Manhattan has a long history as a locus of political power. In the late 1700s, it served as the home of the fledgling United States government, where the Congress of Confederation convened and where George Washington was inaugurated as the nation’s first president. The rise of Wall Street and the opening of the Erie Canal made it a thriving center of commerce and trade. An interconnected ecosystem of influential industries – finance, law, real estate, media – have helped make the borough an economic engine today. City & State’s Manhattan Power 100 – researched and written in partnership with journalist Aaron Short – identifies the many power brokers in the borough, from elected and appointed officials to business executives and academic leaders to advocates and activists of every stripe.
As the first formerly undocumented immigrant to serve in Congress, Rep. Adriano Espaillat has played a key role in immigration policy at the national level. In April, he met with President Joe Biden about easing COVID-19 border restrictions and introduced a bill to give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But Espaillat wields even more influence back home in his district in northern Manhattan and the Bronx, where he supported Dominican American candidates like George Alvarez, who toppled an incumbent in a Democratic Assembly primary, and is backing challengers against incumbent state Sens. Robert Jackson and Gustavo Rivera.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney are facing off in a marquee battle of true heavyweights. Thanks to new congressional lines drawn by a court-appointed special master, the lawmakers with nearly six decades of combined experience in Congress are competing in a new district that connects Nadler’s Upper West Side with Maloney’s Upper East Side. Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, played a key role in the first impeachment of then-President Donald Trump, while Maloney has used her post as chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee to tackle everything from gun control to census integrity to the fallout from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A recent poll commissioned by a third candidate, Suraj Patel, showed Nadler and Maloney tied at 31%, with Patel at 25%.
State Sen. Liz Krueger was a key figure in completing the state’s $220 billion budget – even if it was a week late. The state Senate Finance Committee chair also expedited gun control legislation and authored the Equality Amendment that passed during a special session after the U.S. Supreme Court restricted abortion rights. Krueger, who has been a vocal critic of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Penn Station megadevelopment project, does support moving Madison Square Garden to another location, which would free up space to overhaul the transportation hub.
After the new 10th Congressional District lines were finalized, it appeared that former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime Brooklynite, or Rep. Mondaire Jones from the Hudson Valley might emerge as the front-runners. Instead, polling indicates that two local Manhattan lawmakers – Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou and New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera – have the edge, along with Dan Goldman, a Levi Strauss & Co. heir who made his mark as the lead counsel in the first impeachment of then-President Donald Trump. The newly created district, which spans lower Manhattan and portions of northern Brooklyn, has no incumbent, and the winner of the Democratic primary this month all but guaranteed to take the seat in the November election.
Kathryn Wylde has warned that New York is undergoing a “period of profound change” that has led to uncertainty over the future of workplaces and Manhattan’s business districts. Wylde, the head of the influential Partnership for New York City, stressed that if city leaders want workers to return to offices, they must curb crime in subways and streets. She has also credited business-friendly New York City Mayor Eric Adams with focusing on improving public safety. Wylde anticipates office occupancy to be around 50% by the fall.
The Rev. Al Sharpton has used his bully pulpit to speak out against police brutality, including an effort to push law enforcement authorities in Michigan and Arkansas to release more information surrounding police-involved shootings. In recent months, he’s also pressured the White House to put more effort into freeing WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russia. The civil rights leader's opposition to putting a civil rights museum inside the controversial Harlem development project One45 helped spell its end this spring, but his legacy has been honored in other ways, including a documentary about his life, “Loudmouth.”
Steven Roth, one of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s most prolific campaign donors, scored a $1.2 billion tax break in the governor’s controversial Penn Station rehabilitation plan. Under the arrangement, Vornado would send payments in lieu of taxes to the state, which would borrow billions of dollars to renovate the transit hub while Vornado builds five new towers in the surrounding area. State lawmakers tried to empower the Public Authorities Control Board to slow the project, but Roth is now on track to begin remaking West Midtown.
Damian Williams became the first Black U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York after President Joe Biden appointed him to the role a year ago. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Williams has avoided irking the president while leading the indictment of New York’s former lieutenant governor on campaign finance charges and securing the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell on five felony counts for trafficking teenage girls. Williams also made history when he charged individuals in the first-ever cryptocurrency insider trading case.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has been New York City’s most persistent proponent of more prevalent COVID-19 testing and stricter indoor mask mandates, even as New York City Mayor Eric Adams scrapped a coronavirus alert system and cut testing sites. The former New York City Council Health Committee chair no doubt experienced déjà vu when he chastised the city’s lax response to the worsening monkeypox crisis and demanded a better appointment system and more doses. Levine is also promoting a bill that would lead to more public restrooms throughout the city.
Sandra Lindsay, the Northwell Health nurse who was the first person vaccinated against COVID-19, is a reflection of the health system’s persistence and perseverance for Michael Dowling, who has stressed those values, especially regarding gun control and abortion. Dowling has led the expansion of Northwell’s outpatient facilities to 870 locations and is investing in solutions to reduce Black maternal mortality rates. Dowling also reached a deal with Google to use its cloud and machine learning technologies to analyze patient data and help clinicians make decisions.
Only one New York City Council member gets to be speaker, but for those who do seek the leadership post – and step aside at the right time – there are plenty of plum positions to occupy in the city’s legislative body. This trio of Manhattanites – along with Brooklyn’s Justin Brannan – sought the speakership but ultimately backed City Council Member Adrienne Adams of Queens, who prevailed over another rival backed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams. All three were then named to the council’s leadership team, with Council Member Diana Ayala (whose district extends into the Bronx) named deputy speaker, Council Member Keith Powers appointed majority leader and Council Member Gale Brewer getting to chair the Oversight and Investigations Committee.
This year, Bill Thompson and Félix V. Matos Rodríguez marked CUNY’s 175th anniversary, although the last three years of the pandemic have been challenging for the city’s premier public institution of higher education. Matos Rodríguez secured a $1.2 billion funding increase in the state budget and launched a partnership with the New York Jobs CEO Council to prepare 25,000 CUNY students for the workforce. But CUNY’s leaders have also contended with a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education for instances of antisemitism on campus.
Earlier this year, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh was facing a high-profile primary challenge from Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou. But Niou jumped into an open congressional race instead – and left behind a much clearer path to reelection for Kavanagh. As chair of the state Senate Housing, Construction and Community Development Committee, Kavanagh has been in the middle of key real estate policy fights in a borough where developers hold significant clout. His legislation protecting loft residents was recently signed by the governor.
Brad Hoylman considered running for Congress after district lines were redrawn but ultimately chose to run for reelection. That move pitted the West Side senator against Scott Stringer in the race for state Senate District 47 seat, who initially attempted a comeback before deciding to back Hoylman instead. Hoylman has chastised the Hochul administration for not making the monkeypox vaccine more readily available and wanted the Penn Station redevelopment plan to be paused until more financials could be released. Now, Hoylman is advocating for a left-wing judge to replace Janet DiFiore on the state appellate court.
The Upper East Side pair remain among the most powerful of New York’s power couples. Merryl Tisch, who has long been one of the state’s leading educational policymakers, is currently chair of SUNY, the state’s 64-campus public higher education system. James Tisch is chief of the Manhattan-based Loews Corp., a major conglomerate in the hospitality, insurance and packaging sectors. He’s also deeply engaged in New York City’s civic life, serving as board co-chair for Mount Sinai Health System, on the executive committee of the Partnership for New York City and as chair emeritus of the board for the public television station WNET, among other roles.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg quietly embraced Eric Adams in last year’s mayoral race, even hosting a fundraiser on the roof of his philanthropy’s office. Once elected, Adams hired a handful of Bloomberg alums to advise his campaign and sought him out for advice once he won. Bloomberg continued to support the new mayor once he was inaugurated, and his charity kicked in $50 million for summer programming for 25,000 charter school students.
During the June primary for Assembly seats, these two veteran Democrats – and noteworthy trailblazers in Albany – fended off spirited challenges and ultimately won by sizable margins. Assembly Member Inez Dickens of Harlem, a moderate incumbent, garnered support from New York City Mayor Eric Adams – as well as former Gov. Andrew Cuomo – on her way to beating Delsenia Glover, a housing activist backed by progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Meanwhile, Assembly Member Deborah Glick of Greenwich Village beat her primary rival, the tech entrepreneur Ryder Kessler, who has pushed for more housing and argued that the Assembly has held up progressive measures on Glick’s watch.
State Sen. Robert Jackson has enjoyed a long political career, which included stints as an advocate seeking more equitable education funding, three terms in the New York City Council and his election to the state Senate, where he has continued to advocate for the school aid increases that he has sought for decades. Jackson, who also chairs the state Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee, is in a primary fight as he seeks reelection in his northern Manhattan district, with Rep. Adriano Espaillat backing his challenger.
While James Dolan declined Stephen Ross’ pitch to move Madison Square Garden to Hudson Yards amid the Penn Station redevelopment plan, the Related Companies’ owner could have leverage if the plan forces the arena out – as many lawmakers would like to see. Meanwhile, Ross is exploring partnerships to bring a casino to Hudson Yards after the state Legislature approved three new licenses. He’s also donated to the campaigns of Gov. Kathy Hochul and congressional hopeful Dan Goldman.
Manhattan has a number of Assembly members who have significant influence in Albany. Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell of the Upper West Side chairs the Assembly Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee and has been a longtime proponent of criminal justice reform. Another proactive lawmaker from the borough is Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who represents parts of the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen. Rosenthal, the chair of the Assembly Social Services Committee, spearheaded legislation targeting past instances of sexual abuse and is also known for her efforts to protect pets. Upper East Side Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright this session championed an equal rights amendment to protect reproductive rights, while her East Side colleague, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, focuses on solving the housing shortage as chair of the Assembly Retention of Homeownership and Stabilization of Affordable Housing Subcommittee. An Upper Manhattan colleague, Assembly Member Al Taylor, has targeted gun violence, while first-term Assembly Member Edward Gibbs of Harlem has also pursued criminal justice reforms after becoming the first formerly incarcerated person to serve in the state Legislature.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg made history as the first Black person to lead the powerful prosecutor’s office after winning a competitive primary to succeed Cyrus Vance Jr. last year. Shortly after taking office, however, New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell excoriated him for his memo directing staff not to prosecute low-level offenders, and Bragg reversed his policies on robberies. Then, he drew hackles from progressives for declining to pursue fraud charges against former President Donald Trump and his company in February.
Late last year, Luis Miranda Jr. found himself advising the leading Democratic gubernatorial challenger and the top state attorney general candidate – until state Attorney General Letitia James dropped out of the gubernatorial race, forcing Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to reconsider his plans running for her current position. Miranda, who runs the Latino Victory Fund, urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to replace her disgraced lieutenant governor with a Hispanic leader. (The governor sort of listened.) Miranda was also recently honored by the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co. for his contribution to the arts.
These veteran, well-connected lobbyists certainly know how to use their influence to shape public policy. Former City Hall official Sid Davidoff said Rep. Tom Suozzi’s negative campaign for governor wasn’t going to help him (he was right) while praising New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ approach to seek advice from his predecessors and hire some of their top talent. Keith Wright, who also serves as Manhattan Democratic Party chair, endorsed Rep. Antonio Delgado for lieutenant governor and called for Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin to be probed for supporting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.
Crisis public relations pro Steve Rubenstein has guided celebrities, media titans and Wall Street bigwigs out of messes of their own making for years. As chair of the Association for a Better New York, Rubenstein has sought to help city leaders fix more intractable problems, some of which developed over decades. Rubenstein backed New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ “City of Yes” proposal in June to boost growth by building housing and updating zoning rules – assuming the New York City Council goes along with it.
Manhattan’s new crop of New York City Council members couldn’t be more diverse. Council Member Carmen De La Rosa of northern Manhattan is a noted ally of Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a fellow Dominican American. Yet, she made her own mark promoting worker protection as a member of the Assembly prior to joining the council this year, and she now chairs the council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee. Council Member Julie Menin had a notable record prior to her election as well, having led Manhattan’s Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then running two city agencies and boosting census turnout for the de Blasio administration. Council Member Erik Bottcher was a trusted aide to then-New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson before assuming his old boss’ midtown Manhattan seat. Another Espaillat protege is Council Member Shaun Abreu, who represents a northern Manhattan district. Outside the political establishment, Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan is a socialist who has sharply criticized the New York City Police Department and successfully blocked a proposed rezoning that she said wasn’t suitable for her Harlem community. And Council Member Christopher Marte built on his grassroots activism to secure his seat in lower Manhattan.
The pandemic didn’t slow down the business of lobbying the government to influence legislation. Thanks to countless hours of Zoom calls, Suri Kasirer’s lobbying firm hauled in more than $15 million in revenue last year – about $1.3 million more than in 2020 and nearly twice as much as the second-most successful firm. While much of Kasirer’s work went toward helping the restaurant and hotel industry recover lost business, she has also represented South Street Seaport, the Related Companies and One Madison.
While old friend former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio may have finally left the political scene, James Capalino’s lobbying firm continues apace. In de Blasio’s last year in office as mayor, Capalino’s eponymous firm gathered about $8 million in revenue – down about $2 million from the previous year. But business with the city is sure to pick up under the Adams administration, which undid a de Blasio-era requirement disclosing meetings with lobbyists. And Fred Kreizman, Capalino’s former managing director, recently joined the mayor’s office as head of its community affairs unit.
Emily Giske is a powerhouse lobbyist in New York City and in Albany, having helped position Bolton-St. Johns as the third-ranked government affairs firm by lobbying revenue at the city and state level. She’s also known for her long history of advocating for LGBTQ rights and electing more women in the state Legislature. Another key partner at the firm is Violet Moss, who joined Bolton-St. Johns in 2016 after stints at Mercury and The Parkside Group. She is known for her work with hospitals, nonprofit organizations and academic institutions.
When the law firm Greenberg Traurig was launched in South Florida in the 1960s, its aim was to operate like a client-driven New York firm – and it was so successful that it became a major firm not only in Florida but also in New York and many other states. Part of its success is recruiting attorneys with significant government experience, including former New York City Council Member Edward C. Wallace, former Assembly Member Jonathan Bing and John Mascialino, who spent several years in key staff positions at City Hall early in his career.
New York’s real estate lobby didn’t get what it wanted in Albany this year when lawmakers spurned developers and the governor over including a controversial tax abatement and failed to renew the affordable housing tax break before it expired in June. Yet James Whelan, knowing he’ll need their help in reviving an incentive to spur development, still welcomed scores of lawmakers to REBNY’s annual gala a few days later. Whelan blames the city’s housing shortage on a lack of new construction and flawed rent control policies.
Office vacancies continue to bedevil Midtown, but Rob Speyer’s real estate company has benefited from the flight to quality that has tenants searching for buildings with amenities to lure remote workers. Since last year, Tishman Speyer’s 65-story tower in Hudson Yards has added new headquarters for HSBC bank, and the Turner Construction Co., a NewYork-Presbyterian spinal outpatient center, and a new restaurant. But Speyer isn’t resting on his laurels. This year, Tishman Speyer secured $100 million for its Proptech venture capital fund and partnered with Axis Asset Management to invest and develop in commercial real estate properties in India. He’s also co-chair of the Partnership for New York City.
The real estate developer Larry Silverstein has long been synonymous with the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan. In 2014, Silverstein promoted Marty Burger to lead Silverstein Properties as CEO, while he stayed on as its chair. The company is now moving forward with 5 World Trade Center, while continuing to seek an anchor tenant for 2 World Trade Center, which would complete the rebuilding project. Silverstein has also donated the maximum amount to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s gubernatorial campaign.
Allen Roskoff was so upset with New York City Mayor Eric Adams for appointing two high-ranking officials with a history of homophobic stances that he held a rally at City Hall with other LGBTQ activists and then refused to invite the mayor to his birthday party at Zero Bond. The veteran gay rights activist has also led a campaign to remove former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s name from the 59th Street Bridge after The New York Times detailed Koch’s betrayal of the gay community. As for the current mayor, Roskoff recently praised Adams for directing $7 million for LGBTQ services. Maybe he’ll even invite him to his next birthday party.
As companies shrunk their Manhattan offices during the pandemic, Google expanded its footprint last year by buying the entire St. John’s Terminal campus for $2.1 billion – the highest price paid for a single office building in the country since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s good news for William Floyd, who has coordinated Google’s work sending COVID-19 exposure notifications to users in nearly 20 states. By the middle of next year, Floyd and about 12,000 of his co-workers could be back in the office and revitalizing Hudson Square.
Stephen Schwarzman, the Blackstone chief, had a very good year in 2021 when he took home $1.1 billion, and his fortune reached $26.8 billion. Now, Schwarzman is carefully monitoring Democratic negotiations in Congress that could eliminate the carried interest tax break, a loophole that reportedly netted him about $150 million last year. Schwarzman has already given $20 million to House and U.S. Senate Republican super PACs this year – but his largesse has attracted demonstrators who created a scene outside his Hamptons home in July, demanding higher taxes on the rich.
Jessica Walker won’t let policymakers forget that restaurants are still employing 54,000 fewer workers than in February 2020, and 1 in 3 Manhattan storefronts are vacant. Walker demanded the city reduce small business fines and provide commercial rent relief for storefronts. The chamber received an $800,000 grant from Rep. Carolyn Maloney to track vacancies while the mayor unveiled a plan to update zoning regulations and invest $1.5 million into a small business resource network partnering with the chamber.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped away the hard-won gains lower Manhattan realized since the 9/11 attacks as more than 350 retailers shuttered and the private sector workforce shrunk to 221,000 by last fall. But Jessica Lappin has grown more optimistic thanks to the return of office workers and tourists to downtown neighborhoods. This summer, Lappin celebrated discount retailer Century 21’s reopening after its bankruptcy and the return of the Dine Around Downtown Community Food Festival after a two-year hiatus.
After 20 years at the helm of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger announced in April that he would step down at the end of the upcoming school year. During his tenure, Bollinger raised over $13 billion for the Ivy League school and oversaw the university’s largest expansion in a century, converting 17 acres of industrial property in Manhattanville into a new business school with more than 450,000 square feet of classrooms and faculty office space. Bollinger isn’t straying too far from Columbia though – he secured a new apartment on Central Park West.
New York University will also welcome a new president next year, after Andrew Hamilton announced in the spring that he would leave the post on June 30, 2023 and return to teaching chemistry. Since he joined the school six years ago, Hamilton has brought in nearly $4 billion and made the university more accessible to students who require financial aid. NYU now meets 100% of undergraduate students’ financial needs, and the university’s vaunted medical school was made tuition-free. This spring, Hamilton appointed new deans of the School of Law, the School of Global Public Health and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
Marianne Lake, who oversees JPMorgan Chase’s payments, lending and commerce divisions, could be in line for the top job at the Wall Street bank when Jamie Dimon retires. Under Lake’s leadership, the bank has improved customer experiences and satisfaction. Lake is also behind the launch of a new travel rewards program for members and estimates that JPMorgan Chase will exceed $10 billion in travel volume on its new platform next year.
Manhattan’s Chinatown was among the first to suffer from pandemic shutdowns and the last to recover – some two years after the city’s first wave of COVID-19. Wellington Chen has guided the neighborhood’s small businesses through the crisis while making the area more livable for its residents by securing a $20 million grant to redesign public spaces, awarding funding for revitalization projects and turning Doyers Street into a car-free zone. Chen is also pressuring sanitation workers to solve Chinatown’s trash problems, which have worsened in recent months.
The NYU health system reached a milestone this year when it was rated the top hospital in the state and the third-best medical center in the nation while its medical school named after Dr. Robert Grossman ranked second in the nation for research. Grossman said the rankings reflected NYU’s “standard of care” across all its hospitals and its high-quality faculty. He received some blowback for recruiting an MIT biologist accused of sexual misconduct, but ultimately did not hire that person.
The pandemic was a seismic event that Dr. Steve Corwin said stretched NewYork-Presbyterian’s staff and resources to the brink. Once the worst was over, the hospital rebuilt its intensive care unit capacity and restocked COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment to handle future surges. Once vaccines became widely available, Corwin required his employees to get vaccinated, which health care unions opposed. Currently, the health system is collaborating with Cornell Tech to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help cardiovascular patients.
Dr. Kenneth Davis steered the Mount Sinai Health System through the pandemic so effectively that its board of trustees extended his role as CEO through 2024. Under Davis’ watch, the medical center scored several impressive U.S. News & World Report rankings in its geriatrics, cardiology and neurology departments while launching a $2 billion capital campaign that included a $60 million pledge from the Tisch family to construct a state-of-the-art cancer center. Davis has also ensured Mount Sinai remains a leader in providing care for transgender and nonbinary individuals.
During her tenure, Jennifer Raab has changed Hunter College’s open admissions policy into a highly selective process that precipitated a rise through the college rankings while maintaining one of the most diverse undergraduate bodies in the country. Raab has scored $400 million in private fundraising for Hunter, renovated Roosevelt House and last year brought in longtime Democratic political operative Basil Smikle as director of its public policy program. A stalled nursing and science college project and a campus susceptible to flooding are among Raab’s current challenges.
Stacy Lynch has politics in her blood. The former New York City Council candidate and daughter of late political consultant Bill Lynch served as deputy director of intergovernmental affairs under then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio before leaving to work as chief of staff for then-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin a year ago. When her boss resigned in April following an indictment for alleged fraud, Lynch remained in the administration, and in July, Gov. Kathy Hochul promoted her to become her chief of staff in July.
While Christine Quinn may not be the best tweeter, the former New York City Council speaker is a leading advocate for unhoused New Yorkers. As head of the city’s largest family shelter and supportive housing provider, Quinn chided New York City Mayor Eric Adams for clearing homeless encampments. She also urged the mayor to spend $3.3 billion on family homelessness and backed a council bill that would make more mental health workers available in shelters. Adams proposed a $171 million investment in homeless services and launched a homeless assistance fund.
The former ambassador and philanthropist regularly makes headlines as head of the World Jewish Congress, proposing creative ways for the Biden administration to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and denouncing antisemitic incidents in Israel, Germany and the United States. Ronald Lauder is also an active participant in New York’s political sphere, whether it’s spending millions of dollars to block state constitutional amendments, opposing lawmakers who supported criminal justice reforms or defending the city’s gifted and talented program.
Even though the Ford Foundation has one of the world’s largest endowments for a charity at $16 billion, Darren Walker has argued that philanthropies should focus on the causes of inequality in communities. During the pandemic, Walker decided to borrow an additional $1 billion in order to finance a dramatic increase in grant-making. The bet paid off, as the Ford Foundation was able to distribute about 10% of its total endowment over a two-year period, providing much-needed support to smaller nonprofits.
Brad Karp leads Paul Weiss, the biggest and among the most prestigious law firms in New York City. The accomplished corporate attorney, whose firm expects to exceed $6 million in profit per partner, is mulling whether to retire next year. On his watch, the firm has been civically engaged, launching a civil rights and racial equity audit practice, taking a leading role on state Attorney General Letitia James’ abortion access legal hotline and calling on city and state leaders to spur an economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Neil Barr was elected managing partner of Davis Polk in 2019, taking the helm of one of Manhattan’s largest and most reputable law firms. Barr, a corporate attorney, is also a member of the executive committee of the Partnership for New York City, an influential business advocacy group. Earlier this year, the firm was set to ask attorneys to return to the office in person at least three days a week.
Kramer Levin has similarities with many law firms – it’s headquartered in Manhattan, has offices across the country and overseas, and represents businesses in a range of legal matters, from banking and insurance to bankruptcy and restructuring. The firm, led by white-collar defense attorney Paul Schoeman and mergers and acquisitions expert Howard Spilko, is also known for its high-profile role in political and policy matters, whether it’s working on major land use proposals in Manhattan or representing the likes of then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio or former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin.
William Hicks’ experience guiding NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue as it treated New York’s first Ebola patient no doubt came in handy as the East Side hospital handled an influx of COVID-19 patients over the past few years. Hicks was promoted in 2016 to lead the 912-bed hospital, which is the oldest in the country, dating back to 1736. In April, Hicks joined state Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Mayor Eric Adams for the announcement of a quarter billion dollars of settlement funds devoted to combating opioid abuse. At the 338-bed NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan in East Harlem, Cristina Contreras has been at the helm for a year and a half after holding several other leadership roles with the city’s safety-net hospital system. While it’s not as old as Bellevue, the hospital has a partnership with New York Medical College dating back to its founding in 1875.
Since Dr. Sanjiv Shah joined MetroPlusHealth as its chief medical officer three years ago, protecting the city’s most vulnerable residents from COVID-19 infection has taken up most of his time. Late last year, Shah warned New Yorkers that unvaccinated individuals should not travel for the holidays while omicron was rapidly spreading. He also participated in state consortiums on how to address long COVID-19. In addition to his work on combating COVID-19, Shah led surveys that revealed Asian American and Pacific Islander women in New York City have less access to mental health resources than other women.
The New York Public Library, which is the largest such system in the country, has been led for over a decade by Tony Marx, the former president of Amherst College. And Marx’s library system, which has 88 neighborhood libraries in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island (Brooklyn and Queens have their own library systems), does a lot more than lend books, whether it’s English classes and after-school programs, world-class research archives or spaces to cool off. Marx has also pushed back against book bans and last fall eliminated late fees.
In New York City, the only must-see local political show is “Inside City Hall” with Errol Louis. In Albany, it’s Susan Arbetter’s “Capital Tonight.” Both shows are brought to subscribers by the telecommunications company Charter Communications and its Spectrum brand. Camille Joseph-Goldman, who previously worked in several city and state government offices, now drives the company's government affairs efforts in New York and other New England states. Her colleague Rodney Capel had a similarly extensive career in city and state government before joining the Charter team five years ago.
New York’s shift to remote work during the pandemic erased $58 billion in commercial real estate value through last year – but Winston Fisher is still bullish on his properties. Physical occupancy in Fisher Brothers buildings was above 50% this spring, and the firm completed 800,000 square feet of leases last year with retail tenants like Wagamama and Starbucks. Fisher’s most impressive asset might be Area 15, a 120,000-square-foot retail bazaar outside the Las Vegas strip featuring immersive installations and a Boeing 747 jet.
The former New York City deputy mayor has drawn on his expertise in handling crises to handle Citi’s response to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Edward Skyler ensured medical workers had access to short-term bike rental memberships during the pandemic and expedited Citigroup’s exit from its consumer banking business in Russia. Skyler hasn’t been afraid to nudge the financial institution into taking political stances. Last year, Citi opposed a controversial Georgia voting law and became the first Wall Street bank to undergo a racial audit to determine how it contributes to discrimination.
Seven months after Jose Tavarez received a well-deserved promotion from Bank of America, he worked with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to distribute $2,250 gift cards to families affected by a deadly Bronx fire. The next month, he and other business leaders met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to discuss expanding youth employment and improving public safety. By June, Tavarez had been invited to join the mayor and governor’s blue-ribbon “New” New York panel to help develop strategies for the city’s economic recovery.
For a brief period, until Robert Durst died earlier this year, the Dursts’ family drama nearly overshadowed their real estate work, but Douglas Durst has pushed forward to ensure his family’s legacy continues to be intertwined with lower Manhattan and Midtown’s recovery. Durst called Condé Nast’s bluff over leaving One World Trade Center and won four months of back rent, then signed a new lease with Chicago Trading Co. for the last two empty floors of the old 4 Times Square.
When Gov. Kathy Hochul made the poorly vetted decision in August 2021 to choose Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor, his vacant state Senate seat provided an opportunity for Cordell Cleare. Manhattan Democrats picked her as the nominee in September, and Cleare won the special election in a landslide. In Albany, Cleare opposed legislative efforts to change Raise the Age and bail reform laws while pushing for expanded abortion access for low-income New Yorkers. Now she’s running for reelection with an endorsement from the Working Families Party.
The pandemic emptied out Midtown so thoroughly that nearly 30% of retail stores around Grand Central Terminal were vacant last summer – and a record 17.4% of Manhattan offices remained empty in February. That prompted Alfred C. Cerullo III to take a more active role in shaping the city’s resiliency by joining the “New” New York panel. Cerullo has plans to make Midtown more pedestrian-friendly and diverse with new restaurants and stores. He also sits on the City Planning Commission.
So few people were in East Midtown last year that Rob Byrnes waited in line for under two minutes at a fast-casual restaurant. The neighborhood still has the most retail vacancies in Manhattan while the dearth of tourists has stalled its pandemic recovery. This spring, Byrnes’ group joined several Manhattan business improvement districts to push for quality-of-life changes and better services for homeless people living on the street. Hotel bookings and foot traffic have crept upward, while Byrnes commended the governor’s call for people to return to work.
When Superstorm Sandy flooded the South Street Seaport Museum and caused $20 million in damages, Jonathan Boulware secured a $10 million grant to restore the museum and support from the city to restore its 1885 ship “Wavertree.” Now, the museum is expected to receive $40 million from the Howard Hughes Corp. to create an endowment and $10 million from the city for capital projects, which could include the restoration of a memorial lighthouse dedicated to victims of the Titanic sinking and a model of the ocean liner Queen Mary. At least the Pioneer sailboat is ready to take kids out sailing.
Robert Abrams isn’t as active in state politics as he was when he was state attorney general, although he had high praise for state Attorney General Letitia James for showing “a lot of guts” standing up to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Abrams also helped repair relations between the Jewish and Mormon communities over improper baptisms of Holocaust victims and got the Commission of Religious Leaders of New York to include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Meanwhile, his firm recently acquired attorneys from bankruptcy firm Luskin, Stern & Eisler after losing its restructuring team to a larger firm.
Grace Bonilla had big shoes to fill after former United Way President and CEO Sheena Wright accepted a role in the Adams administration as deputy mayor of strategic initiatives. But Bonilla, who officially took over the charity’s top job at the end of July, has been able to draw from her experiences leading the city’s Human Resources Administration and more recently as founding executive director of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity. Working with Wright, Bonilla helped unlock $4.2 billion in backlogged city contracts for nonprofit providers toward the end of July.
The pandemic’s supply chain struggles and the threat of a recession have not dampened the outlook for Hearst, which brought in $11.5 billion in revenue last year. Steven Swartz won’t slow hiring at the media conglomerate, which just celebrated its 135th anniversary this year and recently expanded into the automotive space by acquiring the classic car sales platform Bring a Trailer. This summer, Swartz worked with New York City and the Partnership for New York City, which he co-chairs, to launch an $8 million Homeless Assistance Fund to help Breaking Ground expand its outreach services.
The media mogul, known for helping create the nation’s modern media landscape, added another property to his portfolio when he bought magazine publisher Meredith Corp. for $2.7 billion in October. But Barry Diller had his eye on another landscape when he opened a $260 million park in the Hudson River to replace Pier 54. So far, the park known as Little Island has received largely positive reviews, and Diller said it “turned out far better than I had hoped.” There was even a music and dance festival at the site in July.
George Fontas understands the mood of the New York City electorate better than virtually anyone out there. Last year, Fontas declared that the increasingly tight mayor’s race had no front-runner, foreshadowing New Yorkers’ shifting tastes. This year, he found that 6 in 10 New Yorkers believed their families would have a better future if they left the city – a belief that Fontas attributed to their dissatisfaction with public safety. Fontas also worked with real estate groups to lobby state lawmakers to oppose good-cause eviction.
On the campaign trail last year, then-New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams pledged his support for charter schools. But that hasn’t translated into a higher cap on the number of charter schools in the city, thanks to continued opposition from many Democratic lawmakers in Albany – so it’s no surprise that charter schools proponent Eva Moskowitz is pushing for City Hall to gain more independence over its schools. Moskowitz has found support elsewhere, as she recently received a $100 million donation from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to build a South Bronx charter school.
Dwight McBride arrived at The New School in March 2020 to get an early start on running the progressive university but soon found himself locked down and conducting meetings via Zoom like most New Yorkers. When McBride was finally formally welcomed to the university 18 months later, he shared his vision to make the school a leader for social justice and equity in education. This year, its Parsons School of Design was named the best design school in the country for the fifth year in a row.
The former Manhattan borough president embarked on a second career advocating on behalf of Black people living with HIV/AIDS. This year, C. Virginia Fields’ organization, now called Black Health, is celebrating its 35th anniversary as the city continues to focus on health care disparities. Fields has served on then-New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ health transition committee, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine’s transition committee and the NYC Health + Hospitals’ community advisory board.
Seth Pinsky had little time to learn the ropes at the 92nd Street Y when the pandemic forced the venerable arts organization to shutter its live events and rethink its programming mission. The Bloomberg administration alum drew on his real estate expertise to help the institution undergo a $200 million renovation while shifting its programs online, which garnered nearly 6 million views. In May, Pinsky launched a rebrand with the new 92NY name and added a new online adult education platform with live interactive courses.
Gov. Kathy Hochul picked the former Manhattan Assembly member to join her team in November, making Robert Rodriguez the state’s highest-ranking Latino leader. With text and phone scams on the rise, Rodriguez has taken it upon himself to warn New Yorkers about phishing scams based on fake bank fraud alerts and identity theft scams that target members of the military. The consumer advocate has also provided tips to airline travelers grappling with delays and cancellations and offered guidance to parents coping with the national baby formula shortage.
Under Elizabeth Smith's leadership, Central Park has been an oasis – especially throughout the coronavirus pandemic. This year, she launched a partnership with the Yale School of the Environment and the Natural Areas Conservancy to study climate change’s impact on urban parks. Smith hosted the conservancy’s 40th annual “Hat Luncheon” this year, which raised $3.9 million, and the first annual Juneteenth in Seneca Village event. She's also overseeing a new Harlem Meer Center that will cap a 40-year restoration project in the park.
Dr. Rajiv Shah knows it’s ironic that his foundation’s founder grew rich by refining the oil that has contributed to the world’s climate crisis. That’s given the philanthropic leader an even greater incentive to prioritize reversing the effects of global warming by divesting its endowment from fossil fuels and partnering with other nonprofits to speed up the adoption of renewable energy. Shah has also called for debt relief and aid to poorer nations amid the hunger crisis driven by Russia’s war with Ukraine and the prolonged pandemic.
When Gov. Kathy Hochul needed someone to join the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board during a funding crisis, she turned to Elizabeth Velez. The construction industry leader’s experience as the chair of the New York Building Congress and serving on pandemic recovery and Hurricane Maria rebuilding committees made her a shoo-in to help the beleaguered agency, which is facing a fiscal cliff as riders have not returned to the subways and commuter rail lines. In July, Velez joined a six-member panel to determine the city’s congestion pricing tolls.
Dr. Katrina Armstrong’s two decades of research in cancer care, risk and prevention, and racial inequities in testing and treatment made her a compelling choice to lead Columbia’s medical center when its previous leader stepped down after just a year and a half on the job. Since taking over in March, Armstrong has emphasized addressing health disparities among marginalized communities. She has since recognized Columbia medical students for their research and 42 faculty for their clinical care.
Climate change isn’t an abstract threat for B.J. Jones. When Superstorm Sandy struck a decade ago, residents in Battery Park City experienced just how vulnerable they were to rising sea levels. So Jones launched a sustainability plan that aims to make the neighborhood carbon-neutral by 2050. The authority’s $221 million South Battery Park City Resiliency Project, designed by AECOM, expects to break ground in September and a $630 million second phase to flood-proof its northern and western borders plans to be completed by 2026.
John Catsimatidis is a billionaire Manhattan businessman who owns the supermarket chain Gristedes, an oil refinery, a growing real estate portfolio and 77 WABC radio. He’s also uniquely involved in New York City politics – he ran for New York City mayor in 2013, mulled running again last year and has donated generous sums to candidates in both major parties – and recently called on fellow Republicans to register to vote for moderates in Democratic primary races. His daughter, Andrea Catsimatidis, took the reins of the Manhattan Republican Party in 2017.
Madison Square Garden’s days on 34th Street could be numbered once its 10-year operating permit runs out in 2023. Last year, James Dolan indicated he wasn’t interested in relocating the arena, but Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Penn Station redevelopment plan is moving forward. Several elected officials have called for MSG to leave its current digs and for the governor to identify a new location. Related’s Stephen Ross even offered space in Hudson Yards for Dolan to move the world’s most famous arena, but Dolan has rejected those overtures.
Veteran public relations guru Lisa Linden, known in media circles for handling former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s latest developments in both politics and real estate, has taken on a wider range of clients since joining LAKPR two years ago. In addition to representing clients like Clearview AI – and its efforts to develop facial recognition technology – and the Japan Art Association, Linden has served on the Hotel Association of New York City Foundation’s host committee, and as co-vice chair of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
The stalwart publisher and editor-in-chief just celebrated her 25th anniversary leading the New York Amsterdam News. The paper has roots in Harlem stretching back to 1909, but Elinor Tatum has been working to ensure its continuity through the 21st century. She recently partnered with nine other Black publications to launch the Fund for Black Journalism to expedite their digital transformations. As a board member of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, Tatum has also worked to make upstate ski attractions more inclusive.
For more than two decades, the Manhattan Times has been the voice of Upper Manhattan’s Spanish-speaking communities, often covering neighborhood issues missed by the mainstream media. As editor, Debralee Santos has cultivated young writers and offered her own perspective on major stories of the day, including the school reopening debate during the pandemic and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s unexpected resignation in August 2021. This summer, her paper has informed readers about the city’s Test & Trace Corps, hospital upgrades and public pool openings.
Now that the President Joe Biden climate package is poised for passage, he may lean on Peggy Shepard for advice. The climate advocate’s long-standing work made her the co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. To hold the administration accountable, Shepard launched an initiative to track federal climate investments toward disadvantaged neighborhoods and ensure that agencies update their regulations to consider the burdens of racism. She also chairs the New York City Environmental Justice Advisory Board, where she has praised New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ commitment to environmental justice.
For more than a dozen years, Ralph Bumbaca has brought his commercial lending expertise in the tri-state region to TD Bank. Under Bumbaca’s leadership, TD Bank has been named one of the best places to work for disability inclusion and was rated the top bank in small business lending between Maine and Florida for the fifth year in a row. This year, Bumbaca was recognized by New York City Mayor Eric Adams for his support of the city’s small businesses.
Barbara Askins has been a champion of the Harlem community for decades. She launched the 125th Street Business Improvement District in 1993 and has led it ever since, helping to revitalize the neighborhood. Over the past year, she has teamed up with BET and The Apollo Theater on the Harlem Entrepreneurial Microgrant Initiative, partnered with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to crack down on shoplifting and brought in Nick Cannon for the BID’s Harlem Holiday Lights event.
A longtime economic development official in New York City, Curtis Archer has spent more than a decade and a half driving business and job growth all across Harlem. The leader of the Harlem Community Development Corp., an arm of Empire State Development created in 1995, partners with local elected officials and community members to carry out its mission. Among its projects is a redevelopment and renovation of the Victoria Theater on 125th Street.
The church with the $6 billion real estate portfolio officially named the Rev. Phillip Jackson its 19th rector in February. Jackson, who had served as priest-in-charge since 2020, helped reopen the chapel’s doors to the public after periodic COVID-19 surges forced the religious institution to restrict capacity while the church opened its new office and community space in its Trinity Place tower. Jackson and the church’s board are now in the process of finding a new conductor after their last one was put on leave.
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz isn’t the biggest law firm in New York City, but it’s among the best in the legal business in areas such as antitrust, bankruptcy and mergers, and acquisitions. It was Martin Lipton, the firm’s founding partner, after all, who’s credited for the innovative “poison pill” strategy against a hostile takeover, which was employed by Twitter in its dealings with Elon Musk. Lipton, who’s also an executive committee member for the Partnership for New York City, recently argued in support of legislative efforts to ensure corporate board diversity.
Rosemonde Pierre-Louis has deep roots in Harlem. She founded the Frederick Douglass Boulevard Alliance, was director of general litigation at Harlem Legal Services and spent eight years as the deputy Manhattan borough president. This summer, she was promoted to lead New York University’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research and was also appointed co-chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “Fareness” Blue-Ribbon Panel. She’s also president of the West Side Democrats political club.
The reopening of several long-running Broadway shows last fall after a year-and-a-half hiatus was among the most optimistic moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the credit goes to Charlotte St. Martin, who worked to ensure the shows would go on. That meant mandatory masks and proof of vaccination status for audiences through June (which some theaters have chosen to keep), even though the city lifted its indoor mask requirements months earlier. Thankfully, St. Martin and thousands of stars were able to safely enjoy the return of the Tony Awards this year.
New Yorkers waited a year and a half for the Apollo to reopen and its star-studded lineup last August did not disappoint. Jonelle Procope kept the dollars flowing to the historic Harlem theater with a record-breaking $3.7 million benefit this spring, including $500,000 from Tyler Perry, and $525,000 from its “Dining with Divas” event that will go toward the Apollo’s education and youth arts programs. In May, Procope received an honorary doctorate from Howard University in recognition of her humanitarian and philanthropic contributions to the arts.
President Joe Biden’s poll numbers may have plummeted to near-historic lows as more Democrats sour on his performance, but Ny Whitaker isn’t giving up the faith. Following the 2020 election, the grassroots organizer and founder of New York for Biden+Harris served as a senior adviser for New York state for the Democratic National Committee and coordinated several virtual and in-person inaugural events for the president and vice president’s swearing in. This year, she joined the Biden administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture as director of scheduling and advance.
Several Manhattan Assembly districts were up for grabs in the June primary, thanks to incumbents retiring or seeking higher office. On the Upper East Side, Alex Bores won a competitive race for the seat being vacated by Assembly Member Dan Quart, who’s leaving office after his failed bid for Manhattan district attorney. In lower Manhattan, Grace Lee made another run for the seat held by Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou – and beat the Democratic Socialists of America-backed Illapa Sairitupac as Niou vies for a seat in Congress. And in Midtown and Chelsea, Tony Simone won the primary to replace Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, who’s retiring after becoming the longest-serving state lawmaker in New York history. All three Democratic victors are expected to easily win office in November.
T-Mobile’s 2020 merger with Sprint, which gave the telecommunications giant an even larger share of New York’s wireless market, created the second-largest wireless company in the nation. For two decades, Damon LoSchiavo has helped T-Mobile add new customers and expand rapidly to the point where the company has gained ground at the expense of Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile now expects to add at least 6 million new subscribers this year and beat its competitors in customer growth.
Karen Mackey Witherspoon helped CUNY collect $966 million to fix its dilapidated facilities as well as a $240 million increase from last year’s state budget, which the university system will use to hire more faculty and expand tuition assistance for part-time students. Even more funding from city and state budgets could be coming in the future, which could allow the City College of New York and other schools to offer tuition free of charge. This year, the City College of New York opened a physical space for its CUNY Initiative on Immigration and Education, and began a significant decarbonization effort with the U.S. Department of Energy.
Roosevelt Island may have the Four Freedoms State Park, a Cornell Tech campus, a new hotel and plenty of green space, but Shelton Haynes wants to attract even more tourists to support local businesses. In December, his Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. secured $11 million from the governor’s office to revitalize Southpoint Park and make it more resilient to storms. He also celebrated a new monument to pioneering investigative journalist Nellie Bly. Now, Haynes wants the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to bring its OMNY payment system to the Roosevelt Tram to make the island even easier to visit.
After the pandemic shuttered entertainment venues for more than a year, Lincoln Center is once again the beating heart of live performance in New York City. Leah Johnson helped the arts organization reconnect with New Yorkers hungry for opera, theater, jazz and dance productions without succumbing to COVID-19 interruptions like their Broadway counterparts. This summer, Johnson launched the Summer for the City concert series with a new “choose what you pay” ticketing model designed to cultivate new audiences.
Since he stumbled in the New York City mayoral race last year following decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct, former New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has kept a decidedly lower profile but has stayed active in politics. While he ultimately opted against mounting a comeback bid for state Senate this cycle, he has assisted Rep. Jerry Nadler’s high-profile primary against Rep. Carolyn Maloney, backed other local candidates and has consulted with the powerful United Federation of Teachers, a longtime ally.
Correction: An earlier version of this list incorrectly stated the organization name in James Dolan's entry.
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