When state lawmakers formed an Asian American caucus in 2017, the only Asian American members were Assembly Members Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou. Since then, their ranks have swelled to 12, four in the state Senate and eight in the Assembly. Similarly, the New York City Council has gone from just two Asian Americans – Margaret Chin and Peter Koo, both term-limited in 2021 – to six today.
As the growing Asian American community gains traction politically, more backgrounds are also being represented, from Taiwanese American trailblazers like Rep. Grace Meng and state Sen. John Liu to politicians whose families emigrated from India, China, South Korea, Bangladesh or Nepal. There’s a wider ideological spectrum among these officeholders as well, from progressives like Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani to his Republican colleagues Lester Chang and Anil Beephan Jr.
City & State’s Power of Diversity: Asian 100 list features these elected officials and also highlights other power brokers who are managing government agencies, running businesses, advocating for policy changes – and ensuring Asian Americans have a voice at the table.
Rep. Grace Meng tops this list for the third year in a row as she continues to represent New York’s 6th Congressional District on Capitol Hill. This year marks a decade of service for Meng, who was born in Elmhurst, Queens. Following her reelection, Meng was appointed to the new 12-member Regional Leadership Council by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, part of Democrats’ efforts to push proposed legislation by the Biden administration across the country.
Meera Joshi heads a division responsible for everything from transit to quality-of-life matters. As New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ point person on city operations, Joshi is involved in the development of BQE Central, the city-owned portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; her office has made big steps to push forward the design development of the BQE Central. She also oversees Adams’ $14.5 million clean streets and parks initiative, which includes adding 200 new employees to the Sanitation Department.
Maria Torres-Springer’s No. 1 priority as deputy mayor is to see New York City through its economic recovery. In her first year, Torres-Springer Office of the New York City Mayor
led the city’s economic recovery blueprint, which features 70 action plans to spur economic growth. Among the plan’s action items are $58 million in Cultural Development Fund grants distributed to community organizations in all five boroughs and the launch of the Apprenticeship Accelerator program, which aims to connect 30,000 New Yorkers to apprenticeships by 2030.
State Sen. John Liu is a true veteran of New York politics, having held prior elected seats as a member of the New York City Council and as city comptroller. As chair of the state Senate New York City Education Committee, Liu is often involved in New York’s thorniest academic issues. He has pushed back against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to remove the state’s charter school cap and sponsored a bill to phase in smaller class sizes for New York City’s schools that would begin in the 2023-24 school year.
Dr. Ashwin Vasan took over his department during New York City’s ongoing struggles in helping residents battle mental health crises. This year, he is pushing a new public health plan to address the city’s mental health epidemic that centers on New York City’s most vulnerable groups: youths, people with serious mental illness and people at risk of overdosing. Vasan’s department will work with the state on its $1 billion blueprint to overhaul New York’s mental health care system.
Assembly Member Ron Kim has been one of the most prominent Asian American lawmakers in New York ever since his 2012 election. Now in his third year of chairing the Assembly Aging Committee, Kim’s accomplishments include leading the committee’s hearing on the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program to boost its funding by $15 million in the state budget. He is also a co-sponsor of the New York Public Banking Act, which has gained traction since the recent Silicon Valley Bank collapse.
As the leader of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Bhairavi Desai has been instrumental in championing workers’ rights for New York City’s for-hire drivers, including a recent focus on raising their minimum wages. In March, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission voted to increase wages for New York City’s taxi and ride-hailing drivers by roughly $2.26 per trip – a move that followed multiple monthslong taxi drivers’ strikes supported by Desai’s organization.
When Zohran Mamdani ousted incumbent Aravella Simotas from the Assembly in 2020, it exemplified the district’s shift from a Greek American outpost to what’s now described as “the People’s Republic of Astoria.” Mamdani, one of the first South Asian lawmakers elected to the Assembly, is one of a small but influential group of democratic socialists in Albany and an outspoken activist and advocate for progressive causes. Lately, he has been pushing for legislation empowering the New York Power Authority to expand renewable energy investments and improving public transit in New York City.
State Sen. Kevin Thomas, a proponent of the chamber’s $500 million affordable housing incentives plan for municipalities, is also forging ahead on other infrastructure plans for Long Islanders, including a new Belmont Park and allocating an extra $100 million for the Clean Water Infrastructure Act. Thomas recently introduced legislation to provide stronger protection to homeowners at risk of foreclosure due to tax liens.
State Sen. Jeremy Cooney was instrumental in securing the Rochester Schools Modernization Program, a nearly half-billion-dollar public works project to revitalize Rochester’s school system. As co-chair of the state Senate Marijuana Task Force for the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, he has championed wider access for people of color to secure licenses within New York’s burgeoning marijuana industry. Separately, he has pushed to repeal the excise tax on medicinal cannabis to increase access for patients.
The increasingly diverse New York City Council has six members who identify as Asian American – all in their first term and all up for reelection this year. Council Member Shahana Hanif of Brooklyn is the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, and the first Muslim woman in the City Council. Also hailing from Brooklyn is Council Member Chi Ossé, who’s known for his work with Black Lives Matter but also has Chinese roots. A larger Asian American contingent is from Queens, where Council Members Sandra Ung, Linda Lee, Shekar Krishnan and Julie Won reside. Krishnan is the first Indian American in the legislative body. Ung, who fled from Cambodia to Taiwan as a child, now represents the heavily Chinese district in and around Flushing. Won, a South Korean immigrant, represents a progressive district that includes Astoria and Long Island City. Won is a member of the body’s Progressive Caucus, which also includes Krishnan, Ossé and Hanif, a caucus co-chair.
In 2020, Jenifer Rajkumar became one of the first individuals of South Asian descent to be elected to the Assembly. Rajkumar, who represents Woodhaven and Forest Park in Queens, endorsed Eric Adams for New York City mayor in 2021 and has been an ally since he took office. She has teamed up with City Hall in a bid to make Diwali a school holiday, which she is pushing in Albany. She also sponsored legislation creating the state’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission, although it was vetoed.
Twyla Carter’s 15 years as a public defender led to her high-profile job as chief attorney and CEO of The Legal Aid Society, which has served vulnerable New Yorkers for over 145 years. Carter was previously the national director of legal and policy at The Bail Project, a nonprofit that provides free bail assistance and pretrial support to low-income individuals. There, she led the group’s policy strategy and fought against the eradication of bail services and reforms across the country.
As New York City’s chief climate officer, Rohit T. Aggarwala is continually prioritizing infrastructure resiliency issues. Beyond launching new resources like Rainfall Ready, an online tool that helps New Yorkers prepare for storms, his department broke ground on larger environmental projects, like a $1.6 billion development project with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to build underground storage tanks and construct 3.6 acres of new public waterfront space around Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal.
As head of New York City’s small-business support agency, Kevin D. Kim is responsible for overseeing efforts to help small businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic and to thrive. In January, the agency teamed up with the city Department of Finance to expand the network of walk-up at-home COVID-19 test distribution sites. It also rolled out a $75 million NYC Small Business Opportunity Fund – the largest public-private loan fund for small businesses in the city’s history – to give 1,500 local businesses low-interest loans.
A number of Asian Americans hold key leadership roles in the Executive Chamber. Jihoon Kim was chosen by Gov. Kathy Hochul as deputy secretary for human services and mental hygiene following his stint as deputy director of policy under the department. Kim’s colleagues Padma Seemangal and Amit Bagga, serving as deputy secretaries for policy operations and intergovernmental affairs, respectively, are seasoned government veterans as well. Seemangal was a senior adviser for then-Lt. Gov. Hochul via the Empire State Fellows Program while Bagga served as deputy director of New York City’s impressive census outreach efforts this past cycle.
Neal Kwatra, who launched Metropolitan Public Strategies a decade ago, is a go-to operative when New York political players have a tough issue or campaign they’re grappling with. The longtime labor strategist has helped elect governors, mayors and others. He has also worked with the powerful Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, health care players and a client involved in the high-profile bidding taking place over the upcoming New York City metro casino. Lately, MPS has focused on climate action, helping global renewable energy power Ørsted become a key player in New York’s growing offshore wind industry.
Iwen Chu made history as the first Asian woman elected to the state Senate. Born and raised in Taiwan, Chu worked as a journalist covering community affairs before transitioning into state government. She served as chief of staff to then-Assembly Member Peter Abbate Jr. and, outside of her government job, held seats on her local community board and community education council. She now represents New York’s newly drawn 17th state Senate District in Brooklyn.
Asian American Federation Executive Director Jo-Ann Yoo has served on several city committees, including as a commissioner on the New York City Racial Justice Commission and Mayor Eric Adams’ COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force. Ahead of the midterms, the Asian American Federation led voter outreach under the AAPI Power Coalition, which contacted over 310,000 Asian American voters through various education programs. Yoo’s organization recently expanded operations to Queens with a new office in Flushing.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University with a focus on urban planning, Edith Hsu-Chen joined the New York City Department of City Planning as an intern in 1997. Now as its executive director, Hsu-Chen is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations. She and her agency are also supporting New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ lofty ambitions for housing and real estate development, which includes creating 500,000 new homes in the next 10 years.
Peter Tu is a longtime business leader in Flushing, one of Queens’ most vibrant commercial districts. Tu’s Flushing Chinese Business Association, an affiliate group of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, has supported local Asian-owned businesses as they recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic by advocating for increased funding. Tu has called on New York City to increase efforts against unlicensed street vendors in the area, which he says jeopardizes public health and are competing with legitimate businesses in the area.
Wayne Ho is the longtime leader of the Chinese-American Planning Council, a nonprofit serving thousands of low-income Asian families in New York City. Earlier this year, the organization opened applications for the Promise NYC initiative, which provides child care assistance to undocumented families in Queens who are ineligible for federal subsidies. The group celebrated its new NY Chinatown Older Adult Center, where elderly residents can access community meals, educational and recreational activities, and program assistance services.
Queens College has prospered under Frank Wu’s leadership, which began in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, Wu announced $2.2 million in federal funds to grow the CUNY school’s business and arts programs, and hosted a gathering of state leaders to advocate for the Hunger-Free Campus Act in New York. A respected scholar and educator in his own right, Wu has been an outspoken advocate against anti-Asian discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic.
The impressive comeback of New York City’s entertainment industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is in part a testament to Anne del Castillo’s leadership. The commissioner, whose office oversees five different divisions, has carried out new initiatives to help the lucrative economic sector rebound. Among the new initiatives are the formation of the city’s first Film and Television Production Industry Council, an extra $2 million in grants for the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre, and new business incentives geared toward video game developers.
S. David Wu took over at Baruch College in 2020 after a storied career in academia. Originally from Taiwan, Wu is an advocate of nurturing diversity and providing access to quality education for low-income students at Baruch, where the majority of students qualify for federal Pell Grants. The college has thrived under Wu’s leadership: In addition to growing its enrollment by 10% during the pandemic, Baruch College was named a top producer for Fulbright scholars by the U.S. State Department.
Pat Wang runs New York’s largest nonprofit health insurer, Healthfirst, which has served New Yorkers for 30 years. Wang’s successful leadership at Healthfirst has led to other leadership appointments in the public health sector, including an appointment to the federal government’s Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and being selected to be on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s board of directors, where she represents the interests of the public.
As president of the University at Buffalo, Satish Tripathi has helped the institution continue to make impressive progress – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has advocated for growing the school’s international student population to maintain its diversity and its appeal as a world-class institution – a big part of the school’s appeal. He also plans to expand the faculty population, which he says has grown by 25% since 2019 in terms of faculty hires from minority backgrounds, via $12 million in state funding.
During her more than 20 years at the New York City School Construction Authority, Nina Kubota has taken on a number of different leadership roles. As the agency’s top official, Kubota has the daunting task of overseeing the city’s ambitious $4 billion plan to power schools entirely by electricity. Kubota says it is part of New York’s broader target to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which will involve retrofitting 100 schools’ electric heat pump systems by 2030.
As president of The Rockefeller Foundation, Rajiv Shah oversees the $5 billion, Manhattan-headquartered institute’s global initiatives in supporting economic development worldwide, which he has said will now focus on climate change-related sustainability. Shah, who holds several honorary degrees for his philanthropic leadership, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his dedication to public affairs and public policy. His sterling reputation has placed him among the top candidates in talks to succeed the outgoing World Bank head.
Margaret Fung is a respected civil rights lawyer who has made her name by empowering Asian Americans in New York and beyond since the 1990s. Her organization is involved in two major cases: a lawsuit against New York City over newly drawn district lines, which advocates say split the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean voting bloc in Queens, and the embattled Sixers arena in Philadelphia. The fund also filed an amicus brief in support of diversity-conscious admissions in the U.S. Supreme Court case on affirmative action.
Joseph Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai are known around New York as the owners of the Brooklyn Nets, which they bought in 2019 – and which just lost a first-round playoff series after the departures of two superstars. Outside of the world of sports, the couple – estimated to have a net worth of $11 billion from their stakes in Chinese retailer Alibaba – are focused on various philanthropic efforts. In addition to running a multimillion-dollar foundation to support minority entrepreneurs in New York, the Tsais have invested $220 million in biotech research focused on athletic training and healing.
As general manager of Empire City Casino in Yonkers, Ed Domingo oversees the operations of one of the largest gaming floors in the country. The casino is among the region’s biggest operators bidding for one of the three available downstate gambling licenses. Beyond the recent revamp of its gaming floor with 1,000 new video lottery terminals, Domingo said the company is prepared to undertake an $850 million expansion, which will include a new state-of-the-art entertainment center.
Maf Misbah Uddin has kept the spirit of his father, a Bengali political dissenter during British rule, alive through his work as a labor leader. He is the founding president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor, a national organization that has chapters beyond New York. As treasurer of District Council 37, the city’s largest public employee union, Uddin was part of the bargaining committee that successfully negotiated new contracts for members in February.
Assembly Member Grace Lee, who became the first Korean American woman in the state Legislature when she took office in 2023, represents a district in lower Manhattan, including Chinatown and the Lower East Side. An entrepreneur and activist, she co-chairs the Asian Pacific American Task Force and has pushed to make the Lunar New Year a state holiday in New York. Lee, who lost to then-Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou in 2020, broke through two years later when her progressive rival mounted a bid for Congress.
David Do has been on the job for less than a year, but the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission boss is shaking things up with efforts like his agency’s recent launch of the Taxi Clubhouse, a new 3,000-square-foot break facility in Midtown equipped with a bathroom, pantry and prayer room for drivers. Do himself secured a taxi driving license for his semi-undercover stints around the city to get a feel for what drivers go through. Do previously served as director of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles in Washington, D.C.
A trained architect, Wellington Chen’s appreciation for his surroundings led him to a career in community development. As executive director of the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp., Chen acts as an interagency development leader, working with various stakeholders in implementing multimillion-dollar revitalization initiatives beneficial to New York City’s Chinatown. Chen was honored with the annual Alexander Hamilton Immigrant Achievement Award by the Lower Manhattan Historical Association for his contributions to the neighborhood and city.
As head of state Office of General Services, Jeanette M. Moy ensures the state’s daily operations – like setting up government contracts and providing technical support services for state agencies – run smoothly. Moy, who is of Chinese Trinidadian descent, has utilized her expertise in systems innovation to improve her office’s operations. Namely, she established the state’s new Office of Language Access to support New Yorkers with limited English skills in accessing services and created the new Division of Resiliency and Sustainability to meet statewide climate goals.
With John Park at the helm, the MinKwon Center for Community Action has evolved into one of Flushing’s most active community organizations by helping vulnerable residents access social resources. The organization teamed up with other groups to launch the Flushing Food Collaborative, a food security initiative created after the only food pantry in Flushing was evicted by New York City. Park’s organization recently awarded $50,000 to two undocumented students through its first Dreamers Scholarship Fund to help them continue their higher education.
New York’s progressive left may have seen its momentum slow recently, but there still have been some breakthroughs – including the upset victory of Assembly Member Sarahana Shrestha in the Hudson Valley. Shrestha narrowly edged fellow Democrat Kevin Cahill and then coasted to victory in the general election last fall. The Nepali American lawmaker, who was endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has campaigned for stronger climate protections and raising taxes on the rich.
Another first-term Democrat elected to the Assembly this past cycle is Steven Raga, who make history as the first Filipino-American elected to the state Legislature in New York. Raga, who succeeded Brian Barnwell in a Queens district, previously led the nonprofit Woodside on the move and also work at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, in Barnwell's office and at AARP. He was also an advisory board member on the U.S. Federal Commission on Civil Rights.
Midtown Manhattan and Queens’ Flushing neighborhoods are New York City’s development hotbeds – and Richard Siu’s company, F&T Group, is one of the largest developers with active projects and properties in both areas. Its crown jewel, however, is the Special Flushing Waterfront District, a $2 billion redevelopment project that plans to transform the neighborhood’s 29 acres of land into a waterside oasis fitted with spaces for retail, residential and office facilities, as well as a hotel. The development is expected to be completed in 2025.
Faiza Saeed is one of a handful of women leading major law firms in New York. The cool-headed attorney pushed the firm’s growth amid pandemic turmoil and made structural changes to the company. A few of those changes include initiatives to increase gender and racial diversity, adjustment of the firm’s pay structure and high-profile hires like ex-FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips as Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s new antitrust co-chair. Her firm also opened an office in Washington, D.C. – a first in its 200-year existence.
The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families is one of the few nonprofits whose leadership is made up entirely of women of color, with Anita Gundanna and Vanessa Leung at the helm. The organization provides community services to Asian American families and leads advocacy efforts to better serve families’ interests. Among the group’s top policy items this year is securing $4 million in funding for the Access Health NYC initiative, a citywide coalition led by CACF that provides culturally responsive support so families can access health care services.
Sharif Kabir has built a decadelong career advising the state government on legal matters. A trained lawyer, he spent more than three years as a legal counsel advising the state Senate Transportation Committee and legislative counsel before shifting into the role of parliamentarian. Kabir then served as the state’s assistant secretary for transportation. He is now running the state Liquor Authority in the midst of a headline-grabbing legal battle with Madison Square Garden over the company’s liquor license. One of two commissioners currently serving on the SLA’s three-person board is Lily Fan, whose varied career has included stints as a state legislative staffer, a community board member, an attorney at white-collar law firms and a producer of the documentary “Weiner.”
A longtime advocate for children’s welfare, Jeremy Kohomban has pushed for system reforms like forging public-private partnerships to support New York’s 30,000 homeless youths. Kohomban, who is Sri Lankan American, leads both The Children’s Village, the nation’s oldest children’s residential treatment center, and Harlem Dowling, one of the first children’s charities to provide services for children of color in the country. Kohomban was honored last year for his leadership by the Human Services Council.
A veteran Democratic strategist, Chung Seto has leveraged her deep political connections to fuel her political club, the United Democratic Organization, where she now serves as president. The group registers new voters, organizes political events and has campaigned and endorsed candidates for local seats. The club recently held an event to celebrate the election of Iwen Chu, the first Asian woman elected to the state Senate, and plans to hold a number of candidate forums for the upcoming New York City Council elections.
At Google New York, Angela Sung Pinsky is responsible for fostering the tech giant’s deepening relationship with the city and state. Under Pinsky, a self-described “lifelong economic developer,” the company has collaborated with the city government on a myriad of initiatives that have a distinct focus on diversity and equity. Among them is the $4 million Google NYC Tech Opportunity Fund, launched last year to provide New Yorkers with access to computer science education, career development and job preparedness to prepare them for working in the tech sector.
Asim Rehman’s mayoral appointment to his current role marked multiple firsts: He is the first person of South Asian descent to head the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and also the first Muslim American to lead the office. An accomplished attorney, Rehman served as chief of staff at the New York City Law Department, where he supported efforts to provide legal guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, and was first deputy inspector general for the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD in the city Department of Investigation.
Hae-Lin Choi has guided Communications Workers of America District 1’s political agenda in one way or another since 2010, establishing it as one of New York’s most influential union groups. Under Choi, the group has built a strong get-out-the-vote machine that helped catapult 21 of its endorsed candidates to primary victories ahead of last year’s midterms. Her union successfully lobbied New York lawmakers last year to pass legislation to prevent companies from shifting work to nonunion third-party contractors related to pole attachment work between companies.
Preet Bharara is renowned not only as a crusading prosecutor for his work as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York but also as a compelling media personality. Bharara has carried on his popular political podcast under Vox Media, “Stay Tuned with Preet,” alongside his new role as a partner at WilmerHale, which he joined last year. At the law firm, Bharara oversees cases related to internal and congressional investigations and compliance assessments.
Before becoming a power player in Albany, Samir NeJame made his name providing counsel by representing the city of Syracuse. At Greenberg Traurig, he has negotiated important laws like the Affordable New York Housing Program and the state’s historic preservation law on behalf of major stakeholders in real estate like the Real Estate Board of New York and Brookfield. He also regularly advises clients on regulatory and procurement matters in other areas of security and technology.
John Albert’s work incorporates many of his own priorities for improving equity for New Yorkers, particularly for residents of his childhood neighborhood in Queens. Among the clients he works closely with is Equinor, a global energy company, which, with his help, secured approvals for a landfall site to replace aging fossil fuel infrastructure with offshore wind power in Astoria. Albert also founded Taking Our Seat, which performed outreach and advocated on behalf of South Asian residents during last year’s messy redistricting process.
Armed with his legal expertise on New York’s complex real estate regulations, Carl Hum has served as chief legal officer to the Real Estate Board of New York since 2018. Additionally, Hum leads the powerful trade group’s advocacy and partnerships on real estate policy matters as its senior vice president. He held previous leadership roles in the private and public sectors, including as executive director of New York City’s previous redistricting commission and as senior counsel for the city Department of Small Business Services under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
A veteran businessman, Nayan Parikh juggles his duties as head of Ashnu International and as president of the National Association of Minority Contractors’ New York tri-state chapter. The group is partnering with the New York City Comptroller Brad Lander’s office to grow the number of minority- and women-owned contractors awarded city contracts and with member firms to push more mentorship programs. In October, Parikh was among a number of business leaders appointed to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Capital Process Reform Task Force.
Emily Ngo is an award-winning TV journalist who has covered New York politics for over a decade, beginning her beat at the New York Post before stints at amNewYork and Newsday. Ngo is now a familiar face for NY1 viewers tuning in to find out the latest City Hall developments. In addition to reporting on the Adams administration and the City Council, Ngo also covered New York’s 2022 midterm elections.
After a decade spent managing political campaigns, Trip Yang is now the key strategist for a long list of Democratic electoral campaign wins in New York. His firm was behind a number of election victories in last year’s midterms, including Grace Lee’s and Steven Raga’s successful bids for the Assembly and Dan Goldman’s victory in the 10th Congressional District. Yang, who hails from Brooklyn, was also involved in the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.
Editor’s note: Trip Yang is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Before joining Kasirer, Dev Awasthi established important relationships in New York City government while working under elected officials like then-City Comptroller Scott Stringer and state Attorney General Letitia James. His government connections and expertise proved valuable when he joined Kasirer, one of New York’s leading lobbying firms, in 2020 as a legal fellow. As vice president of the firm’s corporate and legislation division, Awasthi advises corporate clients on budgetary and legislative matters. He was instrumental in securing approval of the $2 billion Innovation QNS rezoning.
As a practicing attorney, William H. Ng specializes in labor and civil rights law. He worked in city government as an assistant corporation counsel and senior counsel at the New York City Law Department. He has held leadership positions at the Asian American Bar Association of New York, including as the organization’s president and founding co-chair of its Labor and Employment Law Committee. Ng has been recognized by the American Bar Association and by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association as a rising legal star.
As co-founder and CEO of DoorDash, Tony Xu runs the largest food delivery app in the U.S. Xu’s company raked in a revenue of nearly $5 billion at the tail end of 2021. Xu has also tried to support the restaurant industry that struggled through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic; his company established a $1 million restaurant disaster relief fund, facilitated over 1 million deliveries to food banks and launched an accelerator for minority-owned restaurant businesses.
When two Sikh men were attacked, robbed and stripped of their turbans on a street in Queens last year, Nikki Singh was quick to denounce the attack – and others like it in the same area – as "especially disheartening and reprehensible.” Singh, who drives policy and legislative efforts on behalf of The Sikh Coalition, has been with the national, New York-based advocacy organization since 2017 and in her current role since 2021. In New York, she has helped enact a law protecting religious freedom in the workplace.
Saima Anjam’s past work on issues related to workers’ rights, gender equity and climate action has imbued her work at The Parkside Group with a strong sense of social responsibility. Beyond helping clients secure passage of legislation on better wages and workplace protections, she supported the creation of the Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute, which provides a diverse group of students access to both green spaces and jobs. She is also actively pushing for funding to protect New York’s clean air and water.
Asian Americans have been making inroads in elected office in New York and one of the latest trends is for breakthroughs by Republicans. This past election cycle, voters sent two first-term Asian American Republicans to the Assembly. Assembly Member Lester Chang upset Democrat Peter Abbate Jr. in Brooklyn. Chang, a Navy veteran and the first Asian American to represent Brooklyn in the state Legislature, was sworn in despite questions about whether he lived in his district. In the Hudson Valley, Anil Beephan Jr., who was a staffer for then-state Sen. Sue Serino and a council member in East Fishkill, easily won an open seat and became the first Indian American Republican in the Assembly.
Hassan Naveed’s childhood as a Muslim Pakistani kid growing up in the aftermath of 9/11 spurred him to dedicate his life’s work toward community safety. As New York City’s chief anti-hate crime officer, Naveed directs efforts between city agencies in addressing hate crime cases and connecting victims with community support programs. His prior work includes serving as director of outreach at the Department of Investigation’s Office of Inspector General for the NYPD and leading community responses and prevention on hate crimes in Washington, D.C.
Winnie Greco has been an Eric Adams ally since his time as Brooklyn’s borough president, when she served as his volunteer liaison to the borough’s Chinese community. It’s no surprise that as New York City mayor, Adams has capitalized on Greco’s community ties again, appointing her as his special adviser and director of Asian affairs. She was previously part of the Sino-America New York Brooklyn Archway Association Corp., a private nonprofit that sought to build friendly relations between Brooklyn officials and municipal officials in China.
A major player in New York City’s development sector is United Construction & Development Group, a real estate company founded by Chris Jiashu Xu in 1996. Xu’s company has a titan portfolio with key developments in Queens, including Long Island City’s Skyline Tower – at 778 feet, it is the tallest building in the borough. The company has continued to concentrate its developments in western Queens with a $103 million purchase of another massive mixed-use development site in Long Island City last year.
Leah Gonzalez steers her union’s political strategy at a crucial time as the state’s workforce is still in the throes of a pandemic-driven decline. The Public Employees Federation spearheaded Fund Our Future, a campaign pushed by a coalition of unions to increase competitive pay for public service jobs and support more state-operated safety net services. Additionally, Gonzalez’s group, representing over 50,000 state employees in New York, has called for increased job flexibility, including hybrid work schedules and updated promotion structures.
Dr. Henry Chen is a veteran physician who leads the largest nonprofit physician-led network in New York City, Somos Community Care. His organization cares for 20% of New York’s Medicaid patients and has continued serving the city’s most vulnerable residents, including many elderly Asian patients, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via primary care services, vaccinations and food drives. In addition to his leadership at Somos, Chen is the founding CEO of the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization.
Under Thomas Yu’s leadership, Asian Americans for Equality has continued its mission to serve low-income families through community development. AAFE teamed up with several other Queens community nonprofits to launch Undo Poverty: Flushing, a coalition to eradicate poverty in Asian American communities. The organization was among the third round of New York’s Buildings of Excellence award recipients to receive $8.5 million in funding this year to develop resilient low-carbon or carbon-neutral multifamily housing.
It has been a whirlwind year for David Imamura. A political rising star, Imamura served as chair of the state Independent Redistricting Commission. Although the commission’s work was overturned in the courts, Imamura has pivoted back to local politics following his special election victory this year for a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, where he made history as the first Asian American to serve on the legislative body. Imamura is also an associate in the White Plains office of the influential law firm Abrams Fensterman.
Chhaya Chhoum arrived as a Cambodian refugee with her family in the Bronx as a teenager. She leads Mekong NYC, one of the few organizations in New York actively supporting and connecting Southeast Asian refugees with social services. Chhoum’s group has lobbied for social justice legislation such as the Clemency Justice Act and anti-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cooperation laws. The group also organized against Montefiore Health System’s recent restructuring that would leave 3,000 low-income Bronx residents – most of them Asian immigrants – without easily accessible care.
As the daughter of refugees, political empowerment for the marginalized has always been an issue close to Sayu Bhojwani’s heart that is reflected in her work. She previously worked in the nonprofit and public sectors supporting immigrant families, including serving as New York City’s first immigrant affairs commissioner. Bhojwani founded the Women’s Democracy Lab, which supports women of color and queer women facing barriers in politics through training and financial fellowships.
Editor’s note: Sayu Bhojwani is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Richard Kim oversees the reporting team at The City, a nonprofit publication focused on New York City affairs. His team has won prestigious press awards for its coverage on issues like New York City’s scrutinized mental health programs and police misconduct. Beyond growing its editorial and development teams with a bevy of local talent, the publication acquired the popular political podcast “FAQ NYC” and secured $3.15 million in funding to expand its audience strategy and partnership model.
The Hotel Association of New York City has worked closely with the city government to overcome economic challenges that have disrupted its hotel business during the coronavirus pandemic. Under Vijay Dandapani’s leadership, the group has successfully lobbied for pro-industry legislation and inked two deals with the city: a $750 million contract under then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to house homeless New Yorkers during the early pandemic and, in January, another $275 million contract to house at least 5,000 of the city’s incoming migrants.
The Hotel and Gaming Trades Council’s political influence has strengthened under Bhav Tibrewal: The union’s endorsement was among the most sought-after by candidates during election season. Beyond providing political candidates with its pro-labor seal of approval, the HTC has lent its political power to advocate for the inclusion of an earned income tax credit and child care in the state budget and supporting New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ ultimately unsuccessful campaign to bring the Democratic National Convention to the city.
Ali Chaudhry oversees regulatory matters for construction giant AECOM’s landmark developments in New York – which includes the construction of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s new 60-story headquarters in Manhattan – while sustaining a strong partnership with the city. An experienced executive who has held influential positions in state government, Chaudhry was appointed as the firm’s delegate on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Capital Process Reform Task Force to assess current capital processes and recommend reforms to achieve the city’s Blueprint 2022 goals.
John Wang has been a leader in the economic development sector for more than 30 years – ever since he established the Asian American Business Development Center. His top priority during the pandemic has been to help minority-owned businesses weather the COVID-19 outbreak and its aftermath. Wang is still breaking barriers: He was recently named as the first Asian American to serve on the Empire State Development board since its multiagency merger in 1995.
Sanjay Mody specializes in advising his firm’s public- and private-sector clients within the infrastructure and development sectors. Mody previously served as senior adviser to the chair of the Port Authority, which involved guiding the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. At Windels Marx, his expertise led to the founding of the firm’s infrastructure and finance practice group. He continues to represent a number of state authorities on litigation cases, as well as on regulatory and strategic matters.
It’s easy to see that Ali Najmi is an attorney with a strong sense of justice. He has represented reform groups such as the New Kings Democrats, taxi drivers advocating for increased pay and protections, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients and incarcerated individuals and their families in negligence cases against New York City. An active community leader in Queens, where he grew up, Najmi is representing a number of incumbent New York City Council members in this year’s election following the city’s redistricting.
GCOM has continued its record of growth under Kamal Bherwani’s charge. The government tech contractor, which holds major contracts with New York, has expanded its customer base and now includes 32 states. Last year, the company made its seventh acquisition with the purchase of ASR Analytics, which strengthens its capabilities in data analytics in the sectors of fraud prevention and tax and revenue forecasting.
Editor’s note: Kamal Bherwani is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Anna Mercado Clark’s legal prowess has helped her land multiple leadership roles at Phillips Lytle: She heads the firm’s data security and privacy team, and its e-discovery and digital forensics practice, and is a co-leader of its cryptocurrency and bitcoin mining practice team. She also begins her tenure this year on the governing committee, which establishes strategy and oversees the firm’s management. Clark, who is Filipino, previously served as the development director of the Asian American Bar Association of New York overseeing the group’s financial resources and fundraising. She’s also the inaugural vice president of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York.
In a city with a powerful real estate sector, Darwin Huang has assisted some key players in New York City. Huang, who has been at the New York law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres for nearly five years, has worked with JDS Development Group, Related Cos., Quinlan Development Group and Young Nian Group, which is in the midst of a major development project in Flushing, Queens. Huang, who is fluent in Mandarin and a leader of his firm’s Asian Affinity Group, previously worked at DLA Piper and Dentons.
Dr. Eric Wei’s career has spanned the entire country: Before landing at NYC Health + Hospitals, Wei served in a similar health care quality leadership role at LAC + USC Medical Center in the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. At NYC Health + Hospitals, Wei will keep the checks and balances on expanded urgent care services through a new virtual behavioral health platform for New Yorkers supported by a $3.9 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust.
Lila Benayoun’s decades of experience in health insurance and operations management saw her rise quickly at MetroPlusHealth. Last year, she was promoted as chief operating officer a year after she joined as deputy operating officer. In her current role, Benayoun is responsible for ensuring that operations at MetroPlusHealth – which provides 700,000 New Yorkers with affordable health care – are running smoothly. Benayoun was previously the director of performance improvement at EmblemHealth.
Soohyung Kim, who grew up in Queens, has been winning big this past year. Close to home, Kim’s Bally’s Corp. has proposed a 17-acre casino and hotel development in the Bronx as part of its bid for one of three downstate gambling licenses. But the company has made efforts to expand nationally, too, with a $150 million buyout of the Tropicana Las Vegas casino and its $1.7 billion development deal with Chicago to build the Windy City’s first casino and entertainment center.
Charles Yoon is a veteran attorney specializing in commercial litigation and arbitration. He was a partner at Thelen Reid & Priest for 13 years before launching his own firm, which was then named Yoon & Kim. His firm has won major cases representing corporate clients in the U.S. and Korea. As a community leader, Yoon is affiliated with a number of business associations. He serves as president of the Korean American Association of Greater New York and as a board member of the Council of Korean Americans.
Annetta Seecharran supports low-income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean residents through her work as head of the nonprofit Chhaya Community Development Corp. She was a vocal critic of the dilution of the South Asian voting bloc in Queens during New York City’s recent redistricting. This year, Chhaya will partner with the Urban Design Forum and the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development to lead cultural engagement programs in Queens and expand its small-business assistance program with $150,000 in federal funding.
At 23 years old, Justin Chae – the youngest honoree on this list – has already made a name for himself in New York politics. His political consulting firm, Meridian Strategies, works with a bevy of clients, including politicos, unions, nonprofits and city agencies. His most recent clients include state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assembly Member David Weprin – both of whom successfully held onto their seats against primary challengers – as well as the Real Estate Board of New York and Teamsters Local 237.
Before joining consulting firm Ichor Strategies, Sharon Lee was cultivating valuable government experience and connections as a public servant. Her most recent posts were as deputy Queens borough president and then as acting borough president following the departure of now-Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz – which made Lee the first Asian American to hold a boroughwide office in New York City. She was involved in the successful campaigns of several lawmakers, such as state Sen. John Liu and Assembly Member Ron Kim.
Robin Mui and Dr. Bindu Babu were appointed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to co-chair a new diversity initiative: an annual Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Parade to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, which occurs every May. Both are accomplished leaders in their respective fields within New York’s diverse Asian American communities; Mui has served as CEO of Sing Tao Newspapers New York, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in the U.S., for nearly 20 years. Babu, meanwhile, is a mental health consultant and founder and president of Hearts of Change, a nonprofit geared toward public education on building healthy relationships.
Kewsong Lee, one of New York’s most prominent Asian American business leaders, is now at the helm of Waterfront Partners. He is also vice chair of the board of directors at Partnership for New York City, which advocates on behalf of the private sector in the city. Lee most recently served as CEO at Carlyle, one of New York’s oldest private equity firms. He was previously a partner and a member of the executive management group at Warburg Pincus, where he spent two decades of his career.
Hajin “Marcus” Jeong, who joined Ponce Bank in September 2020 as a vice president, oversees the financial institution’s financial reporting and analysis while working with employees at every level. The Bronx-based bank now has assets of $2.3 billion and is aiming to exceed $5 billion thanks to continued growth, including in the area of residential lending. Jeong, a Queens resident, previously worked at such institutions as Chase Manhattan Bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank and Deutsche Bank in Seoul, South Korea.
As Joseph Bae puts it, his career would look a lot different had he not been hired by KKR nearly 30 years ago. Bae worked his way through the firm’s ranks and was entrusted to build out its Asia-Pacific division in Hong Kong. He held multiple leadership roles throughout his years at the company before he was appointed as co-CEO in 2021. Bae is a co-founder of The Asian American Foundation and serves as a board member of the Lincoln Center.
Tai H. Park has built a distinguished career as an attorney specializing in white-collar criminal and regulatory defense. Before joining Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as a partner, Park was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of New York – holding leadership positions as senior trial counsel in the securities fraud unit and chief of the narcotics unit – and ran his own boutique firm. Park is an active member of the Council of Korean Americans, and he also serves on the board of the Alliance for Asian American Justice, which combats anti-Asian hate.
Mon Yuck Yu is a co-founder of the Academy of Medical & Public Health Services, a nonprofit public health organization that has been serving immigrant communities in southern Brooklyn since 2010. The organization, where she serves as executive vice president and chief of staff, has assisted local residents throughout the coronavirus pandemic and tackles a broad range of issues, from mental health to literacy. She has also served on the boards of the Women’s Empowerment Coalition of NYC and the Sunset Park Business Improvement District.
GAPIMNY is an organization that was founded in 1990 to advocate on behalf of queer and transgender Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Today, it is led by three co-chairs: Jason Wu, Ryan Shen and Jason Kwong. Wu, whose day job is attorney-in-charge for The Legal Aid Society’s Harlem office, has spoken out against anti-Asian hate, while also questioning the response by politicians and law enforcement in an interview with The Nation last year. Kwong, who works at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is also an executive team member of the Asian American Impact Fund. Shen joined other GAPIMNY members representing the organization as part of an LGBTQ contingent at the New York City Lunar New Year parade last year.
Sasha Neha Ahuja, who has worked with candidates including New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Ana María Archila, recently took on a new deputy state director role with the Working Families Party in New York – the third party whose state director, Sochie Nnaemeka, is stepping down soon. She has also worked for advocacy groups like the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Planned Parenthood. After transitioning into government work, as deputy director of the policy division for the New York City Council, Ahuja spearheaded the Young Women’s Initiative, which aimed to help young girls of color, including trans girls.
URL Media is the brainchild of S. Mitra Kalita, who left her position as senior vice president at CNN Digital in 2020 to launch the journalistic endeavor. Billed as “a decentralized, multiplatform network of high-performing Black and brown media organizations” that shares content and resources, URL Media is made up of 20 outlets, including Documented and Epicenter-NYC. Kalita is also a national commentator, contributing a weekly column for Time magazine.
Vincent T. Chang’s interest in law started in high school after he joined his school’s debate team. Chang has since built a career as a lauded attorney in New York representing powerful clients like AMA Capital Partners, American General Life Insurance, and Morgan Stanley. Known affectionately as a “bar junkie” due to his impressive string of bar association memberships, he now serves as president of the New York County Lawyers Association. He is the first Asian American to fill the seat.
Haeyoung Yoon has lent her legal expertise to protect the rights of low-income immigrant workers throughout her career. Prior to joining Ai-jen Poo’s National Domestic Workers Alliance, Yoon was the director of strategic partnerships at the National Employment Law Project where she led an initiative in California to facilitate cooperation between worker groups and the labor commissioner in workplace standards enforcement. As a lawyer, she routinely represented vulnerable immigrant clients in cases related to wages and workplace rights.
Whitney Hu is a local organizer and political campaign operative in Sunset Park, where she has worked with community groups like Sunset Park ICE Watch and Protect Sunset Park. She founded South Brooklyn Mutual Aid, which distributed over 40,000 boxes of fresh food and raised funds for local families during the coronavirus pandemic. As the director of civic engagement at Churches United for Fair Housing, Hu leads the nonprofit’s outreach for safe housing and tenant protection laws, including for vulnerable residents living in basement apartments.
If you’re familiar with Chinatown’s exciting festivals, you can thank Steven Tin. Better Chinatown USA is a volunteer-run community group responsible for organizing the neighborhood’s bevy of social events and bringing them to the public; from festival parades such as the highly anticipated Lunar New Year parade – which involved 20,000 parade participants and thousands more spectators in February – to sporting tournaments and senior’s events. Tin’s organization also organized New York City’s inaugural annual Asian American Pacific Islander Cultural and Heritage Parade, a new initiative under the Adams administration.
Last summer, Soniya Munshi was installed as the interim leader of the CUNY’s Asian American / Asian Research Institute. Munshi, a scholar focusing on race and ethnicity as well as psychology, public health and gendered violence in immigrant communities, previously was an associate professor at CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College and spearheaded a project called Building Asian American Studies across the Community College Classroom.
Correction: An earlier version of this post inadvertently omitted Assembly Member Steven Raga. This post also incorrectly stated the committee that state Sen. John Liu chairs. It is the New York City Education Committee. This post also incorrectly stated the number of outlets that make up URL Media, the correct number is 20. This post also incorrectly referred to Henry Chen's employer as SOMOS Community Center, the correct name is SOMOS Community Care.
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