The 2021 New York City Power 100

The political players who are saving their city.

The 2021 New York City power 100

The 2021 New York City power 100 Taiga/Shutterstock

New York City is beset by grave threats. Deaths from COVID-19 have been rising for weeks. The pandemic has hobbled the local economy. And following months of political turmoil, it’s unclear whether the federal government will do enough to help the city recover. Yet there are signs that the city will bounce back – as it always does. Vaccination efforts are slowly picking up the pace. Although much more remains to be done, public officials and nonprofit and private-sector leaders have taken concrete steps to confront systemic racism in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests. And voters will soon have a chance to elect a new mayor – as well as a new comptroller, several new borough presidents and dozens of new City Council members – and a robust debate is underway about who is best positioned to lead the city into 2022. Of course, no one person singlehandedly determines the city’s trajectory. The New York City Power 100 highlights many of the standout politicians and political players who are stepping up to save their city. 

1. Charles Schumer

U.S. Senate Majority Leader

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer suddenly has a lot on his plate this year after the Georgia runoffs flipped control of the Senate to Democrats. He already scored $54 billion for the state in December’s COVID-19 relief package, including $4 billion for the MTA and $15 billion for theaters and music venues. State and local aid could arrive even sooner, and Schumer is already reminding Biden of his commitment to the Gateway Program.

2. Andrew Cuomo

Governor

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo became a star thanks to his nationally televised coronavirus briefings. He took control of the state’s – and New York City’s – pandemic response, providing daily updates on positivity rates and hospital capacity that were hailed as a model for transparency. But while Cuomo received an Emmy and a book deal, his lack of transparency regarding nursing home deaths, and a growing number of state health officials heading for the exits, have undercut his reputation as an effective manager during the public health crisis.

3. Bill de Blasio

Mayor

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio has struggled through New York City’s most challenging year since 1975, when it staved off bankruptcy. He has been overshadowed by the governor during the coronavirus pandemic, lambasted for siding with police who assaulted protesters at George Floyd demonstrations, and assailed for closing schools before bars and restaurants. And yet while he’s arguably a lame duck, his actions impact millions of New Yorkers struggling through the worst public health crisis in generations.

4. Carl Heastie

Assembly Speaker

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
New York State Assembly

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie leads a downstate-dominated conference that has grown even more progressive after several longtime incumbents lost primaries to democratic socialists this summer. Now he appears to be listening to members who have been pushing for tax increases to close the state’s multibillion-dollar budget gap, calling for raising taxes on the wealthy, an eviction ban and financial relief for New Yorkers suffering through the coronavirus pandemic.

5. Andrea Stewart-Cousins

State Senate Majority Leader

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Republicans thought they’d have some success in legislative races in November, but by the time all the votes were counted, Andrea Stewart-Cousins seized a state Senate supermajority just two years after gaining control of the chamber. She has managed to keep the boisterous caucus in line and now has leverage to push for progressive measures, including a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, recreational marijuana legalization and tax increases on the wealthiest New Yorkers.

6. Letitia James

State Attorney General

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Some people are eager to forget about the Trump era, but Attorney General Letitia James is engrossed in the president’s affairs as well as those of his family members. New York’s state’s top law enforcement officer launched probes into whether the Trump Organization inflated assets to get loans and tax benefits, interviewed Eric Trump in October, and expanded that inquiry to include tax write-offs on consulting fees that Ivanka Trump received. James also lent support to help the Biden administration begin undoing several Trump initiatives.

7. Hakeem Jeffries

Chair, House Democratic Caucus 

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries may end up being the next House speaker, but after his Democratic caucus lost several seats, the Brooklyn Congress member is seeking to tamp down intraparty feuds while reining in pro-socialism rhetoric. He has also responded aggressively to COVID-19, which hammered his district, working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to expand testing and with then-Rep. Peter King, a Republican, to secure transit funding through the CARES Act. He’s already advising mayoral candidates and could play kingmaker in a chaotic primary.

8. Scott Stringer

New York City Comptroller

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
Office of the New York City Comptroller

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has seemingly been running for mayor since 2013, but he risks being overshadowed by new rivals seeking the progressive mantle. Yet Stringer can tout endorsements from a multiracial coalition of young elected officials, Upper West Side stalwarts, and influential unions including the CWA. He’s hired Micah Lasher to run his campaign and Jefrey Pollock to run his polling and won’t be shy about criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio.

9. Eric Adams

Brooklyn Borough President

Eric Adams
Sean Pressley

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams started running for mayor early, and it seems to have paid off. His campaign has more money than any other rival and an early poll shows him near the front of the pack, reflecting strong name recognition after many years in public office. A former police officer running to the right of term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio, he’s courting blue-collar voters – and will be formidable if he can keep the gaffes to a minimum.

10. Richard Carranza

New York City Schools Chancellor

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza at De Blasio's media availability on November 18th.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The second-hardest job in the city may well be schools chancellor. Richard Carranza had to make agonizing decisions on school closures and reopenings while implementing plans on the fly to teach students remotely. Principals and teachers revolted over slapdash school reopenings this fall, while parents assailed the abrupt closure of schools in November before the mayor eventually reopened elementary schools. Carranza is also in a contentious fight over the future of the city’s gifted and talented programs. 

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