In addition to being one of the key players behind the success of Capalino+Company, arguably the most effective lobbying firm in New York City, Travis Terry is also a Queens power broker. The Forest Hills resident is one of the biggest backers of the QueensWay, a plan to convert 3.5 miles of railbed into a park. He also sits on the board of the influential Regional Plan Association, providing an outer-borough perspective.
The 2019 Queens Power 100; 51-100
The 2019 Queens Power 100; 51-100
Paul Vallone is the latest in a long line of Vallones to serve on the City Council – including his father, Peter, who served as Council speaker. The Northeast Queens representative has set himself apart by securing budget funding for schools, libraries and parks, including $19 million in this year’s cycle. Now chairman of the City Council Economic Development Committee, he is considered a likely candidate for borough president when the seat next becomes available.
Seth Bornstein has run the Queens Economic Development Corp., a public-private entity aimed at creating jobs, for nearly a decade and was part of the team for another 30 years before that. Although he was disappointed by Amazon dropping its HQ2 plan, he hopes that lessons can be learned – that companies that can bring jobs to the borough will better engage with locals and community advocates will be less misleading about how tax credits work.
This former labor leader is one of the most prominent voices in Southeast Queens politics and a tireless advocate for workers – even if that means being arrested for protesting outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. His ties with other elected officials in the neighborhood make him effective at moving legislation. He recently defended schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who was criticized for his “divisive” remarks on race in the school system, according to the Queens Chronicle.
Anne Marie Anzalone joined Bolton-St. Johns in January, bringing extensive experience in government affairs with a focus on constituent services – including working for late Assemblyman Denis Butler of Astoria and former Rep. Joseph Crowley. Born and raised in Queens, John Albert has wide-ranging experience in advocacy. His successes include helping the U.S. Tennis Association secure approvals needed for upgrades to the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Southeast Queens has been on the rebound after suffering the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy, thanks to a city-driven rezoning and a ferry link between Far Rockaway and lower Manhattan. But the groundwork was laid by local champions like Kevin Alexander, a Queens native who since 2011 has headed the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corp., whose mission is to revitalize the economic base and improve the quality of life in the Rockaways.
Every summer Queens hosts one of the world’s premier sporting events – the U.S. Open – where the world’s best tennis players compete in the final major tournament of the year. Nearly 700,000 people attended the two-week extravaganza last year, and Daniel Zausner made sure the event went off without a hitch. He also led the recent $600 million overhaul of the grounds, which included adding a roof to Arthur Ashe stadium.
Supporters of the Amazon HQ2 project in Long Island City were pleased when Mitchell Taylor blessed the deal, saying it would benefit residents of NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses. The fact his support carried so much weight speaks to the influence he’s had in the borough throughout his career, as he worked to transform public housing communities. While Amazon ultimately bailed, Taylor continues to fight for projects that create jobs – like the BQE.
Business is booming in New York City’s real Chinatown – also known as Flushing. The neighborhood is always bustling with activity and residential high-rises keep popping up, signaling that things aren’t going to slow down. All of this is good news for John Choe, who is a constant and effective cheerleader for the area while also providing invaluable educational and networking support to local businesses – many run by recent immigrants.
The patriarch of one of the most prominent political families in New York City, Peter Vallone Sr. may not hold elected office anymore but he still has a role to play. After retiring from politics, he began practicing law with his son, Peter Vallone Jr., who succeeded him in the City Council in 2002. Vallone Sr. also founded a lobbying firm with partner Anthony Constantinople and works closely with clients, including Waste Management, Walgreens and TD Bank.
With a commanding presence and a joyful approach to covering the news, Ruschell Boone has become the face of Queens for NY1, covering the borough exclusively for more than a decade before branching out to cover other parts of the city. Over the years, she’s delivered impactful reports on the police shooting of Sean Bell, the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and garbage problems in Jamaica, picking up countless awards and honors for her work.
With progressive credentials, a good relationship with the Queens Democratic Committee, a powerful voice on social media channels and a likeable and hardworking presence on the ground in her district, Nily Rozic is an example of the modern Queens lawmaker. By focusing on identifying problems in her district and passing legislation to fix them, instead of engaging in political fights to get headlines, Rozic has solidified herself as a rising star in the party.
Brothers Tom and Fred Elghanayan are among Long Island City’s biggest landlords, owning and operating at least 5,000 units in New York City’s fastest-growing neighborhood. Their work has included a major retail and residential development along the waterfront. They would have likely made a windfall in profits if the Amazon HQ2 project had gone through, but even with the setback, TF Cornerstone will likely remain a real estate powerhouse for years to come.
Israel Rocha Jr. became head of Elmhurst Hospital Center in 2016, overseeing a medical network that serves one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse places in the world. With nearly 1 million residents relying on the hospital’s care, Rocha has been proactive in combating troubling community health issues like high blood pressure. He is vice president of OneCity Health, which focuses on implementing the state’s DSRIP program to restructure the health care delivery system.
The appearance of Target stores across the borough has sparked problems for City Councilman Francisco Moya over the past year. Moya angered anti-gentrification advocates by blessing a rezoning that would allow a Target in Elmhurst, only to change his message several months later over concerns about affordable housing units at the site. Moya’s relationship with Joseph Crowley provided him with support from the Queens Democratic Party. Now that connection could be put to the test.
Horse racing is a major industry in Queens, with Aqueduct Racetrack and nearby Belmont Park (just across the border) providing thousands of jobs and a source of entertainment for many residents. The industry relies on money gambled on the races, and David O’Rourke has worked to increase revenue and up betting for the past few years. He took over as president and CEO earlier this year, bringing an infusion of creativity to the position.
Having worked as a staffer for Peter Vallone Sr., Aravella Simotas entered politics alongside a figure that rearranged the power dynamic of the New York City Council from his Astoria seat for over 16 years. Simotas herself is more of a community advocate than a power broker, working to give a voice to women, families, seniors and students. She recently introduced a law increasing the statute of limitations for second-degree rape and incest.
In a political landscape where the bonds between the real estate industry and the Democratic Party are increasingly strained, Forest Hills-based Muss Development has been scaling back its political contributions. Since 2018, Joshua Muss, who recently stepped down as president, donated $5,400 to the campaign of Borough President Melinda Katz, who promised in her district attorney bid to focus on investigating construction sites. The Muss family donated nearly $14,000 to Katz’s past campaigns.
Peter Koo represents one of New York City’s largest immigrant communities and is an ardent protector of its cultural identity, both through his work on the City Council and his personal philanthropy. A pharmacist by training, Koo often advocates for small businesses on the City Council and has fought for additional funding for parks and libraries in his district. He was recently named chairman of the influential Committee on Parks and Recreation.
Keith Little came to this vital nonprofit that reaches thousands of Queens residents with more than 30 years of leadership experience in health care, child welfare and juvenile justice. For more than 100 years, SCO has been providing vital services to children to help them reach their potential, including operating early childhood education centers, running programs designed to keep at-risk families together and providing a pathway to work or education for runaway and homeless teens.
The Pheffer name has been synonymous with political power for decades on the Rockaways. Audrey Pheffer served in the Assembly for 24 years, and now her daughter, Stacey Pheffer Amato, has taken over her seat. Pheffer now serves as “official record-keeper” for Queens County – which includes keeping track of marriage and divorce records, business certificates and passports – as well as clerk of the Supreme Court and the Commissioner of Jurors.
Vivian Cook is like the grandma of Southeast Queens. She’s a trusted and steady voice of reason who speaks up when necessary but is also comfortable working behind the scenes for the greater good. Newly minted as the county committee chairwoman of the Queens County Democratic Committee, Cook is a trusted soldier in the party, which has helped her weather accusations that she has used politically incorrect language in the past.
This ex-Bloomberg administration official has put her stamp on the Jackson Heights and Elmhurst Business Improvement District since she took over more than four years ago. By tapping into her background in finance at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Leslie Ramos has strategically brought in new business, tackled controversial development issues (like a Target expansion into the neighborhood) with grace, and partnered with community organizations to beautify the vibrant neighborhood.
The Bayside lawmaker doesn’t seek out headlines for the sake of seeing his name in the paper. Instead, Edward Braunstein works behind the scenes to forge alliances with both new and veteran Assembly members, racking up a record of legislative successes designed to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Last year, he led the fight to criminalize “revenge porn” and worked to get congestion pricing carve-outs for his constituents.
This Astoria institution is one of the coolest museums in the city, featuring unique events and screenings like this summer’s 13-part film series “Grit and Glitter: Before and After Stonewall.” Carl Goodman oversees the entire operation, which includes among its main attractions a permanent exhibition dedicated to Muppets creator Jim Henson’s career. Last year he was honored as a Patron of the Cinema at New York City's 7th annual Winter Film Awards International Film Festival.
This leader in science education has brought a series of innovative programs to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park museum since taking over more than a decade ago. Margaret Honey has developed creative ways to make STEM learning appealing to kids with new exhibits like the current “Space Out Summer” event series celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. She has recently pushed for a new pre-K center at the museum, which is slated to open soon.
Respected universally both in Albany and back home in her Southeast Queens district, Alicia Hyndman is a lawmaker on the rise. This year, she has been a powerful voice on forging a path forward to make New York City’s elite high schools more accessible to black and Latino students without outright scrapping the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. She has also worked hard to forge partnerships to create a jobs pipeline for her constituents.
Forest Hills and Rego Park are home to the largest population of Bukharian Jews in the United States (nearly 50,000) – with restaurants, meat markets, bakeries and shops lining 108th street between 63rd and 65th Avenues. Boris Kandov, who co-owns a limousine company, is the voice of the community and has become increasingly politically active in recent years, encouraging community members to live out their version of the American Dream.
100 Suits was founded in 2011 with a simple mission: provide business attire for men and women looking to break into the professional world. Since then, celebrities have contributed to the cause and Kevin Livingston has been featured in the national media and on The Steve Harvey Show. A certified nonprofit since 2015, the organization remains dedicated to Livingston’s mission to help his fellow community members while dispelling stereotypes – one suit at a time.
The Queens Republican Party has been in disarray for almost a decade, creating an opportunity for Eric Ulrich to be a standard-bearer for some of the borough’s more conservative residents. Hardly your traditional Republican, Ulrich has succeeded in becoming a relevant voice in the New York City Council by establishing partnerships across the aisle. And he finished second in last year’s public advocate race, which included a field of 17 candidates.
Every week, Flushing Town Hall features a variety of cultural experiences, musical performances and workshops, and Ellen Kodadek is the person who pulls it all together. In the last decade she has transformed the historic building and the accompanying Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, fixing its fiscal troubles and turning it into a vibrant gathering place. This summer’s lineup includes live jazz, puppetry from Taiwan, and a Brazilian drum dance performance.
One of the borough’s oldest hospitals, Jamaica Hospital has gone through a transformation over the past few decades, becoming a vital health care institution for hundreds of thousands of Queens residents. Bruce Flanz took over in 2011, when the hospital was embroiled in a bribery controversy, and has managed to steady the ship over the past eight years by expanding care options and striking strategic partnerships in the community to help repair the hospital’s image.
This prominent museum and cultural center known for its artistic displays and educational programs looked across the pond to find its new president, tapping Sally Tallant from Liverpool, England, for the position. Taking over for a predecessor who was removed from her post as a result of her political activism, Tallant has pledged to create a cultural space for “people to engage with the urgent issues of our time.”
This Eastern Queens CUNY school has become a vital pathway for tens of thousands of students looking to forge a better future. Timothy Lynch had big shoes to fill when former Queensborough Community College President Diane Call stepped aside after a nearly 50-year career in higher education, but he did well upholding the school’s mission of providing a nurturing learning environment for a diverse student body.
Correction: An earlier version of this write-up misstated the proportion of minority students at Queensborough Community College.
This tireless community activist has dedicated her career to bettering the lives of Southeast Queens residents, fighting for educational opportunities for children, speaking out against airplane noise and uniting area civic groups to solve local problems. Barbara Brown is also a leader in preserving parkland and advocating for a healthy environment. As part of that initiative, the EQA has led efforts to preserve and restore the wetlands in the 225-acre Idlewild Park Preserve.
As Western Queens undergoes a development boom, public feedback is vital to ensure the rapid changes don’t cause residents irreparable harm. When not weighing in on ideas for the massive redevelopment, Antonios Benetatos is an advocate for the Dutch Kills neighborhood, convincing the MTA earlier this year to add its name to an N train stop. One of 45 people named to the short-lived Amazon Advisory Committee, he also sits on the Sunnyside Yards Steering Committee.
These two dedicated activists were already legendary in the minds of insurgent Democrats looking to break into politics before they had a high-profile cameo in the hit Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House.” Rising Democratic star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called their activism “the war room for every insurgent campaign in Queens.” The Whiteheads were also vital early organizers for Barack Obama back in 2008, when much of the state was backing Hillary Clinton.
Rory Lancman’s hopes for the Queens district attorney primary fell flat, and with them his attempts to flank Melinda Katz from the left. Though he made an appearance alongside Queens Democratic Party Chairman Gregory Meeks, magnifying Meeks’ criticism of Tiffany Cabán, he denied that his decision to back Katz in the race was motivated by an “establishment” deal, reports the Queens Courier. What remains clear is that he is standing behind the Queens Democratic Party.
With Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in the midst of a back-and-forth district attorney battle with Tiffany Cabán, the borough president’s office has been humming along, thanks in large part to Sharon Lee. A former communications director for Katz and past adviser to then-City Comptroller John Liu, Lee was promoted to deputy borough president last year, and could join Katz in the district attorney’s office depending on how a Cabán court challenge plays out.
Brett Littman has big shoes to fill as he takes over for former Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon – but the former head of Manhattan’s The Drawing Center has a notable leadership record of his own. Designed by Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, the museum has become one of the city’s cultural gems over the past two decades. Plans to open its famed artists' studio to the public for the first time were announced earlier this year.
Local television channels have been mocked in popular culture for years, but – in one of the most diverse places in the world – QPTV provides a vital and important outlet for communities to make their voices heard. The station features original shows profiling unique communities, like “Made in Queens” and “Around Queens.” Daniel Leone oversees daily operations and programming at QPTV, as well as developing strategies to keep the station relevant for years to come.
Clyde Vanel was vocal about his frustrations with the opposition to the Amazon deal. Aside from the jobs it would have brought to Queens, the deal represented an opportunity for Vanel to boost the impact of his role as chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Internet and New Technology. Vanel’s approach to the tech industry is based on studying how to harness its economic benefits. He recently created a task force studying the regulation of cryptocurrency.
If you ask Queens residents about some of the biggest changes they’ve seen in recent years, you will likely hear a lot about bike lanes. While this has been one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature issues on a macro level, Juan Restrepo and his colleagues at Transportation Alternatives have been doing the heavy peddling locally, organizing rallies to draw attention to problem areas and pushing back against community boards opposed to the new lanes.
After a career in New York City higher education, William Tramontano got the nod this spring to take over as interim president of the CUNY school after Félix V. Matos Rodríguez left to take over as CUNY chancellor. Tramontano spent 22 years teaching biology at Manhattan College while getting a taste of administrative experience as department chair. He also helped develop curriculum at Lehman College and served as adviser to the president at Hunter College.
Paul Arcario has big shoes to fill as he takes over as interim president of LaGuardia Community College. Arcario is filling in following the departure of Gail Mellow, who served for nearly two decades as president of the CUNY school, which is known for serving mostly low-income students. But the school’s former provost, a Queens native who has been at the institution for more than three decades, certainly knows his way around the campus.
This Kingston, Jamaica-born educator has led York College for more than a decade, as the CUNY institution grew alongside downtown Jamaica, Queens, experiencing a revival in unison with the flourishing neighborhood. Marcia Keizs has been widely recognized for her innovative leadership. Although she is retiring at the end of August and heading to Bronx Community College, where she will return to teaching, she will likely remain a leading voice in the community for years to come.
After 9/11, Shamsi Ali was a prominent national voice promoting interfaith dialogue. His work earned him recognition from former President George W. Bush, but he has been criticized by more conservative Muslims. These days he still speaks out against violence against any religion and works to build bridges between his Queens congregation and other religions. He doesn’t shy away from political criticism, calling out President Donald Trump for failing to appropriately denounce racism.
Richard David brought more than nonprofit experience to New York City’s highest-grossing lobbying firm; he brought his experience within the Indo-Caribbean and South Asian communities of Queens as well. A Guyanese-American who serves as co-district leader for Assembly District 31 and was a community board member for 10 years, David has provided a bridge into one of Queens’ largest immigrant groups. He came to Kasirer from the city Administration for Children’s Services.
The head of this Flushing-based cultural and spiritual center has served as a representative of the faith at White House conferences under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – as well as meeting other world leaders. The basement of the temple is home to a popular vegetarian canteen with some of the best dosas in the city. It serves as many as 10,000 people during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
Catalina Cruz came to Jackson Heights from Colombia at age 9 with a mother who worked selling tamales and empanadas to support herself. A fierce champion for immigrants’ rights in the Assembly and former counsel to the New York City Council’s Immigration Committee, Cruz played a significant role in pushing for the Green Light bill that would allow people to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their immigration status.
Correction: New York City Councilman Francisco Moya's opposition to an Elmhurst rezoning predated a challenge from the city Department of Buildings. An earlier version of Catalina Cruz's profile incorrectly stated she was a DACA recipient; Cruz lived in the country illegally after the federal DREAM Act was introduced, but became a U.S. citizen before DACA was implemented.