Power of Diversity

The 2023 Power of Diversity: Black 100

New York’s pioneering leaders

New York State Attorney General Letitia James

New York State Attorney General Letitia James Pacific Press

Back in the 1920s, an organization known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History selected the second week of February as a time to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of Black Americans. Over the years the one-week commemoration caught on, and by the 1960s it had expanded in many places into a monthlong memorialization. In 1976, Gerald Ford became the first president to officially observe Black History Month, claiming that the recent “strides in the full integration” of Black Americans realized the lofty ideals established two centuries earlier.

Of course, it’s not only Black history that matters – it’s also about the status of Black Americans here and now as well as where things are headed. City & State’s Power of Diversity: Black 100, which coincides with Black History Month for the first time this year, puts a spotlight on today’s Black power brokers who are active in New York politics and government. This list, written and researched by City & State staff with assistance from journalists Asar John and Jared McCallister, highlights the elected officials, business executives, labor chiefs, community advocates and other trailblazers in New York who are writing the next chapter of Black life in America.

1. Eric Adams

New York City Mayor
Eric Adams / Erica Krodman, Brooklyn BP's Office

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who now has a year at City Hall under his belt, is a swaggering, crime-fighting centrist who just might embody the future of the Democratic Party. Adams, who refuses to be “put in a box,” has embraced the city’s nightlife, grappled with an influx of migrants and dismissed ethics concerns surrounding a growing list of appointees and associates. He manages the vast governing apparatus for a city of nearly 8.5 million and just pitched a $102.7 billion budget – although the New York City Council and state Legislature are not exactly rushing to implement his agenda. Still, as he puts it, “I’m the mayor.”

2. Andrea Stewart-Cousins & Carl Heastie

State Senate Majority Leader; Assembly Speaker
Andrea Stewart-Cousins & Carl Heastie / Celeste Sloman; NYS Assembly

Gone are the days of “three men in a room” in Albany – which for generations meant three white men. Now, it’s Gov. Kathy Hochul negotiating with state Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – and the partnership between the two trailblazing legislative leaders makes them even more effective. Westchester’s Stewart-Cousins, who retained her supermajority last fall, flexed her muscle by blocking Hochul’s pick to lead the state’s highest court. Heastie, the former Bronx party boss, was rated among the most liberal Assembly members before he became speaker, but he has proven to be a collaborative leader – and quick to quash certain progressive proposals.

3. Letitia James

State Attorney General
Letitia James / Kyle O'Leary

As the state’s chief legal officer, state Attorney General Letitia James has wide discretion in the types of cases she chooses to pursue on behalf of New York and New Yorkers – whether it’s joining the U.S. Department of Justice in an antitrust case against Google, reviewing questionable deaths at the hands of local law enforcement or bringing a $250 million fraud lawsuit against former President Donald Trump’s business, which is set to go to trial in October. James, whose investigation into sexual abuse allegations led to Andrew Cuomo’s downfall as governor, came under scrutiny for similar allegations against her then-chief of staff, who is no longer with her office.

4. Hakeem Jeffries

House Minority Leader
Hakeem Jeffries / Office of Representative Hakeem Jeffries

If this were a national list, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries would likely be No. 1. But on influence inside New York, the newly appointed leader of the House Democrats ranks just below a few key leaders at the helm in city and state government. Jeffries is off to a spectacular start, winning unanimous support in his conference – in contrast to the glaring weakness of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Given the GOP’s chaotic start and its plans to target popular social safety net programs and gamble with a catastrophic debt default, Jeffries may have a pathway back to the majority – as long as the Brooklynite keeps his conference unified.

5. Adrienne Adams

New York City Council Speaker
Adrienne Adams / William Alatriste

If New York City Mayor Eric Adams had his way, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams wouldn’t be holding her leadership post. And while the two Adamses made some efforts to forge a partnership, the council speaker has also sent a clear message: Ignore the City Council at your peril. With the mayor pushing a more cautious budget and questioning efforts to close Rikers Island and end solitary confinement, the speaker has emphasized that education, social services and agency staffing cuts won’t be tolerated. Adams also has held the line internally, punishing the six members who voted against last year’s budget by withholding their names from line item appropriations for programs in their districts.

6. Crystal Peoples-Stokes

Assembly Majority Leader
Crystal Peoples-Stokes / Assembly

The second most powerful Buffalonian in state government, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, has been focusing on implementing her signature achievement of marijuana legalization and elevating her district on Buffalo’s East Side. Peoples-Stokes has been working to resolve a lawsuit that has stopped state officials from issuing dispensary licenses in several regions, opening dispensaries in minority neighborhoods and shutting down hundreds of illegal marijuana shops. Closer to home, she’s pushed for more economic development on Buffalo’s East Side and reconnecting neighborhoods cut in half by a 1950s-era highway.

7. George Gresham

President, 1199SEIU
George Gresham / Belinda Gallegos

1199SEIU President George Gresham, who’s long been one of the most influential labor leaders in New York, was reelected last summer for at least one more term leading the massive health care union. And in a sign of his sway, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and state Attorney General Letitia James were among the dignitaries on hand as Gresham was sworn in. Gresham, whose union endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul last year in her successful bid for a full term in office, has a long history of advocating effectively for members in Albany – and he’s also taken on bigger issues, such as supporting universal health care and raising alarms about threats to civil rights and democratic norms.

8. Jumaane Williams

New York City Public Advocate
Jumaane Williams / Office of the Public Advocate

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ strong showing when he challenged Kathy Hochul in the 2018 lieutenant governor Democratic primary didn’t translate to his bid to oust her from the top job as governor last summer, when he garnered just 20% of the vote. Yet, he did solidify support from the left and entrenched himself as New York’s foremost Black progressive leader. Meanwhile, as public advocate, he’s been a prolific legislator – and is making headlines with his pending measure to ban solitary confinement in the city.

9. Sheena Wright

First Deputy Mayor, Office of the New York City Mayor
Sheena Wright / Margot Jordan

Another year, another promotion for Sheena Wright. The New York City Mayor Eric Adams ally left her position heading United Way of New York City a year ago to become deputy mayor for strategic initiatives. This year, she moved up to succeed Lorraine Grillo as first deputy mayor, a role in which she will serve as Adams’ right-hand woman while continuing to lead a gun violence prevention task force. In her first year at City Hall, Wright spurred an expansion of the summer youth employment program and spearheaded an initiative that connected 36,000 children to child care.

10. David Banks

Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
David Banks / New York City Public Schools

New York City schools Chancellor David Banks manages the largest public school system in the country, overseeing over 1,800 schools with about 1 million students. Appointed to the post by New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the start of 2022, Banks came into the job with a background of building educational programs to reflect the needs of Black children in the city. His first year has been marked by a court battle (which the city won) to keep education spending cuts in place due to declining enrollment, a reassessment of the city’s universal prekindergarten program and an overhaul of the admissions process for selective schools.

11. Ingrid Lewis-Martin

Chief Adviser, Office of the New York City Mayor
Ingrid Lewis-Martin / Benny Polatseck

Ingrid Lewis-Martin has stood with Eric Adams through thick and thin, from his days in the New York City Police Department, when he worked with the husband of Lewis-Martin, to his current duties as mayor of the nation’s largest city – and she says she’s not afraid to tell him the truth. Behind the scenes, Lewis-Martin advances the policy and initiatives of the mayor, whether it’s interacting with interest groups, diving into budget disputes or weighing in on major rezonings. Lewis-Martin was also ordained as a chaplain a few years ago.

12. Rev. Al Sharpton

Founder and President, National Action Network
Rev. Al Sharpton / Michael Frost

The Rev. Al Sharpton is a civil rights leader on the national stage – President Joe Biden joined his Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast earlier this year, for example – and he’s also a political kingmaker and influential ally to politicians in his home state of New York. An outspoken opponent of police brutality, he recently convened New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other top Black leaders in the city at a Harlem public safety summit to tackle gun violence. Sharpton’s story is featured in “Loudmouth,” a new documentary.

13. Keechant Sewell

Commissioner, New York City Police Department
Keechant Sewell / The Nassau County Police Department, New York

New York’s top cop made history last year as the city’s first Black woman to serve as police commissioner. So far on Commissioner Keechant Sewell’s watch, the NYPD experienced a decline in shootings and homicides but a significant increase in overall crime. And with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, himself a veteran of the police force, making public safety his top priority – and with a spate of high-profile subway attacks and rising hate crimes – Sewell’s job may not get any easier in her second year, even with promised investments in crime-fighting technology.

14. Alvin Bragg & Darcel Clark

Manhattan District Attorney; Bronx District Attorney
Alvin Bragg & Darcel Clark / Kelly Campbell; Joao D'alessandro

The Manhattan prosecutor’s first few months in office weren’t anything to, ahem, brag about, given his early clashes with City Hall over how aggressively to target low-level crimes. But District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s successful effort to convict former President Donald Trump’s business on tax fraud charges is what now first comes to mind for many voters – and another investigation into the former president himself isn’t over, with the hush money case now going before a grand jury. In the Bronx, District Attorney Darcel Clark has also been busy tackling crime, from gun violence among youths to abuses by correction officers on Rikers Island. Although Clark supported the state’s 2019 criminal justice reforms, she has called for more funding and resources to handle the changes to discovery and bail laws.

15. Damian Williams, Breon Peace & Trini Ross

U.S. Attorneys, Southern, Eastern and Western Districts of New York
Damian Williams, Breon Peace & Trini Ross / U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of NY; U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of NY; DOJ, Eli Alford

Damian Williams in 2021 was appointed to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which has a reputation as one of the most powerful prosecutorial posts in the country. The office covers Manhattan, the Bronx and a few Hudson Valley counties, but its work often stretches across the country and even overseas, whether it involves an Iranian assassination plot or a romance scam originating in Florida. One of Williams’ most high-profile targets is Sam Bankman-Fried, who has been accused of misspent funds in the wake of the collapse of his crypto exchange FTX. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace’s purview is the Eastern District of New York, which encompasses Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island – where his office is reportedly investigating the finances of embattled Rep. George Santos. U.S. Attorney Trini Ross, who runs the Western District office, joined U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland last summer to announce federal charges against Payton Gendron, who pleaded guilty in the racist mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket.

16. Greg Meeks

Member of Congress
Greg Meeks / U.S. House

When Jamaal Bowman knocked then-Rep. Eliot Engel out of Congress in 2020, the plum post chairing the House Foreign Affairs Committee was handed to another New Yorker: veteran Queens Rep. Greg Meeks. The lawmaker didn’t keep the position for very long, however, as Democrats narrowly lost control of the House this past election cycle, with Meeks relegated to ranking member of the committee. Yet, Meeks retains significant clout locally as the Queens Democratic Party boss and flexed his muscle last year by helping New York City Council Member Adrienne Adams, who also hails from the borough, secure the council speakership.

17. Stacy Lynch

Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor
Stacy Lynch / Provided

Stacy Lynch has worked for some of New York’s most prominent political figures, including former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former first lady Chirlane McCray and now Gov. Kathy Hochul. It’s no surprise, either, as Lynch follows in the footsteps of her father, the legendary political consultant Bill Lynch, who played a key role in David Dinkins’ groundbreaking election as New York City’s first Black mayor. Stacy Lynch, who replaced Jeff Lewis as Hochul’s chief of staff, previously served as chief of staff to the lieutenant governor and senior adviser to the governor.

18. Camille Joseph Varlack

Chief of Staff, Office of the New York City Mayor
Camille Joseph Varlack / JaDee Murphy

After his election as New York City mayor, Eric Adams unveiled a team of accomplished women filling out most of his deputy mayor posts. A year later, he added yet another woman to his inner circle – Camille Joseph Varlack, who succeeded Frank Carone as Adams’ chief of staff. The government operations expert previously served as a senior adviser to the mayor. She also founded Bradford Edwards & Varlack LLP and held several key roles in state government, where she was then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointee as chair of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

19. Jamaal Bailey, Jabari Brisport, Samra Brouk, Cordell Cleare, Leroy Comrie, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Kevin S. Parker, Roxanne Persaud, James Sanders Jr., Lea Webb

State Senators
Jamaal Bailey, Jabari Brisport, Samra Brouk, Leroy Comrie, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Kevin S. Parker, Roxanne Persaud, James Sanders Jr., Lea Webb / Tess Mayer; Office of Senator Jackson; Office of Senator Parker

Of the 63 lawmakers serving in the state Senate, 12 are Black – or nearly 1 in 5 members of the upper house, which closely matches their share of the state population as a whole. And these lawmakers have certainly made their presence known, from veteran politicians like Leroy Comrie (who chairs the committee overseeing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority), fellow Queens representative James Sanders Jr. (the banking chair and a proponent of minority- and women-owned businesses) and Brooklyn’s Kevin S. Parker (the energy and telecommunications chair) to younger members like Rochester’s Samra Brouk (the mental health chair) and Brooklynites Zellnor Myrie (the elections chair) and Jabari Brisport (a Democratic Socialists of America member who has led the charge for more child care funding). Another Brooklynite, Roxanne Persaud, chairs the state Senate Social Services Committee, while state Sen. Jamaal Bailey pulls double duty as the Bronx Democratic Party boss. Among the newer members of the conference are Harlem’s Cordell Cleare, who chairs the state Senate Aging Committee, and Binghamton’s Lea Webb, who took office this year and now chairs the Women’s Issues Committee. The election of Webb, who previously served in the Binghamton City Council, marked a notable upstate victory for the Working Families Party, which helped flip the redrawn seat from red to blue – and in turn helped the state Senate Democrats keep their supermajority.

20. Twyla Carter

Attorney-in-Chief and CEO, The Legal Aid Society
Twyla Carter / Spencer Gallop

Twyla Carter took the reins of The Legal Aid Society last year, making history as the first Black woman and first Asian American to lead the venerable public defender organization. Carter, who previously served as national director of legal and policy at The Bail Project, now leads an organization that has a long history of pushing for major policy changes in New York City – and is currently opposing efforts to scale back the state’s bail reforms, backing the city’s “right to shelter” law in the face of a migrant influx and advocating for better conditions for inmates at Rikers Island.

21. Anne Williams-Isom

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Office of the New York City Mayor
Anne Williams-Isom / Provided

New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom oversees some of the city’s most important governmental entities, including the Department of Social Services, the Administration for Children’s Services and NYC Health + Hospitals. Williams, whose mother was a Trinidadian immigrant and a nurse, previously led Harlem Children’s Zone and was an academic at Fordham University. She has defended City Hall’s plan to involuntarily house mentally ill homeless persons, telling WNYC’s Brian Lehrer in December that it’s “about getting help to those New Yorkers who we think were suffering.”

22. Robin Chappelle Golston

Executive Deputy Secretary, Office of the Governor
Robin Chappelle Golston / A. Chappelle

In the fall of 2021, Robin Chappelle Golston left her job running Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, the political and policy arm of the reproductive health care organization in New York, in order to join the state’s first gubernatorial administration headed by a woman. Just days before joining the Hochul administration as executive deputy secretary, Golston joined the governor to announce efforts to make New York a destination for residents of other states restricting abortion access – an effort that has continued with the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.

23. Ritchie Torres

Member of Congress
Ritchie Torres / Office of Rep. Ritchie Torres

Standing by his Housing for All pledge, Rep. Ritchie Torres – who grew up in public housing – has called for more “affordable housing, a universal housing voucher program (and) a sweeping reinvestment in our existing public housing infrastructure.” In addition to his affordable housing push and his other legislative priorities, the media-savvy Bronx member of Congress has been a leader in the effort to hold newly elected Queens and Long Island Rep. George Santos accountable for feeding professional, educational and personal falsehoods to voters before the 2022 elections.

24. Yvette Clarke

Member of Congress
Yvette Clarke / U.S. House

With a high number of immigrants in her Brooklyn constituency, Rep. Yvette Clarke – whose own mother, former New York City Council Member Una Clarke, emigrated from Jamaica – has criticized the Biden administration policy that limits immigration from the Caribbean, Central and South America. She has also been at the forefront of fire safety by introducing the Safer Heat Act legislation to improve the manufacture of space heaters. Clarke, who faced a tough primary challenge in 2018, bounced back strongly in 2020 and had no primary challenger at all this past cycle. 

25. Vanessa Gibson & Donovan Richards

Bronx Borough President; Queens Borough President
Vanessa Gibson & Donovan Richards / Queens Borough President’s Office; Finalis Valdez

Just days into her term as Bronx borough president, Vanessa Gibson sprung into action to assist tenants displaced by a devastating fire that killed 17 people in the Twin Parks apartment building. Gibson, who had previously chaired the New York City Council Public Safety Committee, has also prioritized COVID-19 recovery efforts and drew attention to Bronx businesses being “shortchanged” after hundreds of owners were rejected for relief loans during the pandemic. She has also continued the pro-development approach of her predecessor, Ruben Diaz Jr., backing the Throggs Neck and Bruckner rezonings.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who served alongside Gibson in the New York City Council, was elected to his current post in 2020. Richards has maintained his focus on resiliency following devastation from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, launching a local sustainability program. In January, Richards provided partial funds for a $96 million building with 146 affordable units in his old Far Rockaway district. He’s also on board with City Hall’s new redevelopment plan for Willets Point, including a new professional soccer stadium and 2,500 units of affordable housing.

26. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Pamela Hunter, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Latoya Joyner, J. Gary Pretlow, Karines Reyes, Michaelle Solages, Latrice Walker & Clyde Vanel

Assembly Members
Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Pamela Hunter, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Latoya Joyner, J. Gary Pretlow, Karines Reyes, Michaelle Solages, Latrice Walker & Clyde Vanel / Candace Howe Studios; James Escher; Celeste Sloman

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn remains at the helm of the embattled Brooklyn Democratic Party, the state’s largest local political organization, after narrowly winning another term in October. The same month, the lawmaker introduced a maternal care bill that would guarantee timely treatment for mothers experiencing fetal deaths, spurred by her own struggle with maternal care. Other particularly influential Black members of the Assembly that chair key committees within the legislative body include Pamela Hunter of Syracuse (Banks), Long Islander Kimberly Jean-Pierre (Veterans’ Affairs), Brooklyn’s Latrice Walker (Election Law) and Clyde Vanel of Queens (Oversight, Analysis and Investigation). Assembly Member Latoya Joyner of the Bronx chairs the influential Labor Committee, working with colleagues like Karines Reyes, a fellow Bronx representative, to drive groundbreaking legislation protecting workers as well as public health measures, including legislation seeking to reduce high rates of asthma in their borough. J. Gary Pretlow, who chairs the Racing and Wagering Committee, is hopeful that the closely watched downstate gambling expansion will allow the Empire City Casino to become a full-fledged casino to provide an economic boost to his Westchester County district. Michaelle Solages, meanwhile, chairs the Assembly Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, which represents more than 50 members from across the state.

27. Errol Louis

Political Anchor, NY1
Errol Louis / Spectrum News NY1

As the host of “Inside City Hall” on NY1, Errol Louis brings the voices of New York politicos into the homes and businesses of the city. Since 2010, the political anchor has sat down with influential leaders from all walks of life to discuss policy and plans for New York’s future. Louis’ deep experience as a journalist has translated to a stint as a CNN commentator and a recurring column in New York magazine, including a recent piece in which he defended Hector LaSalle, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nominee to lead the state Court of Appeals. 

28. Bill Thompson

Chair, CUNY
Bill Thompson / CUNY

Since 2016, Bill Thompson has served as chair on the City University of New York board of trustees, driving forward the mission and policies of the nation’s largest urban university system. As a former New York City comptroller and president of the old Board of Education, he has remained a reliable asset to managing million- and billion-dollar city budgets. With Thompson at the helm of the board, CUNY is projected to create a $25 billion economic boost through a partnership with the SPARC Kips Bay life sciences campus via a renovation of Hunter College's Brookdale Campus.

29. Lester Young Jr.

Chancellor, State Board of Regents
Lester Young Jr. / State Education Department

Next month marks the 15th year that Lester Young Jr. has parlayed his comprehensive public educational and governmental experience to help the state’s students as a member of the state Board of Regents. Young was elevated to the role of Regents chancellor at the start of 2021, after Betty Rosa left the post to become state education commissioner. Members of the Board of Regents, which oversees educational activities in the state, are elected by the state Legislature, giving them independence from the governor.

30. Inez Dickens, Kristin Richardson Jordan, Al Taylor & Yusef Salaam

New York City Council Candidates
Inez Dickens, Kristin Richardson Jordan, Al Taylor & Yusef Salaam / Kevin A. Richards; New York State Assembly; Staci Marie

Most of the New York City Council elections this year will be humdrum affairs, but one of the exceptions is the crowded primary that’s already shaping up for the seat of Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan. The leftist lawmaker, who beat incumbent Bill Perkins in 2021, has since come under scrutiny in her Harlem district for her calls to defund the police and for her blocking of a development that she said didn’t have enough affordable housing. Perhaps the front-runner to oust her is Assembly Member Inez Dickens, who has deep roots in the neighborhood and is a longtime supporter of local business owners and minority- and women-owned businesses. Also in the mix in the Democratic primary are Assembly Member Al Taylor and Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five whose conviction on charges of raping a jogger were overturned in 2002.

31. Selvena Brooks-Powers, Rita Joseph, Pierina Sanchez, Kamillah Hanks, Crystal Hudson, Althea Stevens, Mercedes Narcisse, Amanda Farías, Sandy Nurse, Nantasha Williams, Chi Ossé, Farah N. Louis, Kevin Riley, Charles Barron & Darlene Mealy

New York City Council Members
Selvena Brooks-Powers, Rita Joseph, Kamillah Hanks, Crystal Hudson, Althea Stevens, Mercedes Narcisse, Amanda Farías, Sandy Nurse, Nantasha Williams, Chi Ossé, Farah N. Louis, Kevin Riley & Charles Barron / Brandon Harrison; Marc Baptiste; Anthony Abercrombie; Katrina Hajagos; Tanisa Smith; Emil Cohen; Brandon Harrison; Celeste Sloman; Wm. Omowale Clay

Due to term limits that forced lots of officeholders to step down at the end of 2021, many current members of the New York City Council have little if any experience in elected office – but they do have immense legislative responsibilities and enjoy outsized control over local land use decisions in their home districts, thanks to the long-standing practice known as member deference. Among Black members serving in the legislative body, Selvena Brooks-Powers of Queens, an ally of Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, was given a leadership post as majority whip while also being named as chair of the influential Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Other Black or Afro-Latino colleagues who landed key committee chairs include a trio of first-term members: Brooklyn’s Rita Joseph (Education), the Bronx’s Pierina Sanchez (Housing and Buildings) and Staten Island’s Kamillah Hanks (Public Safety). Other notable committees are led by Crystal Hudson (Aging), Althea Stevens (Youth Services), Mercedes Narcisse (Hospitals), Amanda Farías (Economic Development), Sandy Nurse (Sanitation and Solid Waste Management), Nantasha Williams (Civil and Human Rights) and Chi Ossé (Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations), while Hudson also serves as a co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Caucus. Meanwhile, Farah Louis and Kevin Riley head up notable subcommittees. Louis oversees the Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions Subcommittee, and Riley heads up the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. Among the few veteran lawmakers is Charles Barron, a leftist who had an earlier stint in the legislative body and also served in the Assembly, and Darlene Mealy, who also was elected to the City Council previously.

32. Byron Brown

Buffalo Mayor
Byron Brown / City of Buffalo

In 2021, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown suffered an embarrassing loss and notched an impressive victory – falling to India Walton in the Democratic primary yet winning reelection on the strength of a write-in campaign. The roller coaster ride has continued for Buffalo’s longest serving mayor, who has been getting flak recently about the city’s snowstorm response but is pleased that a new Buffalo Bills stadium is coming to nearby Orchard Park. Brown is also preparing for more migrants, which could be costly but also boost the population-starved city.

33. Jamaal Bowman

Member of Congress
Jamaal Bowman / US House of Representatives

The election of Jamaal Bowman to Congress sent shockwaves through New York in 2020, as the long-serving Eliot Engel lost his Bronx seat to the Justice Democrats-backed Bowman. Bowman, who joined Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a far-left member of “The Squad,” previously was the founding principal of a Bronx middle school. This cycle, Bowman faced two Westchester legislators in a district redrawn to include more of the county and much less of the Bronx, yet still won a pivotal Democratic primary race with an impressive 60% of the vote.

34. Amelia Adams & Yvette Buckner

Co-Founders, Adams Buckner Advisors
Amelia Adams & Yvette Buckner / Frank Gutierrez

Last spring, Yvette Buckner left her position at Tusk Strategies and teamed up with Amelia Adams, another veteran female political consultant, to form Adams Buckner Advisors. Adams previously ran her own firm, Adams Advisors, and the two worked together on the remarkably successful 21 in ’21 initiative, now entitled The New Majority NYC, which aimed to elect at least 21 women to the New York City Council in 2021 – and ultimately exceeded that goal by 10 seats.

35. Adrienne Harris

Superintendent, State Department of Financial Services
Adrienne Harris / Don Pollard

Adrienne Harris’ role regulating the state's financial services industry is no easy task – overseeing more than 1,700 insurance companies with assets of more than $5.5 trillion, more than 866 property and casualty insurance companies, close to 80 foreign bank branches and agencies, 159 state-chartered banks and close to 30 virtual currency companies and more – not to mention many crypto players in an industry that recently crashed. Harris, the first Black woman to lead the department, previously held key roles in the U.S. Treasury Department.

36. Wayne Spence

President, Public Employees Federation
Wayne Spence / NYS Public Employee Federation

Since his election in 2015, Wayne Spence has focused on the 50,000 members of the Public Employees Federation while adopting a less combative approach with the governor. It seems to be working, as he won a third three-year term in 2021. Born in Jamaica, Spence spent nearly three decades in state government as a parole officer. His union recently waded into the controversy over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s nomination of Hector LaSalle as chief judge of the state’s highest court, calling on the state Senate to vote as a full body on his nomination.

37. David Jones

President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York
David Jones / MTA

The Community Service Society of New York is an organization with an equity-driven mission, aiming to empower New Yorkers to improve their quality of life and better their communities. Much of this is accomplished through data-based research, support services and advocacy under the guidance of its longtime leader, David Jones. Under Jones’ direction, CSS was influential in closing loopholes to New York’s rent laws in 2019 and publishes its recurring “Unheard Third Survey,” which recently made the case for the “good cause eviction” bill that stalled in last year’s legislative session.

Editor’s note: David Jones is a member of City & State’s advisory board.

38. Rudolph Wynter

President, National Grid New York
Rudolph Wynter / James Diaz Photography

When Buffalo was buried in over 4 feet of snow in December, National Grid crews worked swiftly to restore power to thousands of its customers in the region. As the leader of the energy company’s New York business operations, Rudolph Wynter is going above and beyond for customers in the state, announcing the waiver of late fees for those affected by the blizzard. National Grid is also among the bidders seeking to invest in more offshore wind generation development in New York.

39. Chris Alexander & Tremaine Wright

Executive Director; Chair, State Office of Cannabis Management; State Cannabis Control Board
Chris Alexander & Tremaine Wright / NYS Office of Cannabis Management

Chris Alexander and Tremaine Wright made headlines in 2021 when it was announced that they would lead newly formed state offices managing New York’s cannabis regulatory system. More recently, headlines about the two detail the groundbreaking moves to open legal, adult-use marijuana dispensaries in the state. Thanks to their efforts, over 60 cannabis dispensary licenses have already been issued in New York. The licensing process prioritizes entrepreneurs with previous marijuana-related charges and experience running a small business.

40. LaRay Brown

CEO, One Brooklyn Health System
LaRay Brown / Justin Persaud

When Brooklyn Hospital Center and Interfaith Medical Center nurses avoided a strike through contract negotiation, there was likely a collective sigh of relief coming from the One Brooklyn Health System facilities’ patients and staff – including LaRay Brown, who leads One Brooklyn Health. She also is welcoming an anticipated $3 million for infrastructure improvements, coming from a recently passed federal omnibus package. But the health system’s electronic health record system was reportedly not fully operational as of Dec. 20, due to damage from a November ransomware assault.

41. Hope Knight

President, CEO and Commissioner, Empire State Development
Hope Knight / Greater Jamaica Development Corp

When Gov. Kathy Hochul assumed Albany’s top seat in 2021, she called on Hope Knight to oversee Empire State Development, the state’s economic development arm. The state organization operates to spur investments and business opportunities through benefits such as tax credits, loans and grants. Since the former Greater Jamaica Development Corporation CEO took over ESD, she has spearheaded several state-led economic initiatives, including offering startup companies thousands in growth assistance, a plan to redevelop a dozen defunct prisons and a $65 million plan to promote tourism to a Black historic corridor in Buffalo.

42. Tiffany Raspberry

Senior Adviser for External Affairs, Office of the New York City Mayor
Tiffany Raspberry / Regina Fleming Photography

In January 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled his senior team – including Tiffany Raspberry, who was named his senior adviser for external affairs. Raspberry, a member of Adams’ inner circle before he became mayor, previously led a lobbying firm, York Group Associates, and worked in the New York City Council and the House of Representatives. She was rumored to be a candidate for the chief of staff position that came open when Frank Carone stepped down, although the job went to Camille Joseph Varlack.

43. Keith Wright

Chair, Manhattan Democratic Party
Keith Wright / Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP

When Keith Wright, a veteran Harlem politician, exited the Assembly in 2016, he didn’t leave politics behind. The well-connected former state Democratic Party co-chair and onetime congressional candidate now serves as chair of the Manhattan Democrats, a role in which he anoints judicial candidates and endorses contenders in races for other elected offices. He is also the director of strategic planning in the government relations group of the highly ranked law and lobbying firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron.

44. Jennifer Jones Austin

CEO and Executive Director, FPWA
Jennifer Jones Austin / Rob White

Almost 200 social service agencies and faith-based organizations make up the membership of FPWA, which was formerly known as Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies but has expanded its reach beyond faith-based organizations and outreach. Its influential leader, Jennifer Jones Austin, also spearheaded the city's Racial Justice Commission, educating voters about a successful racial justice measure placed on the ballot in 2022. In November, she was named a visiting scholar at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work to assist faculty in advancing the school’s curricula and boost anti-poverty programs and policy goals.

45. Philip Ozuah

President and CEO, Montefiore Medicine
Philip Ozuah / Serge Neville

Dr. Philip Ozuah in 2019 took the reins of Montefiore Health System, which encompasses 13 hospitals with 10,000 physicians and 53,000 employees, while also leading the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The new year opened with a labor threat, but Ozuah weathered a three-day nurses strike in the Bronx and reached an agreement with the nurses union. Ozuah said he was pleased that the Montefiore offers – including a wage increase and a host of other benefits – had been accepted by the New York State Nurses Association.

46. Darren Walker

President, Ford Foundation
Darren Walker / Ford Foundation

As head of the Ford Foundation since 2013, Darren Walker is not overwhelmed by the hundreds of millions of dollars the philanthropy donates around the world with the mission of promoting positive change. An attorney who has held leadership roles with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Abyssinian Development Corp., Walker also co-chaired New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers and served on the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.

47. Philip Banks

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Office of the New York City Mayor
Philip Banks / NYPD

Philip Banks’ City Hall appointment wasn’t unveiled along with the Adams administration’s other deputy mayors, who are all women – a decision that may have reflected the importance of Banks’ efforts tackling public safety, or perhaps it was due to the controversy surrounding the appointment, given that Banks was an unindicted co-conspirator in a police corruption probe. Banks, a longtime Eric Adams ally whose brother, David Banks, is the city’s schools chancellor, has kept a relatively low profile, flexing his muscle behind the scenes.

48. Malik Evans

Rochester Mayor
Malik Evans / Northglow Photography

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans’ first year in office was an ambitious one: New York’s fourth largest city saw investments in gun violence prevention, police training, society reintegration and youth services. A former Board of Education member and founder of a local youth council, Evans brings a wealth of experience to his work leading the city. Evans has also created new programs in city recreation centers and libraries, is bringing back the Police Athletic League to improve relations with law enforcement, and is developing plans to expand summer employment opportunities for 2023.

49. Dawn Pinnock

Commissioner, New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services
Dawn Pinnock / New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services

Most New Yorkers don’t know what DCAS stands for, but the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services is a critical agency that handles the nuts and bolts of city government, from HR functions to building maintenance and sales to over a billion dollars in procurement. Dawn Pinnock was appointed acting commissioner at the end of the de Blasio administration and kept on by Mayor Eric Adams. Among the highlights of her tenure are adding electric vehicles to the city’s fleet.

50. Antonio Delgado

Lieutenant Governor
Antonio Delgado / Delgado For Congress

Appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in May and emerging victorious in a competitive Democratic primary in June, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado is the first Afro-Latino individual to fill this position. The former member of Congress has shown a commitment to climate action, protecting reproductive rights and reducing gun violence in New York. As a cheerleader for the Hochul administration – who’s a heartbeat or a scandal away from the top job – he has traveled extensively across New York, including delivering a message to middle and high school students in Albany promoting peace and unity ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

51. Patrick B. Jenkins

Founder, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates
Patrick B. Jenkins / caliyorkphotography

Patrick B. Jenkins founded Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates in 2009, which has grown to become a significant player in Albany and New York City. A veteran of federal and local government offices and on campaigns at every level, Jenkins now represents clients in education, tech, real estate, health care and casinos, having represented heavyweights such as the Real Estate Board of New York, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Charter Communications, Uber and Genting New York, which is in the mix for a full-fledged casino license in Queens.

52. Charlie King, Michael Hardaway & Tara L. Martin

Partner; Managing Director; Managing Director, Mercury
Charlie King, Michael Hardaway & Tara L. Martin / Mercury LLC; City & State;

During a quarter-century in New York politics, Charlie King has assisted reelection campaigns for Andrew Cuomo and Charles Rangel, worked with the Rev. Al Sharpton and led the state Democratic Party – and remains an informal adviser to countless other power brokers in the state. A newer face at Mercury is Michael Hardaway, a Capitol Hill veteran who served in the Obama administration and was also communications director for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the new leader of the House Democrats. Tara L. Martin, a longtime labor operative and the founder of TLM Strategic Advisors, has also joined the firm as a managing director in its New York City office.

Editor’s note: Tara L. Martin is a member of City & State’s advisory board.

53. William Floyd

Senior Director, U.S. State and Local Government Affairs and Public Policy, Google
William Floyd / Joshua Zuckerman

Google veteran William Floyd works directly with community leaders and elected officials in New York and across the country to advocate for the interests of the dominant search platform. Floyd, who has been with Google for over a decade, previously had stops at Manatt, Verizon and the New York City Economic Development Corp. He worked on the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund initiative, which funds Black-led startups. He sits on the board of Tech:NYC, a trade association representing tech companies.

54. Rachel Noerdlinger

Partner, Actum
Rachel Noerdlinger / Actum Public Affairs

Rachel Noerdlinger is a towering figure in the public relations sphere, delivering communications advice for prominent Black figures in New York such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and former first lady Chirlane McCray. A year ago, she and Michael McKeon left Mercury to become equity partners at Actum, a firm that manages communications and advocacy mobilization. Noerdlinger played a pivotal role in directing communications with media and logistics for George Floyd’s funeral in 2020, working side by side with Sharpton.

55. Juanita Scarlett & Violet Moss

Partners, Bolton-St. Johns
Juanita Scarlett & Violet Moss / Roger Archer; Sippakorn Ponpayong

A top-three lobbying outfit in Albany and in New York City, Bolton-St. Johns has enjoyed considerable success on the lobbying front thanks to savvy and seasoned professionals like Juanita Scarlett and Violet Moss. Scarlett served in high-ranking state government roles under former Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer before pivoting to the private sector, and she has been at Bolton-St. Johns for four years. Moss cut her teeth as a staffer in the Assembly and brings plenty of experience and expertise in the health care sector.

Editor's note: Juanita Scarlett is a member of City & State's advisory board.

56. Tyquana L. Henderson-Rivers

President, Connective Strategies
Tyquana L. Henderson-Rivers / Cedric Wooten

A top political consultant in Queens and beyond, Tyquana Henderson-Rivers has deftly navigated her 15-year-old community and government relations firm through the unpredictable waters of New York politics. She provides grassroots organizing and other services for political candidates – whether they’re an incumbent or an up-and-coming candidate. Henderson-Rivers acquired experience working on the staffs of then-Council Member Bill de Blasio, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and the New York City Council. She initially delved into the fields of lobbying and public affairs while working at the Yoswein New York firm.

57. Nancy Hagans

President, New York State Nurses Association
Nancy Hagans / Jehan LLC

From the front-line battles during the COVID-19 pandemic to the picket lines of a January strike by New York State Nurses Association, Nancy Hagans has been busy advocating for her 42,000 members. As coronavirus infections in the city declined to a manageable but still serious threat level, the Maimonides Medical Center nurse turned her attention to thousands of her New York City union members who have complained and rallied for months about being understaffed and overworked for years. After a three-day job action, Hagans’ negotiators came to agreements with major hospitals.

58. Chris Smalls

President, Amazon Labor Union
Chris Smalls / Eric Kelly

Chris Smalls didn’t follow the standard playbook in his effort to organize workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, but his David vs. Goliath battle against the tech giant has been remarkably successful The latest victory came in January, when a federal National Labor Relations Board official rejected Amazon’s argument that the union vote wasn’t fair, paving the way for contract talks to begin. The company, which infamously dismissed Smalls as “not smart or articulate,” has been outsmarted so far.

59. Jacques Andre DeGraff

Chair, MBE Leadership Summit
Jacques Andre DeGraff / Celeste Sloman

The Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff has a long résumé of advocating for communities of color on all fronts – health, economic and social. As chair of the MBE Leadership Summit, DeGraff serves as a mouthpiece for minority-owned business ventures. In 2013, he championedNew York City’s Local Law 1, which expanded opportunities for contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses. DeGraff has also combated misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and was named last fall to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Capital Process Reform Task Force.

60. Kassandra Frederique

Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance

The crusade of drug policy activists like Kassandra Fredrique continues to influence legislation in New York and on the federal level in Washington. Fredrique focuses on race, immigration status and incarceration around her drug policy advocacy, supporting the state’s decision to prioritize recreational marijuana licenses to those with previous convictions for it. At the federal level, Frederique blasted the exclusion of noncitizens in President Joe Biden’s executive order to pardon low-level federal marijuana possession convictions.

61. Arva Rice

President and CEO, New York Urban League
Arva Rice / Tau Battice

Arva Rice is the longtime leader of the New York Urban League, a century-old organization that helps Black New Yorkers secure socioeconomic gains. She has cited the death of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minorities in arguing that “Black people can’t wait” while calling for partnerships to “change laws, develop policy and change attitudes.” Last year, Rice became chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board and has overseen its expansion of power in reviewing racial profiling policing and body camera misuse.

62. Dennis Walcott

President and CEO, Queens Public Library
Dennis Walcott / Craig Warga

Since 2016, the former New York City schools chancellor has headed the Queens Public Library system, which has 66 locations throughout the borough. He has stayed involved in city government and politics, whether it’s budget requests for his sprawling library system, chairing the New York City Districting Commission or voicing his support for a drag story hour. Walcott previously served as deputy mayor for education and community development and then as schools chancellor during the Bloomberg administration, and prior to his time at City Hall, he led the New York Urban League.

63. Camille Joseph-Goldman & Rodney Capel

Group Vice President for Government Affairs; Vice President for Government Affairs, Northeast Region, Charter Communications
Camille Joseph-Goldman & Rodney Capel / Charter Communications

Charter Communications is a major cable and telecommunications provider in New York, with more than 2 million customers in the state. And in order to advocate for its interests in Albany and beyond the borders of New York, the company relies on a pair of well-connected government affairs professionals: Camille Joseph-Goldman and Rodney Capel. Joseph-Goldman, a former New York City deputy comptroller for public affairs, and Capel, a former special adviser to the governor, deal with government officials in the broader northeastern United States.

64. Machelle Allen

Chief Medical Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals
Machelle Allen / NYC Health + Hospitals

Dr. Machelle Allen is the chief medical officer of NYC Health + Hospitals, a vast public health care system with 11 hospitals, dozens more health centers and a handful of long-term care facilities and a staff of 45,000. Allen, who’s also a senior vice president and a trained gynecologist, has been in the chief medical officer role since 2017, and she has maintained a steadfast focus on serving low-income patients. She helped launch the system’s Office of Clinical Operations and its Office of Women’s Health Services. She recently joined New York City Mayor Eric Adams as he announced plans for expanded access to abortion pills.

65. Sochie Nnaemeka

New York State Director, Working Families Party
Sochie Nnaemeka / Connie Chavez

The Working Families Party’s Sochie Nnaemeka has acknowledged that Republicans performed well this past cycle, chalking it up to fearmongering as well as strong organizing. Yet at the same time, the far-left third party enjoyed some victories, including the elections of Assembly Member Sarahana Shrestha and state Sen. Lea Webb in upstate New York and the reelection of state Sen. Gustavo Rivera in the Bronx. Nnaemeka already has laid out the blueprint for 2023’s election: emphasizing cross-ballot coordination in battleground congressional districts and campaigns that tackle affordable housing and tenant protections.

66. René F. Jones

Chair and CEO, M&T Bank

M&T Bank is a financial powerhouse in Western New York, and its footprint is growing thanks to CEO René F. Jones. The Buffalo-headquartered institution has over 22,000 employees in 14 East Coast states as well as Washington, D.C. Jones, who was promoted to the top job in 2017, is among the few Black CEOs listed in the Fortune 500. He also has a connection to Gov. Kathy Hochul, who’s not only from Western New York herself but served as the bank’s vice president of government relations.

67. Kiara St. James

Co-Founder and Executive Director, New York Transgender Advocacy Group
Kiara St. James / Cory Malcolm

As co-founder and executive director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, Kiara St. James has continually advocated for the transgender and gender-nonconforming community. Her advocacy work was instrumental in the passing of New York’s 2019 Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, increasing protections against gender identity-based discrimination. Recently, after St. James and fellow advocacy groups called on lawmakers to address inadequate funding for trans-focused organizations, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation to establish the $1 million Transgender and Gender Non-Binary Wellness and Equity Fund.

68. Janella Hinds

Secretary-Treasurer, New York City Central Labor Council
Janella Hinds / The United Federation of Teachers, Communication Department

One head with several hats describes Janella Hinds, who advocates for workers of all stripes in her leadership position with the New York City Central Labor Council. The group represents unionized workers in a wide variety of professions. She also has immense responsibilities at the United Federation of Teachers, the influential New York City teachers union, where she has served as vice president for academic high schools for over a decade. Last year, she spoke out in support of consent education and efforts to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.

69. Terrence Melvin

Secretary-Treasurer, New York State AFL-CIO
Terrence Melvin / Crystal Melvin

Terrence Melvin is the No. 2 at the New York State AFL-CIO, the umbrella group representing public- and private-sector labor unions across the state. In 1980, he started as a Civil Service Employees Association Local 427 member, and moved from shop steward to grievance representative for the labor local’s vice president. After becoming the youngest CSEA president, he continued his ascent to the state AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer. Maintaining strong community ties, Melvin is an ordained Baptist minister and serves as associate minister at the Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna.

70. Priscilla Sims Brown

President and CEO, Amalgamated Bank

For many banks, embracing issues like diversity, clean energy and social justice is a relatively new phenomenon. For Amalgamated Bank, that’s what it has been doing for nearly a century. The financial institution, which is headquartered in New York City, was founded by a union in 1923 and remains dedicated to serving labor unions to this day. Priscilla Sims Brown, formerly an executive at Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Lincoln Financial Group, took over as CEO in 2021.

Tusk Strategies: Congratulations to Shontell Smith for being recognized in the Power of Diversity: Black 100 List

71. Shontell Smith

Executive Vice President, Tusk Strategies
Shontell Smith / NYS Senate Photography

When state Senate Democrats seized a majority in 2018 and state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first Black woman to lead a majority conference in the state Legislature, Shontell Smith was at her side every step of the way. Smith, who held key roles as counsel and chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats, took on a new challenge last summer, joining Tusk Strategies as executive vice president, effectively a No. 2 position at the consulting firm known for its work in tech, financial markets and transportation.

72. Lupe Todd-Medina

President, Effective Media Strategies
Lupe Todd-Medina / Celeste Sloman

Lupe Todd-Medina – described as a “PR Boss Lady,” “Political Junkie” and “Proud Panameña” on her Twitter profile – continues to hold her ground as a powerhouse in New York’s political consulting world. Todd-Medina’s Effective Media Strategies is a Brooklyn-based consulting firm offering public relations and communications services to political and government actors, most notably Gov. Kathy Hochul and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Todd-Medina is also a longtime member of the Olori Sisterhood – a collective of Black women committed to empowering their community within political spaces.

Editor’s note: Lupe Todd-Medina is a member of City & State’s advisory board.

73. L. Joy Williams

Founder and Principal Consultant, LJW Strategies
L. Joy Williams / MaroHagopian

Many Black leaders have turned to L. Joy Williams for advice, from New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to state Attorney General Letitia James – and in recent months, she has been floated as a progressive alternative to state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs. Williams also heads the NAACP’s Brooklyn branch and was pivotal in increasing member participation over the past decade. She has also worked with the Higher Heights for America Political Action Committee to get progressive Black women elected into offices across the nation.

74. A.R. Bernard

Senior Pastor, Christian Cultural Center
A.R. Bernard / Provided

The responsibilities of the Rev. A.R. Bernard extends far beyond preaching to the flock – he runs a food pantry in Brooklyn and a prison ministry, and is now transforming his megachurch into a mixed-income development. The new and improved center has been dubbed an “urban village,” with plans for almost 2,000 affordable units with amenities such as a grocery store and day care center. The New York City Council approved site, with construction of the first phase slated for 2026 completion, will soon be added to Bernard’s long list of accomplishments.

75. Hazel Dukes

President, NAACP New York State Conference
Hazel Dukes / Amber Singletary

The legendary civil rights leader Hazel Dukes celebrated her 90th birthday last March, and she is showing no signs of slowing down. Dukes, a staunch defender of Andrew Cuomo before he stepped down as governor, came out in support of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s bid for a full term in an endorsement that signaled the governor’s growing support among Black leaders. Dukes, a featured speaker at last year’s NAACP National Convention, has also been praised by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and his predecessor, Bill de Blasio.

76. Richard Buery Jr.

CEO, Robin Hood
Richard Buery Jr. / Robin Hood

Since becoming CEO of Robin Hood in 2021, Richard Buery Jr. has continued the foundation’s efforts to alleviate economic struggles across New York City and beyond. The national anti-poverty organization has partnered locally with the Adams administration, committing $50 million to New York City’s Childcare Quality And Innovation Initiative in May, while Buery was named that same month as co-chair of the mayor’s and governor’s “New” New York Panel on regional economic growth. Buery previously oversaw the rollout of the city’s universal prekindergarten initiative as a deputy mayor in the de Blasio administration.

77. Mylan Denerstein

Partner, Gibson Dunn
Mylan Denerstein / Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Mylan Denerstein is deeply familiar with federal, state and local government – she has served in the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, as counsel to the governor, as executive deputy attorney general in the state and as a deputy commissioner for legal affairs for the New York City Fire Department. Now in the private sector, where she chairs Gibson Dunn’s public policy practice group and has spearheaded diversity efforts, Denerstein last summer was appointed federal monitor of the New York City Police Department, succeeding the late Peter Zimroth.

78. Melanie Hartzog

President and CEO, The New York Foundling
Melanie Hartzog / Ryan Lash

When Bill de Blasio wrapped up his second term as New York City mayor, Melanie Hartzog transitioned from her role as New York City’s deputy mayor for health and human services to take on a position leading The New York Foundling. Hartzog, who succeeded the nonprofit’s longtime leader, Bill Baccaglini, now oversees the organization’s work in child welfare, developmental disabilities, education, health and criminal justice. “I had run a nonprofit before,” Hartzog said last spring about her new role, “but the scale of The Foundling was a new challenge, and it really got me energized.”

79. Meisha Porter & Jocelynne Rainey

President and CEO; President and CEO, The Bronx Community Foundation; Brooklyn Community Foundation
Meisha Porter & Jocelynne Rainey / Christian Fernandez; Bryan Tarnowski, Inspired Storytellers

As the end of 2021 approached, two major New York City community foundations unveiled their new leaders: The Brooklyn Community Foundation named Jocelynne Rainey as its new president and CEO, while The Bronx Community Foundation announced that Meisha Porter would lead. Porter, a Bronx native, took over in early 2022, after wrapping up her tenure as New York City schools chancellor. While the Bronx philanthropy, launched in 2017 by twin brothers Derrick and Desmon Lewis, is still getting started, the Brooklyn Community Foundation has been in operation since 2009. Rainey, who previously led Getting Out and Staying Out and was an executive at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., succeeded Cecilia Clarke.

80. Candis Tall

Executive Vice President, 32BJ SEIU
Candis Tall / 32BJ SEIU

As 32BJ SEIU adjusts to the recent change in leadership from Kyle Bragg, who retired, to Manny Pastreich, veteran operative Candis Tall is playing a key role in ensuring the powerhouse labor union doesn’t miss a beat. Tall has been at 32BJ SEIU since 2015, when she came on as deputy political director. The New York Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood alum has driven her union’s endorsement process and strategized over policy issues, and not just in New York but in nearly a dozen other states as well.

81. Larry Scott Blackmon

CEO, The Blackmon Organization
Larry Scott Blackmon / Andrew Morales

The Blackmon Organization is a consulting firm centered on “investment networking” – and its founder has extensive networks across government and business. Larry Scott Blackmon has cultivated connections throughout his career, including working under U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former New York City Mayors Mike Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, as well as the New York Jets and the online grocer FreshDirect, where he was vice president of public affairs. He also chairs the board of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York, is president of the New York Association of Chapters of Alpha and secretary of One Hundred Black Men of New York.

Editor’s note: Larry Scott Blackmon is a member of City & State’s advisory board.

82. Brian Matthews

Senior Consultant, Brown & Weinraub
Brian Matthews / Timothy H. Raab

With three decades of experience handling financial matters in state government, Brian Matthews is an integral member at Brown & Weinraub, the state’s top lobbying firm. Before joining the firm two years ago, he had risen to the level of chief financial officer of the state Office of General Services, overseeing procurements, insurance management and performing other duties. He also served as director of financial administration for the state comptroller’s office, handling the minority- and women-owned business contracting program and helping prepare the comptroller’s budget.

83. Jovia Radix

Senior Vice President of Legislation, Kasirer
Jovia Radix / Frank Gutierrez

Jovia Radix has spent nearly five years at Kasirer, New York City’s top lobbying firm, where she is an expert on the New York City Council’s legislative processes. Radix, an attorney who has worked for the governor, the Brooklyn Democrats and the politically connected law firm Abrams Fensterman, is also president-elect of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, vice president of Brooklyn's Thomas Jefferson Club Young Democrats and is a former New York City Council candidate.

84. Paul Thomas

Partner, The Parkside Group
Paul Thomas / Parkside Group

Paul Thomas’ two decades in New York politics and government are a big plus for his government relations clients. Thomas, who previously worked for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and state Sen. Kevin Parker, works with a wide range of private companies and nonprofit groups, and guides firms through the minority- and women-owned business enterprise certification process. Before he joined The Parkside Group, Thomas also worked as a staffer in the New York City Council preparing the city budget, aided several political campaigns and helped establish an anti-gang violence youth initiative for New York City.

85. Jacqueline S.L. Williams

Founding Partner, State & Broadway
Jacqueline S.L. Williams / Albany Business Review

The Albany-based firm State & Broadway is led by Jacqueline S.L. Williams and business partner Lawrence Scherer, and it has established itself as a go-to lobbying shop for minority- and women-owned businesses, the entertainment industry, the financial sector, organized labor and the burgeoning field of recreational marijuana. Williams, who launched the firm a decade and a half ago, previously was at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein and was also a state legislative staffer.

86. Keith Tubbs

Principal, Capalino
Keith Tubbs / Leigh Beckett

Keith Tubbs is an integral team member at Capalino, which has long been ranked among the leading lobbying firms in New York City. Tubbs, who’s on Capalino’s legislative and political advocacy team, is known for his expertise on labor and civil rights. Tubbs’ former boss, then-Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., had a decent shot at becoming New York City’s first Latino mayor, but ultimately opted against running. Tubbs also worked at the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board and as chief of staff for Assembly Member Latrice Walker.

Statewide Public Affairs, Incorporated: Congratulations to Brian Quiara for being recognized in the Power of Diversity: Black 100 List

87. Brian Quiara

Senior Adviser, Statewide Public Affairs
Brian Quiara / Statewide Public Affairs, Inc.

Brian Quiara left state government in 2019 after more than a decade and a half of experience, but he didn’t venture very far. The former senior policy adviser to then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also served as an aide to then-Lt. Govs. Kathy Hochul and Bob Duffy and in the Paterson and Spitzer administrations, is now a senior adviser at Statewide Public Affairs, Christopher Duryea’s government relations, communications and issue management firm with offices in Albany, New York City and Buffalo.

88. India Sneed

Associate, Greenberg Traurig
India Sneed / GT

India Sneed is an attorney at Greenberg Traurig, a top 10 lobbying firm in New York City. Sneed, who has worked in a number of governmental roles at the city and state level, now assists clients with matters related to government law and policy, election law and investigations while sharing her expertise on minority- and women-owned business oversight. Sneed, who’s married to New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, has also opened about her struggles with cancer and childbirth and the racial disparities at play.

89. Mara Gay & Jeffery C. Mays

Editorial Board Member; Metro Reporter, The New York Times
Mara Gay & Jeffery C. Mays / Kevin Hagen; Earl Wilson, New York Times

The New York Times, which has been around since 1851, has made strides in recent years in emphasizing diversity, both in terms of recruiting and elevating journalists of color as well as embracing a wider variety of viewpoints. Among the reporters covering New York politics, Jeffery C. Mays’ byline stands out, with trenchant coverage of City Hall, public safety and state Attorney General Letitia James. As a member of the editorial board, Mara Gay has significant input on the newspaper’s influential endorsements, while also offering opinions that often take a strongly progressive stance.

90. Elinor Tatum

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, New York Amsterdam News
Elinor Tatum / Bill Moore

Investing in in-depth reporting while dutifully maintaining and respecting the tradition of the Black press in America, Elinor Tatum is smartly steering New York City's oldest and largest Black-owned newspaper in the 21st Century. Taking on the plague of gun violence in America, Tatum has recently established “Beyond the Barrel of the Gun,” which is “addressing gun violence in Black and brown communities through journalistic solutions.” Her methods include creating dedicated editorial coverage of the problem, along with crime statistics, interactive graphics of city shootings and solutions to the persistent plague.

91. Gerrard Bushell

President and CEO, The New Terminal One at JFK
Gerrard Bushell / Port Authority New York and New Jersey

New York City’s airports have long been criticized for their dilapidated appearance and lengthy delays. In recent years, however, major investments have been made to upgrade their conditions, including a nearly $10 billion overhaul of Terminal One at John F. Kennedy International Airport, which broke ground in September and is set to be opened in 2026.  Overseeing the development is Gerrard Bushell, a construction executive who previously led the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. The privately financed $9.5 billion infrastructure project for the Port Authority is led by Ferrovial, Carlyle, JLC and Ullico, with ambitious goals for local participation for jobs and businesses and MWBE contracts.

92. Matthew Fraser

Chief Technology Officer, New York City Office of Technology and Innovation
Matthew Fraser / OTI

One of the first big changes that New York City Mayor Eric Adams made once he took office was overhauling the city’s various technology-oriented offices under a unified structure, with Matthew Fraser in the top leadership role. Fraser, who leads the new Office of Technology and Innovation in a newly created position as chief technology officer, now oversees everything from the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to NYC Cyber Command to 311. He previously served as a deputy commissioner in the New York City Police Department.

93. Shawyn Patterson-Howard

Mayor, Mount Vernon
Shawyn Patterson-Howard / City of Mount Vernon Communcations Department

Mount Vernon, a city of 72,000 people in Westchester County, has had its share of controversies in recent years, including a 2019 legal battle in which two individuals claimed to be mayor. Elected mayor shortly after that brouhaha, Shawyn Patterson-Howard has taken steps to turn the city around, such as securing state funds to upgrade its water and sewer systems. But challenges remain, including a school district plagued by low reserves, a structurally unsound bridge that was recently shut down and a lawsuit from one of those former mayors over the city’s budget process.

94. DuWayne Gregory

Senior Vice President, McBride Consulting & Business Development Group
DuWayne Gregory / Steve Gravano

DuWayne Gregory had a long career in Long Island politics – he spent years in the Suffolk County Legislature, where he was the first Black person to serve as majority leader, and he also mounted a credible campaign for Congress before jumping to the private sector. At McBride Consulting & Business Development, a major lobbying and consulting outfit, Gregory brings his expertise to bear on the firm’s growing practice supporting minority- and women-owned business enterprises.

95. Jacqui Williams

Principal, 99 Solutions
Jacqui Williams / Kerika Fields Nalty

Real estate developers in New York may have 99 problems, but Jacqui Williams has 99 solutions – or 99 Solutions, to be precise. The veteran government affairs professional lobbies on behalf of some of the biggest players in the politically potent real estate industry in New York, including developers like Tishman Speyer as well as the Real Estate Board of New York, an influential trade group. Williams also handles clients in such industries as telecommunications and cannabis.

96. Leecia Eve

Partner, Ichor Strategies
Leecia Eve / Anthony Alvarez

Leecia Eve, the government affairs executive who spearheaded the 5G rollout for Verizon in New York and surrounding states, took on a new challenge in May, joining the growing consulting firm Ichor Strategies that’s led by her brother, Eric Eve. Both Eves grew up immersed in politics, with a father, Arthur Eve, representing Buffalo in the Assembly and serving as deputy speaker. The former state attorney general candidate co-wrote an op-ed in the Daily News in November calling for the federal CHIPS and Science Act to boost historically underserved communities.

97. Meredith Marshall

Co-Founder and Managing Partner, BRP Companies
Meredith Marshall / Ryan Lash

An expert in deal origination, acquisition, finance and development for BRP Companies, Meredith Marshall also leads strategic partnership initiatives for the Manhattan real estate company. Last fall, BRP Companies partnered with the New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency and New Rochelle to begin construction on a multimillion-dollar mixed-use housing development downtown. The project includes retail space and a community area that will be occupied by the New York Covenant Church, along with more than 475 apartments, including 119 affordable to low- and moderate-income families.

98. Jomo Akono

Council Representative, Local 276, North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters
Jomo Akono / Blanc Photography

Throughout his time as a Local 276 executive board member, Jomo Akono has solidified his role as a standout labor leader in Buffalo. Utilizing his leadership position, Akono has continually pushed for the diversification of carpenter union outreach in order to accurately represent Local 276’s community demographics. Known by his community as “Brother Jomo,” Akono organizes events, celebrating Juneteenth and Kwanzaa alongside community organizations such as Buffalo Urban League.

99. Michael Pugh

President and CEO,Carver Federal Savings Bank

Most banks prioritize maximizing profits. Carver Federal Savings Bank has a higher mission – to reinvest in the community and spur economic growth in the neighborhoods it serves. Michael Pugh has served since 2012 as president and CEO of the Harlem-headquartered institution, which describes itself as one of the country’s “largest African- and Caribbean-American run banks.” Pugh, a former bank teller from Detroit, has cited the unbanked population, an overreliance on credit scores and lack of access to capital among minorities as challenges to overcome in the financial sector.

100. Rocky Bucano

Executive Director and Founder, Universal Hip Hop Museum
Rocky Bucano / Robert Adam Mayer

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and Universal Hip Hop Museum founder Rocky Bucano is teaming up with the City Hall to celebrate the groundbreaking musical genre by collaborating on 50 events across New York City. The Bronx native is the brain behind the museum, which will chronicle the cultural impact of hip-hop and its roots in New York history when it opens next year in the Bronx Point development. Last year, the state Legislature allocated $11 million toward the museum construction.