Forget the old “three men in a room” that used to rule in Albany. With Gov. Kathy Hochul’s history-making ascension, it’s now two women and one man in a room. And that’s just one of the many ways that female political leaders have continued to smash through the glass ceiling in New York over the past year. In New York City, as many as 31women are poised to enter the New York City Council, bringing about the legislative body’s first female majority. And while Eric Adams came out on top in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary, candidates Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley came in close behind in the race to become the city’s top executive.
The Power of Diversity: Women 100 – researched and written by City & State’s Kay Dervishi – recognizes the prominent women wielding power across New York state. Politicians, government officials, consultants, lobbyists and union leaders number among the power players featured on this year’s list. Our analysis looks into how much influence each individual holds – and how they use it to shape New York’s political landscape.
Since her ascension into office this August, Gov. Kathy Hochul has been shaking up Albany. She has set herself apart from her predecessor in several ways: ousting state officials who had been loyal to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, currying favor with Democrats across the political spectrum and accelerating the rollout of various state programs and policies, such as jump-starting the state’s recreational marijuana program and supporting a decision to block two proposed natural gas repowerings. Her accomplishments so far – accompanied by a few key endorsements – give her a head start as the 2022 gubernatorial election inches closer.
All eyes are on state Attorney General Letitia James as she launches her gubernatorial bid. Even among an increasingly crowded field of contenders, James will be a formidable candidate with experience statewide and in the national spotlight. She oversaw the investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo – which precipitated his resignation – and has also led major probes into former President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has developed a reputation for keeping her growing conference together, even while tackling contentious legislation. It remains to be seen what obstacles she’ll face by next budget season, which will also have the added wrinkle of a new administration to negotiate with. The Westchester Democrat has had a productive relationship with Gov. Kathy Hochul so far, working together on extending New York’s eviction moratorium and tweaking the state’s rental relief program.
Since her 2018 upset victory, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a formidable voice for the left in New York and nationally. Her star profile means everything from her endorsements to her tweets have been able to boost progressive campaigns and policy priorities. And her influence may only get more weighty as the progressive wing of the party has grown larger on Capitol Hill. Ocasio-Cortez recently criticized moderate Democrats for not working harder to come to an agreement on a budget bill in Congress.
Since joining the U.S. Senate in 2009, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been at the forefront of major national policy campaigns. Notably, she was a mastermind behind the effort to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that prevented gay people from openly serving in the U.S. military. She has also battled sexual assault in the military, building support for a bill to move cases out of the chain of command. After running for president in the last cycle, the upstate Democrat has said she will not run for governor.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez has become an influential power broker, backing numerous successful candidates seeking elected office in New York City this year. On Capitol Hill, she has spent the past year pushing for an extension to the Paycheck Protection Program as chair of the House Small Business Committee and spearheading a new bill to allow Puerto Rican voters to select delegates to determine the island’s future.
Rep. Grace Meng has been in Congress since 2013, when she made history as New York’s first Asian American member of the House of Representatives. The Queens lawmaker sits on the House Committee on Appropriations, serving as vice chair of its Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Meng, who has also focused on promoting child safety and reducing airplane noise, has spoken out against rising anti-Asian hate activity during the coronavirus pandemic and sponsored this year’s COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes spent years fighting for marijuana legalization as an antidote to disproportionate drug enforcement targeting Black and Latino New Yorkers. She finally succeeded this year in not only getting recreational marijuana legalized but also getting cannabis revenue set aside to support the communities most affected by marijuana criminalization. The influential Buffalo lawmaker is now keeping an eye on the development of regulations affecting the cannabis industry.
Gov. Kathy Hochul tapped Karen Persichilli Keogh to serve as her second-in-command even before she was sworn in this summer. The political veteran – occasionally known by her initials “KPK” – mostly recently served as the head of global philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase & Co., where she has also held government relations roles. Persichilli Keogh has previously worked with prominent elected officials such as Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Kathryn Garcia nearly made history as the first female mayor of New York City, narrowly falling short against Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams in the Democratic primary. But her resume as New York City’s go-to crisis manager and former sanitation commissioner impressed Gov. Kathy Hochul and helped her land the position of director of state operations in September. She has already used her crisis-management chops to coach the governor through disaster and storm response when the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck the state.
Betty Rosa has been a driving force in the state’s efforts to shore up its education system during the coronavirus pandemic. As the first Latina woman to serve as the state commissioner of education, Rosa is dealing with pandemic-related learning deficiencies and a lack of school funding, among other challenges. In her previous role as chancellor of the state Board of Regents, Rosa crafted new learning standards and advocated against tying state student test results to the evaluations that teachers receive.
Incoming Commissioner Mary T. Bassett’s appointment to the state Department of Health was widely praised by medical professionals and New York elected officials. That positive reaction signals a major shift from public perception of her predecessor, Howard Zucker, who had been criticized for lack of transparency surrounding COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Having also served as New York City’s health commissioner, Bassett will play a key role in determining New York’s response to the ever-shifting pandemic.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore helms New York’s top court, overseeing major cases and guiding the broader state court system through the COVID-19 pandemic. The jurist, who previously served as Westchester County’s district attorney, was appointed to lead the state Court of Appeals in 2015 by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. On her watch, New York’s court system has scrutinized and taken steps to crack down on institutional racism.
As head of the borough’s Democratic Party, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn plays a major role influencing the political landscape in Brooklyn and beyond. She has a powerful ally in Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is poised to become mayor next year and who earned her backing during the Democratic primary. Bichotte Hermelyn, who is Haitian American, has coordinated relief efforts for Haiti and urged federal officials to stop deporting Haitian migrants this year.
District attorneys Darcel Clark and Melinda Katz oversee prosecutions for two major boroughs in New York City. Having served as Bronx district attorney for five years, Clark has denounced gun violence that has affected the borough throughout the pandemic. Over the course of the past year, she joined other elected officials to call for more federal funding for anti-violence community programs and dismissed more than 6,000 cases related to selling and possessing marijuana. She is also overseeing an investigation into a former homeless shelter leader who was accused of sexual assault and financial misconduct. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, who previously served as borough president, has spent two years leading prosecutions in the borough. Katz has launched the office’s first Conviction Integrity Unit, which successfully pushed to overturn the wrongful convictions of three Queens men this year, though some local elected officials say more cases should be reviewed for potential misconduct.
New York’s top business leaders turn to Kathryn Wylde to advocate for their needs with government officials. Wylde, the head of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City, has monitored the struggle to return employees to the office and other challenges businesses have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Wylde pushed back against proposals to hike taxes earlier this year, arguing it could motivate business executives to relocate elsewhere in the country.
State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Helene Weinstein wield plenty of influence over the state’s purse strings as chairs of the State Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Ways and Means Committee, respectively. The state lawmakers played important roles shaping this year’s $212 billion budget that featured a big spending boost for schools and aid for undocumented workers. Krueger has also dedicated herself to pushing forward legislation to reform the New York City Board of Elections, while Weinstein successfully saw her proposal to keep debt collectors from taking COVID-19 stimulus funds signed into law earlier this year.
Elizabeth Fine is in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s inner circle in her new role as counsel to the governor. Fine brings with her extensive experience working in local, state and federal government: Before moving to the executive chamber, she served as the chief legal officer for the Empire State Development. Fine also was an attorney for the New York City Council, having worked closely with then-Speaker Christine Quinn, and has held leadership positions in the U.S. Department of Justice.
Some of New York’s most significant new labor laws were championed by these state lawmakers. As chair of the Assembly’s labor committee, Assembly Member Latoya Joyner has pushed forward many worker protections, including a measure combating wage theft in the construction industry. She, along with Assembly Member (and soon-to-be New York City Council member) Carmen De La Rosa, also played a major role passing the Excluded Workers Fund to support undocumented workers in New York. Another major piece of legislation that was signed into law this year is the NY Hero Act, which requires employers to implement COVID-19 safety measures. Assembly Member Karines Reyes, who also served as a front-line nurse earlier on in the pandemic, sponsored the measure.
This legislative trio has collaborated on bills and priorities favored by progressives in New York. As lawmakers who have long pushed for legislation addressing sexual assault and abuse, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou have both emerged as vocal critics of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was accused multiple times of sexual harassment over the past year. Some politicos are keeping an eye on any potential runs for higher office Biaggi may pursue come next year. Meanwhile, state Senate Labor Committee Chair Jessica Ramos played a key role in the creation of a $2.1 billion fund to support undocumented workers who were otherwise exempt from federal relief.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney helms the influential House Committee on Oversight and Reform, overseeing major hearings like those on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and efforts to restrict abortion access. The longtime representative has even been mulling over using her role to hold a hearing on worsening conditions at Rikers Island this year. Maloney has also gotten a head start on fighting for her reelection to stave off a challenge from a progressive candidate backed by the Justice Democrats.
Rep. Yvette Clarke has successfully fended off several primary challenges since entering office in 2007 and remains well-positioned to do so next year as well. As chair of the House Homeland Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation Subcommittee, the Brooklyn Democrat has made funding for improved cybersecurity infrastructure a priority. She led a bipartisan effort to get the federal government to spend $500 million to help local and state governments fend off cyberattacks.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is on the brink of losing her reelection campaign, as Republican candidate Bruce Blakeman secured an initial lead and declared victory. But Curran, who is in her first term, refused to concede, saying that she would wait on thousands of uncounted absentee ballots to be tallied. Curran’s struggles were attributed to a controversial property tax reassessment, though Democrats performed poorly all across Long Island in November.
As many as five women are in the running to become the New York City Council’s next leader starting in 2022, when a historic number of women will join the legislative body. Council Member Carlina Rivera of Manhattan, who has long made her ambitions clear, is seeking support among progressives. Representing portions of Southeast Queens, Council Member Adrienne Adams is vying to become the first Black female speaker title and is aiming to get backing from Rep. Gregory Meeks, who leads the Queens Democratic Party. Former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito endorsed a former aide, Council Member Diana Ayala, who is hoping to get other elected officials from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx on board. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is perhaps the most viable incoming council member who has a shot, given that she’s returning to a seat she held for a decade. And Council Member Farah Louis of Brooklyn recently said she’s considering a bid as well.
The title of “top lobbyist” has long been attached to Suri Kasirer, whose eponymous firm has been a top earner in New York City’s lobbying industry for four years in a row. She’s working to keep that reputation up with a new governor in charge and a different mayoral administration taking over in New York City next year, taking efforts to build closer ties with both Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams.
Not only is Bolton-St. Johns a leading lobbying firm in New York City and Albany – it also has an impressive number of women in leadership roles. Senior partner Emily Giske, who helped pass New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2011, recently opened the firm’s new Washington, D.C., office. Bringing with her extensive experience working for three former New York governors, Juanita Scarlett delivers lobbying and communications expertise to her clients across the health care, energy, economic development and education sectors. Other female partners at the firm include Samara Daly and Teresa Gonzalez – who still run their government relations firm DalyGonzalez on the side – as well as former Rep. Joe Crowley adviser Anne Marie Anzalone and Assembly veteran Violet Moss.
Editor’s note: Juanita Scarlett is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
As deputy mayor for health and human services, Melanie Hartzog has led New York City’s COVID-19 response and efforts to connect vulnerable New Yorkers to social services throughout the pandemic. That includes heading the city’s Vaccine Command Center, which ensures the equitable and efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Bringing with her experience helming the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget and as a nonprofit executive, Hartzog will leave the administration in January to serve as president and CEO of The New York Foundling.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter is shepherding New York City’s school system through a critical time. The longtime educator – who became the first Black woman to serve as chancellor in March – spearheaded the city’s wide-scale reopening plan this fall, while also navigating the challenges of getting teachers and staff vaccinated. She has also played a pivotal role in shaping Mayor Bill de Blasio’s stance on the city’s gifted and talented program, though the future of the program will be determined in the next mayoral administration.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio frequently relies on his chief of staff, Emma Wolfe, to help manage some of the city’s most notable challenges. After the COVID-19 pandemic struck the city last year, he named her deputy mayor for administration and placed her second in the line of mayoral succession. She acquired yet another title this fall – extreme weather coordinator at City Hall – after the remnants of Hurricane Ida resulted in major flooding across the city.
Ingrid Lewis-Martin is widely recognized to be perhaps Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ closest confidante and adviser. A longtime ally of New York City’s next mayor, she’s expected to have significant influence in the incoming Adams administration. She has worked alongside Adams in the Brooklyn Borough President’s office since 2014, having served as senior adviser and deputy borough president, and worked on his mayoral campaign this past year.
The influential nonprofit executive Sheena Wright has led United Way of New York City for nearly a decade. Wright leads the nonprofit in its advocacy efforts and has been behind the organization’s Superstorm Sandy relief efforts and the ReadNYC initiative to support child literacy. New York City’s next mayor, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, counts Wright as an ally and recently selected her to lead his transition team.
Katie Moore played a vital role in Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams becoming New York City’s next mayor, helping him beat numerous other candidates in the June Democratic primary before coasting to victory in November. Before joining on as Adams’ campaign manager last year, she served as the political director for the influential Hotel Trades Council. The behind-the-scenes labor operative could play a role at City Hall once Adams takes office.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, public relations pro Cristyne Nicholas helped revive New York City’s tourism industry with a far-reaching advertising campaign and major events. Twenty years later, she’s helping New York City’s tourism sector recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicholas has honed her communications skills as a co-founder of Nicholas & Lence Communications, which she launched with George Lence in 2007.
Heather Briccetti numbers among the business leaders in the state who are optimistic that Gov. Kathy Hochul will keep New York business-friendly. Since joining The Business Council of New York State in 2007, Briccetti has fought to make sure the state enacts policies that allow the private sector to thrive. This past year, she opposed tax hikes on the state level and a proposal to expand New York’s anti-trust law.
Rep. Kathleen Rice has spent six years representing a significant portion of Nassau County in Congress, entering office after nearly a decade serving as the county’s district attorney. The moderate Long Island Democrat has managed to land seats on both the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and on Homeland Security. She faced criticism this fall for opposing a Democratic proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
When Rep. Elise Stefanik first came into office in 2015, she was hailed as a young, moderate Republican changing the party’s image – a stark contrast to her recent, rapid transformation into an avid defender of former President Donald Trump who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Stefanik has risen through the ranks of party leadership this year, ascending to the House Republicans’ third-ranking leadership post in May. Stefanik’s Republican colleagues Nicole Malliotakis and Claudia Tenney are first-term House members – and both face a tough path to reelection with redistricting on the horizon after flipping Democratic seats last year. In Central New York, it took months and a prolonged count to figure out who won the tight race to represent New York's 22nd Congressional District, but Tenney ultimately reclaimed the seat she had lost to Democrat Anthony Brindisi. Malliotakis, who succeeded in her bid to represent Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn, joined many House Republicans in objecting to the 2020 presidential election results before and after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Higher Heights for America PAC is the only political action committee dedicated to getting Black progressive women elected at the local, state and national level across the United States. The Brooklyn-based PAC’s work is directed by Glynda Carr, who serves as the organization’s president and CEO, as well as co-chairs Kimberly Peeler-Allen and L. Joy Williams. Their collective leadership has fueled the PAC’s success since its creation in 2014, with major wins including getting a historic number of Black women to serve in Congress. Peeler-Allen is also a senior adviser on state Attorney General Letitia James’ recently announced campaign for governor.
New York City Council Member Vanessa Gibson beat out four other candidates vying to become the next Bronx borough president in this year’s Democratic primary. With her general election victory, she’ll become the first woman and first Black person to ever hold the title beginning next year. Once she enters the role, Gibson plans to combat gun violence, health care disparities and other inequities in the borough. Her tenure leading City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, where she oversaw New York City Police Department operations and district attorneys, should come in handy.
Chirlane McCray is wrapping up her final year as New York City’s First Lady. Throughout the past eight years, she has been a visible figure in the de Blasio administration, where she headed the city’s much-criticized mental health initiative, ThriveNYC. McCray has advised on changes to that initiative, which was recently rebranded as the Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health. McCray also chairs the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City and co-chairs a racial equality task force created during the pandemic.
The Working Families Party faced an existential threat last year as a new rule made it harder for minor parties to hold onto their ballot lines. The party succeeded in holding the line – and, a year later, helped defeat incumbent mayors in Buffalo and Rochester in the June Democratic primary election. Under Sochie Nnaemeka’s leadership, the Working Families Party bolstered the general election campaign of India Walton in Buffalo, but the effort wasn’t enough to beat a successful write-in effort by Mayor Byron Brown.
Valerie Berlin helms one of New York’s top public relations firms, using communications campaigns to push for change and progress on issues such as criminal justice and immigration reform. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, BerlinRosen’s client base has grown in the past year and the firm played a major role supporting Democratic candidates in New York and beyond throughout the 2020 election cycle.
The 21 in ’21 campaign aimed to get 21 women elected to the New York City Council. The group blew past that goal, with the legislative body expecting to see a historic increase in the number of women joining as members next year. As chair of the 21 in '21 executive board, Amelia Adams played a pivotal role in facilitating the campaign’s success in races across the city. Now, the high-powered political consultant is serving as a senior adviser on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reelection campaign.
Charter Communications turns to Camille Joseph-Goldman to handle its government affairs and partnerships in New York state, as well as large swaths of the Northeast. As Charter’s group vice president for government affairs, she brings with her extensive experience in government: She previously served as New York City’s deputy comptroller for public affairs and worked as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s director of intergovernmental affairs and special adviser.
Shontell Smith plays a key role behind the scenes in driving the state Senate Democratic Majority Conference’s work. She oversees everything from legal and financial matters to media and policy issues for the Democratic majority, collaborating closely with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to fuel legislative accomplishments. Smith has plenty of experience working in Albany, including having served as the director of counsel and finance for the conference.
India Walton rocked the political establishment in New York and the nation when she upset four-term Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown in a Democratic primary this summer. After the self-described democratic socialist notched her upset against the longtime incumbent, progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and establishment figures including U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand endorsed her. Yet, the community activist ultimately fell short in the November election as Brown mounted a successful write-in campaign and declared victory.
Tyquana Henderson-Rivers launched her public affairs firm, Connective Strategies, 13 years ago. Over that time, the political strategist has advised numerous elected officials and candidates in New York City, particularly in Queens. Rep. Gregory Meeks, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz number among the political leaders who have turned to Henderson-Rivers – and key staffers including Lashea Woodson and Leslie Patterson – for support, and Gov. Kathy Hochul recently brought her on as a senior adviser on her 2022 gubernatorial campaign.
As Gov. Kathy Hochul gears up for the 2022 gubernatorial race, she has turned to Lupé Todd-Medina to serve as a senior adviser on her campaign. With a career’s worth of political communications skills honed as president of Effective Media Strategies, plenty of New York’s top elected officials have turned to Todd-Medina for help, including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Bill de Blasio during his campaign for public advocate. She played a major role on Ray McGuire’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign to become New York City mayor.
Editor’s note: Lupé Todd-Medina is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
One major advance this year in New York was the repeal of the “walking while trans ban,” an anti-prostitution measure that critics say has more recently been used to harass transgender women of color. While many had a hand in the change, three longtime advocates – TS Candii of Black Trans Nation, Cecilia Gentili of The New Pride Agenda and Kiara St. James of New York Transgender Advocacy Group – played key roles.
As president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten has been one of the most outspoken voices in the country backing teachers through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. She made headlines by endorsing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for teachers – a move that other national teachers unions have not yet made. On Capitol Hill, Weingarten has thrown her support behind President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package and pushed for improvements to the federal public service loan forgiveness program.
Mara Gay delivers sharp insight on the major political issues facing the state for The New York Times. Her op-ed pieces this past year have delivered analyses on police reform, the New York City mayoral election and the COVID-19 pandemic, among other topics. Her insight is informed by her experience covering New York City for The Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and other publications. She also regularly makes appearances as an analyst on MSNBC
Rachel Noerdlinger became Mercury’s first Black female partner earlier this year, though rumor has it she’s likely to exit amid backlash against mandated noncompete requirements being enforced by Omnicom Group, Mercury’s parent company. Her rise is a testament to her public relations and communications chops. The Rev. Al Sharpton numbers among her most high-profile clients, and Noerdlinger has dedicated significant time drawing attention to racial injustice.
A collection of former state legislative employees who experienced, saw or reported sexual harassment launched the Sexual Harassment Working Group in 2018 to protect workers and end harassment in Albany. Elizabeth Crothers, Leah Hebert, Rita Pasarell and Erica Vladimer are among its co-founders who maintain an active role directing change in Albany. The sexual harassment allegations made against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo illustrate how much more needs to be done in Albany – and has pushed state lawmakers to listen to the group’s priorities.
As vice president of public policy at Verizon, Leecia Eve has played a key role ensuring the company’s rollout of 5G in the New York metropolitan area continues apace. Since joining the telecommunications giant, Eve has juggled numerous responsibilities involving public policy, external affairs and philanthropic initiatives throughout the tri-state area. She previously served as deputy secretary for economic development for New York and advised Hillary Clinton during her tenure in the U.S. Senate.
Karen Ignagni heads EmblemHealth, one of the country’s largest nonprofit health insurers, which serves more than 3 million people in the tri-state area. She has been instrumental in EmblemHealth’s efforts to get New Yorkers vaccinated against COVID-19, partnering with other health care providers and institutions to get shots in arms. Under her leadership, the insurer has also produced research on best practices in health care, including one recent report illustrating that the health care industry needs to improve its communication about value-based care.
Ending family homelessness is a top priority for Christine Quinn. The former New York City Council speaker heads a nonprofit that serves as the city’s largest provider of family shelters and supportive housing. Her experience heading Win informs her advocacy work as she endeavors to change policies affecting homeless New Yorkers. Quinn played a key role in the push to get elected officials to pass legislation increasing the value of the city’s housing vouchers.
Veteran journalist Susan Arbetter stays on top of all of the major developments in Albany. Since 2019, Arbetter has been the host of the Spectrum News program “Capital Tonight,” which is required viewing for anyone in state politics and government. In the past year, she has delivered concise insights into everything from sexual harassment allegations against former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the early days of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s historic administration and the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Access to health care in Brooklyn has long been a vexing policy challenge, and LaRay Brown is playing a big role in how it is addressed. A health care industry veteran with decades of experience before she assumed her current position in 2017, Brown is now responsible for actively managing and integrating the component parts of One Brooklyn Health, which comprises Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.
This year marked the first major test of New York City’s new ranked-choice voting system. Susan Lerner, Betsy Gotbaum and Rose Pierre-Louis are among the city’s civic leaders who have been the most dedicated to making sure it went smoothly. Lerner and Gotbaum each lead major good government groups locally – Common Cause New York and Citizens Union respectively – while Pierre-Louis serves as chief operating officer of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University.
Widespread flooding in New York City this summer has highlighted the need for policies fighting climate change and investing in resiliency. As president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, Julie Tighe has been at the forefront of efforts to get the city to prepare for future climate emergencies. She’s also keeping a close eye on environmental and climate measures the Hochul administration is considering. Tighe also leads NYLCV’s Education Fund.
Leading an association with more than 250 member organizations across various sectors is no small task, but the Association for a Better New York’s Melva Miller is up for it. As ABNY’s first chief executive officer, Miller manages various aspects of the civic-oriented coalition, including stakeholder engagement and strategic partnerships. Previously, she spearheaded the organization’s census initiative, which helped drive turnout in New York for the decennial population count.
Lorraine Grillo spent nearly a decade leading the New York City School Construction Authority, building and opening public schools in the boroughs. Grillo now helps rebuild New York City in a more abstract sense as the city’s senior adviser for recovery. Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed her to the position in February, putting Grillo at the forefront of the city’s post-pandemic plans, where she coordinates with government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector to help steer New York City in a positive post-pandemic direction.
New York City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel may have lost her reelection bid in this year’s primary, but she’s on track to take on another influential position. President Joe Biden has tapped Ampry-Samuel to serve as the New York-New Jersey regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If Ampry-Samuel takes the job, she would bring to the role experience chairing the City Council’s public housing committee and representing a district with the highest concentration of public housing complexes in the country.
Maggie Moran has an extensive background working on major political campaigns in New York and New Jersey. She has worked for two U.S. senators and managed statewide presidential and gubernatorial campaigns – including Andrew Cuomo’s successful 2018 reelection as governor – in addition to working on ballot initiatives, regulatory issues and other efforts. As managing partner at Kivvit, Moran handles the firm’s day-to-day operations and finances on the national level.
Since being named president of Hunter College in 2001, Jennifer Raab has distinguished herself as a talented leader. The former attorney has raised over $400 million in philanthropy for the leading CUNY school, and she spearheaded the development of the Silberman School of Social Work’s home in East Harlem. On her watch, Hunter College has implemented a strict vaccination policy for students attending class in person this fall.
Together with her husband, Terry Pegula, Kim Pegula controls both the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, and both professional teams have had strong starts to their seasons. She takes a hands-on approach to handling the teams’ finances and operations. Pegula is currently taking a leading role in efforts to boost mobile sports betting in the state and is a supporter of more women taking on leadership roles in the National Football League.
Mary Ann Tighe numbers among New York’s top real estate leaders. Her deal-making over the course of nearly four decades has secured more than 14.4 million square feet of new construction in the New York metropolitan region. Tighe, who once served as the chair of the Real Estate Board of New York, has kept close watch on New York City’s economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic as she prepares CBRE for what comes next.
New York City taxi drivers launched a hunger strike last month to pressure the de Blasio administration to provide them greater debt relief. Bhairavi Desai, the founder and executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which counts 21,000 drivers as members, led the preparations for the protest – the latest of her organization’s efforts to draw attention to the needs of taxi medallion owners in the five boroughs.
Political candidates and companies on Long Island rely on Resi Cooper for insightful advice. The longtime political consultant has spent years working with Hillary Clinton in various capacities, having led her campaign’s operations in New York during the 2016 presidential primary and having served as Long Island liaison during Clinton’s time in the U.S. Senate. Cooper also serves on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, offering input on how to best support the region’s economy.
Regina Myer is doing her best to make sure Downtown Brooklyn’s businesses and community bounce back from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Myer, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership president, led efforts to revitalize the area’s arts and cultural activities this past year, while also taking a look at ensuring more public spaces in Downtown Brooklyn become pedestrian-friendly. Previously, Myer served as the president of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Beth Finkel leads AARP’s advocacy on long-term care, prescription drug costs and other policies in New York. The organization praised one piece of legislation Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed into law that expanded access to retirement plans for private sector workers – a top priority for AARP this past year. Finkel has amassed plenty of other advocacy successes and played a major role pushing for paid family leave and legislation helping family caregivers.
Helping Buffalo’s businesses excel is top of mind for Dottie Gallagher. Gallagher joined other leaders in Western New York to push for the U.S.-Canadian border to be reopened to help boost tourism and the local economy. Now that the international border is open again, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership president and CEO is helping businesses navigate other challenges, such as labor shortages and handling COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
One of the state’s most notable legislative accomplishments this year was legalizing recreational marijuana. As chair of the Cannabis Control Board, Tremaine Wright will play a key role shaping regulations around New York’s growing cannabis industry. Gov. Kathy Hochul appointed the former Assembly member to the post in September and, since then, Wright has been staffing up and already effected changes to the state’s medical marijuana program.
Tiffany Cabán became a star in New York City left-wing politics when she ran to become Queens district attorney, a race she lost by an incredibly slim margin. She has continued to flex her political muscle, as she’s set to join the New York City Council next year. Influenced by her work as a public defender prior to launching her political career, Cabán has taken a strong interest in criminal justice reforms: pushing for decarceration, criticizing the poor conditions on Rikers Island and reportedly seeking to chair the council’s public safety committee.
Eva Moskowitz remains one of the most influential and outspoken proponents of charter schools in New York. As head of New York City’s largest charter school system, she has long lobbied city and state officials to create an environment that is favorable for charters. And throughout the coronavirus pandemic, she has overseen Success Academy’s approach to COVID-19 safety. The ascension of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as the city’s next mayor is expected to bring a friendlier environment for charter schools next year.
For the past two years, Goli Sheikholeslami has overseen operations at New York Public Radio, which owns WNYC, Gothamist, WQXR-FM, New Jersey Public Radio and the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. Sheikholeslami brought with her experience heading Chicago Public Media, where she facilitated major growth in listenership and revenue. She now is contending with internal challenges at WNYC, as staffers have filed complaints that newsroom leaders retaliated against unionized staffers.
The New York City Hospitality Alliance, JetBlue and Brooklyn Defender Services number among the many influential clients who rely on the public affairs firm Yoswein New York to lobby on their behalf. Joni Yoswein, the founder of YNY, brings with her extensive experience in politics and government. She used to serve as a member of the Assembly, representing portions of Brooklyn, and has served as the assistant commissioner for the New York City Department for the Aging.
Throughout the past election cycle, Sonia Ossorio actively backed female candidates running for elected office in New York City. Her work and backing from the National Organization for Women of New York helped propel an unprecedented influx of women into the New York City Council, which will see a major increase in female representation come next year. Ossorio also joined other political leaders in New York to denounce Texas’s de facto ban on most abortions earlier this year.
Jessica Lappin is at the helm of the country’s largest business improvement district, the Alliance for Downtown New York. In her role as president of the BID, also known as the Downtown Alliance, the former New York City Council member oversees various operations, including operating a free bus service, supporting the local homeless population and providing sanitation services in lower Manhattan. Under her leadership, the BID has also provided grants to businesses to aid pandemic recovery and obtained $100 million in resiliency funding for the lower Manhattan area.
Phoebe Boyer helms Children’s Aid, the 168-year-old child welfare nonprofit tasked with helping New York City’s most vulnerable kids. Children’s Aid provides everything from community schools to foster care programs to medical support for youth and families across the five boroughs. Boyer has extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, having previously served as the executive director of the Robertson Foundation and the Tiger Foundation.
Five years after she founded Tech:NYC, Julie Samuels is stepping down from her role as executive director. But she’ll stay on until a replacement is found – in addition to continuing to be a board member at the influential organization, which lobbies on behalf of New York’s booming technology industry. Major players from Google to Amazon, in addition to numerous startups, have relied on Samuels and her group for support. Now even New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams is getting her advice on issues related to technology.
While nurses remain on the front lines fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Nurses Association is advocating effectively for their needs. Nancy Hagans was elected the union’s president this past summer and has said that examining the implementation of New York’s new safe staffing law will remain a top priority for her. Pat Kane has served as the executive director of the New York State Nurses Association since late 2019 and played a key role in ensuring the law’s passage this past spring.
Eleanor's Legacy has been focused on getting Democratic women who support reproductive rights and abortion access elected to office across New York. Sophie Nir took on the role of leading the organization as its executive director this past August. While still fairly new to the position, she has overseen Eleanor's Legacy’s largest slate of candidate endorsements ever in its 20-year history. Donna Zaccaro also offers insightful oversight of the group’s operations as chair of its board of directors.
Faiza J. Saeed is one of the country’s most high-powered lawyers in the lucrative mergers and acquisitions space. A presiding partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, Saeed advises major public companies on their deals. She has served as an adviser for Disney’s $85 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox and supported Time Warner on numerous matters, including its $109 billion acquisition by AT&T. Her work resulted in The American Lawyer naming her 2020 Corporate Lawyer of the Year.
At a time when abortion access faces historic threats across the country, Joy Calloway is fighting to cement protections for reproductive health care in New York. With 27 years of experience working in health care and nonprofits, Calloway has served as interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York since last year. She also oversees the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund, its advocacy arm focused on education and elections.
With over three decades of experience leading communications for business executives and political leaders, Lisa Linden is a go-to public relations professional for many influential companies and nonprofits in New York. She previously served as the president and CEO of LAK Public Relations – a firm she co-founded in 1993 – before becoming media strategist at The LAKPR Group. Linden is a member of the boards of directors of NYC & Company and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Taryn Duffy serves as a key executive at Yonkers’ Empire City Casino, guiding the company’s approach to public affairs and lobbying and overseeing its public relations strategy. Her priorities in that role include convincing New York state to grant the casino a full-fledged gambling license. Her experience working in the casino industry and in state government informs Duffy’s work as chair of the New York Gaming Association, which has represented nine racing and gambling venues across the state over the past decade.
When Lorraine Grillo moved on to become New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior adviser for recovery, Nina Kubota assumed Grillo’s previous position as head of the School Construction Authority. Kubota now manages the city’s efforts to build and renovate public schools throughout the five boroughs. Having been with the agency for more than 20 years, she is the first Japanese American woman to lead the School Construction Authority.
The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and New York State Trial Lawyers Association are some of the powerful New York clients that Heather Beaudoin has taken on at her eponymous public affairs firm. She serves as the founder and principal officer of Beaudoin and Company, which operates in New York as well as Washington, D.C., and advises clients on lobbying, legislative tracking, digital strategy and coalition building.
After three decades at the helm of The New York Community Trust, Lorie A. Slutsky is planning to retire next year. During her time leading the foundation, it has awarded $5 billion to nonprofits across New York City. Slutsky also spearheaded its COVID-19 response, collaborating with other foundations and philanthropists early on in the pandemic to launch an initiative to fund local human services and arts nonprofits. The NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund ultimately raised more than $110 million.
Mylan Denerstein has an impressive resume in the public sector, having worked in the state’s executive chamber as the top legal adviser to the governor, in the state attorney general’s office and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The powerhouse attorney now serves as a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where she handles complex litigation, internal investigations and legislative and policy initiatives. She also brings her expertise to the law firm’s Public Policy Practice Group.
Diana Ostroff has served as managing director of one of the most prominent lobbying firms in Albany for the past decade. Major companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Regeneron have relied on Ostroff Associates to guide them through the intricacies of state government. Diana Ostroff boasts the Big Four accounting firms – Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG – among her more notable clients. She first honed her skills as a lobbyist at The Business Council of New York State.
Tricia A. Asaro helms the health care and U.S. Food and Drug Administration practice at Greenberg Traurig’s Albany office. She brings with her extensive experience representing health plans in business negotiations as well as matters related to regulatory compliance and corporate governance. While at Greenberg Traurig, she has represented Blue Wolf Capital Partners as it worked with other organizations to create a major home-based care provider.
The Parkside Group is known both for its political consulting and its lobbying operation, which has represented such heavyweight clients as AT&T, the Brooklyn Nets and Microsoft Corp. A key player on the firm’s government affairs side is Saima Anjam, who came on in 2019. During her career she has also held key roles with the New York Immigration Coalition, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Environmental Advocates NY and the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Donna Rey, Sandi Vito and Vivian Fox manage funds on behalf of the 400,000 working and retired health care workers that make up 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. Rey oversees operations for the 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds, which provide health care and retirement benefits to workers and retirees. Vito handles the Training and Employment Funds, focused on providing training and job placement programs, while Fox oversees the union’s efforts to connect members to affordable child care and educational programs through the 1199SEIU Child Care Funds.
With nearly two decades of leadership experience in higher education, Marsha A. Pollard has served as provost at Berkeley College since 2018. She oversees academic affairs at the institution, which educates more than 4,000 students across its campuses in New York and New Jersey, in addition to its online classes. Pollard has previously worked at Stony Brook University, where she focused on faculty recruitment and student retention initiatives and served as an academic affairs liaison to the SUNY system office and state Education Department.
Since January, Natalie Edwards has been tasked with spearheading National Grid’s diversity and inclusion efforts across its businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. Before joining the gas and utility company, which has a major presence in the Northeast, she held a similar role at The Estée Lauder Companies as global executive director of inclusion and diversity. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Howard University graduate also spent several years at Deloitte.
Andrea Shapiro Davis oversees CUNY’s efforts to raise funds from private donors to support its educational mission. In addition to her fundraising work, Davis has promoted programs to increase equitable access to career opportunities. She led a partnership with Cornell Tech that aimed to increase the number of women choosing to pursue a major or minor in computer science and also managed CUNY Arts, a program to help students gain exposure to arts and culture locally.
Dominique Jones just took the reins at the youth development nonprofit Global Kids in October. With nearly a quarter century of experience in the nonprofit and public sectors, Jones now oversees a range of programs that reach more than 13,000 youth and educators across the five boroughs. Before heading to Global Kids, she spent more than six years running the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem, where she expanded its programs in New York City public schools and led its COVID-19 response.
The North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters represents more than 28,000 carpenters, pile drivers and other workers across the Northeast. Tricia Brown fights for their needs in New York, taking the union’s legislative priorities to state lawmakers in Albany. Her efforts have helped drive the passage of legislation such as the expansion of the state’s prevailing wage and the New York State Construction Industry Fair Play Act, which penalizes employers who misclassify their employees.
Kelly Fay has been with Airbnb for six years, having initially joined on as a community organizer. Now, as public policy manager, Fay focuses on driving forward its public policy priorities and communicating with Airbnb users, elected officials and community leaders. The Binghamton native is taking on Airbnb’s latest goals: bolstering travel in post-pandemic New York and creating a structure to collect taxes on bookings across the state.
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