The 2021 Nonprofit Power 100

Sheena Wright, CEO of United Way of New York City
Sheena Wright, CEO of United Way of New York City
Celeste Sloman
Sheena Wright, CEO of United Way of New York City.
Power 100

The 2021 Nonprofit Power 100

Recognizing the nonprofit leaders who are serving the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

In a year filled with unprecedented need, nonprofits have stepped up to ensure continued support for vulnerable New Yorkers. Organizations transitioned programs online and continued to maintain food pantries, domestic violence shelters and residential facilities for those struggling the most during the COVID-19 pandemic. And they met that surging demand for cash assistance, food and other support despite an immense strain on their budgets from canceled fundraisers, declining government funding and limited philanthropic support. The 2021 Nonprofit Power 100 acknowledges the influence of major nonprofits across New York, providing essential social services and advocating on behalf of the sector and the communities it serves. (The list does not include philanthropic institutions and arts organizations.) City & State is proud to present this year’s list of movers and shakers within the nonprofit community.

1. Sheena Wright 

President and CEO, United Way of New York City

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Sheena Wright – who took the reins at United Way of New York City right as Hurricane Sandy hit New York City – has led the organization’s efforts to boost funding for local community organizations providing food, remote learning support for students, and other relief throughout the pandemic. Wright is also heading efforts to promote COVID-19 testing and vaccine awareness alongside prominent Black clergy members in New York City and beyond.

2. Donna Lieberman

Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union

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Donna Lieberman will celebrate her 20th anniversary of leading the New York Civil Liberties Union this year. The latest accomplishment for Lieberman and the NYCLU: playing a major role in police reform efforts following protests against systemic racism and police brutality this past year. The organization published a database of newly released misconduct complaints against New York City Police Department officers and filed lawsuits on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters who said they were mistreated. 

3. Jennifer Jones Austin

CEO and Executive Director, FPWA

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Fighting poverty in New York is a priority for FPWA, which represents more than 170 human services and faith-based organizations. Jennifer Jones Austin leads its advocacy efforts by pushing for better funding for human services and advancing policies such as a universal basic income and expanded early childhood education with the goal of supporting communities of color. Jones Austin is also advising New York City on its efforts to reform its police department. 

4. Lisa David

President and CEO, Public Health Solutions

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Lisa David and Public Health Solutions played a major role in supporting the NYC COVID-19 Rapid Response Coalition, made up of members of the private and nonprofit sector committed to helping New York City throughout the pandemic by providing emergency meals, access to personal protective equipment, testing and outreach to New Yorkers. Among her responsibilities during the pandemic, David has spearheaded efforts for grant support for more than 200 community-based organizations. With David at the helm, PHS also provides health services to vulnerable families and grant support for more than 200 community-based organizations.

5. Christine Quinn

President and CEO, Win

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Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is in her sixth year of leading Win, one of New York City’s largest shelter and supportive housing providers. Throughout the pandemic, Quinn has pushed the city to rectify its remote learning failures in city shelters, where homeless students often lack access to Wi-Fi for online classes. That’s on top of the organization’s other efforts to get the city to provide more rental assistance and build more affordable housing.

6. James Sheehan

Charities Bureau Chief, State Attorney General’s Office

As head of the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, James Sheehan has helped spearhead major litigation against nonprofits. He has played a key role in New York’s recent high-profile efforts to dissolve the National Rifle Association because of alleged financial mismanagement. Previously, his involvement was key in the landmark case against the Trump Foundation, which dissolved as a result of the office’s investigation.

7. Janet Sabel 

Attorney-in-Chief and CEO, The Legal Aid Society

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Janet Sabel, who has been with The Legal Aid Society for more than 25 years, has led its response to the COVID-19 pandemic by pushing for New York to open up vaccine distribution to prisoners, filing a lawsuit against New York City to ensure Wi-Fi access for homeless students in shelters, and advocating for eviction protections. She previously served as chief deputy attorney general in the state Attorney General’s Office.

8. Steven Banks

Commissioner, New York City Department of Social Services

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Steven Banks spent 33 years at The Legal Aid Society – where he led a landmark lawsuit that forced New York City to guarantee shelter for all homeless families – before moving over to the public sector. He now oversees the city’s approach to housing homeless New Yorkers and other public assistance programs for people in need, although the city has struggled to stem rising homelessness during his tenure. 

9. Jeremy Kohomban

President and CEO, The Children's Village

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Jeremy Kohomban leads two child welfare organizations founded in the 19th century: The Children’s Village and Harlem Dowling. Together, the two nonprofits serve 15,000 children and families each year. Kohomban has been an advocate for reforming the child welfare system by reducing reliance on residential facilities for foster youth and prioritizing more placements with family or foster parents.

10. Sheila Poole

Commissioner, New York State Office of Children and Family Services

Sheila Poole leads the state’s Office of Children and Family Services, which manages initiatives on child care, juvenile justice and child welfare. Before joining the agency in 2007, she served as commissioner of the Albany County Department for Children, Youth, and Families. During Poole’s tenure, she’s been integral to the implementation of the state’s Raise the Age law and is now supporting the state’s compliance with the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.

11. Brenda Rosen

President and CEO, Breaking Ground

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Breaking Ground is one of the largest supportive housing providers in the United States, operating close to 4,000 housing units across New York City, with additional housing upstate and in Connecticut. For the past decade, Brenda Rosen has overseen its efforts to address homelessness through transitional and permanent housing, as well as outreach to people experiencing homelessness. Rosen is also the board chair of the Supportive Housing Network of New York.

12. David Hansell

Commissioner, New York City Administration for Children's Services

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New York City’s child welfare initiatives fall under Commissioner David Hansell’s purview as head of the Administration for Children's Services. Hansell has highlighted declines in the city’s foster youth population as a bright spot in the agency’s work in recent years, though the number of children reunited with their families has also declined due to pandemic-related court closures. Previously, Hansell served as acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

13. JoAnne Page

President and CEO, The Fortune Society

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JoAnne Page oversees a $34 million nonprofit that helped more than 9,000 people this past fiscal year by offering housing, employment services and other support to formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. She and her team are at the forefront of advocating for various criminal justice initiatives, such as restricting landlords from denying housing to people with criminal records and ending the use of solitary confinement. 

14. David Jones

President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York

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David Jones has led the Community Service Society of New York – and its mission to support and advocate for low-income New Yorkers – since 1986. The nonprofit’s mission has taken on new meaning and urgency amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including actively pushing for equitable health care coverage and eviction prevention in the past several months. Jones has also served on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

15. Kevin Sullivan 

Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan has served as the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York for 20 years, overseeing more than 90 human services organizations across 10 counties in New York. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholic Charities has boosted food distribution efforts while continuing to offer eviction prevention and immigration services. Sullivan is often called upon to offer insight to government officials on human services and hosts “JustLove,” a weekly radio show on public policy and civic engagement.

16. Murad Awawdeh & Rovika Rajkishun

Interim Co-Executive Directors, New York Immigration Coalition

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Murad Awawdeh and Rovika Rajkishun have led the New York Immigration Coalition since September, focusing their efforts on helping those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom serve as front-line workers and live in hard-hit neighborhoods. The organization has advocated for their needs since the onset of the crisis, calling for government aid to help otherwise excluded undocumented immigrants and pushing for a fair 2020 Census. 

17. Ben Kallos

Chair, New York City Council Committee on Contracts

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New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has put a spotlight on the challenges nonprofits face as chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts. One of his priorities this past year has been pushing the city to restore funding to its Indirect Cost Rate initiative, which aimed to help human services organizations cover administrative and overhead costs. The Upper East Side elected official is now running to serve as Manhattan borough president.

18. Jess Dannhauser & Kimberly “Kym” Hardy Watson

President and CEO; Incoming President and CEO, Graham Windham

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Graham Windham recently announced that Chief Operating Officer Kimberly “Kym” Hardy Watson is set to take the reins of the 215-year-old child welfare organization, which serves about 5,000 children and their families. Hardy Watson, the first Black woman to lead the nonprofit, will succeed Jess Dannhauser, taking over as president in March and CEO later this year. She plans to redouble its emphasis on local communities and combating racism. Since the onset of the pandemic, the nonprofit has provided technology to help clients in need, boosted pay for its essential workers, and provided food to vulnerable families. The organization also advocates for New York City’s Fair Futures program, which provides mentors to foster youth.

19. Kwame Owusu-Kesse

CEO, Harlem Children's Zone

Kwame Owusu-Kesse took the helm at Harlem Children's Zone in July 2020, after serving as its chief operating officer for six years. He now oversees a host of youth and education programs, in addition to new efforts to expand the organization’s model to other cities, including Chicago and Newark. “There is literally no more important job in the world for me than the work that we do at HCZ to improve the odds for children at an unprecedented scale,” he told BET last summer.

20. Nathaniel Fields

CEO, Urban Resource Institute

Nathaniel Fields has nearly tripled the Urban Resource Institute’s budget over the course of the past nine years, making it one of the largest domestic violence shelter providers nationally. Fields has served as a member of New York state’s task force dedicated to finding solutions to the recent spike in domestic violence, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Nonprofits and Social Services Sector Advisory Council, which is focused on best strategies for recovering from the COVID-19 crisis.

21. Liz Roberts

CEO, Safe Horizon

Liz Roberts was officially named CEO this month after a decade working with the organization that helps more than 250,000 children, adults and families affected by abuse and violence each year. The nonprofit played a major role in successfully advocating for the state’s Child Victims Act – which allows survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue civil cases that were formerly prohibited under the statute of limitations – and its extension.

22. Daniel Symon

Director, New York City Mayor's Office of Contract Services

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Human services nonprofits reliant on government funds often gripe about New York City’s contracting process. Under Daniel Symon’s leadership, the Mayor's Office of Contract Services has made efforts to make the process smoother. It helped launch the Indirect Cost Rate initiative to help nonprofits cover administrative and overhead costs, though pandemic-related budget cuts to the initiative have created new frustration for organizations. 

23. Jennifer March

Executive Director, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York

Jennifer March has been leading the Citizens' Committee for Children since 2007, overseeing its wide range of advocacy and research initiatives supporting New York City youth. March has played a major role in campaigns that helped end the automatic prosecution of 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, as well as in the creation of New York City’s Earned Income Tax Credit and the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy.

24. Sharon Greenberger

President and CEO, YMCA of Greater New York

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The pandemic has damaged most nonprofits’ balance sheets, but YMCAs have been particularly hurt by closures and declining membership. Now in her sixth year heading the YMCA of Greater New York, Sharon Greenberger is working to lead it onto the road to recovery. Throughout the crisis, the organization has provided in-person child care and transitioned to offering many of its services virtually.

25. Michelle Jackson

Executive Director, Human Services Council of New York

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After years of serving in numerous leadership roles at the Human Services Council of New York, Michelle Jackson became its executive director in May 2020. Jackson advocates before both New York City and New York state governments on behalf of the 160 human services organizations that are members of the nonprofit organization. Among its latest priorities: restoring funding to a New York City initiative covering indirect costs for human services providers and ending contract payment delays at the state level.

26. Jeremy Saunders & Alyssa Aguilera

Co-Executive Directors, VOCAL-NY

Jeremy Saunders and Alyssa Aguilera lead the progressive advocacy organization VOCAL-NY’s efforts pushing for legislative change on homelessness, drug policy and mass incarceration, as well as its direct services including syringe exchanges. VOCAL-NY has been a prominent voice calling for New York City officials to cut funding to the NYPD this past year, in addition to pushing for tax increases on the wealthy and canceling rent during the pandemic.

27. Harriet Karr-McDonald

Co-Founder, The Doe Fund

Moved to action by the death of a homeless teenager they both knew, George McDonald and Harriet Karr-McDonald built up a major nonprofit with an annual budget of about $65 million helping formerly incarcerated and homeless New Yorkers. Harriet Karr-McDonald has taken the helm at The Doe Fund after George McDonald died in January, leaving behind a legacy shaping New York’s approach to recidivism and homelessness over the course of his 35 years leading the nonprofit.

28. Fran Barrett

State Director of Nonprofits

Nonprofits seeking guidance and support from New York state government have Fran Barrett as a resource. Barrett has also helped lead new initiatives created amid the pandemic such as Nourish New York, which connects food banks to products from upstate farms, and New York Loves, which helped coordinate philanthropic support for the state. She’s no stranger to the nonprofit sector, having founded the nonprofit consulting firm Community Resource Exchange in 1979.

29. Meg Barnette

President and CEO, Nonprofit New York

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In a time of uncertainty for nonprofits in New York and nationwide, Nonprofit New York, led by Meg Barnette, stepped up as a valuable resource for organizations seeking federal relief loans and the latest policies affecting nonprofits in the pandemic. Before joining Nonprofit New York in May 2020, Barnette served in numerous leadership roles at Planned Parenthood in New York City, where she spent over nine years.

30. Arlene González-Sánchez

Commissioner, New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports

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For the past decade, Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez has led the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports, where she monitors the state’s strategy to tackle addiction through prevention, treatment and recovery services. She also serves as a member of the Statewide Task Force to Combat Heroin and the Prescription Opioid Crisis and various state commissions such as the Project Approval and Oversight Panel of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program.

31. Andre White

Executive Director and CEO, Phipps Neighborhoods

Before joining Phipps Neighborhoods last May, Andre White served as a deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. In that role, he managed $220 million in annual public and private funding for various youth services and oversaw the Summer Youth Employment Program. He now leads the social services nonprofit’s efforts to serve more than 12,000 children and families in low-income neighborhoods in New York City.

32. Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez

Commissioner, New York City Department for the Aging

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New York City’s efforts to serve older adults through senior centers, case management, home-delivered meals and other programs fall under Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez’s purview at the city Department for the Aging. She’s been at the helm of the agency since 2019, previously having served as executive vice president for AARP. Cortés-Vázquez also serves as a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

33. Alan van Capelle

President and CEO, Educational Alliance

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As the head of Educational Alliance, Alan van Capelle oversees a network of community centers that provide various social and educational programs and services for the people of Lower Manhattan. Throughout the pandemic, the organization has pivoted to various relief efforts, which have included distributing take-home meals and cash assistance, conducting outreach calls to older adults, and reopening early childhood programs for those in need.

34. Keith Little

President and CEO, SCO Family of Services

Keith Little brings more than 30 years of experience with both nonprofits and in city and state government to his role as president and CEO of SCO Family of Services, which serves 60,000 New Yorkers through 84 different programs. He currently sits on the boards of directors of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies and Human Services Council, in addition to serving as a committee chair for the Black Agency Executives.

35. Mitchell Netburn

President and CEO, Samaritan Daytop Village

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Since 2018, Mitchell Netburn has served as president and CEO of Samaritan Daytop Village, which provides substance use treatment, health care, and housing to more than 33,000 people across New York. Netburn, who previously led the nonprofit Project Renewal, is also board chair of the Coalition for Behavioral Health, an advocacy and training association for organizations working in behavioral health care.

36. Jose Ortiz Jr.

CEO, New York City Employment and Training Coalition 

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As CEO of the New York City Empowerment and Training Coalition, Jose Ortiz Jr. oversees a group of nonprofits, education institutions and workforce development organizations providing employment training services. His organization is playing a leading role in a new partnership aiming to ensure New York City develops an equitable COVID recovery plan. He recently received recognition and funding from Robin Hood’s Power Fund, which elevates nonprofit leaders of color fighting poverty in the city.

37. Javier Valdés & Deborah Axt 

Co-Executive Directors, Make the Road New York

After nearly a decade at the helm of Make the Road New York, both Javier Valdés and Deborah Axt will step down in April to make way for its newest leaders: Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel and Theo Oshiro. In the past year, the advocacy organization for immigrant New Yorkers has provided cash assistance to those in need, successfully pushed for legislation to keep Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from making courthouse arrests, and called for New York to raise taxes on the wealthy.

38. Beth Finkel

State Director, AARP New York

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Beth Finkel’s advocacy on behalf of New Yorkers over the age of 50 has taken on new importance during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left older adults particularly vulnerable. Under her direction, AARP New York has been involved in pushing for legislation to reform nursing homes amid the health crisis and for greater broadband internet coverage over the past year. During her time as state director, Finkel has overseen lobbying efforts that led to the passage of new laws providing support to caregivers and protections for those in assisted living.

39. John MacIntosh

Managing Partner, SeaChange Capital Partners

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SeaChange Capital Partners makes its mark on the nonprofit sector by connecting organizations to funding opportunities and consulting services. Having worked with SeaChange since 2008, Managing Partner John MacIntosh has actively called attention to the challenges facing nonprofits during the coronavirus pandemic. Under MacIntosh, SeaChange has also led research describing strategies different nonprofits need to take to weather the crisis and highlighting the need for greater relief for larger organizations.

40. Dave Giffen

Executive Director, Coalition for the Homeless

Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Dave Giffen runs one of New York City’s most influential organizations pushing for policies and programs to help New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. Throughout the pandemic, the Ccoalition has highlighted the risk of COVID-19 spreading in dormitory-style shelters housing homeless adults and has pushed for the city to place more people in hotel rooms to isolate. The nonprofit has also worked with The Legal Aid Society to ensure homeless students have reliable internet access in city shelters.

41. Wayne Ho

President and CEO, Chinese-American Planning Council 

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Wayne Ho heads up the Chinese-American Planning Council, one of the country’s largest Asian American social services organizations, serving 60,000 people in New York. In addition to its direct services, the organization has focused on advocating for the human services sector and the communities it supports. Among its priorities in 2021: providing essential workers hazard pay and funding initiatives such as the Summer Youth Employment Program.

42. Ronald Richter 

CEO, JCCA

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Ronald Richter came to JCCA in 2015 with three decades of experience in the child welfare field. He spent several years as a judge in New York City’s Family Court, and previously served as the commissioner of the city's Administration for Children’s Services. He now leads a nonprofit – formerly known as the Jewish Child Care Association – serving more than 17,000 children and families through residential programs, family therapy and other initiatives in New York City and Westchester.

43. Phoebe Boyer

President and CEO, Children’s Aid

Phoebe Boyer has led the multi-service nonprofit Children’s Aid since 2014, after previously holding leadership positions at the Robertson Foundation and Tiger Foundation. The $118 million organization operates community schools, after-school programs, foster care programs and other initiatives, serving nearly 50,000 youth and their families in New York City. Boyer is one of several experts who provided advice on the reopening plans for New York City schools this past year.

44. Jilly Stephens

CEO, City Harvest

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In response to the coronavirus pandemic-fueled hunger crisis, City Harvest CEO Jilly Stephens has had the nonprofit escalate its food distribution efforts. Last year, the organization rescued and delivered 56 million pounds of food from early March through the end of August – a 79% increase over the same period of time last year. Having served as CEO since 2006, Stephens continues to ramp up pandemic-era efforts and has called for more support from donors and government officials to tackle food insecurity.

45. Nicholas Turner

President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice

Nicholas Turner is entering his eighth year leading the Vera Institute of Justice’s research and advocacy efforts to transform the criminal justice system. Under Turner’s leadership, Vera remains in an influential voice that has pushed for changes to cash bail and other reforms in New York and beyond. He serves on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, which created a report in 2017 recommending the closure of the jail complex on Rikers Island.

46. Michelle Yanche

Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services

Michelle Yanche has been at the helm of Good Shepherd Services since December 2019, after several years serving as the $98 million nonprofit’s associate executive director for government and external relations and leading its advocacy efforts on early childhood and after-school programming. Yanche has actively called for greater government support for social services providers and restoring funding to New York City’s Community Schools counseling program and Learning to Work initiative.

47. Susan Stamler

Executive Director, United Neighborhood Houses

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Since 2015, Susan Stamler has been leading United Neighborhood Houses’ efforts to advocate for more than 40 settlement houses in New York before government officials. Like so many other organizations in the sector, the nonprofit’s priorities have pivoted amid the pandemic, with its team calling for funding for New York City’s youth programs and restoring promised funds for the city’s human services organizations.

48. David Greenfield

CEO and Executive Director, Met Council

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After eight years representing parts of Brooklyn in the New York City Council, David Greenfield took the helm of Met Council, one of New York’s largest Jewish charities. The nonprofit serves more than 225,000 New Yorkers each year through social services and policy advocacy. Greenfield has been outspoken in calling on local and state government to do more to support food pantries amid a growing hunger crisis.

49. Michael Seereiter

President and CEO, New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation

After a major merger between two organizations in 2018, the New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation became the largest statewide association representing organizations that provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Michael Seereiter has served as its president and CEO since 2019. During his time at the organization, he was the campaign manager for the #bFair2DirectCare campaign, which pushed for greater pay for direct support professionals.

50. Barika Williams

Executive Director, Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development

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Over the course of her time with the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, Barika Williams has led projects and initiatives on mandatory inclusionary housing and equitable economic development. She became its executive director in January 2020, representing and supporting its nonprofit members through research and advocacy. Previously, she served as assistant secretary for housing in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. 

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