The 2020 New York City Power 100: 51-100
The 2020 New York City Power 100: 51-100
51. Melinda Katz
Queens District Attorney
The former Queens borough president appeared to have lost the district attorney’s race to insurgent newcomer Tiffany Cabán by about 1,000 votes after the June 25 primary in last year’s most closely watched election. But a recount ultimately put Melinda Katz ahead by 60 votes. While she’s unlikely to take the office as far to the left as some would like, she’s pledged to implement a number of progressive reforms.
52. Gregory Meeks
Chairman, Queens Democratic Party
Following then-Rep. Joseph Crowley’s primary upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and eventual resignation as party boss, longtime Rep. Greg Meeks has stepped in to run the Queens Democratic machine. Melinda Katz’s narrow victory over Tiffany Cabán in the district attorney contest avoided another embarrassment, and now Meeks is hoping to propel New York City Councilman Donovan Richards to victory in the borough president race – and fend off a number of primary challenges later this year.
53. Kathryn Wylde
President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
Few civic leaders were more disappointed that Amazon spurned Queens last February than Kathryn Wylde. But the influential business association head continued pushing the agenda of New York City’s top employers by lobbying for congestion pricing while successfully opposing a pied-à-terre tax. She also supported ranked-choice voting and the mayor’s broadband master plan. Even Amazon realized it wasn’t too good for New York City, sulking to a West Side office, sans tax breaks.
54. Henry Garrido
Executive Director, District Council 37
The one election Henry Garrido isn’t worried about is his own. Garrido was reelected to another three-year term as executive director of New York City’s largest public employees union in January 2019. He has already begun weighing candidates in the plethora of primary elections, endorsing New York City Councilman Donovan Richards for Queens borough president in the March 24 special election. The union also brought District Council 1707 under its banner last year.
55. Gary LaBarbera
President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York
After several years of fiery demonstrations and escalating rhetoric, 2019 was the year that trade unions tried to get along with everyone. Gary LaBarbera reached an agreement in March to end its Hudson Yards protests against Related Companies. His alliances with new Democratic state lawmakers nearly got a prevailing wage expansion passed last year. And LaBarbera reached a deal with the Real Estate Board of New York in November to nudge developers toward hiring unionized labor.
56. Stuart Appelbaum
President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Stuart Appelbaum was one of the most outspoken foes of Amazon’s proposal to build one of its two HQ2 campuses in Long Island City, Queens, and one of the clear victors when protesters and politicians pressured the tech giant to drop its plan last year. One of New York City’s longest-serving labor leaders, Appelbaum has also helped Housing Works fight for their rights and pushed the New York City Council to ban cashless stores.
57. Kyle Bragg
President, 32BJ SEIU
The seismic loss of 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa last year reverberated beyond organized labor. But campaigns for better pay and working conditions must continue, and the union’s board quickly elevated Kyle Bragg to replace him. A 40-year veteran of the union, Bragg is seeking to grow membership beyond its 175,000 members with a focus on airport workers while leading the fight for its members to earn at least $15 an hour.
58. Richard Donoghue
U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York
Richard Donoghue earned the highest-profile conviction in the world last year when a jury found Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman guilty on all 10 counts related to drug trafficking and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. Donoghue has aggressively prosecuted hate crimes offenders, and his decision not to pursue charges against the police officer who killed Eric Garner and his criticism of the state’s bail reform law has roiled progressive activists.
59. Jon Del Giorno and Vincent Pitta
Founding Members, Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno
Jon Del Giorno and Vincent Pitta (along with their Albany partner, Robert Bishop) form a formidable team in New York lobbying. The firm has a Manhattan office and deep Staten Island roots. It has a long list of clients in organized labor, including unions for subway workers and bus drivers, electrical workers, operating engineers and sanitation workers. The firm also represents AECOM, which has been contracted to build four new city jails.
60. Jason Goldman
Chief of Staff, New York City Council
The former Kasirer vice president has done well for himself, whipping up votes for controversial proposals like borough-based jails and helping New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson rise from near obscurity to the top tier of mayoral candidates. Jason Goldman will contend with a tough budget negotiation this year, especially if the state dumps a massive Medicaid bill on the city, and he faces a unionization effort from council staffers.
61. Patrick Lynch
President, New York City Police Benevolent Association
If New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio fears anyone, it’s Patrick Lynch. The leader of the city’s largest police union has had de Blasio on the defensive since Lynch claimed the mayor had “blood on the hands” when two police officers were killed in 2014. More recently, Lynch criticized the firing of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner, and the new state bail law.
62. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez
Chancellor, City University of New York
When Félix V. Matos Rodríguez was appointed as CUNY’s eighth chancellor in May, he became the first Latino leader of the city’s vaunted higher education system. The former president of Hostos Community College and Queens College quickly had to navigate talks with professors and staff for a new contract, reaching an agreement last fall. Helping students graduate debt-free and finding students jobs are among Matos Rodríguez’s top goals.
63. Carlo Scissura
President and CEO, New York Building Congress
Carlo Scissura was as upset as anyone over Amazon’s decision to pull out of Queens but he says it’s time to move on. That has meant criticizing height limits on luxury towers, pushing for building operators to adopt drone technology and praising the governor’s $3 billion plan to revamp Penn Station. He also led a Brooklyn-Queens Expressway construction panel, calling for the reduction of two traffic lanes to ease congestion.
64. Harry Giannoulis
President, The Parkside Group
The prescient political consultant helped Democrats sweep into power in Albany in 2018 and basked in the progressive legislative victories that followed. Last year he provided insightful analysis about the success of DSA candidates in Brooklyn, and about the Queens district attorney and New York City public advocate races. You can bet he’s already gearing up to help a crowded slate of candidates itching to run this year and in 2021.
65. James Oddo
Staten Island Borough President
The mayor might be spurning the borough for Staten Island Chuck’s safety, but there’s plenty of other reasons to visit. Empire Outlets finally opened after seven years and a new ferry to Midtown is coming soon. James Oddo is pushing for free bus service in the borough and wants to develop a wind turbine facility. Now if only he could convince Mayor Bill de Blasio to allow archers to cull those pesky deer.
66. Steven Banks
Commissioner, New York City Department of Social Services
Steven Banks is tasked with implementing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s latest lofty plan aiming to end street homelessness in five years, while also overseeing the controversial placement of homeless shelters and continuing to connect millions of low-income New Yorkers to social services. Last year, the former legal advocate for homeless people defended the city when Newark, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit contesting New York City’s homelessness relocation program.
67. William Rudin
Co-chairman and CEO, Rudin Management Company
Like many real estate developers, William Rudin grew up in the business. And more than most, he has embraced the role of civic leader, serving on the Association for a Better New York board, and, since 2018, as Real Estate Board of New York chairman. Rudin took some hits last year – stronger rent regulations, a failed gamble on WeWork – but he retains an impressive office tower portfolio.
68. Rob Speyer
President and CEO, Tishman Speyer
Last year, the privately held real estate firm made some of the most prescient moves in its four-decade history. Rob Speyer lobbied for Amazon to come to Queens, but he shrugged off its reversal and filled the Long Island City, Queens, JACX tower with tenants anyway. He plans to redevelop the upper floors of the U.S. Postal Service’s Chelsea facility, and lured Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to its 1,005-foot office tower, The Spiral, on Manhattan’s Far West Side.
69. Joseph Strasburg
President, Rent Stabilization Association
It’s been a rough stretch for New York’s landlords, but the Rent Stabilization Association’s Joseph Strasburg isn’t giving up without a fight. Democratic victories in the 2018 elections wiped away the state Senate majority, and new progressive lawmakers took office just in time to strengthen New York’s rent laws to better protect tenants. Strasburg’s trade group has filed a legal challenge that argues that the legislation violates landlords’ rights.
70. Brian Lehrer
Host, “The Brian Lehrer Show," WNYC
The affable public radio host spent much of the past year first delving into the myriad of storylines involving Russian election interference and later the maddening intricacies of President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s Ukrainian foreign aid threats. And still Brian Lehrer managed to stay on top of New York City’s most pressing issues and question the mayor on his presidential run, housing policy, MTA policing and bike lanes in his enlightening weekly #AsktheMayor segment.
71. Dennis Trainor
Vice President, Communications Workers of America District 1
Unions have struggled nationally, but Communications Workers of America has been bucking the trend. Since CWA workers reached an agreement with Verizon in 2018, Dennis Trainor has lobbied to ensure workers receive unemployment benefits while on strike and to penalize companies that send call center jobs overseas. His union, which is looking at organizing game developers and tech workers, has begun making endorsements this year, including state Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres.
72. John Catsimatidis
Chairman and CEO, Red Apple Group
The grocery store magnate has muscled into a second career as a media macher, hosting Trump administration boosters and city power brokers in lively, newsmaking conversations on his radio show. Rudy Giuliani told him last month he would “love to be a witness” at Trump’s impeachment trial. John Catsimatidis is even weighing another go at the mayoral race, telling The Real Deal “a lot of people” are urging him to run again.
73. Rodneyse Bichotte
Chairwoman, Brooklyn Democratic Party
Rodneyse Bichotte made history last month when she became the first woman to lead the Brooklyn Democratic Party and the first black woman to run a county committee in New York City. The Flatbush assemblywoman was former Democratic boss Frank Seddio’s pick to succeed him and the transition went smoothly with a 39-0 vote. Boasting an MBA and a masters degree in electrical engineering, Bichotte has a knack for ensuring favored candidates like Farah Louis win.
74. Michael Woloz
President and CEO, CMW Strategies
Being the taxi industry’s top lobbyist is a challenging job, especially when Uber and Lyft have gobbled up much of the market share from yellow cabs and the price of a taxi medallion plummeted last year. But Michael Woloz has helped the industry fight back, with growing support for a bailout for drivers struggling to pay back their medallion loans. Woloz’s firm has also represented truckers, bankers, retailers, nonprofits and the heating oil industry.
75. Julie Menin
New York City Census Director and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Strategic Advocacy
The mayor’s top census official actually has two job responsibilities: ensuring every New York resident is counted so the city doesn’t lose a congressional seat or federal funds, and mounting legal challenges against the Trump administration whenever the president’s actions might violate the rights of New Yorkers. There’s speculation that Menin, who is also the city’s executive assistant corporation counsel for strategic advocacy, will run for Manhattan district attorney, though she could run for borough president instead.
76. Gregory Russ
Chairman and CEO, New York City Housing Authority
New York City’s housing authority was in such a dire condition by 2019 that a federal monitor was installed and the agency’s leadership had to be reorganized. Last summer, the city turned to Gregory Russ, a Minneapolis housing official who would be paid $402,000 a year, to turn the agency around. Since then, Russ has won over some critics while insisting NYCHA is “fixable” and stressing the need for privatization to cover $40 billion in repair costs.
77. Ritchie Torres
Chairman, New York City Council Committee on Oversight and Investigations
New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres spent months soliciting endorsements and outraising the field of politicos by hauling in $1 million to power his congressional campaign to succeed retiring Rep. José E. Serrano. It’s perhaps the hottest local race of 2020, but that hasn’t stopped the prolific Bronx lawmaker from passing bills to force city stores to accept cash, require delivery providers to reveal tipping practices, strengthen whistleblower protections, and help Puerto Ricans displaced by natural disasters.
78. Margaret Garnett
Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation
Margaret Garnett once said she’d “hang up” on the mayor if he asked her to stop a probe, although that doesn’t mean she won’t work with him. The city’s chief investigator is launching a database to track DOI recommendations for city agencies to root out abuse and recently urged the federal government to protect whistleblowers. This year, Garnett will have to sort out a background check backlog after a city official was arrested on sex crime charges.
79. Marisa Lago
Director, New York City Department of City Planning/Chairwoman, New York City Planning Commission
With anti-developer sentiment at a fever pitch after Amazon’s botched HQ2 decision, New York City’s planning director spent much of the year on the defensive, reminding New Yorkers of the need to build more housing and office space to grow sustainably. The city is still running into problems overhauling a special natural area district in Riverdale, outrage over vacant retail properties, and building affordable housing on underutilized land in SoHo and NoHo.
80. Laurie Cumbo
New York City Council Majority Leader
As the official No. 2 in the New York City Council, Laurie Cumbo has helped the 51-member body craft policy while the mayor’s power shrinks. The Brooklyn lawmaker has pushed for NYCHA to fix tenants’ heat and hot water, boosted funding for arts organizations in the city budget, and celebrated the groundbreaking for the Bedford Union Armory redevelopment. She also got a street named after the Notorious B.I.G.
81. Vincent Alvarez
President, New York City Central Labor Council
Vincent Alvarez believes that organized labor is rebounding, with a quarter of New York City’s workforce now in unions, and 3 out of 5 Americans saying they would join a union if they could. Alvarez, who was reelected for the second time last May to lead the Central Labor Council, has focused on supporting airline workers, janitors, transit workers, Charter/Spectrum staffers and City Council aides in their fight for better pay.
82. Jed Walentas
CEO, Two Trees Management
Brooklyn residents celebrated the opening of a new park in Williamsburg’s South Side in 2018 before Two Trees opened its much-lauded crown jewel last year – a 45-story tower with offices and rental apartments at the edge of the waterfront. But Jed Walentas may be in danger of overstepping in 2020: Residents lambasted his plan for a pair of 600-foot towers on River Street, while the mayor’s BQX streetcar proposal that he strongly supports remains controversial.
83. Edward Wallace
Co-chairman, New York City Office, Greenberg Traurig
Edward Wallace has been a fixture in New York politics for so long that he remembers when the New York City Council had at-large members – in fact, he was one himself, before serving as chief of staff to the council president. Now he has made a name for himself as a top land use expert, advising real estate companies and large educational institutions, while building up Greenberg Traurig’s reputation as an influential player in lobbying.
84. James Patchett
President and CEO, New York City Economic Development Corp.
New York City’s economic development boss started 2019 defending tax subsidies to lure Amazon to Queens. But when the company split town, Patchett blamed elected officials for losing the PR game and Amazon for not reaching out to New Yorkers. He has sought to repair the EDC’s reputation – and win local development battles – by hiring Edelman to polish the city’s pro-tech message. His next challenge may be an air rights transfer at South Street Seaport.
85. Tony Utano
President, Transport Workers Union Local 100
Tony Utano reached a tentative agreement in December with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on a new labor contract with pay hikes, easing tensions between the influential union and the transit system. Utano had sought to improve ties with the Cuomo administration, backing the governor and his favored candidate for state attorney general, Letitia James, in 2018. And with congestion pricing on the way, there’s more funding for Utano’s workforce.
86. Jon Silvan
Founding Partner and CEO, Global Strategy Group
Since Jon Silvan co-founded Global Strategy Group a quarter century ago, the boutique polling firm has become a consulting powerhouse in New York’s Democratic political establishment. Silvan’s team has advised many of the state’s leading Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, House members, unions – and, most recently, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential bid.
87. Anthony Constantinople & Perry Vallone
Partners, Constantinople & Vallone Consulting
Vallone is a venerable family name in New York City politics: Charles Vallone was a respected judge, son Peter Vallone Sr. was City Council speaker, and grandsons Peter Jr. and Paul have served in the City Council while Perry helps run the family’s thriving consulting business. Along with Anthony Constantinople – son of co-founder Tony Constaninople – the firm represents clients in education, real estate, retail and more.
88. James Merriman
CEO, New York City Charter School Center
Now that Republicans are out of power in the state Senate, charter advocates are leaning on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who included in his latest budget a proposal to redistribute charter school slots for shuttered schools in New York City. Merriman, an outspoken charter school champion, called the move a “modest temporary fix” – while continuing to push to end the city’s charter school cap altogether.
89. Mara Gay
Editorial Writer, The New York Times
The former Wall Street Journal reporter has raised her profile since joining The New York Times in 2018, playing a role in the venerable newspaper’s endorsements of left-leaning candidates – like Elizabeth Warren, Tiffany Cabán and Zephyr Teachout – and penning opinion pieces under her own byline. In recent months, she has praised the planned closure of Rikers Island, defended the state’s new bail law and touted the benefits of strengthened rent regulations.
90. Steven Rubenstein
Top publicity firm Rubenstein has thrived with Steven Rubenstein at the helm. Among its 400 clients are well-known New York City institutions, including the New York Yankees, the Museum of Modern Art and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, along with a number of real estate firms and tech players like Uber. Steven Rubenstein also chairs the Association for a Better New York, giving a platform to high-profile leaders like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
91. Steven Choi
Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition
Steven Choi’s New York Immigration Coalition was among the winners of Albany’s Democratic takeover in 2019, successfully lobbying state lawmakers to pass the so-called Green Light Bill, which allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, and the DREAM Act, which extends state financial aid to undocumented students. Choi, who came on in 2013, coordinates more than 200 member organizations on many fronts, including pushing back against policies of the Trump administration.
92. Camille Joseph
Regional Vice President for Government Affairs, Charter Communications
Camille Joseph notched a victory recently when the state Public Service Commission, which had tried to boot Charter Communications out of the state, approved an agreement allowing the cable company to continue its expansion, including providing broadband in underserved areas. Joseph, who has worked for current and former New York elected officials like Kirsten Gillibrand, Anthony Weiner and Scott Stringer, has been working with Charter’s Spectrum brand in New York since 2016.
93. Cyrus Vance Jr.
Manhattan District Attorney
One of the city’s most scrutinized public officials is handling the most closely watched #MeToo trial in our time. But securing an elusive guilty verdict in the Harvey Weinstein rape case may not satisfy a growing segment of voters who don’t want Cyrus Vance Jr. running the district attorney’s office. Sexual assault survivors called on him to resign, claiming he has let perpetrators off the hook, while Democrats are lining up to run against him next year.
94. Keith Wright
Chairman, Manhattan Democratic Party
It has been decades since Manhattan Democrats were ruled by a strong party boss, but Keith Wright still has some influence when it comes to picking judges and filling the occasional legislative vacancy. Wright, who has led the borough’s county committee since 2009, also has a prominent post at the top lobbying firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. A member of a prominent political family, he previously spent 24 years in the Assembly.
95. David Greenfield
Executive Director and CEO, The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty
David Greenfield has expanded the reach of New York’s largest Jewish charity serving the poor. The nonprofit has seen a 55% increase in fundraising, opened its 40th food pantry, and is adding affordable housing across the city. The former New York City councilman has capitalized on his political connections, drawing many public officials to an annual legislative breakfast and its first-ever Shabbat reception at the Somos El Futuro conference in Puerto Rico.
96. Louis J. Coletti
President and CEO, Building Trades Employers’ Association
Louis J. Coletti is a longtime leader in New York City’s construction industry, representing 27 contractor associations and 1,500 construction managers, general contractors and subcontractors. The outspoken industry official has led the Building Trades Employers’ Association since 1997. In recent months he has weighed in on the design of new jails to replace Rikers Island, the safety benefits of using unionized construction workers and relations between developers and workers.
97. Sid Davidoff
Senior Partner, Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron
Sid Davidoff made a name for himself as an aide to former New York City Mayor John Lindsay. He continues to be a political player, serving as an ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio while also chairing the administrative law and government relations groups at Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron, one of the top lobbying firms in the city. And it doesn’t hurt to have Manhattan Democratic Party boss Keith Wright on his team, too.
98. Chris Coffey
Head of New York Practice, Tusk Strategies
As the firm of former Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk has expanded, Chris Coffey has taken the reins of the New York operation. Along with veteran communications pro Eric Soufer, who came on over a year ago, Coffey runs an eight-member team that has delivered for clients like an animal rights group that recently celebrated a new city law limiting the use of horse carriages on hot summer days.
99. Sochie Nnaemeka
State Director, New York Working Families Party
The Working Families Party achieved many goals it set for itself years ago, and now is at a turning point in New York, with third parties facing a higher bar to maintain ballot status. With longtime party official Bill Lipton stepping aside, activist and community organizer Sochie Nnaemeka will guide the state WFP through its next stage, while seeking to keep the momentum behind a progressive surge that is reshaping city and state politics.
100. Adrienne Adams, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Justin Brannan, Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera, Rafael Salamanca Jr.
Potential New York City Council speaker candidates
See profile on the potential speaker candidates here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had incorrect photos of Anthony Constantinople and Perry Vallone.