The 2019 Pride Power 100; 6 - 35

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson living his best life marching in Brooklyn's Pride parade.
John McCarten/New York City-Council
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson living his best life marching in Brooklyn's Pride parade.

The 2019 Pride Power 100; 6 - 35

Recognizing New York's 100 most powerful members of the LGBTQ community.
June 23, 2019
6. Daniel Dromm
New York City Councilman

Daniel Dromm became a trailblazer for LGBTQ rights while he was a teacher at P.S. 199 in Queens. In 1992, the New York City Board of Education released “Children of the Rainbow,” a multicultural curriculum that included guidelines promoting the acceptance of gay people. The local school board where Dromm taught voted to reject the curriculum, claiming it “undercut the moral codes of many families in the district.” Dromm then came out of the closet on the cover of Newsday in support of “Children of the Rainbow.” The next year, he founded the Queens Pride Parade in honor of Julio Rivera, a gay man killed in a hate crime in Flushing in 1990.

Elected to the New York City Council in 2009, Dromm chaired the Education Committee, co-sponsoring a 2018 initiative to combat anti-LGBTQ bullying and educate students about LGBTQ history. Now head of the influential Finance Committee, Dromm also chairs the legislative body’s LGBT Caucus.

7. Emma Wolfe
Chief of Staff
New York City Mayor’s Office

Emma Wolfe is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s gatekeeper – she was promoted to chief of staff for his second term – and thus, one of the most powerful gay people in New York politics. But the “power lesbian,” as the mayor once described her, doesn’t display the hard-edged, alpha dog demeanor one might expect. “She’s real,” the City Council speaker’s then-chief of dtaff Ramon Martinez said last year. Wolfe’s self-effacing, approachable demeanor is key to her influence – everyone seems to like her.

But her approachability belies her keen abilities as a political operative. During de Blasio’s campaign for mayor, she was the “secret weapon” when it came to policy. The mayor himself has called her “the great strategist.” Wolfe has been with de Blasio since his public advocate days, and was previously an organizer for the Working Families Party, ACORN, America Coming Together and 1199SEIU. She lives with her partner, Stephanie Yazgi, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

8. Jimmy Van Bramer
New York City Councilman

The son of union members, Jimmy Van Bramer is among the politicians most responsible for driving Amazon out of New York City. A vocal opponent of the plan for a second headquarters in his Long Island City, Queens, district, he led rallies against the deal and grilled company executives at hearings. “This is a union town,” he wrote in the Gotham Gazette. “If Amazon is anti-union, it is not welcome in New York City.” Shortly thereafter, the retail giant announced it was backing out.

In his third term representing the 26th District, Van Bramer recently announced he would run for Queens borough president, telling amNewYork he would strive to be an “activist borough president” and “use the bully pulpit to talk about inequality.”

On the City Council, Van Bramer serves on the budget negotiating team and chairs the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations. He lives in Sunnyside Gardens with his husband, Dan Hendrick.

9. Darren Walker
Ford Foundation

As president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker oversees $600 million in grants annually to “reduce poverty and injustice, strengthen democratic values, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.” Starting out as a lawyer and investment banker, he pivoted to nonprofit work. He was the CEO of the Abyssinian Development Corp. in Harlem and vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation before landing at the Ford Foundation, becoming president in 2013. He has also served on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team, on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, and on the boards of Carnegie Hall and Friends of the High Line.

Raised by a single mom in Louisiana, he was a member of the first class of Head Start in 1985. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, which granted him its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009.

10. Kiara St. James
Co-founder and Executive Director
New York Transgender Advocacy Group

With 20 years of community organizing under her belt, Kiara St. James is one of New York’s most visible grassroots activists and a fixture at rallies promoting transgender rights. Her group, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, was key to the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, which enshrined nondiscrimination protections for transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers into state law. With LGBTQ rights stalled in the U.S. Senate, White House and increasingly the courts, St. James has urged states like New York to “take the lead on issues of LGBTQ equity” and “serve as a model for the rest of the country,” she wrote in an op-ed for NewNowNext.

St. James was born into an evangelical Christian family in Beaumont, Texas, and says she came to activism “by accident” after encountering demonstrators fighting for funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.

11. Ritchie Torres
New York City Councilman

The first openly gay representative from the Bronx – and the youngest elected in New York City – Ritchie Torres grew up in the Throggs Neck Houses public housing project, across from what is now a Trump-operated golf course. As a member of the Committee on Public Housing, he is part of the fight against the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts. Several years ago, he led efforts to open an LGBTQ senior center in his district.

12. Christine Quinn
Former New York City Council Speaker

Since losing her New York City mayoral bid in 2013, Christine Quinn has turned her attention to advocating for the city’s homeless. Her nonprofit, Win, recently filed plans to build a 115,000-square-foot mixed-use building – including a homeless shelter for 200 families – on Staten Island’s North Shore. She has called for a review of the city's homeless intake system, calling it “a demoralizing, brutal experience,” according to the Daily News.

13. Valerie Berlin
Co-founder and Principal

Valerie Berlin continues to be one of the most sought-after political consultants in New York, having helped secure Bill de Blasio’s victory in the 2013 New York City mayoral race and playing a pivotal role in bringing universal pre-K to the city. She worked for the state Senate Democratic conference and the now-defunct community group ACORN before co-founding the public relations and strategic communications firm BerlinRosen, whose clients include major corporations, nonprofits and labor unions.

14. Carlos Menchaca
New York City Councilman

Carlos Menchaca is New York City’s first Mexican American elected official and one of five openly LGBTQ members of the New York City Council. As chairman of the Immigration Committee, Menchaca has fiercely defended the city’s immigrant population. In the past year, he sponsored legislation to stop federal immigration authorities from patrolling New York courts and blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to expand the city’s collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

15. Bruce Richman
Founding Executive Director
Prevention Access Campaign

One of New York’s leading activists fighting stigma against people with HIV/AIDS, Bruce Richman launched the “Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)” campaign to dispel the myth that HIV-positive people with viral loads at undetectable levels can pass on the disease. “It’s about helping people understand the science and how to communicate that science,” he told POZ magazine. He also founded Inspired Philanthropy Group, partnering with people and brands like Donna Karan, Ellen DeGeneres and Cartier.

16. Deborah Glick

Deborah Glick has represented District 66 in the Assembly since 1990, when she became the first openly gay member of the state Legislature. A progressive on women’s rights, higher education and the environment, she has scored numerous wins for LGBTQ New Yorkers, including legislation ensuring domestic partners’ hospital visitation rights and the 2002 Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act – which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

17. Donna Lieberman
Executive Director
New York Civil Liberties Union

As the head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Lieberman has led the push for criminal justice reform, taking on the school-to-prison pipeline, the broken windows theory of policing and stop and frisk. She has fought for the rights of incarcerated New Yorkers and advocated for racial equality in the city’s affordable housing system. Together with Roberta Kaplan, she helped defend same-sex marriage by representing Edie Windsor in her successful 2013 challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.

18. Glennda Testone
Executive Director
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center

Glennda Testone joined The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center as its first female executive in 2009, and since then she has overseen the $9.2 million renovation of the organization’s West Village space and strengthened many of its community programs. A former vice president of the Women’s Media Center, Testone sits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic Task Force and has served on the New York City Commission on LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth.

19. Charles Blow
The New York Times

Charles Blow, who revealed he was bisexual in his 2014 memoir, “Fire Put Up in My Bones,” is one of the city’s most trenchant voices on racial justice. He has written extensively about the killings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, who was choked to death by police on Staten Island. He is a regular commentator on CNN and MSNBC.

20. Alison Nathan
District Judge
U.S. Southern District of New York

In 2011, Alison Nathan became the second openly gay woman to serve on the federal bench, after Judge Deborah Batts, and in what is arguably the country’s most influential jurisdiction. A former adviser to President Barack Obama, Nathan recently made headlines when she ordered Elon Musk and the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a dispute over Musk’s behavior on Twitter. She began her career as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

21. Josh Barro
New York magazine

Once dubbed “the loneliest Republican” by The Atlantic for his moderate political views in a party increasingly veering right, influential journalist Josh Barro left the GOP after the election of Donald Trump, citing the “fact-free environment so many of its voters live in.” After bouncing between Business Insider and The New York Times, Barro is now a business columnist at New York magazine. He hosts “Left, Right & Center,” a weekly radio program on KCRW.

22. Joel Spolsky
Co-founder and CEO
Stack Overflow

Every computer programmer in New York knows Stack Overflow, the website where developers post questions and get answers to programming quandaries both common and not so common. Founder and former CEO Joel Spolsky recently stepped down from his role managing the platform’s day-to-day operations to join its board of directors. He is also co-creator of the work management application Trello and a veteran of Microsoft’s Excel team. Spolsky maintains his own blog, Joel on Software.

23. Kristina Johnson
State University of New York

Kristina Johnson oversees a higher education system that serves 1.3 million students every year – but that’s only the latest chapter in her prolific career. An engineer by training, she previously served as under secretary in the U.S. Energy Department, founded a hydroelectric company and developed technology used in 3D movies. Johnson has recently been working to promote Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to increase diversity on SUNY campuses.

24. William Floyd
Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy

With Google’s expansion in Chelsea – in May the company acquired the 325,000-square-foot Milk Building, which connects to its Chelsea Market building via a skybridge – William Floyd’s job managing public affairs, policy and regulatory efforts just keeps getting bigger. Prior to joining Google, Floyd worked for nine years in New York City government, which included serving on the city’s 1989 Charter Revision Commission and a stint at the Economic Development Corp.

25. Randi Weingarten
American Federation of Teachers

The head of an organization that represents 1.7 million educators, education support staff and health care professionals nationwide, Randi Weingarten has made LGBTQ issues a key part of her advocacy. In 2008, she became the first openly gay person to lead a national labor union. Weingarten was previously president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents 200,000 New York City educators, and chairwoman of the city Municipal Labor Committee.

26. Oriol Gutierrez
POZ magazine

Oriol Gutierrez was serving in the Marine Corps when he learned he was HIV positive during a routine checkup in 1992. Today, the New York City native runs the country’s largest publication dedicated to people affected by HIV/AIDS, reaching 450,000 online visitors each month. “2019 marks the 25th anniversary of POZ magazine,” Gutierrez told City & State. “As editor-in-chief, I have the privilege of ensuring we continue to chronicle the fight against HIV.”

27. Daniel O’Donnell

Daniel O'Donnell became the first openly gay man to serve in the state Assembly in 2002. The former public defender and civil rights litigator went on to champion some of the Legislature’s most high-profile pro-LGBTQ legislation, including the Marriage Equality Act and the Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying law. This year, he lost a bid for New York City public advocate, a position vacated by Letitia James when she was elected state attorney general.

28. Harry Bronson

Harry Bronson is the first openly gay member of the state Legislature from upstate New York and a leading LGBTQ rights advocate, displaying a pink triangle on his car to commemorate gay people who died in the Holocaust. Bronson has also been a friend to labor unions, helping pass a minimum wage increase and a paid family leave program. He led the unsuccessful push to increase the pay rate for public works projects.

29. Ronan Farrow
Contributing Writer
The New Yorker

Ronan Farrow’s groundbreaking reporting on sexual assault helped bring down Harvey Weinstein and launch the #MeToo movement, garnering him a Pulitzer Prize in 2018. The same year, his exposé on former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s sexual and psychological abuse of women helped end Schneiderman’s career. Farrow is currently at work on a book about his reporting on Weinstein, titled “Catch and Kill,” and has signed a deal with HBO to develop investigative documentaries.

30. Bradford Shellhammer
General Manager
eBay’s New York office

Bradford Shellhammer made a name for himself as an e-commerce and design guru after co-founding, an online marketplace of curated products that was at one time valued at $1 billion before imploding in 2015. (Shellhammer left in 2013.) He went on to found and sell Bezar, another e-commerce site, before joining eBay to run its merchandising and curation team. Last year, he was promoted to general manager of the company’s New York office.

31. Deborah Batts
District Judge
U.S. Southern District of New York

Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Batts became the first openly LGBTQ judge on the federal bench. In 1984, she joined the Fordham University School of Law as its first African American faculty member. She has presided over several high-profile cases, including a lawsuit against former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who was accused of failing to inform New Yorkers of the health risks of returning to their homes after the 9/11 attacks.

32. Roberta Kaplan
Founding Partner
Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP

Roberta Kaplan will forever be remembered as the civil rights attorney who helped strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 – an experience she recounts in her 2015 memoir – helping establish same-sex marriage nationwide. She has since founded her own law firm as well as the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which helps workers who have faced sexual harassment fight for justice. She is board chairwoman at Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

33. Erik Bottcher
Chief of Staff
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office

Erik Bottcher was with New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson before it was cool, serving as his right-hand man since 2015. While Johnson looks citywide, Bottcher has kept a foothold in Johnson’s district on Manhattan’s West Side, building toward a likely run for the seat himself in 2021. Bottcher has been active in the city’s gay political scene for years as an LGBTQ liaison for power brokers like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

34. Thomas “TJ” Chernick
National LGBT Chamber of Commerce New York

Thomas “TJ” Chernick serves as the voice of New York’s LGBTQ business community. He joined the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce New York in 2014 as its director of membership and engagement before stepping into the director role. “Coming from a professional background in advocacy, I believe our community wields incredible power,” Chernick wrote upon joining the organization. “You push the economy forward, and by increasing diversity within this scope, you are truly advocates for lasting change.”

35. John Blasco
LGBT Liaison
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office

John Blasco started his career as an organizer with Fierce, a grassroots advocacy organization representing LGBTQ youth of color, before joining the New York City government in 2014 to serve as an LGBT liaison for then-City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez. In his current role, he meets regularly with LGBTQ groups to address issues facing their communities. Blasco was involved with the Trans Equity Program Initiative, which allocated $1.8 million to transgender advocacy groups in the city.

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