If you ever wondered why many of Manhattan’s most famous historical buildings are in fantastic condition, look no further than the work of Peg Breen. The head of the New York Landmarks Conservancy has secured millions of dollars in grants and committed its technical expertise to assist building owners looking to restore the borough’s iconic structures. Breen’s expertise is widely recognized – and she has spoken on preservation in Vancouver; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Tbilisi, Georgia.
The 2019 Manhattan Power 100; 66 - 100
The 2019 Manhattan Power 100; 66 - 100
Julie Menin takes jobs that matter. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she chaired Manhattan’s Community Board 1 and helped revitalize lower Manhattan. As commissioner of the city Department of Consumer Affairs, she implemented paid sick leave and small-business relief measures. Now, as the city’s census director, she’s fighting to ensure every New Yorker is counted. With that kind of record, don’t count out another bid for elected office.
Last year, Stacey Cunningham became the first woman to serve as president of the New York Stock Exchange in the organization’s 227-year history. A pioneer in the male-dominated financial services world, Cunningham hit the ground running, recently bringing Uber Technologies to the NYSE. While some argue the exchange has become less important amid technological advancements, it remains the largest in the world – with a market capitalization of more than $22 trillion.
Under David Van Zandt’s leadership, this 100-year-old institution has become an academic powerhouse and an anchor for the Union Square neighborhood. Van Zandt has led the opening of the school’s new University Center, merged several schools into the College of Performing Arts and established the school as a destination for international students – with more than 30% of its students coming from abroad. Van Zandt plans to step down next year, leaving behind an impressive legacy.
The Cooper Union, facing a financial crisis, turned to Laura Sparks to clean up the mess. The institution’s first female president, Sparks also walked into the harsh backlash over the school’s decision to start charging tuition in 2014. She quickly stabilized the school’s finances and created a plan to bring back full-tuition scholarships within 10 years. Under Sparks’ leadership, the school’s iconic Great Hall has welcomed renowned figures like artist Ai Weiwei and writer Rebecca Solnit.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal is one of a group of elected officials who got their start or their big break thanks to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, but she has gone on to build her own record. This past session, her bill to eliminate vacancy decontrol was included in a sweeping package of laws strengthening New York’s rent regulations. The Upper West Side lawmaker has also sponsored legislation that would target Airbnb, close the mechanical void loophole and protect pets.
This Upper East Side reformer has carved out a niche as a fierce advocate for increased government transparency and bolstering the city’s campaign finance system. This year, Ben Kallos has been grabbing headlines for his push to implement larger matching funds for political candidates, a measure that was approved on the 2018 ballot. The second-term councilman is also a champion of education, affordable housing and public health – and he invites constituents to engage him in conversation.
Those who follow New York City politics might remember Michael Scotto for being the victim of an ugly threat of violence involving former Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm, which was caught on camera in the U.S. Capitol. It’s a shame, since Scotto has compiled a career of excellent reporting and creative storytelling. A Manhattanite through and through, he brings the intricacies and uniqueness of the borough to life each week with a pleasant delivery.
This real estate developer and early Obama backer is relatively new to the state Senate – he replaced former state Sen. Bill Perkins in 2017 – but he has already established himself as someone more interested in getting things done than garnering headlines. This attitude has paid off, allowing Brian Benjamin to be more effective than a traditional newbie. He’s taken a lead role in parole reform and sponsored legislation to obtain more information on migrant children in federal custody.
The Assembly has gotten a lot younger and more diverse in recent years, and Yuh-Line Niou – a reformer who holds Sheldon Silver’s former seat – is a great example of how the chamber is changing. She wears her emotions on her sleeve, recently speaking out about her experience as a victim of sexual assault. And she utilizes social media far better than many of her colleagues, creating a real-time connection between Albany and her district.
Heading up day-to-day operations and strategic planning at one of the world’s most famous parks would stress out many people. But Elizabeth Smith approaches leadership a little differently than most – with “curiosity, a good work ethic and a sense of humor,” she told Forbes last year. As a steward of New York City’s great green space, she has been working tirelessly to develop new partnerships and utilize technology to enhance the experience for park visitors.
With nearly four decades of experience handling communications in the public and private sectors, Lisa Linden is one of the top communications professionals in New York City. She has worked with the tourism industry to help the city rebound from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and she currently serves on the board of NYC & Co. and is a member of the Broadway Association. Her firm, LAK Public Relations, counts major corporations and nonprofits among its clients.
First-term New York City Councilman Keith Powers has generated as much buzz as some of his colleagues by being involved in some of this year’s hottest topics, including Rikers Island, affordable housing, restricting car traffic on 14th Street and a contested proposal to limit brokers’ fees that are charged to tenants. Powers, who represents the East Side and midtown, got his start as an organizer at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, where he lives.
Assemblyman Dan Quart is building a reputation as a progressive policymaker, sponsoring legislation that ended the ban on gravity knives and another that seeks to decriminalize prostitution. The Upper East Side lawmaker and former criminal defense attorney is rumored to be eyeing a Manhattan district attorney bid, and was among a number of elected officials to endorse Tiffany Cabán, who could pull off an upset win in the Queens district attorney Democratic primary.
Daniel Weiss has led the world-famous museum and research facility with a steady hand since taking over in 2017, but recently he’s been flexing the institution’s political muscle. The museum recently decided to stop accepting donations from some members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma – a company that allegedly made millions while helping spark the nationwide opioid epidemic. The museum’s decision comes amid a philanthropic debate that is resonating throughout the nonprofit world.
Tapping Henry Timms as president was a big win for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. A rising star in the arts world, Timms modernized the 92nd Street Y and is credited with co-founding the #GivingTuesday movement – an international phenomenon that has sparked low-dollar philanthropy across the globe. Now he faces the challenge of righting Lincoln Center, where years of delays to a now-scrapped renovation of David Geffen Hall has left the institution dispirited.
This public policy whiz is using her experience to revitalize the nearly 100-year-old organization, attracting new members and modernizing the organization to better serve the current interests of businesses. Jessica Walker, who previously worked at Partnership for New York City and the New York Academy of Medicine, has been pushing back against the drumbeat of mandates nibbling away at small businesses. She forged an alliance with Facebook to help mom and pop shops advertise on the platform.
The former New York City councilman was a few votes shy of becoming City Council speaker in 2014 (some insiders claim it was just one vote), but the setback hasn’t hurt his political standing in the borough. Some suggest he is a front-runner to be the next city comptroller. Garodnick runs the nonprofit overseeing Riverside Park, and he’s received good press in the role – other than having to fire a few goats – which can’t hurt his political aspirations.
Alfred C. Cerullo III was born in Brooklyn, became a politician in Staten Island and now deals with citywide issues as a member of the New York City Planning Commission. But it’s in Manhattan where he does much of his work, thanks to his job running the Grand Central Partnership, a business improvement district encompassing around 70 blocks in midtown Manhattan. Among the recent developments in the district are One Vanderbilt and JPMorgan Chase’s planned Park Avenue skyscraper.
Glenn Lowry has led the iconic Museum of Modern Art for almost 25 years. His impact on the institution is almost impossible to quantify, from his fundraising efforts that brought in nearly $1 billion – quadrupling the museum’s endowment – to merging with the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center to his creation of the museum’s Department of Media and Performance. Lowry plans to stay in his role until 2025.
Combating homelessness is currently one of New York City’s most pressing issues – but for George McDonald and his wife, Harriet Karr-McDonald, it has been a mission for more than three decades. What began in the 1980s with George McDonald handing out sandwiches and clothing to homeless men and women in Grand Central Terminal has grown into an innovative organization providing necessary services to the city’s most vulnerable populations – with a focus on housing and jobs.
You may not think the GOP has much influence or power in the heavily blue heart of New York City, but the Manhattan GOP benefits from its location in the financial and business nerve center of the country, and many of its members maintain close ties to President Donald Trump. The elevation of Andrea Catsimatidis to chairwoman may be a sign the party is trying to appeal to millennials with a younger leader who is savvy on social media.
When it comes to educational institutions in New York City, Coro may not be the biggest, but it punches above its weight with a curriculum that has helped prepare New York City Council members and government officials for successful careers. Since 2008, Scott Millstein has been a big part of Coro’s success, doubling down on strategic partnerships with government and developing other programs that help shape the minds of the city’s future leaders.
As a partner at Stroock, one of the city’s most influential law firms, this legendary former state attorney general remains a legal power player. Corporations looking for guidance with state government or strategic advice lean on Robert Abrams’ institutional knowledge and sharp mind to get results. In addition to his private sector success, Abrams is constantly tapped by mayors and governors to sit on important commissions and boards – like the New York City Charter Revision Commission.
Completed in 1914 as a burlesque theater for “whites only,” the Apollo has become arguably the most iconic theater featuring performers of color. Jonelle Procope’s leadership for the past 16 years has ensured the theater will continue its legacy as a cultural center. A former attorney with the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Procope has raised funds to restore the theater, attracted talented leaders to the board of directors and made long-term plans for the theater’s future.
This New York City government veteran has become a go-to expert for clients dealing with complicated land use issues in Manhattan. Robert Flahive uses his years of experience to assist some of the world’s biggest clients with the nuts and bolts of navigating the city’s regulations and restrictions, from zoning to variances to special permits. Last year, he played a critical role in securing a 99-year lease for The Walt Disney Co. at 4 Hudson Square.
The former New York City councilwoman has continued to serve her community by joining the Manhattan borough president’s office as a trusted adviser to Gale Brewer. Rosie Mendez uses her experience to make sure the voices of the borough’s vulnerable residents are heard and their concerns are addressed. A former chairwoman of the City Council LGBT Caucus, she is currently part of a movement to recruit and support LGBTQ candidates for the 2021 City Council elections.
East Midtown is on the rise again following the New York City Council’s rezoning of the area, in which the aging neighborhood will receive some long-overdue upgrades. Rob Byrnes is working to modernize this international commercial center that is home to the United Nations and the Chrysler Building, pushing for subway improvements and community support to streamline development. Lately, he has been raising concerns about the proposed Small Business Jobs Survival Act.
Since leaving lobbying firm Capalino+Company in 2017, George Fontas’ own company has been thriving. Fontas, who got his start as a staffer to then-New York City Council Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin, has brought on an array of Manhattan-oriented clients, including real estate players like Silverstein Properties, tech companies like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft as well as major nonprofits and cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Opera and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
A spiritual leader recognized for his work throughout the world, Arthur Schneier has been fighting religious persecution and promoting religious freedom for more than five decades in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia and China. Since 1962, he has been the senior rabbi at the historic Park East Synagogue, where he has hosted many world leaders – including Pope Benedict XVI in the first papal visit to a U.S. synagogue.
This former Goldman Sachs executive has been an outspoken advocate for gay rights and has talked about how difficult it is to come out in the highly competitive world of finance. As board president of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, Johann Shudlick leads a one-of-a-kind nonprofit that empowers LGBT New Yorkers to lead healthy and successful lives, serving more than 6,000 visitors per week. Shudlick leads the organization along with Executive Director Glennda Testone.
Since being named editor-in-chief of the New York Amsterdam News in 1997, Elinor Tatum has ushered New York City’s oldest and largest black newspaper into the digital era. The publication covers the black community in Harlem and beyond, with an emphasis on local issues and political leaders in New York City and Albany. Tatum also talks about the issues of the day on radio and television, and sits on a number of nonprofit boards.
Recently appointed to a new role after nearly a decade with TD Bank, Ralph Bumbaca leads small business and commercial banking across New York City and oversees 17 bankers. Previously a regional vice president for the bank in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Bumbaca has spent 25 years in the finance industry. He serves on the boards of several nonprofits, including the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.
Chinatown was struggling in the aftermath of 9/11. An architect by training – he worked for I.M. Pei in the 1980s – Wellington Chen formed the Chinatown Partnership in 2006, bringing residents, community groups and business groups together to reinvigorate the neighborhood while maintaining its cultural identity. Thanks to the organization’s efforts, the area is now booming. He also sits on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The president’s eldest son has seen his public profile skyrocket since the 2016 election. Charged with running the family company along with his brother Eric, Donald Trump Jr. has been the face of the business in the borough and beyond. Rumors of a potential run for elected office (maybe even for New York City mayor) continue to follow Junior, who seems to have his father’s knack for using social media to promote his message.