Times
The New York Times’ Mara Gay inspired readers with a series of poignant columns about her experience with and long recovery from COVID-19. The former Wall Street Journal reporter has also brought an unabashedly progressive view on local government, condemning brutal tactics police used to subjugate peaceful demonstrators and criticizing state lawmakers for scaling back bail reform legislation. She’ll have a say in the Times’ endorsements this year.
97. Sid Davidoff
Founding Partner, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron
Sid Davidoff has been a city steward for the past half century, but the veteran lobbyist acknowledges that whoever emerges from the June mayoral primary will face the most difficult job he can remember thanks to a spiraling budget crisis, civil unrest over police misconduct, and health and education inequities. Davidoff also mourned the death of his friend, former Mayor David Dinkins, whom he credited with keeping the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York.
98. Jason Laidley
Chief of Staff, State Sen. Jamaal Bailey
As state Sen. Jamaal Bailey has steadily become a force in city and state politics, spearheading groundbreaking criminal justice reforms and recently taking over as the leader of the Bronx Democratic Party, he has often relied on a trusted ally, Jason Laidley. Laidley, who serves as Bailey’s chief of staff, is also a favorite of the Bronx’s political establishment at a time when younger politicians are taking the reins from members of the borough’s old guard.
99. Murad Awawdeh & Rovika Rajkishun
Interim Co-Executive Directors, New York Immigration Coalition
100. Michael Ryan
Executive Director, New York City Board of Elections
New York City’s election year drama has been a comedy of errors. First the Board of Elections received a deluge of absentee ballots, then disqualified 84,000 of them and took six weeks to fully count two congressional races. They also mailed some ballot envelopes with the wrong name and address, opened too few early voting sites, and certified results a month late. Michael Ryan claims the BOE will be ready for the complexities of ranked-choice voting. Let’s hope so.