The head of a 40,000-member Brooklyn megachurch, A.R. Bernard briefly spent time on President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board. The pastor has made a name for himself in politics through his efforts to build affordable housing on the church’s premises and via his political endorsements. Bernard’s church was also the venue for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s big speech reversing his position on stop-and-frisk policing.
The 2019 Power of Diversity: Black 100: 51 - 100
The 2019 Power of Diversity: Black 100: 51 - 100
Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center need hundreds of millions of dollars from Albany each year to remain afloat. With One Brooklyn Health System, all three hospitals have come together to hopefully right the ship. LaRay Brown is tasked with making that a reality after receiving a $664 million transformation grant from the state. Only time will tell if she will be successful.
As president of District Council 37 and the New York City Board of Education Employees Local 372, Shaun D. Francois I represents school crossing guards, health aides, lunch workers and other school staff. After taking over as District Council 37 president earlier this year, Francois got to work bringing together the more than 50 locals in the area. “I want to build a stronger foundation for the Council,” he said after becoming president.
Appointed to the New York City Planning Commission by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, Hope Knight is part of the agency responsible for approving the mayor’s plan for borough-based jails that will replace Rikers Island. Knight has led Jamaica, Queens, down the road to luxury apartments, more retail options and restaurants. The neighborhood is booming, thanks in part to her efforts at the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.
At a time when democratic socialists have become a greater part of the political conversation, Darren Walker has made reforming capitalism one of his objectives. Overseeing the foundation formed by Edsel Ford (son of Henry Ford), Walker wants to make art and culture more accessible, and create a capitalist system that is fair, inclusive and sustainable. “If you want the American dream today, you ought to move to Canada,” Walker recently told CNBC.
Tasked with helping small businesses develop, Gregg Bishop has one of the most important jobs in New York City. This year, his department reached its goal of certifying 9,000 minority- and women-owned business enterprises, well ahead of the deadline. The city has awarded more than $13 billion in contracts to MWBEs since 2015, and it is reportedly on track to reach its goal of awarding 30% of mayoral contracts to MWBEs by 2021.
She’s been at Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ side for a while, and she’ll likely remain there now that Adams is openly eyeing a 2021 mayoral run. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Lewis-Martin’s been loyal to her home borough and was once a public school teacher in Crown Heights. She’s been behind the scenes for a long time, but expect to regularly see her in front of the camera with Adams next year.
The Flake family has been power brokers in Queens politics for a long time. Floyd Flake endorsed Melinda Katz in the Queens district attorney race, which may have aided her narrow victory over progressive insurgent Tiffany Cabán. Floyd and Elaine Flake recently hosted rapper Kanye West’s “Sunday Service,” where he and a gospel choir played renditions of his hits, popular ’90s songs as well as traditional religious hymns.
Working with local and state officials, William Floyd was involved with Google’s expansion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. While another tech giant – Amazon – was spurring controversy, this spring Google purchased the eight-story, 325,000-square-foot Milk Building at 450 W. 15th St., previously owned by Jamestown Properties. If you need to explain the difference between the failure of Amazon’s HQ2 and the success of Google, one key factor is Floyd.
Speaking of Amazon HQ2, Bishop Mitchell Taylor was a vocal supporter of Amazon’s bid to open a new headquarters in Queens. Taylor said he spoke for the residents, including NYCHA tenants, who actually lived in the area and that protests were coming from critics who don’t call Long Island City home. Recently, Taylor met with developers who want to develop the Long Island City waterfront, including some of the spaces Amazon wanted to occupy.
For the past 16 years, Jonelle Procope has not only kept the name of the Apollo Theater in the public eye, but has ensured the organization remains financially stable in the future. By raising money to restore and preserve the legendary venue, maintaining its status as a museum for the history of black music and expanding its educational and community programs, Procope has transformed the historic theater into a thriving nonprofit.
After two decades leading Brown Memorial Baptist Church, the Rev. Clinton Miller has solidified his political might. He was a member of the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission, whose reforms were easily approved by voters. Last year, Miller displayed his political independence by rejecting a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to speak at his church and criticized Cuomo’s primary rival, Cynthia Nixon, on the optics of her marijuana legalization stance.
Citigroup recently overhauled its consumer banking division as part of another restructuring of the company, leading to the departure of quite a few top-level executives. Ray McGuire, however, is still shepherding the company’s global endeavors. A veteran of the financial services industry, McGuire has recently been speaking out on political issues, such as solving income inequality. “We need to move forward with a coalition,” he said. “The polarization has stalled the debate.”
Working for then-New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and for the Rev. Al Sharpton molded Kirsten John Foy into the political figure he is today. Foy supports bringing casinos to downstate New York because of the jobs it would create for people of color, and has called for more specialized high schools in New York City. He attended a National Day of Outrage rally to protest Atatiana Jefferson’s death at the hands of police.
Knocking down a challenge from Republican Christopher Connors, DuWayne Gregory easily cruised to victory this year. Development is the name of the game for Gregory, and he wants to see more of it in Suffolk County. He also wants his constituents shielded from the potential damage of another Superstorm Sandy. He commissioned a report, coinciding with the seventh anniversary of Sandy, to improve the county’s storm preparedness and response efforts.
Rudy Crew, the former New York City schools chancellor who has been at the helm of Medgar Evers College since 2013, recently oversaw the largest graduating class in the institution’s history. And he wants to continue expanding the Crown Heights, Brooklyn, CUNY school’s academic offerings. Despite an accusation of bullying and harassment by a former staffer – which a CUNY internal inquiry failed to substantiate – and rumors of his impending resignation, Crew’s still here.
An associate professor of political science at Fordham University, Christina Greer focuses on New York City and state politics, black politics, campaigns and elections. She co-hosts the “FAQ NYC” podcast about New York politics and hosts “The Aftermath,” where she talks with black thought leaders about the Trump presidency for Ozy. She is the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream.”
The state Board of Regents had an interesting year. It has been in the news for considering revamping high school graduation requirements, spent much of the year transitioning from one education commissioner to an interim commissioner to another acting commissioner, and have found themselves in a controversy over possibly taking over the Rochester City School District. T. Andrew Brown, a Rochester-based attorney, has been at the center of all these education debates.
Leecia Eve was hired by Verizon in 2013 as the company’s vice president of government affairs for the tri-state region. Eve briefly stepped away from her job last year to run for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general. Even though she lost to Letitia James, it’s clear that politics is in her blood as the daughter of Arthur Eve, a former assemblyman, and Constance Eve, the founder of Women for Human Rights and Dignity.
Being a longtime former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo keeps Alphonso David in proximity to power. As chief counsel, he helped the governor push through a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and called for criminal justice reforms. David, who joined Human Rights Campaign as its president in August, has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump – calling him the “worst president on LGBTQ issues ever.”
You’ll hear Mara Gay’s opinions on all things New York City politics if you follow her on social media and read her columns in The New York Times. While politicians court the newspaper’s editorial board for endorsements, Gay focuses her commentary on political issues in the five boroughs. Jeffery C. Mays closely covers the nitty-gritty of city and state politics. Earlier this year, he followed Mayor Bill de Blasio on his failed presidential campaign.
As the head of the black newspaper of record in the five boroughs and beyond, Elinor Tatum has kept the New York Amsterdam News important in such a way that those running for office still seek its blessing. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took a recent pilgrimage to the newspaper’s offices for a talk with Tatum. With presidential and mayoral campaigns in 2020 and 2021, expect the paper to remain a major stopping point.
In September, Gerrard Bushell departed as head of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, leaving the public benefit corporation as the country’s No. 1 municipal bond issuer, with $35 billion in bonds sold in his tenure and $9.5 billion borrowed in 2018 alone. Bushell was recently appointed as executive chair of the Terminal One Development Project at John F. Kennedy International Airport, overseeing a $7 billion project.
Geoffrey Canada and Anne Williams-Isom continue to be prominent figures in the community. A pioneering education reformer and thought leader, Canada has been widely acknowledged for his contributions, recently winning the Richard Murphy Leadership Award for his work in youth services. Williams-Isom, who has focused on improving services for children and families served by the organization, recently announced that she will step down June 30, 2020, after 10 years with Harlem Children’s Zone.
The MTA’s chief diversity officer since 2009, Michael Garner continues to work on developing and expanding opportunities for minority- and women-owned business enterprises and disadvantaged business enterprises. Garner also deals with Title VI and Equal Employment Opportunity issues. When he is not at his full-time job at the MTA, Garner shares his knowledge of business and diversity around New York City, giving speeches about his work at various professional conferences.
From leading ACORN to founding her own activist nonprofit, Bertha Lewis stays in the news commenting on issues that affect the black community. Recently, the longtime activist and community organizer wrote an op-ed in the New York Amsterdam News expressing her support for ranked-choice voting, which was approved by voters on Nov. 5. She also took Gov. Andrew Cuomo to task for using the N-word on a radio show in October.
Carmen Charles was elected to a seventh term as president of District Council 37 in January. She founded the District Council 37 Carribean Heritage Committee, chairs the union’s Women’s Committee and represents its 10,000 members, which includes health care workers in New York City Health + Hospitals, the city Office of Chief Medical Examiner and the Department of Correction. Charles has received the NAACP Freedom Leadership Award, among other honors.
Camille Joseph-Goldman has worked for some of the biggest names in New York and national politics, including as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and as a top aide for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. For the past three years, she has capitalized on that experience as an executive at Charter Communications, which reached a settlement with the state on investment in upstate broadband.
Representing 17,000 social services workers, Anthony Wells has been active this year. He has come out against single-payer health care, stating that he doesn’t want his members losing the medical benefits they bargained for. The New York Health Act “is going to cause some problems,” he told City & State. On top of that, Wells continues to lead the District Council 37 Civil Service Committee and co-chairs the union’s Municipal Labor Committee.
Meredith Marshall has played a huge role in developing property (usually affordable housing) in the tri-state area. He’s currently developing 2,300 residential units in New York City and Philadelphia, including a 255-unit residential building in his old Flatbush, Brooklyn, neighborhood. BRP Companies estimates that its real estate portfolio is at $1.7 billion, with another $1.5 billion on the way. Marshall, a former managing director at Musa Capital Advisors, is responsible for BRP’s investment strategies.
A prominent community leader, Lloyd Williams oversees the historic business organization that was established in 1896 as the Harlem Board of Commerce. From music festivals to street events to the annual Harlem Week to the economic development of the neighborhood, Williams has kept the engine running at the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, which is the oldest continually operating business organization in Upper Manhattan.
Gloria Middleton is in her second year as president of Communications Workers of America Local 1180. This year, the union settled a lawsuit with the de Blasio administration that it had brought against the city in 2013. This came after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe the city discriminated against women and people of color who served in administrative manager positions for decades.
New York Theological Seminary appointed LaKeesha Walrond as its president earlier this year, making her the first woman and the first black woman to serve in the position at the 119-year-old institution. Walrond has been executive pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem for over 10 years. Michael Walrond continues to lead the church as senior pastor, and oversees a number of community and social justice initiatives in New York City.
A union member for about 30 years, Sean T. Campbell represents private sanitation workers as well as workers in the rental car, warehouse, factory, funeral and demolition industries. Campbell, a champion of environmental justice, notched a major win when New York City passed a commercial waste zone bill that will create at least 20 different zones and designate several private waste haulers to provide services in each of them.
Since taking the helm at the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce in 2016, Jessica Walker hasn’t been shy about advocating for local businesses. Walker, who previously worked at the Partnership for New York City, has called on the New York City Council to amend or avoid legislation she says harms business owners, including a measure that makes it harder to fire fast-food workers and a landmark law overhauling New York City’s private trash hauling system.
The Rev. Terrence Melvin is the No. 2 at the New York State AFL-CIO, the umbrella group representing millions of public and private sector union members statewide. Melvin, who is also an associate minister at Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna, worked his way up at the Civil Service Employees Association, an influential state public sector union, before being elected to his current post in July 2007.
A lifelong educator, Janella Hinds has spent decades pushing for better education for students. As vice president for academic high schools at the United Federation of Teachers, she has testified before the New York City Council in favor of desegregating the city’s public schools. The former high school teacher also serves double duty as the No. 2 at the New York City Central Labor Council, the city’s umbrella group for public and private sector unions.
Representing Brownsville, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, is a tough job. And representing New York City Housing Authority residents, a huge population living in difficult conditions, may be an even tougher job. Alicka Ampry-Samuel, chairwoman of the New York City Council Public Housing Committee, does both. An attorney and community organizer who once worked as an international diplomat in Ghana, Ampry-Samuel is on the shortlist of potential future City Council speakers.
Juanita Scarlett has worked for some of the state’s biggest political names – Andrew Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer and John Liu. Now that she’s made a name for herself, she’s taken her experience to the private sector, with stints at Park Strategies and McKenna Long & Aldridge before joining Bolton-St. Johns, where she advises clients in the health care, energy, economic development and education industries on public policy and public affairs.
An activist, professor and former chairwoman of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, Maya Wiley has devoted her life to battling racial injustice and inequality. This year, she spoke on a panel at South by Southwest, stating that cities would benefit from working together to bolster innovation and solve problems by learning from one another. Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is rumored to be eyeing a mayoral run in 2021.
Milton Tingling has served in an under-the-radar role as Manhattan’s county clerk since 2015. The administrative workload he oversees may seem mundane – summoning locals for jury duty, handling marriage licenses, keeping court records – but Tingling is anything but dull. As a state Supreme Court justice, he blocked then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban in 2013. Tingling is also a lifelong friend of Manhattan Democratic Party Chairman Keith Wright.
Frederick Watts runs the Police Athletic League, a more than century-old New York City nonprofit aimed at youth development. Watts’ organization is known for its partnership with the New York City Police Department and with figures like the late Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The nonprofit, whose board is made up of some of New York’s most influential figures, runs an array of programs, including Head Start, universal pre-K, after-school activities and summer camps.
Paul Thomas brings plenty of valuable experience to his government relations work, given the many relationships he has cultivated in New York City and state politics. Among Thomas’ past employers are then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, state Sen. Kevin Parker and the New York City Council. Now at The Parkside Group, he serves a wide range of clients, including Fortune 500 companies, educational and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
Tunisha Walker-Miller is a leading expert on government contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses, heading up top lobbying firm Capalino+Company’s MWBE consulting group since its founding in 2015. Walker-Miller – who previously held positions in the state Senate Democratic conference, in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and at ACORN – has used her current job to create an MWBE directory and help match prime contractors with subcontractors as they navigate New York City and state bureaucracies.
Kenneth Knuckles has had a busy year. The New York City Planning Commission approved building four outer-borough jails as part of the city’s plan to close Rikers Island, despite protests. It also approved a rezoning plan for the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island and a plan for development on the Peninsula Hospital site in Queens. Until last year, the Bronx native served as president and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp.
Deidre Sully runs NYC Smoke-Free, an initiative of Public Health Solutions, but it feels like she’s on a one-woman mission to make the five boroughs a smoke-free oasis. At a time when vaping has become a public health crisis and New York has raised the age to purchase tobacco to 21, Sully has been an outspoken advocate. She’s also called on New York City to address the dangers of menthol cigarettes.
Anthony Kendall runs Manhattan-based Mitchell Titus, which bills itself as the biggest minority-owned accounting firm in the country. Kendall – whose firm specializes in government and public sector work as well as asset management, private equity, nonprofit and real estate – has been at the reins since 2009, relying on his more than 30 years of professional experience. Last year, the firm joined forces with a Chicago-based, minority-owned accounting firm.
Jacques Andre DeGraff continues the tradition of black church leaders diving into matters of social justice and politics. He supported New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to scrap the Specialized High School Admissions Test and has spoken out in favor of diversifying the construction industry. DeGraff has also been a longtime proponent of minority- and women-owned businesses, demanding a greater share of city and state government contracts for such firms.
Johnnie Green leads his flock at Mount Neboh Baptist Church and is an advocate for social and economic justice for black New Yorkers. He has mobilized other preachers across New York City in pursuit of economic justice, most recently opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana if the black community doesn’t benefit. He has criticized a proposed fur ban in New York City because of the significance of fur in the black community.
The Williams Capital Group LP, a large black-owned investment bank, recently merged with Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co., LLC to form Siebert Williams Shank & Co. LLC. The merger, which was announced in October, installed Christopher Williams as the firm’s board chairman, with Suzanne Shank as its president and CEO. It also makes the new company the largest minority- and women-owned financial firm in the country.
Correction: An earlier version of this post had the incorrect titles for Kirsten John Foy and Ingrid Lewis-Martin.