Brooklyn Power 50
Brooklyn Power 50
If you’re looking for political power, Brooklyn is where it’s at. Whether it’s the highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, a top contender to be the next House speaker, or influential city and state officeholders including New York’s attorney general, the city’s public advocate and a long list of leading lawmakers, it’s the borough that has it all. Yet these elected officials aren’t the only individuals flexing their political muscle.
City & State’s Brooklyn Power 50 recognizes the executives, advocates, health care officials and others who are moving the borough forward.
1. Jed Walentas
CEO, Two Trees Management
Brooklyn’s first family of real estate has been transforming the borough’s waterfront into New York City’s most desirable destination for two decades. In December, Two Trees Management CEO Jed Walentas unveiled a proposal to build two 600-foot towers on the site of a former Con Edison fuel oil storage facility, adjacent to the company’s Domino Sugar Refinery megacomplex. Two Trees is also eyeing a lucrative rezoning in the Gowanus, where it owns two sites.
2. Frank Carone
Executive Partner, Abrams Fensterman
Frank Seddio resigned from his position as Brooklyn Democratic Party chair in January, but his longtime ally Frank Carone’s power hasn’t waned a bit. Carone remains the county committee’s top attorney. He also served on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and, until recently, as president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. Carone is now helping local Democratic incumbents win reelection, including the influential Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
3. Regina Myer
President, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered small businesses and turned commercial corridors into ghost towns, but Regina Myer is pushing New York City to help Downtown Brooklyn bounce back. She has already commissioned researchers to measure neighborhood air quality and traffic patterns, and welcomed a busway plan for Jay Street. While half of the borough’s small businesses are struggling, businesses are reopening and DeKalb Market Hall created an outdoor market on Fulton Street.
4. David Greenfield
CEO, Met Council
The Met Council has been helping Brooklyn’s neediest residents for half a century, so it was no surprise that Mayor Bill de Blasio named David Greenfield to his nonprofit reopening task force. The Met Council scored $6 million in city grants for its food distribution network, and it prepared Passover meals for homebound Brooklynites. Greenfield also pushed to make food stamp benefits available online and unveiled a texting service for reporting domestic violence.
5. Javier Valdes & Deborah Axt
Co-Executive Directors, Make the Road New York
Make the Road New York has been a central organization in the fight against the Trump administration’s immigration measures, with Javier Valdes and Deborah Axt advocating to overturn President Donald Trump’s family separation policy. Additionally, the White House kept trying to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, so Valdes and Axt sued in August to stop them. Sadly, 67 of the organization’s members have died from COVID-19.
6. A.R. Bernard
Senior Pastor, Christian Cultural Center
In March, the Rev. A.R. Bernard contracted COVID-19 so severely that he worried he had a “50-50 proposition” of surviving. He recovered, but the coronavirus has taken a massive toll in New York City’s Black neighborhoods and has claimed dozens of Black clergymen nationwide. Bernard has since brought attention to social justice efforts within the church and by using spiritual tools to combat racism following the killing of George Floyd.
7. Randy Peers
President and CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Randy Peers, who joined the chamber last September, is sounding the alarm that Brooklyn’s small businesses will struggle this fall unless they receive grants and rent relief. In a survey of 234 businesses, half reported losses of 50% over the summer, and 40% owe back rent. Peers supports legislation giving landlords tax incentives to restructure leases, broader business interruption insurance coverage, and extending the suspension of commercial evictions.
8. David Niederman
Executive Director, United Jewish Organizations
Rabbi David Niederman is in the unusual position of having one foot in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and the other in the secular world as head of the community’s most influential nonprofit. He summoned Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in January following a rash of anti-Semitic attacks. And when the neighborhood became a coronavirus hot spot by disregarding state prohibitions on large gatherings, Niederman pilloried Mayor Bill de Blasio for closing school playgrounds.
9. Kenneth Gibbs
President and CEO, Maimonides Medical Center
Kenneth Gibbs spent the spring fighting COVID-19 while preparing for Maimonides’ future. In March, Gibbs announced a merger with New York Community Hospital in Midwood before the coronavirus ravaged the region. Two months later, the hospital recorded its 1,000th recovered coronavirus patient, and is now preparing for a second wave. Gibbs is looking ahead after securing a $141 million bond to expand the hospital’s Borough Park campus.
10. Gary Terrinoni
President and CEO, The Brooklyn Hospital Center
Gary Terrinoni has been laying the groundwork to stabilize this downtown Brooklyn community teaching hospital, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. In December, Terrinoni launched a $1.2 billion redevelopment plan to sell large parcels of the hospital’s campus for residential towers. And when COVID-19 struck, the hospital set up an outdoor tent to prescreen patients while working to open a new cancer treatment facility.
11. Carlo Scissura
President and CEO, New York Building Congress
Carlo Scissura gets to regularly weigh in on New York City’s most significant infrastructure problems, such as repairing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or fixing and expanding the Hudson River rail tunnels. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Scissura helped guide state officials to allow essential construction work to continue in March before reopening 33,000 construction sites by June. Now he’s pushing to rezone Industry City and get congestion pricing passed.
12. Kirsten John Foy
President and CEO, Arc of Justice
The Rev. Kirsten John Foy has been one of the city’s leading voices against police misconduct and structural racism for years as an adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Foy demonstrated at Nassau County Police Department headquarters, demanding to know why police killed a 19-year-old man in February, and his work has only intensified after George Floyd’s death. Foy is also targeting corporations to dismantle structural racism and treat workers fairly.
13. David Ehrenberg
President and CEO, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp.
The coronavirus pandemic has slowed commercial development across New York City – but you’d never know it at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The sprawling campus has attracted artisans, designers and manufacturers as well as a Wegmans, America’s favorite supermarket, which opened in October. In the subsequent months, David Ehrenberg leased 40,000 square feet above Wegmans in Building 212 and welcomed Danish footwear designer Ecco.
14. Linda Johnson
President and CEO, Brooklyn Public Library
A prolonged coronavirus-related closure could have been catastrophic for the borough’s beloved library system, but Linda Johnson kept a virtual-only service going until it was possible to reopen branches this summer. Seven branches began offering grab-and-go book service for patrons on July 13, with another 10 adding the service in August. Readers need not worry: Each book is quarantined for 72 hours after being returned.
15. Jelena Kovačević
Dean, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Jelena Kovačević made history two years ago as the first woman to lead the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and she has focused on reducing the school’s gender disparity in computing and other subjects. When the pandemic struck, Tandon pivoted to designing and producing low-cost face shields for health care workers and modified simpler CPAP and BiPAP oxygen machines when the nation faced a ventilator shortage. Kovačević sees telehealth as the next frontier.
16. Doug Steiner
Chair, Steiner Studios
The coronavirus outbreak not only shuttered movie theaters, but halted movie and television shoots too. Doug Steiner is still bullish on the city’s burgeoning film production industry, though. He paid $320 million to build a half-million square-foot production hub at a former port complex in Sunset Park. The project is estimated to create 1,800 construction jobs and 2,200 full-time jobs – just when the city really needs them.
17. LaRay Brown
President and CEO, One Brooklyn Health System
LaRay Brown’s three community hospitals were Brooklyn’s first defense against COVID-19. She knew that a novel virus could overwhelm facilities, so she prepared by restricting patient visits, discouraging travel, and disseminating best hygiene practices. In the early weeks of the pandemic, Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center welcomed the media to witness how it struggled with 100 coronavirus patients to show the rest of the country to take the virus seriously.
18. Andrew Kimball
CEO, Industry City
The Industry City rezoning may be the de Blasio administration’s most contentious land use battle – and that’s saying something. Andrew Kimball argued the plan will lead to 23,000 jobs and $100 million in annual tax revenue, but New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca opposes the plan – and that may be enough to sink it. Kimball has plenty of work to do to convince the other council members to approve the deal.
19. Elizabeth Yeampierre
Executive Director, Uprose
All politics is local – Elizabeth Yeampierre is helping New Yorkers realize that climate change is, too. The Climate Justice Alliance co-chair has long drawn attention to the links between systemic racism, inequality, and environmental degradation. She opposes the Industry City rezoning plan, questioning developer commitments to hire locally and the wisdom of building in a flood zone, preferring the city instead create jobs to curb climate change at the site.
20. Joseph Tsai
Owner, Brooklyn Nets
Taiwanese-born billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai bought the Nets for $2.35 billion in 2019 and has made his opinions known ever since. He called Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators a “separatist movement” during a clash between the NBA and China, and pledged $50 million six months later to improve Black economic mobility. The Nets, meanwhile, lost in the first round of the playoffs and hired Steve Nash as head coach.
21. Jennifer Jones Austin
CEO and Executive Director, FPWA
The antipoverty advocate and author – with a memoir on surviving leukemia – has been fighting systemic racism in New York’s criminal justice system for two decades. As chair of the city Board of Corrections, Jennifer Jones Austin helped end solitary confinement for inmates with underlying health conditions in city jails and hopes to soon eliminate the practice entirely. In her spare time, she hosts a Sunday morning talk radio show on WBLS.
22. Anne Pasternak
Director, Brooklyn Museum
The borough’s flagship museum was bringing in record foot traffic with special exhibitions featuring David Bowie, Pierre Cardin and Frida Kahlo. But the pandemic abruptly forced the city’s cultural institutions to close for several months. Pasternak and her team carefully managed the museum’s reopening on Sept. 12 with an exhibit focused on Studio 54, delayed since March, and French artist JR’s multimedia works. Get the spotlight ready for KAWS, too.
23. Michael Nieves
President and CEO, Hispanic Information and Technology Network
Recognized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition for his leadership, Michael Nieves runs the largest Spanish-language public broadcasting network in the United States, with a reach of about 44 million households. This fall, his network is embarking on special election coverage hosted by veteran political journalist Gerson Borrero, featuring interviews with Democratic and Republican newsmakers and discussions of immigration, education, health care and the economy.
24. Clinton Miller
Pastor, Brown Memorial Baptist Church
Rev. Clinton Miller has brought comfort via virtual services to congregants who have found themselves mourning loved ones, unemployed and emotionally drained during the pandemic. Brown Memorial has been affected as well, leading Miller to call for rent relief for faith-based organizations and churches. A member of the 2019 City Charter Revision Commission, he may also get a chance to fix the City Charter again now that the mayor wants another revision soon.
25. Mike Keogh and Juanita Scarlett
Partners, Bolton-St. Johns
The Bolton St. Johns partners embody colleague Emily Giske’s maxim: “It’s time to get to work.” Mike Keogh, a former City Council finance director, knows city and state budgets inside and out and works on issues like tax policy, procurement, labor and community outreach. Juanita Scarlett, a Cuomo administration alum who managed strategy and public affairs for the Empire State Development Corp., advises clients in health care, energy, economic development and education.
26. Alyssa Aguilera
Co-Executive Director, VOCAL-NY
Alyssa Aguilera has become one of the city’s most effective community organizers thanks to her group’s persistence pressuring the mayor to close Rikers Island, calling for a wealth tax and demanding City Council cut the NYPD’s budget. VOCAL-NY helped organize the highly visible Occupy City Hall encampment to protest the budget, and afterward Council Speaker Corey Johnson nixed a $2.25 million earmark the group anticipated receiving - although his office denied any link.
27. Risa Heller
CEO, Risa Heller Communications
When brands get into a crisis of their own making, they need Risa Heller to steer them safely back to shore – or at least show them how to handle an irate Twitter mob. Heller also helps with more serious calamities, like cleaning up the fallout from WeWork’s botched initial public offering and helping stabilize the real estate company when COVID-19 decimated the market.
28. Kenneth Fisher
Member, Cozen O’Connor
The business law specialist and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce board member Ken Fisher definitely considers himself a lobbyist – and that’s a good thing for clients, who are getting a veteran political operator and New York Law Journal lifetime achievement award-winner. Fisher regularly speaks out about the city’s most pressing issues, such as replacing Rikers Island and the best way to help the city recover from the coronavirus recession.
29. Joni Yoswein
President and CEO, Yoswein New York
It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since former Brooklyn Assembly Member Joni Yoswein founded her powerhouse lobbying and consulting firm, with a diverse portfolio of borough institutions. She guided Ikea in developing its first store in the city, secured government funding for Maimonides Medical Center and advised the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce on city budgetary issues.
30. Susan Donoghue
President and Park Administrator, Prospect Park Alliance
When offices, restaurants, and gyms closed earlier this year, the city’s parks became one of the few places people could gather safely. Susan Donoghue has done much to polish Brooklyn’s crown jewel, including a $3.2 million project to construct new entranceways on Flatbush Avenue. But the spike in visitors spilling into Prospect Park and a $3.5 million shortfall left a trail of litter – and a need for volunteers to spruce it up.
31. Kimberly Peeler-Allen & Glynda Carr
Co-Founders, Higher Heights for America
Kimberly Peeler-Allen and Glynda Carr have spent their careers helping progressive Black women enter the political arena, raise money, corral volunteers, and win seats at every level of government. Their work helped elect 11 Black women to Congress, Letitia James to state attorney general, and Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate. Their group also played a role encouraging Joe Biden to pick a Black woman as his running mate.
32. Steve Hindy
Co-Founder and Chair, Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn’s brewmaster and Cornell University’s 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year expects to lose as much as 40% of his business this year, with bars and restaurants shuttered for months and some permanently closing. But it’s not all bad news for one of America’s largest craft brewing companies: It expanded distribution to California last summer and continues to provide professional opportunities for people of color to work in the beer industry.
33. Frances Bronet
President, Pratt Institute
When universities canceled classes during the pandemic, Frances Bronet called on the Pratt community to use its expertise to address the health crisis. Pratt’s Made in NYC initiative helped local businesses apply for aid and digitize their offerings. This semester, two-thirds of Pratt courses – including its first-year foundation seminar – will offer virtual instruction, in addition to the school’s extensive safety measures.
34. L. Joy Williams
President, Brooklyn NAACP
L. Joy Williams sought to boost census participation among Black men, young children and seniors before the pandemic and demonstrations that have dominated Brooklyn’s attention for months. Her NAACP chapter continued its census outreach work once COVID-19 cases declined to a trickle and has actively supported the ongoing Black Lives Matter protest movement. And as a top political consultant, she helped deliver a reelection victory for Rep. Yvette Clarke earlier this year.
35. Rob Solano
Executive Director, Churches United for Fair Housing
Rob Solano has been fighting against displacement and gentrification in North Brooklyn across two mayoral administrations – and he has the battle scars to prove it. His group is furiously trying to prevent a wave of evictions from happening this fall by demonstrating at the Brooklyn Housing Court and calling for Cuomo to cancel several months of rent. He also argued that requirements that tenants prove economic hardship are burdensome for undocumented people.
36. Gregory Calliste
CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull
The city’s public hospitals bore the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak’s ruthless toll, and Woodhull was no exception. The Brooklyn medical center opened a new clinic in March but reached its capacity for treating coronavirus patients in early April. The pandemic forced Gregory Calliste to make tough staffing decisions and chastise workers for speaking with the media. With COVID-19 contained, the hospital has recently treated victims of the rise in shootings.
37. Wayne Riley
President, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University
Dr. Wayne Riley saw the immediate danger that COVID-19 posed, so he launched a coronavirus preparedness task force and held town halls for students, faculty and staff. His hospital answered the governor’s directive to become a coronavirus-only facility for the pandemic’s peak – a challenge for SUNY Downstate, which receives 80% of its revenue from Medicare and Medicaid patients. The hospital had to raise money for protective gear for its medical workers.
38. Dominick Stanzione
President and CEO, Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center
Dominick Stanzione has been CEO at Brookdale for three years – and the coronavirus outbreak is easily the most challenging crisis of his tenure. The Brownsville hospital has been on the front lines of the pandemic since March, with doctors describing the experience as a “medical war zone” that did not spare medical workers. When the peak subsided, Brookdale’s emergency room shifted to treat the victims of gun violence as shootings surged.
39. Floyd Rumohr
CEO, Brooklyn Community Pride Center
The Brooklyn Community Pride Center had been searching for 11 years to find a permanent home before signing a 30-year lease at Crown Heights’ Bedford-Union Armory in February. But the coronavirus outbreak forced Floyd Rumohr’s staff to pivot quickly to offer its support groups, exercise classes, and programs virtually. The online platform has provided an opportunity for the center to expand its audience and even offer web-based internships.
40. Bertha Lewis
Founder and President, The Black Institute
Bertha Lewis, a driving force in the Black Lives Matter movement, has criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for being too slow to take action after Eric Garner’s death, citing that failure as a reason he shouldn’t run for president. She also slammed de Blasio’s appointment of Dermot Shea to lead the New York City Police Department before protests about police accountability broke out. Lewis has urged the city to study how COVID-19 has impacted communities of color.
41. Jeanine Ramirez
Brooklyn Reporter, NY1
NY1’s voice of Brooklyn has been dishing out scoops for a quarter of a century. Jeanine Ramirez covered the coronavirus crisis with aplomb, profiling Orthodox Jewish female paramedics and devastated businesses in Sunset Park’s Chinatown. When George Floyd was killed, Ramirez was there for his memorial service in Cadman Plaza, and she brought attention to Brooklyn’s Blackout Day. She’s also made waves with her lawsuit alleging age and gender discrimination at work.
42. Chelsea Miller
Co-Founder, Freedom March NYC
Chelsea Miller, the 24-year-old Flatbush activist and Columbia alum, formed Freedom March NYC in May when she and her friends organized a march to memorialize the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. Miller saw the leadership vacuum during the George Floyd protests and raised more than $60,000. She called for removing police officers from schools, creating a youth public advocate, stronger misconduct policies and ending qualified immunity.
43. Scott Lorin
President, Mount Sinai Brooklyn
Dr. Scott Lorin had seen plenty of infections at Mount Sinai Brooklyn, which has had to rip out ceiling and floor tiles to wipe out drug resistant bacteria. The coronavirus has been just as tenacious. Lorin, suffering from COVID-19 himself, coordinated part of the medical center’s pandemic response from a stretcher on the Upper East Side. By May, Mount Sinai doctors were running a convalescent plasma study to see if it improved patient survival.
44. Robert Guimento
President, New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital
Methodist didn’t receive the onslaught that other front-line community hospitals received, although the pandemic was one of the most stressful periods in the Park Slope medical center’s history. But Methodist, led by Robert Guimento, has gained even more standing in the neighborhood for weathering the COVID-19 wave. Guimento welcomed an esteemed new chief of neurological surgery in August, and the hospital’s financial outlook received an A rating from Fitch in September.
45. André Richardson
Principal, Paragon Strategies
André Richardson has been stringing together impressive electoral victories for more than a decade, helping Brooklyn district attorney candidate Eric Gonzalez ascend to office and steering Crown Heights upstart Zellnor Myrie to an upset against incumbent Jesse Hamilton for the state Senate in 2018. Richardson has spent the year advising Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ reelection bid while continuing to run his Build the Bench NY networking organization.
46. Christopher Torres
Executive Director, Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector
Christopher Torres joined the BQX in January just as the city began a new community engagement phase for its proposed $2.7 billion waterfront streetcar system. Torres’ task to keep the mayor’s favorite future transit system chugging ahead was made more difficult when the COVID-19 crisis postponed an environmental impact study. Now Mayor Bill de Blasio says the fate of the 11-mile line will be up to his successor.
47. Paul Mak
President and CEO, Brooklyn Chinese-American Association
Paul Mak heard about the danger of the coronavirus as far back as the approach of the Chinese New Year – and it still wasn’t early enough to prepare the region for the devastation that followed. Mak warned of the economic calamities facing Brooklyn’s Chinatown when business slowed in March. He pushed neighbors to fill out the 2020 Census so that Sunset Park gets the resources it deserves.
48. Jovia Radix
Vice President, Kasirer
Last year, Jovia Radix ran in a City Council special election to succeed Jumaane Williams but ultimately lost to Farah Louis in the low-turnout, multicandidate race. But Kasirer smartly scooped up the Flatlands native after she finished her law degree, and now Radix advises clients on city legislative matters and whether to support or oppose City Council initiatives. Radix is also an active leader with the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club Young Democrats.
49. Tara Martin
Consultan, Dunton Consulting
A longtime labor advocate who did stints at the New York State Nurses Association and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Tara Martin joined Dunton Consulting earlier this year. Martin is ready to help progressive candidates win in 2020, and she has been helping the Joe Biden campaign raise money and organize in New York when most of the action has shifted from door-knocking to virtual hangouts.
50. Margarita Lopez Torres
Judge, Kings County Surrogate’s Court
Margarita Lopez Torres famously refused to make patronage hires and then sued the state Board of Elections when she said the Brooklyn Democratic Party blocked her from seeking future judgeships. She gets along better with party leaders these days but was still primaried last year in her Surrogate’s Court race. She won with 53% of the vote, fending off two challengers, but she will reach the mandatory retirement age for judges next year.
Correction: An earlier version of this list incorrectly stated definitely that New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson had retaliated against VOCAL-NY by cutting funding for the group. Johnson's office has denied the accusation. An earlier version of this list incorrectly stated Chelsea Miller's age. It also incorrectly described André Richardson's work history.