The 2020 New York City Power 100: 6-50
The 2020 New York City Power 100: 6-50
6. Corey Johnson
New York City Council Speaker
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is halfway through his tenure, and while you’re less likely to catch him dancing on the morning news, you’re more likely to catch him announcing major policy proposals – like a city takeover of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – that will form the base of his 2021 mayoral pitch. In the meantime, he’s leading a united council that, at times, has proven to be an effective check on the mayor.
7. Scott Stringer
New York City Comptroller
Running a competent and well-respected auditing agency of more than 700 employees? That’s the easy part. Positioning yourself as a political force and the most progressive candidate in the 2021 mayoral race? That’s the hard part. But Scott Stringer has managed to do both over the years, and while he plans out the endgame of his decadelong campaign for mayor, he’s still the city’s top financial officer, overseeing $215 billion in assets.
8. Michael Gianaris
State Senate Deputy Majority Leader
Whether or not state Sen. Michael Gianaris has shifted to the left, he has found himself in increasingly influential positions in recent years. It was his nomination to an obscure state board that prompted Amazon to scrap its HQ2 plan in his district, and as the No. 2 lawmaker in the state Senate, he has been at the forefront of a slate of progressive policies passed in Albany over the past year.
9. Letitia James
State Attorney General
Would Letitia James rather be loved or feared? The trailblazing Brooklynite, loved by the establishment, is flush with political capital. And James is working to instill fear in the Trump administration and big businesses like Juul and Purdue Pharma– which she has targeted in her first year as state attorney general. Now New York will see if she earns a better legal record than she did in a weaker role as New York City public advocate.
10. Dermot Shea
Commissioner, New York City Police Department
The 50-year-old former chief of detectives, who succeeded James O’Neill as New York City Police Department commissioner in November, has found himself balancing competing pressures from union leaders who warn of an “anti-police” atmosphere and progressives who have led a backlash against aggressive policing in the subways. Shea has so far sided with rank-and-file officers and blamed the spike in crime on the state’s new bail reform law. See Q&A here.
11. Charles Schumer
U.S. Senate Minority Leader
So much has gone wrong for New York’s senior senator since President Donald Trump’s election. A lineup of conservative judges have been appointed to the federal courts. The vital Gateway rail tunnel still needs a breakthrough. And Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate was a fait accompli. Charles Schumer will spend the year raising money for candidates to win enough seats to make him majority leader – or 2021 will be winter all year long.
12. Hakeem Jeffries
Chairman, House Democratic Caucus
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries has one foot in Washington and one foot in Brooklyn, and manages to be a giant in both. He has earned the trust of congressional Democrats, who gave him a major role in the impeachment proceedings. New York’s House members consider him a leader, despite his relative inexperience. And he has tended to his district so well as to be untouchable, not even drawing a primary challenge in this upset-filled era.
13. Vicki Been
New York City Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development
Vicki Been has a history of shuttling between academia and public service, most recently leaving a post heading up NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy to rejoin the de Blasio administration. Been, who was previously commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, is now carrying out the mayor’s affordable housing goals, taking on the tough task of fixing the city’s property tax system and driving economic development strategy.
14. George Gresham
As the leader of one of New York’s most influential labor unions, George Gresham has cultivated strong relationships with both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He has delivered for the hundreds of thousands of health care workers he represents and has helped pass progressive legislation as well, including the state’s $15 minimum wage. A major test looms, however, with likely cuts to Medicaid on the horizon.
15. Jerrold Nadler
Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
As the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler was a key figure in impeaching President Donald Trump, but the lawmaker’s old Manhattan rival got the best of him in the end. Nadler hasn’t let up in his efforts to hold the Trump administration accountable, expressing concerns about the U.S. Justice Department’s line of communication with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
16. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the Bronx and Queens, but ever since her remarkable election in 2018, she has become a spokesperson and a symbol for the rising progressive left nationwide. She has adjusted to Washington, D.C., jettisoning controversial staffers and acknowleding that policy goals like Medicare for All may be unlikely. Her youthful charisma, in-the-weeds wonkishness and political adaptability have spurred speculation that she could one day run for New York City mayor.
17. Michael Mulgrew
President, United Federation of Teachers
One of New York City’s most influential labor leaders, Michael Mulgrew runs a union that represents nearly 200,000 New York City public school teachers and other educational professionals. With a contract set through 2022, Mulgrew has been focused on such matters as boosting turnout for the 2020 census, defending the city’s gifted and talented programs and, as always, battling charter schools and pushing for more funding for traditional public schools.
18. Peter Ward
President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council
Long one of New York’s most influential labor leaders, Peter Ward has reminded politicians of that fact in recent months. His union’s endorsement of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign didn’t make de Blasio a serious contender, but it showed how valuable the endorsement can be for local candidates. Ward, an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, is also behind pending city legislation that would block many nonunion hotels.
19. Kirsten Gillibrand
Of all the New Yorkers who got into the race for president – including tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and New York City Mayors Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg – U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might have had the best chance going in. But she ended up being the first of them to exit, while facing a backlash over her criticisms of then-U.S. Sen. Al Franken and former President Bill Clinton over their behavior toward women.
20. Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough President
Eric Adams is already a top contender to be the next mayor of New York City. He’s raised more than $3 million, and with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Attorney General Letitia James no longer in the mix, he has a realistic path to victory. Of course, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer are likely to be formidable rivals.
21. Dean Fuleihan
New York City First Deputy Mayor
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s right-hand man has a wealth of experience in city and state government, serving for years as the top budget official for the Assembly before coming on as the mayor’s top fiscal official in 2014. Fuleihan, who replaced Anthony Shorris as first deputy mayor in 2017, now has a much broader portfolio, helping run mayoral offices and set policy for law enforcement, education and more.
22. Emma Wolfe
Chief of Staff to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
Emma Wolfe is one of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most trusted allies, and for good reason. When de Blasio was a promising progressive embarking on a political career, the Working Families Party – where Wolfe was a key operative – was an early supporter. She joined him in the public advocate’s office, then followed him to City Hall, where she manages a sprawling governmental apparatus.
23. Michael Bloomberg
Former New York City Mayor
After years of mulling a bid for the White House, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally made the plunge this cycle. The billionaire’s self-funded campaign has quickly gained traction, and his rise in the polls qualified him for the most recent Democratic primary debate. His candidacy has spurred scrutiny of his record as mayor, including proactive measures on the environment and more controversial policies like stop-and-frisk policing.
24. Jumaane Williams
New York City Public Advocate
Jumaane Williams has said he’s not running for New York City mayor next year, but he is still intent on broadcasting his upcoming priorities, which include fighting abusive landlords, expanding mental health services and protecting voting rights. He’s a staunch defender of the state bail reform law that ended cash bail for most nonviolent offenders and one of the leading voices decrying police harassment of vendors in the subways.
25. Chirlane McCray
New York City First Lady
Chirlane McCray made clear from the start that she would have a substantive policy role at City Hall, including as an informal adviser to her husband, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Her marquee program, the mental health initiative ThriveNYC, has been sharply criticized for its price tag and a lack of clear results. If she runs for Brooklyn borough president as rumored, she’ll have the benefit of high name recognition.
See profile here.
26. Polly Trottenberg
Commissioner, New York City Department of Transportation
Polly Trottenberg has had a lot go her way lately, including the successful rollout of the 14th Street busway and positive reviews for the expanded pedestrian plazas around Rockefeller Center during the holidays. A new city plan will add 250 miles of protected bike lanes, 150 miles of new bus lanes and redesign hundreds of intersections to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
27. Thomas DiNapoli
While other city and state elected officials come and go, steady state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli continues to carry out his duties. And while the native Long Islander serves in a statewide post, much of his work deals with New York City, including assessing the city’s financial health, tracking downstate job growth, tabulating bonuses and profits on Wall Street, holding city agencies and their contractors accountable and monitoring the subway system.
28. Suri Kasirer
Founder and President, Kasirer
Suri Kasirer heads New York City’s most sought-after lobbying firm, which took in $12.8 million to represent clients in the city in 2018. The former educator and aide to then-Gov. Mario Cuomo launched her firm in 1997, building it up with experienced experts in real estate, land use and nonprofits. Among the firm’s recent clients are Charter Communications, T-Mobile, Northwell Health and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
29. Valerie Berlin & Jonathan Rosen
Founders and Principals, BerlinRosen
Name a progressive policy issue, and BerlinRosen is likely working for a stakeholder. Longtime public relations allies of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Valerie Berlin and Jonathan Rosen represent labor unions and advocacy organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, which is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana. They also have a growing tech practice and high-profile clients in the nonprofit sector.
30. James Capalino
James Capalino’s firm is consistently ranked among the top lobbyists in New York City and in Albany, with expertise in real estate, technology, health care, nonprofits and more. The Manhattanite got his start working for then-Rep. Ed Koch, then went on to help manage Koch’s mayoral campaign and join his administration as commissioner of general services. Among Capalino’s achievements are the development of the High Line and, more recently, the Inwood, Manhattan, rezoning.
31. Daniel Dromm
Chairman, New York City Council Finance Committee
New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm is a staunch ally of Council Speaker Corey Johnson, endorsing his colleague early in the 2021 mayoral race. The Queens lawmaker also chairs the council’s influential Finance Committee, which has played a significant role in budget matters, although Dromm has not wielded his influence quite like his predecessors. A gay rights trailblazer, Dromm also chairs the council’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus.
32. Neal Kwatra
Founder and CEO, Metropolitan Public Strategies
Neal Kwatra always finds himself in New York’s biggest policy fights, from the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council’s battle against Airbnb to the New York Immigration Coalition’s successful push to let undocumented immigrants obtain driver’s licenses. Kwatra’s clients also pushed lawmakers to strengthen the state’s tenant protections and pass sweeping climate change legislation. The firm is now working with the developer of the state’s first offshore wind project.
33. J. Phillip Thompson
New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives
Since becoming deputy mayor in early 2018, J. Phillip Thompson has had a lower profile than his predecessor, Richard Buery, who spearheaded Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal prekindergarten program. Thompson, who served in the Dinkins administration and, more recently, as an associate professor of political science and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been focused on turnout for the census and expanding paid vacation time, two major priorities of the de Blasio administration.
34. Melanie Hartzog
New York City Budget Director
The New York City mayor’s office finally seems to be listening to critics who want to limit annual increases in the city budget. Melanie Hartzog formulated the $95.3 billion preliminary budget, which is only up $1 billion from the previous fiscal year. But New York City is girding against increased health care costs if the state dumps some of its $4 billion in Medicaid overruns onto the city. And the MTA wants more than $3 billion for its capital plans and paratransit services.
35. Carolyn Maloney
House Democrats chose President Donald Trump’s former congresswoman to lead the powerful Oversight and Reform Committee after its chairman Elijah Cummings died in October. The appointment thrust Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the first woman to run the committee, squarely into the middle of impeachment hearings. The Upper East Sider earned the ire of Trump, who fumed at a rally that he had donated to Maloney’s campaigns and demanded she return the money.
36. Nydia Velázquez
Rep. Nydia Velázquez continues to be the moral authority for immigrant rights as well as Puerto Rican interests on Capitol Hill in an era when the Trump administration is restricting travel to the United States, has blocked asylum-seekers and refuses to provide aid to Puerto Rico. Velázquez is demanding an explanation for the latest aid stoppage after an earthquake hit the island and intends to keep the pressure on.
37. Rafael Salamanca Jr.
Chairman, New York City Council Land Use Committee
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration had better start paying attention to what New York City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. wants before he upends the mayor’s entire development agenda. The Bronx lawmaker torpedoed a proposed South Bronx rezoning recently because he feared it would trigger gentrification. And that came after a judge struck down the mayor’s Inwood, Manhattan, rezoning and Bushwick, Brooklyn, elected officials have demanded a do-over there.
38. James Whelan
President, Real Estate Board of New York
The real estate industry wasn’t pleased with the sweeping tenant protections passed last year, and the man tasked with fighting back is James Whelan. Whelan, an industry veteran elevated to replace John Banks as the leader of the state’s leading real estate industry group last summer, is battling on several fronts, including launching a legal effort to prevent the elimination of mandatory broker fees and issuing warnings about lost tax revenue due to the stronger rent regulations.
39. Melissa DeRosa
Secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo
When Andrew Cuomo took office as governor in 2011, his closest advisers were all middle-aged men: Steven Cohen, Howard Glaser, Larry Schwartz and Joe Percoco. Today, perhaps his most trusted aide is a young woman: Melissa DeRosa. With Cuomo controlling much of what happens in New York City, DeRosa has a major role as well, whether it’s pushing to protect reproductive rights or navigating a major state shortfall in Medicaid funds.
40. Stephen Ross
Chairman, Related Companies
The billionaire launched New York City’s newest upscale retail and residential destination, remaking the Far West Side. The New York Times panned his $25 billion Hudson Yards megaproject and advocates were upset with how Related Companies financed the massive development through a visa program designed to help impoverished neighborhoods, but it is filling up with high-profile tenants like Warner Media, KKR, Wells Fargo Securities and Stephen A. Cohen’s Point 72.
41. Errol Louis
Host, “Inside City Hall," NY1
The mayor’s adversarial relationship with the City Hall press corps has caused him to snub local reporters in favor of national outlets. But even Bill de Blasio can’t avoid Errol Louis. The “Inside City Hall” host peppers the mayor every Monday on the latest news – one recent interview included questions about the response to the coronavirus, anti-hate crime initiatives and the state’s new bail law. He’s also raised his profile as a political analyst on CNN.
42. Patrick Foye
Chairman and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
The “Train Daddy” may be leaving the station, but Patrick Foye is still making sure the region’s trains run on time. The MTA chairman and CEO has deftly handled personnel drama following Andy Byford’s departure and a few new hires, the L train repair budget and numerous questions over bus redesign plans in Brooklyn and Queens. Those concerns will become amplified if subway performance declines in 2020, but congestion pricing may offer some reason for optimism.
43. Rick Cotton
Executive Director, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “czar of infrastructure” has been the point man for Robert Moses-scale visions that include overhauling three airports, building bridges in Queens and Staten Island, and redeveloping the James A. Farley Building near Penn Station. But Rick Cotton’s efforts to build an AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport have been criticized, and Cuomo’s plan to acquire a city block and build eight new tracks at Penn Station could turn into a multibillion-dollar boondoggle.
44. Gale Brewer
Manhattan Borough President
Gale Brewer is the epitome of what a borough president should be. She’s a relentless advocate for neighborhood concerns, like the West Side’s Bull Moose Dog Run, and a pillar for better representation on community boards. And even though she’s an ally of the mayor, she’s asked for more transparency over education spending and acted as a necessary corrective when rezoning plans are opposed by residents. But the SoHo/NoHo plan will be her biggest test yet.
45. Marcos Crespo
Chairman, Bronx Democratic Party
Assemblyman Marcos Crespo may not have an inside track to City Hall after his ally Ruben Diaz Jr. opted against running for mayor. But the Bronx party boss remains a savvy operator whose endorsement matters, including one the race to replace retiring Rep. José E. Serrano. As chair of the influential Assembly Labor Committee, Crespo is pushing a bill to reclassify gig economy workers and give them labor protections, which has captured the governor’s attention.
46. Ruben Diaz Jr.
Bronx Borough President
Ruben Diaz Jr. surprised New York City when he announced he would not be running for mayor in 2021 and would retire from politics altogether. He’s even returning campaign contributions to his donors. Perhaps Diaz just got tired. He’s been elected to public office since he was 23 and told The New York Times something felt off this time around. The Bronx has prospered while he’s been the borough’s leader, with its population growing more than 5% since 2010.
47. Geoffrey Berman
U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
When you lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the biggest stories in the world find you. Geoffrey Berman’s office has led investigations into Ukraine, charging Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in campaign finance schemes and rooting through Rudy Giuliani’s affairs. Berman indicted Jeffrey Epstein on sex charges and continues to pester Epstein’s associates over sex trafficking allegations, including Prince Andrew.
48. Eric Gonzalez
Brooklyn District Attorney
Eric Gonzalez has turned his office into a national model for criminal justice reform through his Justice 2020 initiative. That includes allowing people arrested for minor offenses to avoid jail by taking an art class or visiting a museum. Gonzalez supports the decriminalization of prostitution, too. But a hate crime case has put his office in the middle of a fight between U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Orthodox community and bail reform advocates.
49. Mitchell Katz
President and CEO, New York City Health + Hospitals
Dr. Mitchell Katz has helped stabilize the city’s public hospitals a year and a half after he was appointed to the top post. He launched the city’s insurance program NYC Care with the mayor in August to expand health coverage to residents who aren’t eligible for care, recently took over ThriveNYC’s mental health services, and led a departmental reorganization. But severe proposed Medicaid cuts from the state pose new threats.
50. Emily Giske
Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
Nonprofits, real estate and technology firms that have an advocacy campaign they need to launch, or a budgetary or land use matter they need to resolve, know they should call Emily Giske. The Bolton-St. Johns partner, along with business partner Mike Keogh, has a track record of helping social services groups, developers and other clients navigate the byzantine bureaucracy of New York City government. Her firm also brought on public affairs guru Juanita Scarlett last year.