The construction of the new Yankee Stadium and the 161st Street rezoning in 2009 revitalized the dormant business improvement district. Cary Goodman was the man tasked with the job, and he has led the BID ever since. Goodman capitalizes on his BID’s proximity to Yankee Stadium. He advocated for the construction of a soccer stadium for New York City Football Club and in 2017 ran against Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal.
The 2019 Bronx Power 100; 51 - 100
The 2019 Bronx Power 100; 51 - 100
Since 2002, Michael Max Knobbe has driven Bronx-centric content for the indispensable public access channel. Headquartered at Lehman College since its creation, in 2015 BronxNet expanded to a studio space at the Hutchinson Metro Center. Knobbe plans to open a third studio in the La Central development in Melrose later this year. The Bronx’s own Edward R. Murrow, Gary Axelbank spent the last quarter century muckraking and championing his borough on his BronxNet shows, “BronxTalk” and “The Bronx Buzz.”
Throughout his 30-year career Philip Marino worked his way up the ranks of the New York City Department of Sanitation, retiring in 2011 as chief of operations. He served in a variety of roles, including Bronx borough chief and the department’s liaison to the Office of Emergency Management following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, Marino uses his connections to oversee Arthur Avenue and promote the historic neighborhood as it evolves into a new era.
Unlike many critics of the Bronx Democratic Party, Michael Benjamin can speak from experience. A longtime county and state committeeman, Benjamin served as deputy chief clerk of the Bronx Board of Elections before representing District 79 in the Assembly from 2003 to 2010. A professional opinion-haver, Benjamin writes scathing columns and contributes to New York Post editorials. When he’s not doing that, he’s tweeting his hot takes and political insights dozens of times a day.
Parks advocate Nilka Martell made a name for herself cleaning up Parkchester and fighting for the Bronx River Greenway, a 23-mile bike and pedestrian trail that stretches from Soundview Park to the Kensico Dam in Valhalla. Martell is the president of Friends of Pelham Bay Park, an advocacy group for the city’s largest park. Martell also serves on the boards of other groups, including the Bronx River Alliance and the Bronx Council for Environmental Equality.
Like half of Bronx Community College’s 11,000 students, Thomas A. Isekenegbe was the first in his family to go to college. And like 1,000 of those students, Isekenegbe is an immigrant from Africa. He sees himself as an example for new immigrants who are part of the Bronx’s exploding West African population. Isekenegbe expanded the college’s Accelerate Studies Associate Program to provide educational and financial resources for students to finish their degrees.
The Jerome family has led Monroe College for three generations, but only in recent years has the institution been so existentially challenged. Marc Jerome’s power has less to do with influential friends and more to do with the enemies he keeps at bay. A loud and proud advocate for responsible for-profit colleges, Jerome did battle with the Obama administration’s Department of Education and continues to fight the anti-private college proposals of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Dianne Johnson is the public face of Catholic Charities, an organ of the Archdiocese of New York that does significant work in the South Bronx. The Bronx resident oversaw the opening of a food hub at the organization’s community center in Melrose in 2016, which distributes food to pantries across the borough. Since 2017, Catholic Charities partnered with Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. on a diaper drive in the 18th Council District.
One of the nation’s most prominent rabbis, Avi Weiss founded Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, an “open Orthodox” yeshiva, and Yeshivat Maharat, a yeshiva for women – both located in Riverdale. Weiss repeatedly clashed with other prominent Orthodox rabbis over his more progressive views on gender. In the 1980s, he advocated heavily for Soviet Jews and in 1992, Weiss led a “truth squad” at David Duke and Pat Robertson’s presidential rallies, exposing their anti-Semitism.
Since 1984, Brad Silver has led the Bronx Jewish Community Council in feeding and housing the borough’s needy. The council operates one of the Bronx’s largest food pantries, serving 12,000 meals a year. A lifelong resident of the Amalgamated and Park Reservoir Houses in Van Cortlandt Village, Silver helped introduce Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities supportive services for the co-op’s seniors. The council also provides mental health care, case management, advocacy and housing assistance.
David Gomez leads the institution founded in 1968 to serve the Bronx’s Puerto Rican population. Located on the Bronx’s Grand Concourse, Hostos Community College is well-connected with the surrounding South Bronx neighborhood; Gomez, a 40-year veteran of the City University of New York system, took the helm in 2015. He was honored at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s Puerto Rican Heritage celebration in December.
Ethan Geto and partner Michele de Milly consistently rank among the highest-paid lobbyists in New York City for good reason. The duo have been politicking New York electeds for half a century. In 2017, Geto was Corey Johnson’s biggest bundler. For decades, liberal Democrats running for president would tap Geto for their New York offices: McGovern, Bayh, Humphrey, Carter, Dean. A bisexual Jew from the Bronx, Geto spent a career fighting for LGBTQ causes.
Under Viviana Bianchi’s leadership since 2017, the Bronx Council on the Arts has curated artwork by Bronx immigrants, LGBTQ Bronxites and hundreds of others. In 2019, Bianchi saw the completion of the organization’s long-planned Westchester Square headquarters. In her role, Bianchi is responsible for the Longwood Art Gallery, the Bronx Memoir Project, and the Bronx Recognizes Its Own grant program. The self-described “advocate for cultural equity” funds everything from coloring books to block parties.
The arrival of a FreshDirect facility in the Port Morris did not go smoothly. But Larry Scott Blackmon was up to the task, helping the online grocer and Bronx officials engage with community stakeholders. The onetime City Council candidate ran the Manhattan borough office for Hillary Clinton’s first Senate campaign and worked for Sen. Chuck Schumer. Blackmon is a veteran of the Bloomberg administration and handled public affairs for the New York Jets.
A longtime property manager who transitioned to development 20 years ago, Sandra Erickson is a staple of the Bronx real estate community. She once served as president of the Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors and is a governor-appointed representative on the New York State Board of Real Estate. Erickson is also a vice president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and a member of Community Board 7.
Since 1998, Mark Stagg built an $800 million development portfolio in the North Bronx. The Stagg Group manages over 3,000 affordable housing units in the borough and opened a homeless shelter in Kingsbridge in 2018. A frequent donor to Westchester candidates, Stagg gave $17,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and $1,500 to Ruben Diaz Jr.’s nascent mayoral campaign. Stagg counts former Borough President and Obama appointee Adolfo Carrión among his chief advisors.
During her six years as the founding executive director of the Westchester Square Business Improvement District, Lisa Sorin helped revitalize the transit hub into a bustling retail center. Now she’s advocating for the Bronx’s entire business community. She plans to incorporate business improvement districts – including new ones soon to be created – into the Chamber of Commerce’s initiatives. At the Bronx Democrats’ annual dinner this year, she was honored by party officials for her service.
Nick Gjelaj is a first-generation Albanian American and the pride of the Bronx Albanian community. A labor lawyer who specializes in workplace injury cases, Gjelaj serves on the board of directors for the Bronx County Bar Association and as vice chairman of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association’s Labor Law Committee. A frequent donor to judicial campaigns and Bronx Democrats, Gjelaj was also honored at their annual dinner this year.
Deborah Cullen arrived at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in 2018 after six years at Columbia University and another 15 at El Museo del Barrio. Though the museum was financially stable, years of leadership tumult ended with Cullen’s appointment. Under her leadership, the museum has an increased focus on social justice, even landing legendary hip-hop producer and native Bronxite Swizz Beatz to present a social justice award at the museum’s annual gala.
After 30 years in the City University of New York system, Daniel Lemons was named interim president of the Bronx’s only four-year CUNY institution in July. Over the course of his career, Lemons revamped CUNY’s doctoral science programs, helped found the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center’s animal care program, and invented a mechanical heart simulator used in graduate programs nationwide. Lemons is also on the Board of Trustees for the Westchester village of Hastings-on-Hudson.
Michael Kamber, a former war photographer for The New York Times, returned to the Bronx from Afghanistan in 2011 and opened the Bronx Documentary Center in an abandoned building. The center runs after-school programs for Bronx middle- and high-school students and is the home to the Bronx Photo League, a group founded to give improved access and instruction to traditionally underrepresented photographers. Kamber is an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School.
Joe Hirsch and a legion of students in the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY and Hunter College provide consistently in-depth coverage of the South Bronx. Over their 13-year history, the nonprofit newspapers delivered exceptional reporting on the opioid crisis, NYCHA, politics, the arts and Rikers Island. The papers have a print circulation of 4,000, but Hirsch hopes to expand as the population of the South Bronx grows in the next decade.
Karen Argenti has been part of nearly every major environmental fight in the Bronx since the 1980s. A ferocious opponent of the Croton Water Filtration Plant, Argenti is still battling the city’s Department of Environmental Protection over the project’s continued fallout. Argenti is a founding member of the Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association, the Friends of the Jerome Park Reservoir, and the Jerome Park Conservancy. For 10 years, Argenti chaired Community Board 7.
As local newspapers continue to struggle in the media capital of the world, Laura Guerriero runs the last borough-wide papers in the Bronx. Started by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and his chief of staff John Colazzi in 1981, the Bronx Times chronicles the Bronx’s political, business and nonprofit sectors. Each year, the Bronx Times honors the 25 most influential women in the Bronx, an initiative that Guerriero spearheads.
An immigrant kid who is the product of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice’s teen leadership program, David Shuffler expanded the organization’s environmental and immigrant relations efforts since he became executive director in 2010. Youth Ministries runs several community development and organizing operations, including assisting immigrant communities with attaining citizenship. The group campaigned heavily in support of the Sheridan Expressway reconstruction. Shuffler and his organization are part of the South Bronx River Watershed Alliance.
With a master’s in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Maggie Scott Greenfield is no lightweight. She only took the top job at the alliance – and as New York City Parks’ Bronx River administrator – in 2017, but Greenfield started fighting for the Bronx River and its greenway in 2005. Under Greenfield, the nonprofit introduced the Bronx River Foodway, a sustainable foraging program that educates Bronxites on edible plants along the Bronx River Greenway.
A retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain, Michael Alfultis was appointed president of SUNY Maritime College in 2014 and made a Rear Admiral U.S. Maritime Service by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration. Under his leadership, the Maritime College ranks among the top schools for postgraduate pay. In March, Alfultis testified to Congress on the importance of maritime academies to national security. He serves on the leadership council of South Bronx Rising Together.
In 2015, the James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation founded HERE to HERE, a nonprofit focused on creating career pipelines for Bronxites aging into the workforce. Through the organization, Judy Dimon developed a close relationship with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Earlier this year, the two announced the creation of the Bronx Private Industry Council to connect Bronx students with employers. Dimon’s husband, Jamie, runs JPMorgan Chase and considered a 2020 presidential run.
A one-man reporting machine, David Cruz is one of the few reporters left working the Bronx beat full-time. Out of the landmark Keeper’s House at Williamsbridge Oval, Cruz takes on toxic landlords, amplifies community concerns, and scrutinizes the Bronx Democratic machine. With next year’s open race in the 15th Congressional District – the first in the Bronx in decades – Cruz is hitting the pavement and printing his findings in the 30-year-old nonprofit newspaper.
Sean Coleman is the executive director of Destination Tomorrow, a LGBTQ community organization in the Bronx. Coleman founded it in 2009 to fill a gap in services he saw during his work with the Bronx AIDS Service and the Bronx Community Pride Center. Destination Tomorrow sets out to ensure every LGBTQ Bronxite has access to services in their neighborhood, through the agency’s own programs or LGBTQ-centric programs they help other nonprofits establish.
When the Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute the cop who killed Eric Garner, Hawk Newsome leaped into action. There were protests, but also an op-ed in USA Today. Within hours of the decision, Newsweek quoted him slamming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Newsome was an early ally – for prioritizing lives at the border over the lives of black men. A few days later, Newsome shut down FDR Drive, a common tactic of his.
On her one-year anniversary of starting at NY1, Amy Yensi tweeted a childhood photo of her and her siblings at a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. After making her bones at News 12 The Bronx and earning a couple Emmy nominations at a Baltimore news station, Yensi returned to cover the Bronx in April 2018. Yensi reports exposed dilapidated conditions at NYCHA buildings and provided extensive coverage of the Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz murder.
Sheila Garcia is the borough’s leading tenant organizer. Community Action for Safe Apartments originated out of the New Settlement Houses in the Mount Eden neighborhood, but now fights for tenants across the Bronx. Garcia and her 500 members rally for rent freezes on rent-controlled apartments, help tenants organize against abusive landlords, and deliver “eviction notices” to landlords who abuse eviction laws. Garcia is one of two tenant representatives on the city’s Rent Guidelines Board.
Dan Reingold runs the Hebrew Home nursing home and rehabilitation in Riverdale and is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on elder care. In 2005, Reingold opened the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Justice, the first elder abuse shelter in the country. Nancy Pelosi toured the facility last year. Reingold testified in front of the U.S. Senate and was invited to a 2015 White House Conference on Aging.
Arline Parks invested a lifetime of effort and money into improving Mott Haven. Then Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to put a jail smack in the middle of her neighborhood. City officials asked Parks to collaborate on a housing complex near the proposed site. She said she would, as long as there was no jail. As chairwoman of Bronx Community Board 1’s land use committee, Parks led her fellow members in resoundingly rejecting the plan.
The Felds have been a power couple in Bronx politics for decades. Bruce Feld, a former district leader, holds leadership positions with the Bronx Democrats and the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club. Ellen Feld, an award-winning Riverdale Realtor, was a staffer for a U.S. senator and a state lawmaker, and is board president of the Bronx Manhattan North Association of Realtors and a member of the Real Estate Board of New York.
Before he joined one of the state’s top consulting firms, Paul Thomas worked for two of the most powerful men in the state. The Bronxite served as chief of staff to fellow Stony Brook University alumnus Carl Heastie, who’s now the Assembly speaker, and also headed up then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s intergovernmental affairs department. Though his focus is nonprofit government relations, Thomas also consults for several Fortune 500 companies.
Under Charles Flynn Jr.’s leadership since 2000, the College of Mount Saint Vincent has nearly doubled enrollment and revamped its palatial North Riverdale campus. A historian with expertise on race relations in the American South, Flynn helped found the Charter High School for Law and Social Justice in University Heights. Flynn is a climate change advocate within the Catholic higher education community, sending letters on the subject to the pope and President Donald Trump.
A well-connected former commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, Raul Russi secured $1 billion in contracts since 2010 for his Bronx-based homeless services nonprofit. Russi recently added Maria del Carmen Arroyo, the three-term Bronx councilwoman, and Ronald Rosado Abad, a former assistant commissioner for the New York City Department of Homeless Services, to his executive team. After Hurricane Maria, he helped raise millions to aid relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Linda Berk first moved into Co-Op City in 1969. Fifty years later, Berk is the president of the board of directors for the massive development’s management company. Berk represents Co-Op City’s 50,000 residents and advises Riverbay’s property managers on how to utilize their 1,000 employees and $250 million budget. Berk served as City Councilman Andy King’s communication’s director when he was first elected and now works for the U.S. Census Bureau.
The first woman and Latina judge to serve in the Bronx Supreme Court civil term’s top job, Doris Gonzalez is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the trial courts and assigning judges to cases. A judge on the Bronx bench since 2007, Gonzalez was the president of the Latino Judges Association and encouraged judicial service through a committee she chaired on behalf of the New York City Bar Association.
John Edwards was tapped to lead Metropolitan College of New York’s Bronx campus in January and continues to lead MCNY’s career development programs. A graduate of MCNY’s master of public administration program, Edwards worked at the college from 2009-2015 before a stint as the executive director of workforce development at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Edwards is responsible for the college’s 26,000-square-foot East 149th Street campus and its 500 students.
Samelys Lopez co-founded Bronx Progressives after organizing for Bernie Sanders in the Bronx in 2016. The group quickly gained a foothold with the election of one of their members to Congress: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Lopez is the group’s leader and a rising star in reformer circles with an eye for public office. When Rep. José E. Serrano announced his retirement, activists encouraged her to run, though she has yet to get in the race.
Justine Olderman started at the Bronx Defenders two years after law school and ascended to the public defense nonprofit’s top job 18 years later. For eight years, Olderman led its criminal defense practice, expanding it from a team of 40 handling 12,500 cases a year to 100 staffers handling 30,000 cases annually – half of all cases in the borough. Olderman continues to fight U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s presence in courtrooms.
April Horton is responsible for Verizon’s legislative and government agenda in the Bronx, Northern Manhattan and New York’s Midstate region. An alumnus of Cardinal Spellman High School and Fordham University, Horton is a vice president for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of directors for the Hostos Community College Foundation and the Bronx Children’s Museum. Horton is close with Bronx Democrats, who honored her at an annual dinner in 2011.
Rev. Carmen Hernandez is a longtime player in both the Bronx business world and the borough’s LGBTQ community. In 2001, Hernandez co-founded the Bronx Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and later served as its executive director. An ordained street evangelist, Hernandez has assisted single mothers and children in Soundview since the 1990s and is an outspoken critic of the Bronx Democratic Party. Hernandez is also the president of her NYCHA building’s tenants association.
Through his dual role as Community Board 11 chairman and Morris Park Community Association president, Al D’Angelo is synonymous with the East Bronx. A longtime community leader, D’Angelo is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city over the Vision Zero redesign of Morris Park Avenue. D’Angelo is also on the advisory council for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and once worked in labor relations and school evaluations for the Archdiocese of New York.
Rosemary Ginty earned her law degree at night while serving as Mayor Ed Koch’s representative on the Board of Estimate. Koch then promoted her to director of intergovernmental relations. After working in private practice, Ginty joined the New York Botanical Garden’s governmental relations team and was named the first director of the Catholic Community Relations Council in 2008. Now Ginty is chairwoman of Community Board 8, battling bureaucrats on behalf of Riverdale and Kingsbridge.
Dan Padernacht waited his turn. When party leaders wanted Pedro Espada gone in 2010, Padernacht bowed out of the state Senate race and backed Gustavo Rivera. Nearly a decade later, Padernacht is seeking the open 11th New York City Council District seat and Bronx Democrats are tacitly backing Eric Dinowitz, son of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. A real estate attorney, Padernacht chaired Bronx Community Board 8 and currently serves as its traffic and transportation chair.
Hip-hop was born in the Boogie Down Bronx, and Rocky Bucano doesn’t plan on letting anyone forget it. The driving force behind the Bronx’s Universal Hip Hop Museum, Bucano partnered with hip-hop legends like Chuck D, Kurtis Blow and Rakim to raise millions for the planned 60,000 square foot monument to hip-hop. Just blocks away from Yankee Stadium, the museum is scheduled to open in 2023, the 50th birthday of hip-hop.
Correction: Samelys Lopez's title has been updated.