The 2021 Brooklyn Power 100
The biggest political players in borough brimming with political power.
Brooklyn is bursting at the seams with political power. The current mayor – and all but certainly the next mayor – hail from the borough. So too does the majority leader of the U.S. Senate and, perhaps, the next speaker of the House of Representatives. Brooklyn is also home to the state attorney general, a couple more influential members of Congress, the city’s public advocate, its next comptroller and several significant City Council members. Add it all up, and the borough has a strong claim as the political epicenter of New York, if not nationally.
Of course, these elected officials aren’t the only individuals in the borough who are shaping New York politics and policy. City & State’s latest Brooklyn Power 100 list recognizes not only the borough’s leading politicians, but also the business and nonprofit executives, real estate developers, labor leaders, advocates, activists, academics and others who live and work in Brooklyn.
1. Bill de Blasio
With only six months left before leaving Gracie Mansion, Mayor Bill de Blasio is living his best life. He devoured a Shake Shack burger and fries to encourage unvaccinated New Yorkers to get their doses, wore a Brooklyn Nets jersey to promote the Barclays Center pop-up vaccination site and donned a pink Hawaiian shirt to celebrate the opening of city pools. His lighthearted demeanor steering the city’s reopening had some advocates pining for a third term, although it was the backlash to his policies that helped Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ candidacy in the Democratic mayoral primary race.
2. Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams waited nearly 30 years to become mayor, so he didn’t sweat another two weeks after the primary for the Board of Elections to tabulate ballots through its ranked-choice system (after an initial error). He eked out a 50.5% to 49.5% victory over mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia, setting up a showdown with Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa. Adams has already met with President Joe Biden on combating gun violence and is all but guaranteed to eventually leave his Borough Hall home office.
3. Chuck Schumer
After passing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill with $15 billion for New York’s venues and restarting the $11 billion Gateway Tunnel project, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer took a day to unwind. On Memorial Day, he was found crashing a Brooklyn barbecue on his signature Bianchi bike. It was a short-lived reprieve. Schumer told lawmakers that they would work through August to pass a major infrastructure bill followed by a multitrillion-dollar spending bill. He’s also still pushing President Joe Biden to cancel $50,000 per borrower in student loan debt.
4. Letitia James
The most anticipated read of the summer was state Attorney General Letitia James’ independent report on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s workplace sexual harassment. The report corroborated allegations from 11 women using thousands of pieces of evidence. James had already bruised Cuomo’s COVID-19 management legacy with her nursing home review that found that his administration undercounted virus deaths. She didn’t hold back this time when she struck again with a groundbreaking sexual harassment report that could result in Cuomo’s impeachment.
5. Hakeem Jeffries
A little while back, there was talk in Brooklyn’s clubhouse catering halls that Rep. Hakeem Jeffries could be New York City’s next mayor. His ascension into the House leadership made him a national figure, mostly leaving political machinations in his home borough to others. Jeffries helped to craft Congress’ $1.9 trillion stimulus package benefitting Brooklyn businesses, but his endorsement of mayoral candidate Maya Wiley could open a rift with his alleged rival, Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams.
6. Eric Gonzalez
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s former general counsel, Tali Weinstein, came up short in her bid for Manhattan DA, but Alvin Bragg’s primary win bolsters the ranks of progressive prosecutors seeking to rectify decades of systemic racism. Gonzalez backed discovery reform and ceased trying low-level pot offenses in 2019. He also dismissed 90 drug convictions tainted by a police detective. In addition, he demanded changes to state bail reform laws, and a rise in crime amid calls to “defund the police” has been tricky to navigate.
7. Jumaane Williams
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams didn’t have to contend with 16 opponents this time around, easily dispatching his primary rivals in June. He’ll likely provide a check on Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams’ centrist agenda if he sticks around. Williams could be eyeing another statewide run after visiting Syracuse to talk about gun violence and inviting many of the political establishment to his July 15 wedding. He’ll be the center of attention this fall when he appears in all three plays of Sophocles’ Oedipus Trilogy which will be produced by Theater of War Productions.
8. Nydia Velázquez
Being in the majority has been good for Rep. Nydia Velázquez, who steered $28.6 billion in grants to restaurants struggling through the pandemic and helped pass the $300-per-month child tax credit. She has also been an elder statesperson for outer-borough progressives as mayoral candidates Maya Wiley and Antonio Reynoso sought her endorsement. Velázquez has also led efforts in Congress to allow Puerto Rico to determine its future territorial standing, which could eventually lead to a statehood vote.
9. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn
Reports of the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s demise were greatly exaggerated, as a machine favorite has won the mayoral primary. Party boss Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn will face significant headwinds after progressives claimed dozens of New York City Council seats. She couldn’t get Council Member Robert Cornegy into Borough Hall or Civil Court Judge Dweynie Paul into Surrogate Court. In addition, an ugly tiff with the Brooklyn Young Democrats spilled into the public in March. Bichotte Hermelyn is currently helping to smooth ties with Haiti after the assassination of the island nation’s president.
10. Yvette Clarke
Rep. Yvette Clarke has become an expert in the darkest corners of the internet, having helmed a congressional subcommittee on cybersecurity. She recently reintroduced legislation to ban facial recognition technology in federally funded public housing buildings. In addition, she pushed for more funding to build resilience into the software supply chain and urged the Federal Communications Commission to audit media companies over diversity. Clarke also demanded the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburse city hospitals $864 million in emergency spending during the coronavirus pandemic after more than a year of delays.
11. Brad Lander
Progressives tallied their biggest victory of the night when New York City Council Member Brad Lander edged out several veteran Democratic lawmakers including Council Speaker Corey Johnson in the primary for city comptroller. Lander lacked support from major labor unions that chose Johnson, but got a boost with endorsements from U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He’s already backing Scott Stringer’s lawsuit to restore contract oversight on city spending.
12. Frank Carone
Frank Carone is a trusted adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – and his clout at City Hall won’t be curtailed by term limits, as another ally Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is set to be the next mayor. The Brooklyn Democratic Party’s counsel, who often represents incumbents challenging rivals’ petitions in court, served as Adams’ lawyer. He reportedly bundled $28,930 to Adams’ campaign and set up several virtual events to support the effort from his law office. Carone will likely have a key role setting up the next mayoral administration in the coming months.
13. Randy Peers
Surveys conducted by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce crystallized the pandemic’s crippling effect on the borough’s small businesses: According to chamber head Randy Peers, half of them reported revenue losses of 50% last summer; by November, half couldn’t pay their rent in full; and 64% of them had trouble hiring workers this past spring. Peers, who has no shortage of advice for city policymakers on how to rebuild the local economy, moved the chamber’s offices from Downtown Brooklyn to Industry City in July.
14. David Greenfield
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, David Greenfield never closed the doors of the Met Council and led a $100 million campaign providing emergency funding for New York’s food pantries. Since then, the Met Council has aided hundreds of food pantries and has also given out more than 19 million pounds of food to 305,000 New Yorkers. The nonprofit has teamed with other organizations to combat hunger and hate and created a hotline for those who lost work due to COVID-19, reaching over 18,000 people.
15. Jed Walentas
The Walentas family’s yearslong support of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams could soon pay off. Jed Walentas counted on the borough president to back his expansive plans to rezone the former Domino Sugar Refinery and build an adjacent park with astroturf. Two Trees currently aims to erect two residential high rises with 1,250 apartments, a YMCA, offices and stores in Williamsburg called River Ring. The real estate company, led by Jed Walentas, opened a climate change-themed mini-golf course on the site in July.
16. Antonio Reynoso
New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso won the Democratic primary in one of Brooklyn’s most competitive races. He took a lead over Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon and Council Member Robert Cornegy in the borough president’s race and kept it once ballots were tallied. Now the 38-year-old lawmaker will look to carry out ambitious plans to reform the land use review and community board appointment process while also tackling police reform. He also aims to make Atlantic Avenue safer for pedestrians and cyclists and expand bus service across the borough.
17. A. R. Bernard
While megachurches may be more common in the South and West than in New York City, politicos overlook the Rev. A. R. Bernard at their own peril. Bernard, the senior pastor at Christian Cultural Center megachurch, has backed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ call to allow guns in houses of worship (carried by cops of course). He also led the late rapper DMX’s funeral and nearly got then-President Bill Clinton to apologize for slavery. In addition to wielding his political clout, he has sought to help men reconnect with their faith and argued for preserving the role of Black fellowship in the evangelical tradition.
18. Regina Myer
Brooklyn’s businesses were devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with 80% reporting revenue loss and 85% forced to lay off workers. That pain was especially strong in Downtown Brooklyn, where courts and offices closed for months. Now, Regina Myer is cheering Brooklyn’s “turbo-recovery mode,” exemplified by the opening of the borough’s tallest office tower and the extension of outdoor dining for another year. Myer also played a role in supporting Fulton Street’s newest crown jewel, the Gage & Tollner restaurant which reopened in April.
19. Simcha Felder, Andrew Gounardes, Brian Kavanagh, Zellnor Myrie, Kevin Parker & Roxanne Persaud
A younger generation of state senators is ascending in Brooklyn, but the borough has a few savvy veterans in the state Legislature who still retain plenty of power.
Among the most proactive and high-profile members in the younger crowd is state Sen. Zellnor Myrie. He was one of a number of 2018 challengers to knock out former members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that had disbanded after coming under attack for partnering with and propping up Republicans in the state Senate. Myrie, who represents parts of Brownsville and Crown Heights, also came into office as part of the class of lawmakers who secured a long-sought Democratic majority in the state Senate. Now, as chair of the Elections Committee, he has pushed for voting reforms and has scrutinized the New York City Board of Elections, including its egregious error of initially miscalculating ranked-choice voting results in New York City this year. He also played an important role in the passage of new tenant protections and criminal justice reforms since taking office in 2019.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes was first elected in 2018 as well, defeating Marty Golden, then the borough’s last remaining Republican in the legislative body. Gounardes went on to replace Golden as chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Pensions, offering a chance to cultivate ties with influential public sector unions. He has recently taken up the fight against Big Tech, teaming up with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to draft legislation on protecting user data.
Among the longer-serving state senators, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh stands out as one of a growing number of progressives in Albany. Kavanagh was hand-picked by the party machine to replace Daniel Squadron in 2017 after serving in the Assembly since his first election in 2006. He now chairs the state Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development, a post in which he helped pass the 2019 legislation strengthening tenant protections.
State Sen. Roxanne Persaud won her Southeast Brooklyn seat with the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party as well, moving up from the Assembly to the state Senate in 2015. As chair of the Committee on Social Services, Persaud oversees legislation dealing with nonprofit organizations.
State Sen. Kevin Parker, who has been representing his Brooklyn constituents for nearly two decades, was initially considered to be among the front-runners in this year’s Democratic primary for New York City comptroller, but ended up finishing fourth. Parker has chaired the Energy and Telecommunications Committee since Democrats took control of the state Senate in 2019 and has pushed for protections for utility customers and investment in solar power.
A few years ago, state Sen. Simcha Felder was a pivotal player, wooed by both Republicans and Democrats when the chamber was narrowly divided. When Democrats seized a majority, he was initially sidelined – but he has since made headlines for tackling other issues, such as bike and scooter safety and coronavirus restrictions in the Orthodox Jewish communities he represents.
20. Ingrid Lewis-Martin
Ingrid Lewis-Martin is poised to possibly become the most influential political adviser in City Hall next year. The longtime aide to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has known him for decades. Her husband served as Adams’ partner in the New York City Police Department, and she has served as his chief of staff since Adams’ days in the state Senate. Lewis-Martin refers to herself as his “sister ordained by God,” so it’s no surprise that she accompanied Adams in his recent White House visit to meet President Joe Biden.
21. Laurie Cumbo
New York City Council Member Laurie Cumbo backed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams well before he officially launched his mayoral campaign. During his campaign, she was deployed as a surrogate criticizing mayoral candidates Maya Wiley’s and Andrew Yang’s credentials. Now the term-limited Fort Greene lawmaker is likely to be rewarded with a City Hall job. In the meantime, she helped steer grants to BRIC Arts Media, the Campaign Against Hunger and City Harvest. Cumbo also backed Community Board 8’s opposition to an 18-story tower on the site of an Atlantic Avenue McDonald’s.
22. Justin Brannan
New York City Council Member Justin Brannan had no primary challenger and faces only token opposition in November despite representing a swing district. The race Brannan is really gearing up for is council speaker. The Bay Ridge Democrat is one of few prospective candidates, and he’ll need the backing of 26 of his colleagues. Brannan endorsed 20 winners and six losers in the primary, and now that the City Council is meeting in person again, he’ll have an opportunity to reconnect with members on the fence.
23. Carlo Scissura
Considering his deep ties to Borough Hall and the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Carlo Scissura no doubt celebrated Eric Adams’ Democratic mayoral primary victory. Yet, with months to go before Adams likely becomes mayor, Scissura is warily eyeing the continued slow growth of construction jobs, which could hamper the city’s recovery. He lobbied the feds and Amtrak for the Gateway Tunnel project’s restart and, as head of a Brooklyn-Queens Expressway panel, recommended several changes for the interstate highway whose triple cantilever is continuing to rapidly deteriorate.
24. David Ehrenberg
The COVID-19 pandemic battered many commercial districts, but the Brooklyn Navy Yard withstood the assault by retaining most of its tenants and even adding new ones. That’s because of David Ehrenberg’s initiatives which include offering tenants job training in computerized manufacturing and holding a virtual holiday market. Ehrenberg hasn’t delayed the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s expansion plans either, which could add 10,000 jobs. The latest project was the June opening of Building 303, which offers nine floors of parking as well as spaces for manufacturing and events.
25. Linda Johnson
The temporary closure of the Brooklyn Public Library due to COVID-19 was wrenching for the borough, but Linda Johnson began reimagining how the system could serve its community with grab-and-go service last summer. So it was with much fanfare that the institution reopened its Central Library in May, featuring a new business center and welcome center honoring former librarian Rep. Major Owens who passed away in 2013. The last crop of branches welcomed back the public by early July, including East Flatbush’s Rugby branch which had been closed for four years.
26. Doug Steiner
New Yorkers may be watching more movies from home, but you can’t shoot “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in your apartment. That’s why Doug Steiner’s eponymous company is building a 500,000-square-foot film production hub with eight soundstages in Sunset Park by 2024 and is expanding his 30-stage footprint in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Producers on Steiner’s lot adopted rigorous COVID-19 testing before it became de rigueur, helping the private sector rapidly test its workers. Steiner has also been marketing 80,000 square feet of commercial space around Wegmans supermarket in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
27. Jabari Brisport, Julia Salazar, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Emily Gallagher & Marcela Mitaynes
In 2018, the Democratic Socialists of America-backed Julia Salazar came out of nowhere to oust the machine-backed Martin Dilan and take his seat in the state Senate. Last year, another crop of DSA-backed candidates won, with Jabari Brisport winning another state Senate seat and fellow Brooklynites Phara Souffrant Forrest and Marcela Mitaynes knocking out incumbents in the Assembly. Along with first-term Assembly Members Emily Gallagher, who joined the Socialists in Office caucus in January, and Zohran Mamdani of Queens, the contingent has helped pull Democratic lawmakers to the left on issues such as housing and taxes on the wealthy.
28. Peter Abbate Jr., Robert Carroll, William Colton, Maritza Davila, Simcha Eichenstein, Diana Richardson, Jo Anne Simon, Latrice Walker & Helene Weinstein
Assembly Member Helene Weinstein chairs the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, which plays a key role in the state budget process, holding hearings each year on the major spending areas. Weinstein has been in office since 1980, making her the longest-serving woman ever in the Assembly. She also used to chair the Judiciary Committee, giving her deep insights into the committee that’s handling the looming impeachment proceedings against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Assembly Member Diana Richardson, who has been in office since 2015, has become a force in Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens and beyond. In a lawsuit against the NYPD, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Richardson alleged they were beaten and pepper-sprayed during a Black Lives Matter protest last summer.
She also met recently with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams – likely the city’s next mayor – about efforts to curtail gun violence.
Assembly Member Latrice Walker won her seat in 2014, capitalizing on her experience as an aide to Rep. Yvette Clarke and connections to then-Public Advocate Letitia James to take the seat of the disgraced lawmaker William Boyland Jr. The Brownsville politician chairs the Committee on Election Law, recently passing legislation requiring special elections for open legislative seats within 40 to 50 days of a vacancy.
Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein, who first took office in 2019, joined other lawmakers in pushing backing against the state’s COVID-19 shutdowns in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community last year.
Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon was one of several state lawmakers who campaigned for another office in New York City. Yet while she finished a strong second in her bid to be the next Brooklyn borough president, the Boerum Hill lawmaker ultimately fell short. Simon, who succeeded Joan Millman in the 2014 elections, chairs the Assembly Committee on Ethics and Guidance.
Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr. is among the lawmakers in Albany with decades of experience, having taken office in 1987. The Bensonhurst politician chairs the Assembly Committee on Governmental Employees, which handles legislation dealing with public sector employees.
Assembly Member Maritza Davila, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, chairs the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. Davila, who took office after winning a 2013 special election, also organizes Somos and its popular gatherings in Puerto Rico and Albany.
Assembly Member Robert Carroll of Windsor Terrace and Kensington, who has been in office since 2017, has pushed for screening all New York City public school students for dyslexia. He has also weighed in on the city’s plans for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the New York City Board of Elections’ poor track record and subway accessibility.
Assembly Member William Colton, who was first elected in 1996, represents parts of Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Gravesend. He has been an outspoken critic of the city Department of Education’s policies under the de Blasio administration.
29. Charles & Inez Barron
Every so often, thanks to New York City election laws regarding term limits, Charles and Inez Barron swap jobs. Charles became a New York City Council member in 2001, then Inez ran and won his seat in 2013 while Charles headed to the Assembly. Now it’s Charles’ turn in the City Council again after he defeated primary rival Nikki Lucas. He’ll find an emboldened City Council that’s nearly as leftist as he is which is already alarming the city’s tabloids. Charles, whose reparations bill passed the Assembly last month, should fit in fine.
30. Farah Louis
New York City Council Member Farah Louis coasted to victory in her primary against a U.S. Marine Corps veteran after winning a special election for her seat two years ago. Just days before Louis’ victory was certified, a motorcyclist collided with her vehicle while she was driving on Kings Highway and Avenue J, sending her to the hospital. Louis has been recovering slowly but was well enough to speak out about the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and celebrate the opening of East Flatbush’s Rugby Library.
31. Kalman Yeger
New York City Council Member Kalman Yeger ran unopposed in the primary and will appear on all three party lines in November, but that hasn’t stopped him from hauling in $195,035 from 378 contributors. The Borough Park politician is less popular inside the Council, where his remarks that “Palestine does not exist” cost him his seat on the immigration committee. Perhaps that will change with a new mayor who understands Yeger’s Orthodox Jewish constituency and a new speaker who could use his support in January.
32. Alexa Avilés, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Shahana Hanif, Crystal Hudson, Rita Joseph, Ari Kagan, Darlene Mealy, Mercedes Narcisse, Sandy Nurse, Chi Ossé, Lincoln Restler & Steven Saperstein
New York City candidates and former elected officials made a major push to elect more women to the City Council this cycle. And that effort saw great success in Brooklyn. Here is the diverse group of the Democratic nominees for the City Council who are largely expected to take office for the first time next year.
Alexa Avilés was one of two candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America to emerge victorious in the Democratic primaries. The community organizer is set to represent the neighborhoods of Red Hook, Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights.
After serving as City Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s chief of staff, Jennifer Gutiérrez is ready to take over his seat. Backed by several unions such as the United Federation of Teachers and several local AFL-CIO and SEIU chapters, the candidate touted her governmental experience on the campaign trail.
And she’s not the only City Council staffer taking over their boss’s seat. Shahana Hanif is expected to replace City Council Member Brad Lander, who won the Democratic primary for city comptroller. She will likely be the first Muslim woman elected to the City Council and is one of several Democratic candidates expanding South Asian representation in the body.
Crystal Hudson will likely also make history as the first openly LGBTQ Black woman entering the CIty Council, along with candidate Kristin Richardson Jordan. Having worked for the incumbent she’s replacing, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, she emphasized the importance of affordable housing, education and criminal justice reform in her campaign.
Another history-making candidate, Mercedes Narcisse, will be the first person of color to represent District 46, covering southeastern Brooklyn neighborhoods. And at 23 years old, activist Chi Ossé is the youngest person to ever have run in Council District 36 and will likely be the youngest person in the next council next year.
A public school teacher from Flatbush, Rita Joseph defeated 10 other candidates vying to represent District 40 encompassing much of Central Brooklyn. The Haitian American candidate has contrasted herself with term-limited Council Member Mathieu Eugene, and has pledged to provide better constituent services and more progressive priorities.
After two previous unsuccessful campaigns, Ari Kagan finally emerged victorious in this year’s Democratic primary for District 47, which includes Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend and Sea Gate. The aide to City Council Member Mark Treyger now faces a Republican opponent who has espoused QAnon conspiracy theories.
Darlene Mealy represented the Council District 41 between 2006 and 2017 – and is now returning to her old seat. She won a surprising upset over City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel, despite Mealy’s reputation as an absent and ineffective lawmaker when she was in office and Ampry-Samuel’s reelection support from powerful elected officials.
Carpenter and organizer Sandy Nurse managed to defeat recently elected City Council Member Darma Diaz, running to her left with support from Rep. Nydia Velazquez, state Sen. Julia Salazar, the state Working Families Party and other notable progressive groups and legislators.
A former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Lincoln Restler won his primary election with support ranging from the Working Families Party to Orthodox Jewish leaders in the district. He’s taking over Council Member Stephen Levin’s seat, which is in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn and other neighborhoods.
Steven Saperstein isn’t fond of labels, but has lately settled on “conservative Democrat.” The special education teacher, who has previously run as a Republican candidate, ran in and won the Democratic primary to replace Chaim Deutsch, who was expelled from the council in April following a guilty plea for tax fraud.
33. Evan Thies
Political operative Evan Thies, who founded Pythia Public Affairs with Alexis Grenell five years ago, has become an indispensable part of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ team after handling press duties for his mayoral campaign. Thies patiently explained to reporters Adams’ living situation in a Bed-Stuy brownstone that the borough president owns (but may not actually reside in), among his many other duties. Now, Thies will steer Adams through a less turbulent general election and stay on to assemble the next administration.
34. Tiffany Raspberry
The perspicacious political consultant and Parkside alumnus became a key member of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ inner circle long before advising his successful mayoral campaign. Tiffany Raspberry has been a family friend of the borough president’s for more than 25 years and lobbied his office on behalf of shelter providers and other clients. She has also cultivated her own network of women of color in politics, hosting influential strategists at her home and supporting their professional pursuits.
35. Mike Keogh & Juanita Scarlett
Juanita Scarlett has provided behind-the-scenes advice for candidates of color for years, so it’s no surprise that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams relied on her expertise to help him capture the Democratic primary. Scarlett assisted with Adams’ “100+ Steps Forward” plan and has commended his openness to consult with a broad array of city stakeholders. Her colleague Mike Keogh, a former finance director for the New York City Council, remains an invaluable resource for clients looking to make sense of the city’s opaque budgeting and spending processes. This will be invaluable as the legislative body welcomes an influx of new members next year.
Editor’s note: Juanita Scarlett is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
36. Jacquelyn Kasulis
The Eastern District of New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, has cycled through three U.S. attorneys in the last six months, so there’s hope that Jacquelyn Kasulis sticks around for a while. She joined the federal prosecutor’s office in 2008 and has served as chief of the criminal division since 2019. Kasulis, who was sworn in on June 21, is best known for prosecuting “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli.
37. Joseph Tsai & Clara Wu Tsai
The Barclays Center was rocking this spring when Joseph Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai’s Brooklyn Nets were favored to win the team’s first NBA title since moving from the other side of the Hudson River. Unfortunately, the basketball gods smote the franchise with badly timed injuries during the playoffs. The power couple has focused on the big picture, investing $220 million in healing and athletic training innovation. They also decry anti-Asian hate crimes and support Black Brooklyn leaders through the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation’s social justice fund.
38. Nicholas DiMarzio
Taking communion and confession over Zoom doesn’t pack the same punch as doing them in person, so Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio fought Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans to limit church capacity last fall. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Cuomo from restricting attendance, allowing more parishioners to attend Christmas Mass. The bishop has since participated in a whirlwind of rituals, including a ceremony for Carlo Acutis who is nicknamed the “Patron Saint of the Internet,” the dedication of a new church in Williamsburg and the neighborhood’s Giglio feast.
39. Errol Louis
Indefatigable cable news anchor Errol Louis kept New Yorkers informed about the mayor’s race and its aftermath during one of the most wide-open election cycles in city history. His Chelsea television studio remains a must-stop destination for candidates, media figures, advocates and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has kept up his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” segment. Louis has also kept publishing insightful Daily News columns about the inner workings of power in New York, including an analysis of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ recent rise.
40. Kenneth Gibbs
Southern Brooklynites worried about their medical facilities have no doubt been breathing easier since Maimonides Medical Center broke ground on a new emergency department at the former Victory Memorial Hospital site in Bay Ridge. Additionally, Maimonides President and CEO Kenneth Gibbs made several personnel changes to improve the quality of health care in the borough. He added Dr. Scott Chudnoff to its famed obstetrics and gynecology department and Dr. Anthony Kalloo to lead its department of medicine. Gibbs also secured naming rights for the Brooklyn Cyclones’ ballpark to boost Maimonides’ reputation.
41. LaRay Brown
LaRay Brown is used to making tough decisions. As the head of three hospitals and 12 ambulatory care centers in Central Brooklyn, she is responsible for integrating disparate health systems and managing a $664 million capital program. That includes the elimination of 200 beds at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. Activists have demonstrated against the partial closure of the East Flatbush hospital, but Brown has countered that much of that care is delivered on an outpatient basis these days.
42. Gregory Calliste, Svetlana Lipyanskaya & Sheldon McLeod
Brooklyn’s public hospitals have been the lifeline for thousands of the borough’s most vulnerable residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Its leaders – Gregory Calliste at the 320-bed NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, Sheldon McLeod at the 627-bed NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County and Svetlana Lipyanskaya, the first female CEO, at the 371-bed NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island – played essential roles in helping to keep their ICUs and outpatient centers up and running during the worst public health crisis in generations. Now they want their money back: NYC Health + Hospitals submitted an $864 million reimbursement request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency last fall to cover COVID-19 costs.
43. Scott Lorin
Mount Sinai Brooklyn became an epicenter of the pandemic after a fifth of the hospital’s staff, including President Dr. Scott Lorin, contracted coronavirus last year. Once the crisis stabilized, Lorin helped Mount Sinai add a prenatal clinic to its Brooklyn Heights location in March and a new cardiology center on Flatbush Avenue a month later. Meanwhile, Mount Sinai continues to treat COVID-19 long-haulers at its well-regarded Center for Post-COVID Care.
44. Robert Guimento
It’s hard to believe the borough hadn’t had a major new outpatient center in 40 years when NewYork-Presbyterian opened Brooklyn’s largest new ambulatory care facility in March. For the past three years, Robert Guimento has shepherded the 400,000-square-foot facility – which includes 12 operating rooms and six procedure rooms – toward the finish line despite community opposition to the expansion. Guimento also added key personnel, welcoming Dr. Manish Parikh as its cardiology chief and Dr. Rohan Ramakrishna as chief of neurological surgery.
45. Gary Terrinoni
Brooklyn Hospital Center was 90% full with COVID-19 patients at one point last year – and lost money on most of them. President and CEO Gary Terrinoni’s long-term vision to keep the safety net facility in business in the face of such crises included selling the Maynard Building for $95 million to finance a $1 billion revitalization of its campus. This past spring, Terrinoni was interviewing developers to build new cancer, outpatient and ambulatory surgery centers for the complex, as well as housing and retail.
46. Jennifer Jones Austin
While virtually everyone proved vulnerable to COVID-19, the effects of the pandemic have not been experienced equally. FPWA’s Jennifer Jones Austin brought much-needed attention to the disproportionate suffering experienced by New York’s poorest residents since the first wave hit. Their hardships were exacerbated by wage stagnation, poor access to health care and violent treatment from police. The anti-poverty advocate has advocated for the child tax credit and is leading New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s racial justice commission to stamp out systemic racism in the City.
47. Joni Yoswein
The government relations maven and former Assembly Member Joni Yoswein is poised to have a big year now that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will be running City Hall. Yoswein and her firm, a longtime Brooklyn Democratic Party backer, have repped the likes of Industry City, AT&T, Amazon and other large corporate players aiming to reshape the city’s landscape. Yoswein’s advice to her fellow lobbyists has been to embrace remote work and engage with lawmakers and policy leaders in deeper ways.
48. Susan Donoghue
The crown jewel of the borough’s park system has proven to be invaluable to residents who have found refuge among its grounds throughout the coronavirus pandemic. That led Prospect Park Alliance President Susan Donoghue to launch a new initiative in May to manage the park’s upkeep and trash collection after last summer’s wear and tear. There’s been no shortage of volunteers to help weed and plant bulbs after budget cuts reduced the city’s workforce. Fortunately, Donoghue’s plans to spruce up the Concert Grove Pavilion and Lefferts Historic House have remained on track.
49. Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel & Theo Oshiro
Make the Road New York, now led by the triumvirate of Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel and Theo Oshiro, has won significant protections for immigrants, including $2.1 billion of COVID-19 relief from the state in unemployment benefits. However, the fight for immigration rights remains ongoing. The advocacy group castigated a federal ruling that blocks new DACA applications and led a rally in July with immigrant essential workers demanding a pathway for citizenship. The group also called on the Cuomo administration to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to apply for aid from the state’s excluded workers fund.
50. Alyssa Aguilera & Jeremy Saunders
Low-income New Yorkers struggling with housing scarcity and drug use are used to being overlooked, but this grassroots advocacy duo made sure this year’s crop of mayoral hopefuls didn’t neglect them. Alyssa Aguilera challenged mayoral candidates on the criminalization of drug use at a VOCAL-NY forum in March. Jeremy Saunders argues that progressives have shifted moderates like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on police reform. More recently, they’ve focused on tenant rights as eviction moratoriums are lifted and cheered a new StreetEasy tool that guards against income discrimination.
51. Amelia Adams & Yvette Buckner
In recent years, the number of women serving in the New York City Council has actually declined. Thanks to an ambitious and energetic “21 in ‘21” coalition led by Amelia Adams and Yvette Buckner, that trend was reversed this cycle. As many as 30 women are on track to serve in the 51-member legislative body beginning in 2021 – smashing its goal of 21. Adams is also the president of Adams Advisors LLC, while Buckner is a managing director at Tusk Strategies.
52. Murad Awawdeh
Murad Awawdeh is encouraged that the next New York City Council class is full of immigrants and first-time candidates as a result of the city’s campaign finance system. Awawdeh, who succeeded NYIC’s longtime head Steve Choi in April, could use more advocates in government. He recently rallied with immigrant essential workers in Manhattan demanding a pathway to citizenship and called on President Joe Biden to take action on DACA after a federal judge declared the program illegal.
53. Andrew Kimball
Coronavirus kept many tenants out of Industry City last year, and the collapse of a proposal to rezone the Sunset Park complex in the face of local opposition has muddled its future. However, Andrew Kimball has soldiered on, and the political winds may be changing. Half of Industry City’s tenants returned to the site as vaccination rates rose. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a rezoning supporter, is likely heading to City Hall. Also, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce relocated in July to be closer to Kimball’s Innovation Lab.
54. Jahmila Edwards
Jahmila Edwards is on the front lines of a fight over vaccination and testing requirements for city workers in the coming months. Her union, District Council 37, which represents 150,000 workers including some EMS workers, argued that the mayor can’t impose mandates without negotiations. Edwards previously worked in the New York City Department of Education and for then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. However, the labor leader isn’t moving into Borough Hall after her husband, Khari Edwards, lost the Brooklyn borough president primary.
55. Gabby Seay
New York City’s health care workers union has a reputation for pulling progressive candidates across the finish line, including bolstering then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in 2013 for mayor. That wasn’t the case when Gabby Seay’s union backed mayoral candidates Maya Wiley and Corey Johnson in their races. However, 1199SEIU did help the Bronx’s Vanessa Gibson and Staten Island’s Mark Murphy win Democratic borough president primaries. Now that primary season is over, Seay is helping to answer members’ questions about COVID-19 vaccines, knowing that many are hesitant to get them.
56. Michelle Crentsil
Michelle Crentsil joined the New York State Nurses Association days before the coronavirus pandemic upended the state’s economy and flooded hospitals with patients. New York’s health care workers performed heroically while Crentsil’s union finally got safe staffing law passed, mandating staffing committees for hospitals and nursing homes. Now the nursing union, which recently elected Maimonides nurse Nancy Hagans as its president, is opposing vaccine mandates and testing requirements, expressing concern that the efforts could backfire.
57. Sandra Scott
Dr. Sandra Scott took over the top job at Brookdale in June in a leadership shakeup during one of the worst public health crises the city has ever experienced. The former emergency medicine chair at One Brooklyn Health brings a wealth of experience to her new role: She oversaw the care of critically ill COVID-19 patients last year at great risk to her health and spearheaded the effort to vaccinate doctors and staff when coronavirus vaccines first became available to medical professionals.
58. Risa Heller
The preeminent crisis communicator Risa Heller, who regularly offers her acid-tinged insights, is now helping her city bounce back from its worst crisis in decades. In January, she co-founded the “NY Forever" initiative, backed by real estate boosters and celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer, to spur civic engagement. She has also expanded her staff, adding former White House press aide TJ Ducklo and former New York Post correspondent Ebony Bowden.
59. L. Joy Williams
The civil rights leader, political strategist and podcast host L. Joy Williams always has irons in the fire. She didn’t burn any Democratic bridges while advising gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, thanks to her relationships with the “Olori Sisterhood.” Williams helped Rep. Yvette Clarke fend off primary rivals, but there’s only so much she could do for Ray McGuire’s mayoral bid. Most recently, Williams joined Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to hang an Ida B. Wells portrait at Borough Hall. She also has been pressing the state to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
60. Kirsten John Foy
Kirsten John Foy, the founder of Arc of Justice, played an outsized role in this year’s Democratic mayoral primary. He moderated a marathon eight-hour “Justice Clapback” forum on racial and social inequities and hosted visits with mayoral candidates. He ultimately endorsed candidate Maya Wiley for mayor, even though his mentor, the Rev. Al Sharpton, favored an Eric Adams mayoralty. Foy is already challenging Adams on police reform issues like stop and frisk. He also demonstrated across from Gracie Mansion for more accountability for police officers, including a registry of those who committed serious misconduct.
61. Ken Fisher
Land use attorney and eminently quotable political analyst Ken Fisher has tracked the New York City mayoral primary like an apex predator. The former New York City Council member is certainly comfortable with an Eric Adams administration, having lobbied the Brooklyn borough president’s office on behalf of Two Trees and other developer clients. However, in a city where the office vacancy rate has soared past 16% (it’s a bit lower in Brooklyn), Fisher remains concerned about the future of commercial real estate values.
62. Jovia Radix
Attorney and Cuomo administration alumnus Jovia Radix hit the campaign trail two years ago to seek Jumaane Williams’ old New York City Council seat in East Flatbush, but has been back in action since then with Kasirer, the city’s top lobbying firm. Now, Jovia Radix is working on monitoring City Council legislation and initiatives. She also served as treasurer of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and sits on the board of the Caribbean American Lawyers Association, which formed last July.
63. Elizabeth Yeampierre
UPROSE Executive Director Elizabeth Yeampierre met with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in June to discuss how federal agencies could encourage local renewable energy efforts like wind power and other green energy businesses in Sunset Park. For now, she’s more concerned with the city’s leadership and hopes the next administration approaches climate change with “humility.” Yeampierre has already gotten the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and a private energy manufacturer to upgrade the Brooklyn Army Terminal into a wind turbine manufacturing hub by 2025, adding 1,200 jobs to the borough’s economy.
64. David Niederman
Rabbi David Niederman is one of the few political leaders in Brooklyn who can reliably deliver thousands of votes and often backs establishment candidates. So it was surprising to see him endorse candidates Andrew Yang first and Eric Adams second in the Democratic mayoral primary (perhaps Adams’ opposition to the Broadway Triangle project had something to do with it). However, if Niederman’s Satmar bloc indeed marked Adams second in ranked-choice voting, they likely helped the Democratic nominee fend off mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia in the final tally.
65. Michael Nieves
Last year, HITN leader Mike Nieves supplemented his network’s 2020 election coverage with a new podcast hosted by Gerson Borrero about issues facing Latino voters and launched a multilingual campaign to encourage the Latino community to register and vote. In addition, Nieves, who serves as the Somos secretary, has helped keep the nonprofit running virtually since after the coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of its popular in-person conference in Puerto Rico.
Editor’s note: Michael Nieves is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
66. Rosemarie Montalbano
Surrogate Court judgeships don’t open up very often – and when they do, the party machine usually anoints the winner. However, when Kings County Surrogate Court Judge Margarita López Torres announced plans to retire, Supreme Court Justice Rosemarie Montalbano jumped at the chance. With the help of the Democratic Party’s reform wing, she trounced Civil Court Judge Dweynie Paul, whom county leaders favored. Montalbano, who will handle wills, estates and guardianship matters, supports reforming the Public Administrator’s Office by transferring control of its staff to the mayor.
67. Tara L. Martin
This summer, Tara Martin took on her latest new challenge – heading up public affairs in the Northeast for REEF. Martin will focus on New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey for the urban-focused tech company. REEF describes itself as the “largest operator of mobility, logistics hubs, and neighborhood kitchens in the United States.” The veteran labor and political strategist previously worked with the Westchester County Board of Legislators, the New York State Nurses Association, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Editor’s note: Tara L. Martin is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
68. Whitney Hu
The coronavirus pandemic ravaged Sunset Park last year, forcing small businesses to close, putting residents out of work and sickening many others. As soon as the city shut down, Whitney Hu organized her neighbors to purchase and distribute emergency food items, household supplies and items not covered by food stamps for families in need. Hu briefly launched a campaign for New York City Council in 2020, but scrapped it to focus on her mutual aid organization. She also managed Dianne Morales’ rocky mayoral campaign until May of this year.
69. Jeff Rodus
The budgeting whiz knows the ins and outs of the city’s fiscal health after serving for two decades as the New York City Council’s lead budget negotiator, top aide in the council’s finance division and deputy chief of staff to then-Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. These days Jeff Rodus advises the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Museum on their intergovernmental and financial matters. He’s also quite the theater aficionado and a supporter of the Brooklyn arts scene.
70. Jonathan Westin
The New York City mayor’s race didn’t unfold the way Jonathan Westin wanted. The progressive stalwart endorsed New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer as a candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary. He persuaded the Working Families Party to back the comptroller and stick with him even as others rescinded their endorsements following abuse allegations against the candidate. Yet, Westin found more success backing New York City Council Member Brad Lander early in the city comptroller race. Also, his support of Jumaane Williams could boost the public advocate’s chances in a potential statewide race next year.
71. Colvin Grannum
Colvin Grannum took over the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation a few months before 9/11 and has since transformed Fulton Street into a thriving business district with new banks, supermarkets and restaurants. The Bedford-Stuyvesant native is particularly proud of helping to revitalize Restoration Plaza, which the neighborhood nonprofit organization owns and manages, with plans to add 400,000 square feet of office space. He has also encouraged more housing development in the area, including a 17-story mixed-use building on Atlantic Avenue that Community Board 3 approved in July.
72. Trip Yang
Hiring Trip Yang for a campaign often leads to an election night victory. The political strategist who has worked on former President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign also helped Eric Gonzalez win his district attorney race. In addition, he guided Letitia James in her statewide bid to become state attorney general and helped Jumaane Williams keep his public advocate job. Alas, Yang could not help his namesake Andrew Yang in the 2021 mayoral race, despite running an energetic field operation in the middle of a pandemic.
Editor’s note: Trip Yang is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
73. Lee Silberstein
Marino has become the go-to PR firm for Brooklyn developers who need to navigate the city’s byzantine land use review process. Lee Silberstein drove communications strategy for projects such as the Rabsky Group’s affordable housing development at the Pfizer complex and a $550 million mixed-use development project by Rubenstein Partners in Greenpoint. The expert on the ULURP process has also helped to transform Industry City into an innovation hub on the Brooklyn waterfront that has diversified the city’s economy, while also leading a multi-year effort to rezone the area.
74. Jelena Kovačević
Thanks to Dean Jelena Kovačević and her accomplished faculty, NYU Tandon alumni are spreading throughout the city’s growing fintech, proptech and environmental tech ecosystems. One reason for their success is that Kovačević’s departments have been integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into their curricula to keep budding entrepreneurs up to speed. She’s also sought to add more women to the faculty and to mentor engineers looking to succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields.
75. Wayne Riley
Dr. Wayne Riley keeps good company, including receiving a National Humanism in Medicine Medal from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for his leadership alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci and cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol in June. He became the first Black board chair of the New York Academy of Medicine last October, and thanks to his guidance, SUNY Downstate gave out 100% of its initial vaccine allotment by early January. The medical campus has also become a hub for mental health services for SUNY college students. Also, at the request of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the school is also offering courses on the medical benefits of plant-based nutrition.
76. Miguel Martinez-Saenz
Miguel Martinez-Saenz is getting ready to oversee one of the most transformational changes in the Downtown Brooklyn college’s 162-year history. St. Francis College is moving to a brand new campus in The Wheeler Building on Livingston Street, which includes a 6,600-square-foot library, a 300-seat auditorium and 2,600 square feet of outdoor space. In addition, the school is revamping its academic programs, adding four masters of science degrees, and hired its first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer who is starting July 1.
77. Torian Easterling
Dr. Torian Easterling, one of the city’s top health officials, got vaccinated in February to encourage communities of color to protect themselves despite some skepticism. His efforts to inoculate the public, including a $9 million engagement campaign, helped the state hit its 70% benchmark in June and pave the way for the city's ticker tape parade for essential workers. Unfortunately, COVID-19’s delta variant is reaching unvaccinated New Yorkers, presenting another challenge for City Hall.
78. Bryan Grimaldi
Bryan Grimaldi joined National Grid in April after developing his legal and policy chops at Greenberg Traurig and NYC & Company, where he spent nearly 15 years serving as chief operating officer and general counsel. He’ll need to lean on his experiences as he deals with complex legal matters and contends with activists opposed to natural gas facilities and pipelines. The Brooklyn resident also spent five years as general counsel in the New York City Mayor’s Office of International Affairs in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
79. Lupé Todd-Medina
When Wall Street titan Ray McGuire needed a savvy campaign strategist to help him with his long shot bid for New York City mayor, he turned to Lupé Todd-Medina. The longtime adviser to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries – who also helped Gov. Andrew Cuomo get reelected in 2018 – helped McGuire generate positive press and raise enormous sums, but voters ultimately favored mayoral candidate Eric Adams. In the meantime she has advocated for pay parity among consultants of color and is expecting big things from state Attorney General Letitia James this year.
Editor’s note: Lupé Todd-Medina is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
80. Glynda Carr & Kimberly Peeler-Allen
Kimberly Peeler-Allen and Glynda Carr have a strategic mission of elevating more Black women into elected office through the 2030 cycle, which includes training candidates for Senate, governor and president. That doesn’t preclude supporting other political hopefuls or causes. Peeler-Allen, a visiting practitioner at Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, helped run a super PAC for Ray McGuire’s unsuccessful mayoral campaign. She also helped former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg with his presidential bid. Carr, who’s the president and CEO of Higher Heights, visited the White House in July for a meeting about protecting voting rights, which are under attack in multiple states.
81. Ifeoma Ike
The social impact entrepreneur Ifeoma Ike joined Dianne Morales’ mayoral campaign to tackle systemic racial and gender inequities. When that campaign imploded, Ike helped mayoral candidate Maya Wiley consolidate progressive support and finish in strong third place. The attorney, ex-government staffer and self-described “equity and impact strategist” is a veteran political adviser. She helped launch JustLeadershipUSA, Mass Bailout and the New York City Black Women's Political Club. Ike also chaired New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ transition committee after she lost to him in a special election.
82. Gabriel Gallucci
In the past year, it hasn’t been easy to be a school principal balancing parents’ demands to keep schools open and teachers’ preferences and stresses during hybrid learning while monitoring COVID-19 dashboards and governmental guidelines. Gabriel Gallucci has advised school administrators navigating multiple reopenings and Zoom meetings. Prior to taking his new role at the American Federation of School Administrators in February, the Brooklynite spent nearly six years at the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators.
83. Janelle Farris
Brooklyn Community Services faced steep budget cuts last year when parents of children with developmental disabilities needed their services the most. However, Janelle Farris converted most of its programs to virtual, provided laptops to teens aiming to start college and unveiled a shower bus for Brooklyn’s unhoused residents. The nonprofit veteran rallied with other human services providers for the city to reverse budget cuts and has made more with less to help the borough’s neediest residents during a period of crisis.
84. Clinton Miller
Clinton Miller, the politically-minded pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, won’t back a Democratic incumbent just because they’re running. The Rev. Miller wants to make sure candidates have strong social justice records and help minority- and women-owned businesses in the neighborhood thrive. COVID-19 kept parishioners away from his church for months, leading Miller to lobby the city and state for relief for faith-based organizations to cover rent and expenses during the pandemic.
85. Bertha Lewis
Bertha Lewis doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The former ACORN head soured on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just two years into his term for not giving more city contracts to minority- and women-owned firms. Lewis backed candidate Eric Adams in the Democratic mayoral primary race this time around due to his leadership and pledge to reform the New York City Police Department without defunding it. The City Council is also looking out for her interests, as The Black Institute collected $50,000 in discretionary funds from the legislative body just this year.
86. Donald Boomgaarden
Donald Boomgaarden guided his Clinton Hill college through an unusual year of remote and hybrid classes, temperature checks and millions of dollars spent on additional equipment and training. By the time the academic year was over, students were able to celebrate with a $17 million student center and an in-person, socially distant graduation ceremony. Boomgaarden, whose contract was renewed for another five years, was also appointed to a three-year term as a board trustee on the statewide Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.
87. Somia El-Rowmeim
Yemeni American activist Somia El-Rowmeim has contended with her Bay Ridge neighborhood’s conservative politics as well as her community’s gender norms with equal verve and resoluteness. Her successful efforts to organize Arab American voters and unseat Republican state Sen. Marty Golden was the subject of a WNYC spot and a documentary by Columbia Graduate School of Journalism reporting fellows. More recently, she has questioned the need for Muslim community patrols and was a finalist for the David Prize which is granted to New Yorkers who are progressive visionaries.
88. Jacqui Williams
The path-breaking real estate lobbyist Jacqui Williams has developed a knack for guiding property owners through the city’s complex land use review process. Williams brought IKEA to Red Hook, which opened the door for big-box retailers to enter the borough, and helped Wegmans get settled in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In addition to working with Tishman Speyer, Acreage Holdings and Crown Castle, Williams started a block association in her Dumbo neighborhood.
89. Patricia Ramsey
Patricia Ramsey became the first woman to lead Medgar Evers College when the CUNY Board of Trustees named her the Crown Heights institution’s sixth president in March. A botanist and biologist by training, Ramsey has been navigating a school in turmoil after Rudy Crew abruptly left during the winter following calls from students and faculty to resign. So far she has sought to improve the school’s graduation rate and expand its health equity and environmental justice disciplines.
90. Paul Mak
As leader of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, Paul Mak has been supporting borough businesses dealing with the simultaneous double whammy of pandemic-induced shutdowns that kept customers away for months and an uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Mak helped restaurants and other businesses get access to federal and state aid, and the BCA participated in several rallies against anti-Asian violence. More recently, Mak and other neighborhood leaders have been critical of a proposed city redesign of Seventh and Eighth avenues from two-way to one-way corridors.
91. Armena Gayle
Armena Gayle’s path to leading the Brooklyn Bar Association started with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she handled divorces and family law cases. She then nailed a position at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and was forced to take a career detour to care for her ailing father. Gayle returned to private practice and stayed active in the field as an attorney for Housing Works while rising through the Brooklyn Bar Association’s executive leadership as treasurer, first vice president and president-elect. She’s the association's 10th female president.
92. Rob Gore
Dr. Rob Gore isn’t just a stellar emergency medicine physician at Kings County Hospital Center. He’s also the founder of the Kings Against Violence Initiative which aims to prevent youth violence. Launching the initiative earned him a TED Residency and recognition as a CNN hero. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gore leaned on his disaster zone training in Haiti and East Africa to help his Central Brooklyn patients. As coronavirus cases fell and shootings soared, Gore pushed the state to curb gun violence.
93. Jesse Pierce, Julio Peña III & Samy Nemir-Olivares
Democratic district leaders are the unpaid ward bosses of New York City politics, a position that sometimes leads to greater visibility and higher office. LGBTQ district leaders Jesse Pierce, Julio Peña III and Samy Nemir-Olivares are making history now that the Brooklyn Democratic Party changed a rule in December allowing nonbinary and transgender candidates to run for county committee seats. The trio unseated incumbents by healthy margins, and Nemir-Olivares even won a Williamsburg office once occupied by the late Assembly Member Vito Lopez.
94. Edu Hermelyn
A new power couple was formed early this year when Brooklyn District Leader Edu Hermelyn married Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party. Emphasizing their shared heritage, they were married in January on Haitian Independence Day in a ceremony in Downtown Brooklyn. Hermelyn, who represents parts of Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens, also consulted on Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ successful mayoral campaign.
95. Michael Kevin Williams
The Schneps Media property has been the voice of the borough’s multifaceted Caribbean community for two decades. Editor Michael Kevin Williams has ensured the paper covers international affairs and the activities of Brooklyn officials with Caribbean roots in equal measure. They often overlap, for example, when a Guyanese mayor held bilateral talks with state Sen. Roxanne Persaud and when a Bushwick family visited the White House for President Joe Biden’s child tax credit announcement. Another example was when Brooklyn’s Haitian community reacted to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
96. Karl & Faye Rodney
The Jamaican-born journalists have been informing New Yorkers of news relevant to the Afro Caribbean community since 1981. Karl and Faye Rodney have supplemented their strong international coverage on migration patterns, geopolitical developments and human rights with the latest reggae gossip, travel trends and New York political news. The Rodneys have held an annual conference for Afro Caribbean political leaders and corporate executives in multiple Caribbean locations since 1995, although this past year’s event was held virtually.
97. Taharka Robinson
The community activist and son of former Assembly Member Annette Robinson has embarked on a tireless campaign supporting victims of gun violence and rooting out systemic racism. Those efforts intensified last summer when the Rev. Taharka Robinson held a vigil for a 1-year-old boy killed in Bedford-Stuyvesant and called for a state court officer to be fired after posting racist imagery on Facebook. Robinson has also helped more than a dozen Black and Latino judges get elected into civil and state Supreme Court.
98. Jude Bernard
The Brooklyn Bank may not be an actual financial institution, but it does teach financial literacy to a community searching for answers. Jude Bernard founded the Bedford-Stuyvesant event space in a landmarked former bank in 2018. He has since hosted financial planning workshops, meetups for Black running groups, toy drives, weddings and neighborhood college graduates looking to celebrate their accomplishments. Bernard, who owns several brownstones in the area, also holds an annual “Wealth Forum” every Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
99. Jeff Lindor
Social clubs have always proliferated throughout Brooklyn, but The Gentlemen’s Factory’s Jeff Lindor found that there were few spaces for men of color to network and enjoy a sense of camaraderie outside of bars and barbershops. So the Haitian-born entrepreneur and former Department of Correction adviser started his own members-only club in Prospect Lefferts Gardens with $100,000 in seed money from his friends. Now the Flatbush Avenue social club is thriving, and Lindor is an adviser to the city’s Black entrepreneurship program (although his favored candidate, Ray McGuire, didn’t win the Democratic mayoral primary race in June).
100. Christopher Torres
Christopher Torres took the helm of the streetcar booster group two months before Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered nonessential businesses in the state to close and transit use plummeted. The city’s pandemic-fueled budget crisis threatened to derail the $2.7 billion Brooklyn-Queens Connector project, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warning that it could be put on hold. Torres has argued that the 11-mile transit service would generate $30 billion in economic value and create tens of thousands of jobs, but it’s an open question whether the project will advance. Torres served as a deputy campaign manager for Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams, who has said that he would “consider” the project.
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