Many of New York’s biggest power brokers hail from Queens. In Washington, D.C., Rep. Gregory Meeks has been in the thick of foreign policy discussions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while Rep. Grace Meng is at the forefront of efforts to combat anti-Asian hate across the country. State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris has been occupied in Albany with everything from the recent state budget to redistricting to reacting to the lieutenant governor race, while New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is embarking on budget negotiations at City Hall.
And that’s to say nothing of the business owners, activists, nonprofit executives and other community leaders who also play an essential role shaping the borough’s future. This year’s Queens Power 100 – researched and written by City & State’s Kay Dervishi – highlights each of these influential people who keep one of the world’s most diverse regions thriving.
Rep. Gregory Meeks may not have gotten his first choice as mayor of New York City, but the Queens Congress member did play a key role in bolstering support for New York City Council Member Adrienne Adams’ successful bid to become the speaker of the legislative body over a rival backed by Mayor Eric Adams. While the era of machine politics is fading, Meeks’ power play shows that the clout he retains as head of the Queens County Democratic Party to influence politics in the borough and the city. Meeks, who is chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is actively monitoring developments in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris ranks among the most powerful Democrats in the state Legislature, where he balances his positions as a leader of the party’s political establishment and an outspoken ally of its progressive wing. Gianaris has been at the forefront of major political developments in the state, including defending the state’s bail reform law and driving Democrats’ redistricting plan – although he lost battles on both fronts this year. He has also been laser-focused on local issues, successfully opposing a natural gas repowering in Astoria.
Rep. Grace Meng has made headlines in the past year for her efforts to combat anti-Asian violence, culminating in the passage of her COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. As the first Asian American elected to Congress from New York, Meng has drafted legislation to create a new National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture and successfully fought for the creation of a new federal program funding internet connectivity in schools and libraries.
A heated battle took place between at least seven New York City Council members vying to become speaker. But Adrienne Adams persevered in January, overcoming opposition from New York City Mayor Eric Adams – no relation – to ultimately become the first Black woman to hold the powerful position. Representing Southeast Queens, Adams now must lead an ideologically diverse legislative body made up of many new members and coordinate with a new mayoral administration. One of her upcoming challenges includes crafting this year’s city budget.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos entered 2022 with a host of legislative priorities. The lawmaker, who represents Jackson Heights, Corona and other portions of Queens, had made access to universal child care a primary focus, along with replenishing funding for the Excluded Workers Fund. Ramos was also an outspoken opponent of the LaGuardia AirTrain project and has monitored other alternate proposals to increase transit access to LaGuardia Airport, calling for community input on them.
When state Attorney General Letitia James considered a gubernatorial run last year, Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz was among the names floated as a possible candidate to replace her. But James never entered the race, and Katz has remained in place as Queens’ top prosecutor. In the past year, Katz has said that the amount of funding her office receives is insufficient and has backed calls to adjust New York state’s bail reform law.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s name is still synonymous with the progressive wave that has swept across New York City politics – and much of the country. Nearly four years after winning her first primary, Ocasio-Cortez has become a powerhouse in New York City and on Capitol Hill. The lawmaker, who represents portions of the Bronx and Queens, has joined other elected officials in opposing the creation of natural gas facilities in Astoria and in demanding insight into the bail practices of the city’s district attorneys.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards successfully staved off a tough challenge during last year’s Democratic primary. Now, Richards is focused on pressing issues in the borough, recently backing a proposal to extend ferry service to LaGuardia Airport and the Interborough Express rapid transit project that would connect Brooklyn and Queens. Richards has also spearheaded a plan to improve diversity on community boards across the borough.
As chair of the New York City Education Committee in the state Senate, John Liu has plenty of sway crafting education policy affecting students in the five boroughs. More recently, Liu has been exploring possible alternatives to mayoral control of the city’s public school system. The state lawmaker, who was the first Asian American New York City Council member, has also been pushing for greater state funding to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Under Rick Cotton’s leadership, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is delivering big projects to Queens. It completed a major renovation of LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B and is spearheading another large project at John F. Kennedy International Airport, with $9.5 billion set aside to build a new terminal. The Port Authority is also mulling alternatives to a LaGuardia AirTrain, including extending bus and subway access in Queens.
Weeks after New York state launched legalized mobile sports betting in January, the state saw more than $2 billion in wagers placed, bringing in close to $80 million in tax revenue to the Big Apple. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., who heads the legislative body’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, played a major role in making the proposal happen. He’s hoping to bring more gaming revenue to Queens, including by supporting Resorts World’s push to get a casino license.
Serving as chair of the state Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, Leroy Comrie oversees numerous transportation projects in New York. That makes his insight particularly important as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey decides on alternative proposals to connect New Yorkers to LaGuardia Airport. Among his other priorities this year, Comrie has pushed forward legislation to create a public database of state business subsidies.
Queens resident Kyle Bragg ranks among New York’s most powerful labor leaders. He used his political sway to help rally support for Adrienne Adams’ successful City Council speaker bid earlier this year. Bragg has been at the forefront of many labor issues as head of 32BJ SEIU, recently overseeing contract negotiations between residential building staffers and building owners. He also served on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team last fall.
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky holds the distinction of being the first woman from Queens to be elected to the state Senate, where she has represented her district for more than 20 years. Among her biggest recent legislative priorities: tackling crucial issues in higher education. Stavisky has joined advocates and fellow lawmakers in calling to bring more funding to the City University of New York and pushed for more funding for mental health services for college students.
State Sen. James Sanders Jr. has represented swaths of Southeast Queens for decades, having spent 12 years as a City Council member before heading to the state Senate in 2013. He serves as both chair of the state Senate Banks Committee and head of the chamber’s Task Force on Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise. He has leveraged the latter position to push forward bills and proposals to expand government contracting opportunities for MWBEs.
Queens business owners have a strong ally in Thomas Grech. As head of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Grech represents more than 1,300 companies and advocates for policies revitalizing the borough’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He joined other Queens leaders in February to call for more federal relief funding for restaurants and pushed for the borough to become a hub for more technology companies.
New York City leaders have spent plenty of time focused on improving public safety in recent months. That has kept the vocal police union leader, Patrick Lynch, busy. As president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, Lynch was aligned with New York City Mayor Eric Adams in pushing for a rollback of the state’s bail reform law and criticizing Gov. Kathy Hochul for failing to make more aggressive changes. The Queens native has also vociferously opposed coronavirus vaccine mandates for his members, especially after such rules were loosened for athletes and performers in March.
Southeast Queens native Patrick B. Jenkins helms a powerhouse lobbying shop in Albany, having founded his eponymous firm in 2009. Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates has helped deliver legislative victories on behalf of its clients, which includes advocating for marijuana legalization and legalized mobile sports betting. Jenkins, who also holds close ties to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, has also worked closely with influential stakeholders in New York City’s real estate industry.
Dennis M. Walcott helms one of the county’s largest public library systems, with 66 locations across Queens. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Walcott oversaw efforts to expand internet access to library branches in underserved communities and eliminated late fees to ensure more equitable access to books and other resources. Walcott, who was named to Mayor Eric Adams’ New York City Districting Commission, has also served as a state-appointed monitor for the East Ramapo Central School District and as chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney has succeeded in holding on to her seat in Congress despite numerous competitive primary challenges. Leading up to this year’s midterms, progressive Queens activist Rana Abdelhamid emerged as a serious candidate for the district and two-time challenger Suraj Patel announced he’ll run again. Now that New York’s redistricting maps have been tossed out, it’s unclear how that primary will shape up for Maloney, who would’ve had better electoral odds under a scrapped redistricting plan that expanded her district farther west into Manhattan.
Plenty of eyes were on Assembly Member Ron Kim last year when he sparred with then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his administration’s cover-up of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. As chair of the Assembly Aging Committee, Kim continues to actively push for policies that support New York’s elderly population. Earlier this year, he released a report denouncing the Chinese-American Planning Council’s treatment of home care workers and called for $50 million in state funding to support older New Yorkers.
Political consultant Tyquana Henderson-Rivers has been behind many Queens elected officials’ campaigns. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Rep. Gregory Meeks and Assembly Members Jeffrion Aubry and Catherine Nolan number among the politicians who have sought her expertise. Henderson-Rivers’ work goes well beyond Queens: She was selected to be part of the team backing Gov. Kathy Hochul in her first gubernatorial election bid this year.
In recent years, Long Island City has undergone a massive transformation into a fast-growing and desirable neighborhood in Western Queens. As head of the Long Island City Partnership, Elizabeth Lusskin works to ensure the area continues to thrive. Lusskin has called for relief efforts to support local restaurants while also backing initiatives to bring more technology and life sciences companies to Long Island City.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the airline industry, Robin Hayes put JetBlue Airways Corp. in position for a major expansion. The Queens-based airline company is increasing its flights in New York City by 50% and hiring an additional 5,000 workers to make that push succeed. Especially after the surge in omicron cases in January, Hayes has also played a key role in navigating ever-changing public health rules and changing travel patterns.
Queens Democratic fixture Michael Woloz has led the public affairs firm CMW Strategies since 2012, serving as a lobbyist and spokesperson for clients across the transportation, technology, real estate and nonprofit sectors. The lobbyist has represented a wide array of clients, including the Hotel Association of New York City, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade and Creative Mobile Technologies, which provides technology and services to improve taxi operations. Woloz also has close ties to City Hall, including former veteran CMW staffer Jeff Rodus, who serves a key role in the Adams administration.
Steven Cohen numbers among the many professional sports team owners who lobbied hard for New York to change its COVID-19 rules. Those efforts succeeded, as New York City Mayor Eric Adams ended up lifting COVID-19 vaccine mandates for professional athletes and performers in March. The billionaire hedge fund manager has also historically been chummy with the mayor, having contributed $1.5 million to a super PAC backing Adams’ campaign last year.
Helen Arteaga Landaverde and Neil J. Moore took on their respective roles heading New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and New York City Health + Hospitals/Queens at similar times in 2021. Arteaga made history as the first woman and first person of Latin American descent to hold the position, in which she oversees more than 4,000 employees delivering care to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Meanwhile, Moore brings extensive experience with the city’s public health system and health care institutions beyond the tri-state area to his position. He is currently overseeing a project to create an outpatient dialysis center at New York City Health + Hospitals/Queens, receiving $1 million in federal funding to make it happen.
Flushing has been home to major business and economic growth – at least until the COVID-19 pandemic began. But the neighborhood has been recovering faster than many others in Queens and the rest of New York City. Peter Tu of the Flushing Chinese Business Association has been focused on sustaining that growth, delivering guidance and support to the thousands of local businesses in the area. Tu also serves as a member of Community Board 7.
Jaclyn Mucaria initially had plans to become a doctor – but she instead went on to become a health executive delivering quality care to her native borough. She has served as president of NewYork-Presbyterian Queens since 2015, overseeing a hospital handling 286,000 ambulatory care and emergency service visits each year. In recent years, Mucaria has made it a priority to deliver innovative health services and revitalized facilities to the Flushing hospital.
New York City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers may only have been in office since last year, but she is shaping up to become a notable elected official in the borough and beyond. An ally of City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Brooks-Powers this year assumed the role of majority whip in the legislative body. And as head of the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, she took a tour of every City Council district to understand the transit needs across the five boroughs.
New York City Council Member Tiffany Cabán made national headlines during her bid to become Queens district attorney. The progressive former public defender, who narrowly lost that race, is now bringing her passion for reforming New York City’s criminal justice system to the City Council. Cabán has been critical of “broken windows” policing and questioned the size of the NYPD’s budget during hearings in March, calling instead for greater investment in social services.
In a City Council filled with new members, City Council Members Francisco Moya, James Gennaro and Robert Holden are among the legislative body’s veterans. Moya mounted a tenacious bid to become council speaker, even securing the backing from New York City Mayor Eric Adams. But that support rallied plenty of other members against him, with the goal of weakening the mayor’s perceived influence over the City Council. Meanwhile, Gennaro returned to his old seat last year after a previous stint serving in the City Council between 2002 and 2013. He’s even taken on his old leadership role for the City Council Environmental Protection Committee. Holden continues to hold his reputation as one of the body’s most conservative Democrats, and he is an architect of the Common-Sense Caucus that has support from Republican Minority Leader Joseph Borelli.
Mark Weprin boasts an extensive history as an elected official in Queens, having served in the Assembly and New York City Council. That legislative experience informs his work today at Greenberg Traurig as he lobbies on behalf of real estate companies, corporations and nonprofits in New York. Weprin’s previous career in government also included serving as deputy secretary of legislative affairs under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Rev. Elaine Flake became senior pastor of Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral of New York last year, after the retirement of her husband, Floyd Flake, the church’s longtime pastor and former member of Congress. She now leads a congregation of 23,000 in Jamaica and the Greater Allen African Methodist Cathedral’s efforts to support the broader community. The church is one of the largest employers in Queens, in addition to providing housing to low-income New Yorkers and running a soup kitchen.
With each surge in COVID-19 cases at Northwell Health, Dr. John D’Angelo was working to make sure emergency departments across the health system were ready to respond. But his focus has shifted beyond emergency medicine recently, taking on a new position that puts him in charge of managing hospitals under Northwell Health’s umbrella. That includes several hospitals in Queens, such as Long Island Jewish Forest Hills and Zucker Hillside Hospital.
Dr. Cameron R. Hernandez and Dr. David L. Reich play major roles in leading Mount Sinai Queens’ work delivering health care to residents across the borough. Hernandez has served as executive director and chief operating officer at the hospital since August, after guiding Mount Sinai Queens through a COVID-19 surge as chief medical officer. Reich brings extensive experience at Mount Sinai to his current role leading Mount Sinai Queens, where he oversees initiatives to advance technology at the hospital.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a major obstacle for New York’s horse racing industry, but David O’Rourke is optimistic about its future. The legalization of mobile sports betting has been a major boon for the New York Racing Association – which oversees the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens – and the organization has been taking on new renovations at Belmont Park. Under O’Rourke’s leadership, the New York Racing Association also backed legislation signed in December that banned the slaughter of race horses in the state.
Assembly Member Nily Rozic has represented the eastern portion of Queens for nearly a decade. The lawmaker, who works effectively both with younger progressive and entrenched establishment colleagues, chairs the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee and recently pushed forward a legislative package to combat price gouging associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. She has sponsored legislation protecting sexual harassment survivors from fines associated with breaking nondisclosure agreements when coming forward with their story and legislation examining Holocaust education across the state.
Drawing on her own experience growing up as a “Dreamer” in Queens, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz has been an outspoken voice for immigrants’ rights and needs in Albany. The legislator, who represents Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, has backed efforts to deliver aid to undocumented immigrants who dealt with flooding after the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck New York last year. Cruz is also one of the sponsors for the state’s Clean Slate bill, which would automatically seal conviction records for certain New Yorkers.
Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani made waves when he knocked a fellow Democrat out of office in 2020, a notable success for the only Queens Assembly candidate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America at the time. He has since become an active voice among the state Legislature’s left-wing, fighting greater eviction protections for tenants and opposing the 421-a program. The lawmaker is getting a significantly different district thanks to redistricting, losing nearly half of his existing Astoria district and taking on an area that includes three New York City Housing Authority developments and parts of Long Island City.
These Queens elected officials are some of the New York City Council’s many new first-term members. As the chair of the council’s Mental Health, Disabilities and Addictions Committee, City Council Member Linda Lee has committed to pushing for greater access to mental health care for New Yorkers who don’t speak English. She is also serving alongside City Council Member Nantasha Williams as co-chair of the Queens delegation in the legislative body, leading budget negotiations to support the borough. Since taking office, City Council Member Sandra Ung has introduced legislation increasing access to family intake centers in the five boroughs and has opposed the development of a transitional housing site in Flushing. Meanwhile, City Council Member Shekar Krishnan, who represents Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, has outlined a five-point plan to improve green space and parks in New York City as part of his work helming the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee. City Council Member Julie Won has delved into the work on the council committee she leads on contracts, pushing for the city to work with more minority- and women-owned businesses and for a more streamlined contracting process for nonprofits. And City Council Member Lynn Schulman has her hands full leading the council’s Health Committee as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, having responded to the omicron surge in her district soon after taking office.
For Frank Wu, the public higher education education system is the “engine of the American dream.” That is what drove him to take over as president of Queens College in 2020. Since then, Wu has announced efforts to create a new business school and arts school to expand the college’s educational offerings. He has also overseen the creation of a new Queens STEM Academy together with LaGuardia Community College to help local Hispanic and Latino students get degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In March, Rep. Gregory Meeks and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer secured $1.25 million in federal funds for St. John’s University. Now, the Rev. Brian J. Shanley will steer that money to facilities and equipment to support the Queens-based school’s new Health Sciences Center. Shanley has served as president of St. John’s since February 2021, after spending more than 15 years as head of Providence College in Rhode Island.
Dermot Smyth serves as a political action coordinator at the United Federation of Teachers, working in Queens on the union’s legislative and advocacy priorities. That includes helping the union and its approximately 200,000 members move forward with endorsements of local candidates in New York City’s elections last year, backing now-City Council Members Sandra Ung, Nantasha Williams and Lynn Schulman among other candidates in Queens.
The past year has been a busy one for Kaufman Astoria Studios. Venture capital firms Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital Management purchased the famed movie studio in November, with President and CEO Hal Rosenbluth declaring that the move would present a strong growth opportunity. Kaufman Astoria Studios has also partnered with Silverstein Properties and BedRock Real Estate Partners to push forward a proposal to rezone five blocks in Astoria, with plans to create a mixed-use development with housing, retail and entertainment space.
Resorts World New York City celebrated its 10th anniversary in October, and it’s showing no signs of slowing in 2022. Under Robert DeSalvio’s leadership, the Genting-owned Resorts World launched a new mobile sports betting app in New York in March, cashing in on a major development in New York’s gambling industry. The Queens-based racetrack casino is also a front-runner for a full-fledged casino license now that state lawmakers agreed to extend casino licenses downstate, with state Sen. Joseph Addabbo and others supporting Resorts World’s bid to get one.
MinKwon Center for Community Action is one of several nonprofits that New York state selected to help undocumented New Yorkers receive state funding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. It’s one way the Flushing-based organization, led by John Park, has been engaging with communities in Queens. MinKwon Center for Community Action has also spearheaded initiatives to prevent violence against Asian Americans in New York City and has raised money for an Asian American man who was attacked in February.
Ensuring that Queens small businesses thrive is a top priority for Seth Bornstein of the Queens Economic Development Corp. He has been with the organization for more than 40 years and has led its initiatives to bolster the borough’s economy since 2009. That includes programs to help women- and minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, and a signature annual competition for startups in Queens.
Tennis fans flocked back in droves to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for last year’s U.S. Open, with more than 630,000 people in attendance over the two weeks of the major sporting event. As chief operating officer for the center, Daniel Zausner played a key role in making sure the major reopening went smoothly and successfully. That includes handling food, merchandise, security, guest services and other forms of operational support.
Two years ago, Jenifer Rajkumar made history as the first South Asian woman elected to state legislative office in New York. Her victory reflects the growing political power of South Asian communities across New York City, which also fueled a push to create a unified Assembly district encompassing South Asian populations in South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill. Rajkumar, who represents parts of each neighborhood, said the state missed “a historic opportunity” to empower South Asian communities. The governor also signed legislation she sponsored providing greater benefits and protections for domestic workers.
At a time when New York City’s restaurant industry has been struggling financially, Kara Hughes has lobbied for measures to support their needs. An executive vice president at Kasirer, Hughes worked with a coalition of small restaurants and successfully fought for legislation such as the city’s outdoor dining initiative. She brings extensive experience in government to her role, having previously served as acting director of city legislative affairs under then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Another key staffer at the city’s top lobbying firm is Michael Braun, who came on board in 2019 after serving as president of the SUNY Student Assembly and as a trustee on the SUNY board of trustees.
Anne Marie Anzalone spent years working with Queens lawmakers before moving over to Bolton-St. Johns in 2019. She started her career working for the late Assembly Member Denis Butler, eventually going on to work for then-Rep. Joe Crowley and becoming his chief of staff. John Albert is also a Queens resident at the powerhouse lobbying firm, working with nonprofits and corporations to bring about the legislative changes they seek.
Peter Vallone Sr.’s long tenure in politics and government gave him the leverage to establish Constantinople & Vallone Consulting LLC as one of New York City’s top lobbying firms. The influential lobbyist boasts an impressive resume, having served as speaker in the New York City Council and having been a major candidate in gubernatorial and mayoral elections. That experience makes him a valuable ally for clients across corporate, nonprofit and other industries seeking to navigate local and state government.
These three Long Island-based attorneys have been power players within the Queens County Democratic Party for more than 30 years. Gerard Sweeney, Michael Reich and Frank Bolz III are partners at the law firm Sweeney, Reich & Bolz and mainstays within Queens Democratic politics. While the county machine has faced challenges from the left in recent years, this trio still plays a role in the party’s judgeship nominations and advancing preferred political candidates running for office in the borough.
Veteran lobbyist Travis Terry has helped major clients in the corporate and nonprofit worlds navigate New York City government, securing approvals for land use projects and obtaining funding for local charities. Macy’s, Two Trees Management and New York University number among the institutions that have sought his expertise. The Queens resident has served as president of Capalino since 2020, after spending about 18 years handling the lobbying firm’s operations.
After the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.’s previous leader, Hope Knight, left to helm the state's economic development arm, Justin Rodgers was promoted to lead the 55-year-old organization on a temporary basis. Rodgers now oversees its work to revitalize Jamaica and to keep the neighborhood thriving despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Rodgers, who has spent 15 years with the organization, now manages a staff of 30 and the group’s commercial projects locally.
Plenty of New York City Democrats will be facing primary challengers this year. Assembly Member David Weprin was almost one of them, but the progressive candidate who emerged to race against him decided to end his campaign. That means Weprin will likely continue representing his eastern Queens district, as both his father and brother did before him. The lawmaker also serves as the chair of the Assembly Correction Committee, driving policy regarding the state’s jails and prisons.
The New Reformers is a coalition of local Democratic activists pushing back against the Queens Democratic Party by backing their own slate of district leaders. Bright Limm and Virginia “Vigie” Ramos Rios are two current board members who have been with the group since its inception in 2019. Limm is a lawyer who works with the Working Families Party of New York and Queens chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, while Ramos Rios served as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign manager during her stunning 2018 primary win.
Health care workers at the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center were on the front lines responding to the surge in omicron variant cases earlier this year. Bruce Flanz oversaw that response at both Queens hospitals as head of Medisys Health Network. In February, the health executive joined New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ new COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force, advising the city on its health policies.
Rasheida Smith has extensive campaign experience under her belt, having worked for former Rep. Charles Rangel, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and New York City Council Member I. Daneek Miller. Her government and community relations firm, Dunton Consulting, has played a key role in getting federal and state politicians elected in New York and beyond. Last year, Smith supported Ray McGuire’s bid to become New York City mayor as well as Elizabeth Caputo’s run for Manhattan borough president.
The long-delayed Willets Point development finally got underway in June. The site near Citi Field will be transformed into affordable housing, retail space, a school and community space, with initial cleanup efforts expected to be completed next year. That progress can be credited to the Queens Development Group, composed of Related Companies and Sterling Project Development. Jeff Wilpon and Richard Browne have been key leaders at Sterling Project Development, overseeing this and other projects.
Jukay Hsu launched Pursuit in 2013 in Queens, preparing 23 low-income people for careers in technology. Nearly a decade later, the organization announced it has secured $10 million in funding that will enable it to scale up its training program to reach 1,000 people seeking to become software engineers and to pursue tech careers. A Queens native, Hsu also serves on the board of directors of the New York City Partnership Foundation, the Partnership Fund for New York City’s nonprofit affiliate.
Plenty of Queens elected officials have turned to Scott Levenson to deliver for them at the ballot box. In recent years, that client list has included Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and New York City Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, who took office last year. Levenson founded The Advance Group more than 30 years ago, offering expertise on lobbying, campaigns, elections and other work for corporate, political and nonprofit clients.
Since being elected to office two years ago, Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas has aligned herself with progressive causes in the state Legislature. She has recently pushed for the passage of legislation to provide more street vending permits in New York City and to remove conviction records related to street vending offenses. The Queens lawmaker has also been a vocal supporter of legislation that would expand health coverage in the state to undocumented immigrants.
Tunisha Walker-Miller has spent much of her career focused on helping minority- and women-owned businesses in New York. Seven years ago, she created the MWBE Consulting Group at the top lobbying firm Capalino, helping businesses comply with city and state rules, and connecting primes and subcontractors. She founded the Source Consulting Group, where she helps MWBEs with everything from certification to procurement and business development, and remains a senior adviser at Capalino.
A $2 billion Flushing waterfront development got the New York City Council’s rubber stamp two years ago. Richard Siu of F&T Group – one of the companies making up the joint partnership developing the major mixed-use project – played a key role in getting it off the ground. F&T Group is also behind a $800 million development in Flushing called the Tangram project, which is made up of residential towers, office space, retail stores and restaurants.
Christine Mangino last year oversaw Queensborough Community College’s biggest expansion in 60 years, transforming the former Jewish Center of Oak Hills into a new building for the school's campus. It’s one way that Mangino has been working to bolster the college’s reputation for quality low-cost education since becoming president in 2020. Those efforts are also informed by her own experience as a first-generation college student who attended community college on Long Island.
Ebony Young was among the many candidates seeking to join the New York City Council last year. While Young, who competed against 14 other candidates in a Democratic primary to represent portions of Western Queens, ultimately fell short, she has taken her passion for serving local residents to the Queens borough president’s office. Her work as Queens deputy borough president is also informed by her extensive experience in the nonprofit sector, having previously led the Long Island City YMCA.
Rhonda Binda has spent years working to support Queens communities. She used to head the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, spearheading efforts to revitalize the economy of the neighborhood. She also served as Queens deputy borough president before heading over to the private sector. She now uses her experience in government and economic development as vice president at Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp., where she heads up initiatives surrounding government affairs and social impact.
LaGuardia Airport unveiled its new Terminal B in January, a $4 billion renovation that was six years in the making and which won an international architecture and design award. Frank Scremin has overseen the project’s development and managed the new terminal’s operations as CEO of LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a partnership between several top construction, design and airline companies. Up until 2021, Scremin served as the chief operating officer for LaGuardia Gateway Partners.
Under CEO Clint Plummer’s leadership, Rise Light & Power has been working to turn the Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City into a hub for renewable energy. The company faced a setback when the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority didn’t advance its project, but Plummer has pledged to move forward with his innovative plans. After Rep. Carolyn Maloney in February pledged to shut down the Ravenswood power plant, Rise Light & Power had the representative visit the plant to understand the company’s push toward renewable energy.
The Republican Party made a notable comeback during last year’s elections. That rebound was apparent in Queens, where New York City Council Members Joann Ariola and Vickie Paladino prevailed in their respective races. Ariola, who previously helmed the Queens Republican Party, kept her district seat red in an overwhelming victory. And Paladino – who since taking office has faced controversy for not disclosing her COVID-19 vaccination status – managed to flip a Democratic seat.
Lifelong Queensbridge Houses resident Mitchell Taylor founded Urban Upbound nearly two decades ago to expand economic opportunities for New Yorkers living in public housing. Under his leadership, the nonprofit has been busy delivering support to Queens communities struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization launched a new city-funded job training program in Queensbridge Houses in January and received $800,000 in federal funds to provide career training to youth.
Local Queens political drama centered on Community Board 7 last year when its leadership booted John Choe from the board. The board alleged that Choe sent a fundraising email for his City Council campaign to a board member and created a Facebook page without permission from leadership, but Choe rebutted the accusations and said the board removed him because he opposed some of its positions. Choe has kept active as head of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, coordinating with community organizations on an initiative to oppose anti-Asian violence in Queens and supporting small businesses.
Berenecea Johnson Eanes has been busy since taking the reins at York College. Since 2019, Eanes has managed the creation of the Jamaica-based school’s strategic plan, created an emergency fund to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic and oversaw the completion of seven capital projects. With $29.2 million in funding, the college was able to get two new lecture halls and two new science buildings, among other improvements.
When many politicos hear the last name Crowley, they think of former Rep. Joe Crowley and former New York City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. But John “Sean” Crowley is another member of the clan with a role in local and state politics. He works as a lobbyist and partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, handling government affairs priorities in New York City and Albany. Before joining the firm, the Forest Hills resident served as the managing partner of Crowley, Crowley & Kaufman and as an investigator with the New York City Council.
Scott Crowley, who is not related to former Rep. Joe Crowley, brings more than 20 years of experience in government, politics and labor to Fontas Advisors, a government relations firm advising technology companies, real estate firms, nonprofits and trade associations. His background serving as deputy director of the New York City Council’s finance division helped him develop a critical understanding of the city’s legislative and budgetary procedures, a boon for his clients. He has also worked as director of special projects for Local 338, a union representing 15,000 workers across the state.
Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corp. was founded 44 years ago to improve economic conditions in the Rockaways. Kevin Alexander has been supporting that mission as the organization’s president and CEO since 2011, guiding its work supporting the community in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also is spearheading efforts to get local residents connected to jobs through John F. Kennedy International Airport’s redevelopment program.
Silvercup Studios has been responsible for filming famed television shows such as “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” along with more recent productions, including HBO’s “Succession” and FX’s “Pose.” Alan Suna has led the Queens-based studio for some 40 years, cultivating its reputation in New York’s film industry. He sold the studio to Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital in 2020, two firms that also acquired Kaufman Astoria Studios last year.
After an unsuccessful New York City Council run, Steven Raga joined Woodside on the Move as the nonprofit’s new executive director last year. He now oversees the organization’s 115 full-time and part-time workers delivering housing case services, after-school programs and tenant advocacy to the Queens neighborhood. After his former boss, Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, announced he would not run for reelection, Queens Democrats selected Raga to take his place on the ballot.
Costa Constantinides exited the New York City Council last year to head the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, where he has overseen major changes. New York City provided $2.7 million in funds to allow the nonprofit organization to build a community center in Jackson Heights, and the Queens borough president’s office set aside $5 million for Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens’ redevelopment project. The former chair of the City Council Environmental Protection Committee has also continued to advocate for clean energy in Queens and beyond.
For the past two decades, the nonprofit Chhaya has been fighting to equal the playing field for low-income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean people in New York City. Annetta Seecharran oversees the organization’s work connecting people to affordable homes, providing immigration legal services and delivering financial assistance. Seecharran testified before the House of Representatives in March for a hearing on discrimination and the civil rights of Muslim, Arab and South Asian American communities.
As New York City’s leaders continue to prevent gun violence, many have turned to groups like LIFE Camp for support. Erica Ford started the South Jamaica-based organization 20 years ago, driving its work to prevent violence, to conduct community outreach and to provide mental health support to survivors of gun violence. Ford played a key role in developing New York City’s Crisis Management System, a program that uses trusted community members to de-escalate and prevent violent encounters, and connects people to social services.
The past two years have been challenging for the New York Hall of Science. After spending 18 months closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck New York in September, causing major flooding in the museum. Margaret Honey led successful fundraising campaigns to get the space repaired. Those renovations allowed the New York Hall of Science to finally open again in February. That experience inspired a new exhibit at the museum focused on sustainability and climate resilience in New York City.
Edwin Christian has spent more than 30 years as a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14-14B, a Flushing-based union representing operating engineers that work in construction in New York City. He serves as the union’s business manager as he advocates on members’ behalf. The labor leader is also on the executive board of the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council and is president of the New York City Coalition of Operating Engineers.
After COVID-19 shuttered New York’s museums, the Museum of the Moving Image made its return last May and has been making the most of it, hosting a new exhibition and a ceremony celebrating media leaders on the autism spectrum. Carl Goodman has led the museum, which highlights the history and technique behind film, television and digital media, for over a decade. The arts leader has supported a proposed redevelopment project in the southern portion of Astoria, saying it would allow the cultural institution to have a greater impact in the neighborhood.
Since 2000, Desis Rising Up and Moving has been advocating for low-income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrants in New York City. Fahd Ahmed serves as head of the Jackson Heights-based organization after spending years there advocating for the end of surveillance of Muslim communities and of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics. In the past year, Desis Rising Up and Moving worked together with Los Deliveristas Unidos to bring together Hispanic and South Asian delivery workers advocating for better working conditions.
Kevin Livingston started 100 Suits for 100 Men about a decade ago with the goal of connecting formerly homeless and incarcerated people searching for jobs with business clothes. His organization goes beyond just providing clothes, also offering support to underprivileged New Yorkers as they search for employment. The Jamaica-based nonprofit opened a new office in Laurelton in September, drawing praise from then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Brian Simon founded Hollis Public Affairs last year, bringing with him extensive experience at a lobbying firm and in government. Most recently, he spent five years handling government relations at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. Simon has also worked in then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, having served as director of government and community relations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Before that, Simon worked for prominent elected officials such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Gregory Meeks.
Richard David works as a liaison between Con Edison and community members in Queens when the utility company launches new projects and initiatives in the borough. One recent project the company is implementing is a $4 million pilot program in Middle Village to transfer overhead cable lines underground, with the goal of making service more reliable as storms become stronger. In addition to his work with Con Edison, David serves as a Democratic district leader in Assembly District 31.
Until recently, Sateesh Nori helmed The Legal Aid Society’s Queens office, overseeing a team of 80 employees delivering legal support and housing assistance to residents across the borough. He became the executive director of JustFix in April, leading a nonprofit that creates technological tools to help tenants and legal advocates to prevent evictions. It’s a natural fit for Nori, who has spent about two decades representing tenants at nonprofit legal services organizations in New York City.
Alex Camarda handles Charter Communications’ legislative and regulatory priorities in Albany. Over the past two years, he has served as director of state government affairs at the telecommunications company, which has more than 2 million customers in New York. The Queens resident brings with him extensive experience in the government and political realm, having previously worked at the New York City Department of Finance and Citizens Union, a good-government group.
Bianey Garcia’s past experiences as an undocumented immigrant and sex worker have fueled her activism at Make the Road New York, where she leads the organization’s Trans Immigrant Project. She has become a go-to activist in Queens fighting for transgender people, Latinas and immigrants facing injustice. Last year, she played a key role in pushing successfully for state lawmakers to repeal its “walking while trans” law and has supported calls to decriminalize sex work.
The death of an Indo-Caribbean woman named Donna “Rehanna” Dojoy in 2019 inspired Aminta Kilawan-Narine to combat gender-based violence and advocate for women in the South Queens. In 2020, the attorney created South Queens Women’s March, which has grown into a nonprofit that focuses on civic engagement, mutual aid and other forms of support in the region. Kilawan-Narine is behind the organization’s advocacy for a unified district encompassing Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park, made up of Indo-Caribbean and South Asian communities.
The New Immigrant Community Empowerment has joined other advocacy groups in pushing for policies that help immigrants across New York City. Diana Moreno has been leading the Queens-based nonprofit in an interim capacity since its previous executive director, Manuel Castro, joined the Adams administration. Since then, Moreno has spearheaded rallies and protests calling for better pathways to citizenship and greater financial support for undocumented immigrants excluded from federal pandemic relief efforts.
Queens Night Market has entered its seventh year in operations, thanks to the leadership of founder John Wang. The weekly cultural festival has earned a reputation for bringing together diverse food vendors and capping food prices to keep the community event affordable for attendees. Last year, Wang instituted suggested donations at the Queens Night Market, funneling the funds to help local immigrants affected by flooding after the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck New York City.
Since becoming executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership in 2014, Leslie A. Ramos has been focused on growing businesses in Jackson Heights. She leads the business improvement district’s efforts to coordinate with city officials, develop public spaces and to help businesses seeking guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramos has also called on New York City leaders to provide more assistance to small businesses owned by people of color.
Since Sonia Sisodia joined South Asian Youth Action in 2014, the nonprofit executive has played a major role in expanding the organization’s after-school, summer and educational programs for youth. Those programs reached 1,750 children and young adults in Queens and Brooklyn throughout 2020. Sisodia’s work at South Asian Youth Action is also informed by her past role at the Educational Alliance, where she spearheaded the creation of its college preparation programs.
Luna Liu joined MetroPlusHealth in 2015, initially working on the health insurer’s events and community outreach in New York City. That position has grown into a new role, in which she works to inform and educate Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the city about health care access. The longtime Queens resident has developed ties to elected officials, advocates and other community leaders, and helped bring to life MetroPlusHealth’s new Flushing Community Office last year.
José Tejada leads the Dominico-American Society of Queens, a nearly 30-year-old nonprofit founded to support Queens’ low-income residents. He oversees a range of programs providing families and youth job training support, immigration legal services and other forms of support. His nonprofit is a part of the Hispanic Federation and UnidosUS, two umbrella organizations helping Latinos across the country. Dominico-American Society of Queens has also partnered with community groups to provide food assistance to Queens residents in need.