If you were to judge the Bronx based solely on the news headlines coming out of the borough, you would wrongly assume that violence is prevalent there. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll discover something else entirely: a patchwork of vibrant, diverse communities, a thriving ecosystem of nonprofit organizations advocating effectively for residents and an array of leaders – elected or otherwise – who are doing all they can to make the Bronx a better place every day.
City & State’s Bronx Power 100 reflects this reality, painting a more complete and complex picture of the borough. The latest iteration of this annual list highlights homegrown politicians who have attained positions of power at the city, state and federal levels, real estate developers and business executives who are bolstering the local economy and accomplished leaders in health care, higher education and other arenas who are improving the quality of life across the Bronx.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has quickly learned that while she may be the chief executive, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his state Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, are a formidable bloc not to be trifled with. Heastie maintains a strong hold on his large caucus and is a tough negotiator. The Assembly’s 100th speaker is the body’s fourth-longest serving leader and is in a position to serve as long as he likes. The former boss of the last broadly successful, traditional county party in New York City, Heastie still has Bronx firmly in his grasp.
Despite declining opportunities for higher office, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has one of the largest bully pulpits in American politics. Locally, she is weighing in on New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ budget policies and has emerged as a vocal critic of Mayor Eric Adams. She announced $15 million in federal funding for her Bronx/Queens district, including $205,500 to create a literacy program, $1 million for Westchester Square Plaza traffic safety and $845,026 to expand social and mental health services to victims of violent crime.
Holding onto the coalitions that make up the Bronx Democrats is no easy task, but state Sen. Jamaal Bailey has been up to the task since taking over the chairmanship in 2021. Backed by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Bailey has succeeded in stabilizing and, to an extent, democratizing the Bronx machine, even as bids to oust nonaligned progressives have fallen short. He remains close to Gov. Kathy Hochul, having reportedly been a lieutenant governor runner-up – and as the only state Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat to vote for Hector LaSalle for state chief judge.
As chair of the New York City Council Land Use Committee, Rafael Salamanca Jr. has overseen some of New York City’s most consequential development decisions in recent memory, from the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning and the approval of the massive Innovation QNS project in Astoria, to the failed (but not yet dead) Harlem One45 project. A powerful voice behind the push to remodel office space into residential housing, Salamanca’s reach is expanding: His longtime chief of staff, John Zaccaro Jr., joined the Assembly earlier this year.
When Gov. Kathy Hochul came to New York City to highlight the bail law changes she secured in the state budget, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark stood at the governor’s side with several of her counterparts. But no other city district attorney fought harder for the changes and other revisions to the criminal code like discovery – although those specific efforts ultimately fizzled this year. Even as progressives mount a primary challenge, Clark is all but certain to secure her third term later this year.
Rep. Ritchie Torres is unafraid to forge his own path as a young outspoken progressive from the Bronx. Torres, a staunch supporter of Israel, carved out niches in cryptocurrency policy and teamed with Brooklyn/Manhattan Rep. Dan Goldman to file an ethics complaint against embattled Long Island Rep. George Santos and introduce the Santos Act. Despite angered progressives, Torres has little to worry about as an incumbent in one of the bluest districts in the country where his predecessor served for 30 years.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera is a survivor. After redistricting left him as a man without a district, Rivera beat back a challenger supported by the Bronx Democrats, Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Ritchie Torres, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz and hundreds of thousands in super PAC money that went toward digital ads, mailers, phone banks and polling. The outspoken progressive and veteran reformer uses his gavel on the state Senate Health Committee to push for broader health policies, including universal health care.
In the two years since Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson won a tough, fractured Democratic primary, she’s worked with stakeholders from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Eric Adams to public defenders and cannabis entrepreneurs to build a better future for the borough. She believes cannabis could be an “economic engine” for the Bronx, formed task forces to assist crime victims and improve the health of the state’s unhealthiest county. And she has an outside shot of helping secure what her predecessors were unable to for nearly 30 years: a purpose for the Kingsbridge Armory.
While the majority of Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s district is in Upper Manhattan, few in the Bronx can match the influence and power he and his organization wield. Beholden to no one but himself, Espaillat is a key ally of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the central figure behind Dominican political power in the city, a champion of Latino representation in the state and an influential member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who brings the concerns of immigrants to the ears of President Joe Biden.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s star has only grown since beating longtime incumbent Eliot Engel in 2020. He pushed back against TikTok ban proposals and aligned himself with the Tennessee Three. He’s gone viral yelling at a Republican colleague about gun control in the halls of Congress and drowning out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene outside former President Donald Trump’s arraignment in Manhattan. A brash progressive critical of the Biden administration over policy differences, Bowman is perfectly capable of working with Democratic leadership, offering high praise for House Democrats’ new leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx is the most influential lawmaker in his legislative chamber, but he isn’t the only important Bronxite serving in the Assembly. Among Heastie’s allies in his home borough are Assembly Member Latoya Joyner, who chairs the influential Labor Committee, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, who chairs the Codes Committee, and Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, who chairs the Education Committee. Assembly Members Kenny Burgos, a rising star in the Democratic Party, and Karines Reyes have also made their marks as policymakers, with Reyes now chairing the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. Among the newer Assembly members from the borough are Amanda Septimo, Chantel Jackson and Yudelka Tapia, who all took office in 2021, as well as John Zaccaro Jr. and George Alvarez, who were first elected last fall.
Politicians come and go, but Stanley Schlein remains. Eighteen years ago, The New York Times dubbed him the “Power Behind Several Thrones,” but many who held the thrones in that article have little relevance today. Yet, there Schlein was in December, needling Republican Lester Chang on behalf of Assembly Democrats. And there he is, in lobbying filings, collecting tens of thousands a month from the Yankees, Dominion Voting Systems and casino operators. And there he is again, in campaign finance filings, bringing in thousands and thousands more from candidates up and down the ballot, from civil court judge to mayor.
The New York Yankees’ political might matches their baseball prowess pouring tens of thousands into the gubernatorial campaigns of both Gov. Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin at Randy Levine’s direction. Levine led the Bronx Bombers, worth billions, in the effort to bring back their latest historical – and literal – giant, Aaron Judge, keeping him in the borough for the next nine years. And Levine took a seat on the board of AC Milan, one of Europe’s most successful and wealthy soccer clubs, after the Yankees bought a minority stake last year.
The leader of New York’s education system, Betty Rosa has waded into some of the most high-profile education debates in the state and country, from opposing charter school expansion and demanding New York City to conclude its yearslong investigation into yeshivas, to banning Native American school mascots and pushing back on Rep. Elise Stefanik’s claim that the state was providing instruction on critical race theory. Looking ahead, Rosa has called for the state to provide more funding for early childhood education and create vocational schools.
Dr. Philip Ozuah helms one of the Bronx’s most important institutions, Montefiore Medicine, which employs, cares for and educates thousands of people in the Bronx. He’s so far successfully navigated a wave of unionization efforts and a dayslong nurses strike, securing an agreement in the latter case. In May, Ozuah, a pediatrics professor at Montefiore-affiliated Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was named to the board of directors for The Cigna Group, the multibillion-dollar health care conglomerate.
One of the perks that comes with serving in the New York City Council is the traditional veto power over major land use projects or rezonings within a district. Yet, when New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez gave the green light last fall to the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning in Throggs Neck, her late-breaking support for the controversial plan to pave the way for more affordable housing may have been to save face – and save the practice known as member deference. Like several of her Bronx colleagues, Velázquez took office just last year, although Council Member Kevin Riley, who won a special election at the end of 2020, and Council Members Eric Dinowitz (the son of Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz) and Oswald Feliz, who both won spring 2021 special elections, all have just a little more seniority. Among the borough’s first-term City Council members, Althea Stevens picked up a nice assignment chairing the Youth Services Committee, Pierina Sanchez chairs the key Housing and Buildings Committee and Amanda Farías leads the Economic Development Committee. New York City Council Member Diana Ayala resides in East Harlem, but part of her district extends into the South Bronx. Ayala, who’s in the council leadership as deputy speaker, has rejected arguments that the Bronx portion of her district is overlooked. She has also served as co-chair of the Bronx delegation.
As New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul try to work with lawmakers to address New York’s housing woes, it’s up to Adolfo Carrión Jr. to manage the city’s affordable housing stock as commissioner of the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. A former Bronx borough president, onetime independent mayoral candidate, inaugural director of the Obama-era White House Office of Urban Affairs and former federal housing official, Carrión’s story is far from over, but his latest chapter could be his most consequential yet.
Everyone from New York City Mayor Eric Adams to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg wants to help Hunts Point Produce Market expand. The produce market’s CEO Phillip Grant has seen his vision for renovating and expanding the market receive $100 million from Adams and $110 million from Buttigieg. The funds will implement Grant’s vision for a 1 million-square-foot facility with 800,000 of refrigerated space and a new intermodal transportation facility.
As president and CEO of Urban Health Plan, Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez runs one of the Bronx’s largest health care providers and employers. In November, an Urban Health Plan partnership with two local development corporations won a $10 million grand prize in a state clean transportation contest for The Bronx is Breathing: Reimaging a Cleaner Hunts Point project. The project will help to alleviate pollution in the South Bronx by investing in electric vehicles, a charging hub and new worker-owned trucking business with a zero-emission fleet.
Opting not to run for the congressional seat vacated by his father, the longtime Rep. José E. Serrano, state Sen. José M. Serrano has established himself as the Senate’s point person on the arts. He chairs the majority conference and the state Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee. He is often found pushing for environmental stewardship and promoting the state’s artistic and cultural offerings. He chaired the New York City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee before becoming the longtime top Democrat on the Senate’s arts panel.
State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda weathered a domestic violence allegation (which was ultimately dropped) to find himself back in the good graces of Democrats, only to again anger his colleagues for embracing Dominican politics despite not being of Dominican descent. But the lawmaker, who was granted Dominican citizenship at the country’s presidential palace last year, has soldiered on, advocating for Dominican New Yorkers and forging ties with leaders from the Dominican Republic. His international friendships are not restricted to the Western Hemisphere: He has developed a close relationship with Japanese officials.
State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez has kept busy since leaving the Assembly and winning the Senate seat vacated by Alessandra Biaggi. In Albany, she has been a prolific bill writer during her first year in the Senate, which she joined as part of the chamber’s first all-women freshman class. As chair of the Alcoholism and Substance Use Disorders Committee, Fernandez has advocated for new policies to tackle addiction and overdoses, including the funding and approval of overdose prevention centers.
The first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest school district, New York City’s former schools Chancellor Meisha Porter, a longtime Bronx educator, is now the inaugural president and CEO of The Bronx Community Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to producing more equitable and just outcomes for the often ignored borough. Recent initiatives include a partnership with The Bronx Defenders to launch The Bronx Cannabis Hub and funding on-the-ground organizations working with asylum-seekers.
In perhaps a sign of what was to come as the United States entered a new era of union-building, Teamsters Local 202 President Daniel J. Kane Jr. led his workers on their first strike since the 1980s in 2021 and successfully secured their biggest pay increase in over 30 years. A little over a year after the strike, the fourth-generation Teamster was named an international trustee of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has over 1.2 million members in the U.S. and Canada.
Guiding the Bronx’s largest public college, Fernando Delgado has helped bring in funding to expand Lehman College’s offerings, including launching a new business school and a partnership with nearby Albert Einstein College of Medicine to launch a master’s program in biological sciences. The CUNY college has drawn international attention as well, after visits in the last year from the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine and the Duke of Gloucester, a first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Public defenders in New York City are woefully underfunded compared to prosecutors, but The Bronx Defenders Executive Director Justine Olderman is working to level the playing field. She, along with her counterparts in other boroughs, are pushing for a combined $125 million in the city budget to combat attrition and manage caseloads, including 20,000 a year in the Bronx. A frequent critic of Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Olderman signed onto a statement calling the bail reform rollbacks in the state budget “unconscionable” and “disturbing.”
The Bronx’s public hospitals are as vital, if not more so, than their private counterparts to the health outcomes for the borough’s residents. Christopher Mastromano oversaw the merging of Jacobi and North Central Bronx Hospitals under unified leadership and manages a nearly billion-dollar budget with over 4,000 employees. Christopher Roker, NYC Health+Hospitals/Lincoln chief growth officer, manages operations at Lincoln Hospital, a more than 175-year-old institution that has among the busiest Level 1 trauma centers in the Northeast.
Some may leave elective office but never really leave. Montefiore Medical Center is not the only thing keeping former Bronx Democratic Party Chair and Assembly Member Marcos Crespo and former Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in the borough’s political game. Gov. Kathy Hochul pulled Diaz out of retirement to boost Hector LaSalle’s state chief judge nomination. Both men dabble in lobbying, for Montefiore and other clients. Diaz has advocated for Charter Communications with the firm Actum and Crespo has helped casino operator Bally’s Corp. in a push to build a casino atop former President Donald Trump’s Throggs Neck golf course.
As if leading the charge for Bronx businesses wasn’t enough, Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Sorin has taken on the region’s mass transit system and redistricting. Sorin was appointed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board by Gov. Kathy Hochul and by Mayor Eric Adams to the commission that redrew New York City Council districts. In her day job as an advocate for the Bronx business community, Sorin has aligned herself with Rep. Ritchie Torres as a believer in the power of cryptocurrency to revitalize the borough.
A former New York secretary of state, Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez was originally selected by former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to lead the city Department for the Aging, a job Mayor Eric Adams asked her to keep. She signed onto the Latinos for LaSalle effort backing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first pick for state chief judge, Hector LaSalle, organized by political consultant Luis Miranda Jr., who pushed Hochul to consider Cortés-Vázquez to replace former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin last year. She is a CUNY trustee and a former MTA board member.
A former state chief diversity officer, Lourdes Zapata is entering her fourth year as president and CEO of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp., where she oversees the creation of affordable and special needs housing, as well as youth and workforce development programming. In March, SoBro joined forces with Maddd Equities to purchase a $44 million, seven-story former warehouse containing hundreds of thousands of square feet of recently remodeled office and retail space, for possible use for community groups, medical offices or the arts.
The first woman and layperson to lead the Bronx’s largest and most storied university has worked to preserve Fordham University’s legacy while embracing its future. Tania Tetlow has embraced social justice as a central plank of her presidency and is not afraid to buck the Catholic Church when she believes it's in the best interest of Fordham University. In April, she interviewed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native, for a Fordham University School of Law event.
With Hunts Point in the crosshairs of policymakers and Bronx stakeholders looking to transform the borough into a healthier, more livable place, Don Eversley is at the forefront of the effort to revitalize the neighborhood. He helped author the “Hunts Point Forward” plan backed by a $40 million promise from New York City Mayor Eric Adams and called for the closure of the Vernon C. Bain Center prison barge, the repurposing of city-owned vacant land, job creation, ending food deserts and improving traffic in the heavily polluted neighborhood.
As he’s built thousands of affordable housing units in the Bronx and Westchester over the decades, Mark Stagg has become a friend to the communities he works in – by handing out thousands of turkeys on Thanksgiving or donating compost to Mosholu Parkland – and to local elected officials – by pouring tens of thousands into their coffers. Ritchie Torres, Ruben Diaz Jr., Eliot Engel, Letitia James, Andrew Cuomo, Rob Astorino, Mark Gjonaj and Joe Crowley are some of the New York politicians who have benefitted from his generosity. He’s also a former associate of Adolfo Carrión Jr., a former Bronx borough president who’s now a top housing official at City Hall.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, best known for running the Bronx Zoo, has been undergoing a leadership transition over the last year. Fresh off a stint as the nation’s top oceans, environment and science diplomat, Monica Medina is now the Society’s new president and CEO, succeeding Robb Menzi, who has been interim president and CEO over the last year. Menzi returns to his role as chief operating officer and executive vice president. Medina’s road to the Bronx included stops as a Pentagon adviser on ending sexual assault in the military, as principal deputy undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. commissioner of the International Whaling Commission and as deputy associate U.S. attorney general, overseeing the Environment Division. Rounding out the Society’s top team is John F. Calvelli, the organization’s longtime public face, who represents the Society to city, state and federal policymakers to grow support for issues ranging from the Bronx Zoo to managing conservation programs in almost 60 countries.
In her third year at the helm of the 175-year-old Riverdale Catholic college, Susan R. Burns has overseen a period of growth and accomplishment. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped by for a town hall alongside Rep. Jamaal Bowman last year, the college launched the Bronx’s first physician assistant program, and Burns secured $2.8 million in federal funds to serve the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s Hispanic student population, which makes up one-third of undergraduates.
Helmed by President Daisy Cocco De Filippis as it enters its 55th year, Hostos Community College continues to serve the South Bronx’s Hispanic and Black communities, who make up 95% of the student population. Enrollment was up more than 7% in 2023, and the school has garnered the support of billionaire MacKenzie Scott, who gave the school $15 million to fund scholarships and a new research center. Cocco De Filippis also serves on the “New” New York Panel formed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
In the Bronx, health issues have always been significant – and nonprofit health providers like BronxCare Health System play a vital role. BronxCare boasts 859 beds and more than 4,500 employees across two hospital divisions, a large outpatient network, a 10,000-square-foot cancer facility and other programs, serving nearly 1 million people a year. Miguel Fuentes’ teaching hospital system avoided a nurses strike earlier this year, coming to an agreement with the union as other private hospitals failed to.
After the recent banking scare, Carlos Naudon felt something was missing from the conversation about “systemically important” banks, a discussion of what Naudon calls “systemically critical banks.” Among these overlooked financial institutions is Naudon’s Ponce Bank, which focuses on underserved communities. His bank’s clientele are largely Latino New Yorkers. In April, the U.S. Department of Treasury gave the bank $3.7 million to help low-income communities and designated it a Community Development Financial Institution, providing access to additional federal funding set aside for communities who traditionally struggle to get capital and services from major financial institutions.
Larry Scott Blackmon, the New York politics journeyman, took his talents to FreshDirect nearly a decade ago as their vice president of public affairs to help present their agenda in the Bronx and beyond to stakeholders, while also leveraging his position and relationships to help feed a borough struggling with food insecurity. During the first few years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blackmon helped distribute over 6 million pounds of food to needy New Yorkers. He also heads up his own firm, The Blackmon Organization.
Editor’s note: Larry Scott Blackmon is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
The policies Mychal Johnson, the co-founder of South Bronx Unite, has been pushing for years to help alleviate the pollution and oppressive infrastructure plaguing the South Bronx is gaining support from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Ritchie Torres. Johnson and his allies in the Bronx environmental movement are pushing to cap the Cross Bronx Expressway, curb truck traffic and build more green spaces in the South Bronx. Schumer has announced $12.5 billion in federal infrastructure dollars to help cover the cost of this project.
Loving the Bronx Director Nilka Martell knows the risks of the Cross Bronx Expressway’s pollution well, having rushed her infant son to the hospital after his lips turned blue – and then learning he had asthma. Years later, she is still fighting for clean air, and $12.5 billion in federal funding has been provided to begin the process of capping the highway. The project will take years to complete and, in the meantime, Martell joined Rep. Ritchie Torres to warn that congestion pricing in Manhattan threatens to increase pollution in the Bronx.
Known for their fervent advocacy for tenants rights, among other progressive policies, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and their Executive Director Sandra Lobo are playing a key role in mapping the future of the Bronx. They have moved to acquire land as part of a community land trust to build affordable housing on abandoned properties. Lobo is also leading a working group alongside New York City Council Member Pierina Sanchez to map a path forward for the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory that Lobo also wants to be community-owned.
A longtime Bronx Democratic playmaker, Jason Laidley served as state Sen. Jamaal Bailey’s chief of staff, worked as a special assistant to state Attorney General Letitia James during her run for New York City public advocate and served on Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team. These days, while still chipping in during campaign season, Laidley works as senior vice president of government relations for Moonshot Strategies and lobbies through his own firm, London House, on behalf of clients like Charter Communications and Grubhub.
As the years go on, Daniel Reingold and RiverSpring Living, the parent organization of the storied senior care facility Hebrew Home at Riverdale, continues to innovate. A nationally recognized leader in senior care who made headlines for the Hebrew Home’s sex-positive policies and usage of medicinal cannabis, as well as his pioneering role in the creation of elder abuse shelters, Reingold’s latest initiative is a cogeneration power plant that captures the heat produced by making electricity, to be reused instead of wasted.
Dr. Ramon Tallaj is many things, a doctor, a community leader and the star of an Emmy award-winning documentary. The founder of Somos Community Care, Tallaj’s work during COVID-19 was the centerpiece of the documentary, “Doctor Tallaj: The Hispanic Who Faced COVID-19 in New York.” Somos Community Care, headquartered in the Bronx, is a network of over 2,600 culturally competent health care providers. His leadership during the pandemic, providing 1.5 million people with free testing, earned him a spot as co-chair on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force.
Founded by Rosa Gil in 1989, Comunilife provides housing, health care and culturally sensitive support services to New York City’s Latino community, specifically to homeless New Yorkers, new immigrants and people living with HIV/AIDS or mental illness. Comunlife’s portfolio includes over 3,000 units of housing, most recently adding 148 units of affordable housing at a Morrisania development praised by Gov. Kathy Hochul. Gil’s influence spreads to banking and economic policy as a member of the board of directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
After serving nearly two decades as executive director and now as president and CEO of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, Wilma Alonso remains a force in the neighborhood’s business community, fighting for existing small businesses even as she welcomes major chains like Target and Five Below. Public safety is one of Alonso’s chief concerns. She joined Bronx business leaders last year to demand changes to the state’s bail laws and helped organize private security for businesses in her district.
Among the country’s premier medical schools, the Montefiore-run Albert Einstein College of Medicine received a major boon in March: a $100 million contribution from an anonymous donor, the largest in the college’s history. The donation capped Dr. Gordon F. Tomaselli’s five-year tenure as dean, one that will end this summer and cemented his legacy as a fundraiser. In 2022, Tomaselli led the college in receiving $202 million from the National Institutes of Health
A born and bred Bronxite, Plinio Ayala has grown Per Scholas as president and CEO for the last 20 years, expanding the technology workforce development nonprofit’s footprint in the Bronx and beyond. In March, Per Scholas launched its 21st campus in Los Angeles and, in May, secured funding from Comcast that the nonprofit says will help 10,000 adults begin tech careers over the next three years.
In a borough that includes neighborhoods that are news deserts, BronxNet’s Gary Axelbank uses his platform to shine a spotlight on the Bronx’ public policy needs. In 2023, episodes of Axelbank’s “BronxTalk” and “The Bronx Buzz” have focused on Black maternal health, the illegal cannabis marketplace, music and theater, the Yankees, the killing of Tyre Nichols and HIV. An institution unto himself, there is more to BronxNet beyond Axelbank. Executive Director Michael Max Knobbe has curated a lineup of shows covering everything from policy and social justice to short films and art to Spanish-language news and business.
Bolton-St. Johns is a top-three lobbying firm in New York City and in Albany, thanks to its experienced team members – including the Bronx power couple of Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez and Jose Rodriguez. Salazar-Rodriguez, who came on last year as a partner at the firm, previously worked at Hilltop Public Solutions, in the de Blasio administration and in the Bronx borough president office. She also teamed up this year with another Bolton-St. Johns colleague, Teresa Gonzalez, to launch Evolution Strategies with the aim of supporting Latina candidates and stakeholders. Salazar-Rodriguez’s husband, Jose Rodriguez, joined the firm as a senior vice president earlier this year. He was chief of staff for New York City Council Member Diana Ayala, the deputy speaker, and has also served as district manager of Bronx Community Board 4.
Having served as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s chief of staff and as a staffer in Andrew Cuomo’s state attorney general’s office, Paul Thomas knows how Albany works. Now with The Parkside Group, Thomas has positioned himself as the powerhouse lobbying firm’s go-to person on budget advocacy, along with work on MWBE certification issues and the legislative priorities of various trade associations. Parkside’s clients have included FreshDirect, the NBA, state Senate Democrats and 32BJ SEIU. Through the first four months of 2023, Parkside had already registered 82 clients with state lobbying officials.
A fixture in the Bronx’s South Asian community, Bharati Sukul Kemraj is everywhere, working for Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates under its namesake, a close ally of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and advocating for her community through her personal foundation and Vishnu Mandir, a Hindu temple in Soundview founded by her late father. As an organizer, she’s worked to fight hate crimes, raise awareness about gun violence and pushed to have Diwali on the verge of becoming a school holiday. She was reportedly on the Bronx Democrats’ shortlist to run for an open Assembly seat last year.
A veteran of the Cuomo administration and former New York City Council Member Jimmy Vacca’s office, Jennifer Rivera took her talents to Kasirer after overseeing Altice USA’s government affairs shop. Now senior vice president of corporate and legislation at one of the state’s top lobbying firms – and the top lobbying shop in New York City by revenue – Rivera helps direct Kasirer’s efforts in Albany. Rivera also serves on the board of directors for the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.
A self-described “die-hard Bronxite,” Abe Fernández oversees collective impact initiatives at Children’s Aid, one of New York City’s largest social services agencies, and is director of the National Center for Community Schools. An advocate for community schools, Fernández serves on the Community Schools Forward task force at the Brookings Institution, where he is a fixture on panels and as an author of policy memos on education issues.
Charles Moerdler’s career in New York City politics began in 1963, as campaign manager for then-New York City Council Member Theodore R. Kupferman. Sixty years later – after a career that included notable stints as the city’s building commissioner and on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board – the 88-year-old isn’t slowing down. Moerdler continues to work at his firm and serves on the board for the New York City Housing Development Corp. An outsized figure on Bronx Community Board 8, he remains a significant donor to elected officials like the Dinowitzes and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Sean Ebony Coleman founded Destination Tomorrow in 2009 to give Black and brown trans New Yorkers access to wraparound services – medical care, emergency housing, educational opportunities, career training – that he had trouble accessing as a queer youth. The only LGBTQ+ center in the Bronx, Destination Tomorrow recently expanded to Atlanta, where Ebony Coleman believed services for LGBTQ+ Black and brown people were lacking compared to cities like New York, Los Angeles or Miami.
A longtime Bronx doctor, Dr. Christopher Comfort was elevated to Calvary Hospital’s presidency this year after nearly 25 years with the institution dedicated to palliative care for adults with advanced cancer and other late-stage illnesses. The hospital network includes a 200-bed Bronx campus, a 25-bed Brooklyn campus, hospices at nursing homes in Manhattan and Bayside, and an at-home hospice care program that serves hundreds of patients. Calvary was the driving force behind the formation of both the Brooklyn campus and the nursing home hospices.
Marc Jerome and Monroe College pride themselves on serving the Bronx’s international community, issuing degrees to over 2,300 students from 75 countries at their 2022 commencement at Radio City Music Hall. The private, Fordham Heights-based institution has a sister campus in Saint Lucia, which welcomes students from around the Caribbean. Scotland’s constitution, external affairs and culture secretary toured the Bronx campus in April with a government delegation. And the school secured its second junior college Division I men’s soccer championship last fall.
Overseeing a staff of more than 600, Mari G. Millet leads Morris Heights Health Center as they care for more than 57,000 patients a year. One of the largest community-based health networks in New York City, Morris Heights Health Center has nine diagnostic and treatment centers, two counseling centers and 20 school-based health centers, all but one of which are in the Bronx. In March, New York City Council Member Pierina Sanchez allocated $7 million to transform the center’s East 183rd Street location into a nine-story community center.
A lifelong resident of public housing, Daniel Barber chairs the Citywide Council of Presidents, composed of New York City Housing Authority resident association presidents from across the five boroughs. A brash advocate for NYCHA’s 339,000 tenants, Barber has criticized the city for focusing on arriving migrants instead of providing services to public housing residents and communicates his concerns directly with NYCHA leadership. He serves on the Community Advisory Committee for NYCHA’s federal monitor.
A longtime, relentless advocate for the South Bronx, Arline Parks serves as vice chair and CEO of the Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association, the Mott Haven nonprofit affordable housing complex, and has developed a plan to strengthen a community that is set to be the home of a new jail, a project Parks has opposed vehemently. She also serves as chair of Bronx Community Board 1 and vice chair of the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.
Rear Admiral Michael Alfultis oversees the training of the United States’ future merchant marines, tasked with the secure transport of the nation’s cargo and passengers. Observing its 150th anniversary this April, the college has completed about $25 million in new construction, including a new Student Learning Center and a renovated Marine Engineering Systems Laboratory. The college will play a key role in The New York Climate Exchange, a green economy hub New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced will be built on Governors Island by 2025.
As the managing principal at Turnbridge Equities, Ryan Nelson is responsible for the company’s acquisitions, operations and asset management. Turnbridge’s portfolio includes more than $2 billion in projects, including the still-under-construction Bronx Logistics Center. At 1.3 million square feet, the Hunts Point building is one of the largest in New York City and will include an over 6,600-panel solar system on the roof in a bid to do its part to help the city achieve its Local Law 97 climate goals.
Beyond his work managing public relations for one of the Bronx’s most important hospitals, John Doyle remains heavily involved in the politics of the borough, through both his work with Bronx Democrats and City Island Rising, a nonprofit he founded to boost his home turf. An adviser to Assembly Member Michael Benedetto and a critic of New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, Doyle can be found advocating for ferry service to City Island or slamming Mayor Eric Adams’ decision to build a temporary migrant shelter on the oft-flooded Orchard Beach parking lot.
For 30 years, Maria Torres has worked on building up Hunts Point and, as part of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Hunts Point Forward working group, she has helped lay out the plan for the neighborhood’s next 15 years. The plan includes 73 short- and long-term recommendations covering transit, health, climate, economic and infrastructure priorities, funded at the start with a $40 million investment from the city.
The first woman to lead the century-old Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, Alicia Guevara brought more than a quarter century of her own nonprofit experience to the mentorship organization, including a stint at Bronx staple Part of the Solution. A Columbia graduate who grew up near Fordham Road and now lives in Riverdale, the Black and Latina leader is working to ensure the more than 90% of enrollees who identify as people of color have the mentorship they need to thrive in the city.
Honoring the Bronx’s past is going to play a key role in the Bronx’s future, if you ask any New York City official. The excitement for the Universal Hip Hop Museum as a cultural draw to a borough desperate for tourism dollars can’t be understated, with Rocky Bucano being the guiding force and a favorite of elected officials to appear alongside. The museum secured $5 million in federal funding earlier this year with an assist from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, as hip-hop celebrates 50 years.
Under the leadership of state Sen. Jamaal Bailey and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Ariana Collado runs the Bronx Democrats’ operations and candidate recruitment, keeping the engine of the last strong county party in New York City running as it evolves from its machine roots. From working to build gender parity among the borough’s once-male-dominated legislative delegations to Albany and City Hall, to huddling with Gov. Kathy Hochul, Collado is at the forefront of Bronx Democrats’ efforts to project power across the city and state.
A former Bronx Democratic Party leader and Assembly member who helped run Fernando Ferrer’s New York City mayoral campaigns, Roberto Ramirez Sr. remains in the game, working with his longtime partner Luis Miranda Jr. to push for Latino representation statewide, including rallying support for Hector LaSalle’s unsuccessful state chief judge nomination. Ramirez and Miranda co-founded MirRam Group and built it into an influential lobbying and consultancy firm, where they represent major clients, including Montefiore Medical Center.
For nearly a decade, Eileen Torres has managed BronxWorks’ nearly 1,000 employees and efforts to serve 60,000 Bronxites by providing food, shelter, health care, youth programming, tenant support, immigration services, benefits assistance and more. BronxWorks played a key role in getting aid to the survivors of the deadly Twin Parks fire. And, in the last year, Torres’ contributions to the borough have been recognized by the New York Knicks, the New York Botanical Garden and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Brother Daniel Gardner has had a busy first year as president of Manhattan College, welcoming Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson for her state of the borough speech earlier this year and alum Rep. Mike Lawler to discuss the congressional agenda. A longtime Catholic school educator, Gardner is building up the private school with gifts from bestselling writer James Patterson, an alum and longtime donor, and Michael and Aimee Kakos, who gave $15 million for the college’s Kakos School of Science.
Headquartered in the Bronx, Great Performances was founded by Liz Neumark as a waitress staffing agency for women in the arts, but has grown to become a catering juggernaut over the decade. Great Performances is the first catering company in the country to own its own organic farm and founded The Sylvia Center, to promote healthy eating by children. Neumark serves on the boards of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and the Public Housing Community Fund.
Anthony Mormile started his career in banking at a Citibank on Jerome Avenue at 19 years old. Nearly four decades later, he helped bring Orange Bank & Trust Co.’s first location to the Bronx in Morris Park. He became chair of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce last year, following 15 years as the organization’s treasurer. In May, he revealed his intention to bring two more Orange Bank & Trust Co. branches to the borough and pledged to help lead the revitalization of the Bronx’s economy through his position as chair.
Less than two months into Denise Rosario Adusei’s tenure as executive director of the Bronx Children’s Museum, she was hosting one of the most influential Bronxites in history: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Oh, and first lady Jill Biden. The pair visited the museum, to celebrate its reopening at its more than 13,600-square-foot South Bronx facility after over 12 years as a “museum without walls.” Adusei has a big job ahead, as the museum plans to offer programming for as many as 36,000 kids a year.
A former New York City Council candidate herself, Bronxite Jessica Haller is tasked with building on The New Majority NYC’s resounding success two years ago, when her group elected the first female-majority City Council in New York City history. Formerly known as 21 in ’21, the organization beat its goal by 10, seeing the election of 31 women to the City Council, including five in the Bronx. Already the group has backed 27 candidates, including four nonincumbents, as the 2023 City Council races take shape.
Rabbi Bob Kaplan’s resume is as long and storied as any on this list, from stints consulting for American and British foreign policy officials, to working as a grief counselor for the American Red Cross at Ground Zero. These days, he’s beyond his day job working with stakeholders across New York City to build diverse coalitions across communities. Kaplan organized a delegation of Bronx rabbis and Rep. Ritchie Torres, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark to tour Israel last year to build ties between the Bronx and Israel.
A Bronx-based developer, SKF Development has poured tens of millions into constructing new housing, retail and community space in the borough. Led by Kim Tasher out of their Soundview headquarters, SKF Development has built hundreds of units in Highbridge, Williamsbridge, Belmont, Wakefield, Fordham, Mount Hope, Foxhurst, Claremont, Crotona Park East and other neighborhoods across the Bronx. This includes a 59-unit development on White Plains Road in Wakefield that is expected to be completed later this year.
Previously working with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the massive housing organization Acacia Network, Thomas Brown now leads Trinity Financial’s development efforts in the city, including a 26-story Mott Haven high-rise with 277 units of affordable housing, complete with a BronxWorks partnership to serve previously homeless families and artwork by local Bronx artists. The building was designed for energy efficiency and to filter out pollutants from the air.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger, the son of a Nazi soldier, went to Auschwitz last year, it was Simon Bergson, the son of Holocaust survivors, who escorted him through the concentration camp that once held Bergson’s parents. Bergson is the founder and CEO of Manhattan Beer Distributors, the largest single-market beer distributor in the country. Founded by Bergson in the Bronx in 1978, the company now has a fleet of environmentally friendly trucks and over 1.5 million square feet of warehouses across the five boroughs, including a Hunts Point facility.
Avi Kaner and Steven Sloan employ more than 1,000 people through their independent grocery store chain, Morton Williams, which is headquartered in the Bronx and has 15 locations in the five boroughs. Both men have emerged as outspoken voices calling for solutions to the rises in shoplifting and petty crime in the city, but Kaner has a presence internationally too, fervently supporting Israel through Samawal Foundations, which he co-founded.
Odetty Tineo is responsible for the political agenda of District Council 37, New York City’s largest public sector union with 150,000 members. Not afraid to throw its weight around, the union recently secured a $4.4 billion deal with the city and made their policy preferences known as lawmakers, and Gov. Kathy Hochul ironed out the budget. DC 37 backed Hochul in the primary last year, with the union’s organizing strength helping to push the governor past the finish line in the closer than expected race.
Working at JPMorgan Chase & Co. since 1998, Deborah Charlemagne now oversees 20 retail branches in the West Bronx. Charlemagne is focused on expanding access to banking services in the borough. This includes reopening a Burnside Avenue branch that closed just prior to the pandemic, a move celebrated by Rep. Ritchie Torres and then-Assembly Banks Committee Chair Victor Pichardo. She previously served on the board for Step Up For Better Living, a South Bronx nonprofit that helps provide social services and housing.
A veteran of operations at synagogues in South Carolina and Michigan, Melissa Sigmond is a newcomer to the Riverdale Y, joining the neighborhood institution late last year as CEO. Matt Abrams Gerber, is a Riverdale Y mainstay, serving as chief operating officer for the last eight years. Gerber has been instrumental in overseeing the Riverdale Y’s increasing role in connecting Jewish community organizations in the northwest Bronx, building a coalition that supports Riverdale’s sizable Jewish population and bridges ties with interfaith institutions across religions.
A powerful advocate for homeless people and underserved communities, The Doe Fund manages over 1,000 units of housing across New York City, serving veterans, families, individuals with disabilities and people living with HIV/AIDS. John McDonald, a 32-year veteran of the organization, is overseeing the completion of the Fund’s new nine-story, 98-unit building in Wakefield, boosted by millions from Gov. Kathy Hochul. McDonald has also been leading the group in pushing for housing and criminal justice reform policies.
A former college lacrosse player, Dan Leventhal came to the South Bronx in 2015 as a Teach For America special education math teacher at Highbridge Green Middle School. Starting an informal lacrosse program to bond with his students, Bronx Lacrosse has blossomed into a free organization working with 240 Bronx middle and high school students a year, with a combination of lacrosse and tutoring. The program has seen an increase in math scores and high school admissions. During the pandemic, Bronx Lacrosse provided participant’s families with $100,000 in grocery gift cards and over 2,000 hours of one-on-one virtual academic tutoring.
Karen Meyerhoff, a veteran of some of New York City’s top cultural institutions, has been at the helm of Wave Hill, a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in Riverdale, since 2015. In February, the project to upgrade the safety and security of Wave Hill’s entrance, including a historically accurate new gatehouse, received an award from the Society of American Registered Architects. The project also earned praise from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo this year. Wave Hill features art exhibitions, musical performances and other activities.
Set to step down this summer after eight years atop Bronx Community College, Thomas Isekenegbe is leaving behind a legacy of serving immigrants, bringing in nearly $200 million in outside funding and guiding the school through the COVID-19 pandemic. Described as a “relentless advocate” by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodriguez, the first CUNY president to come from Africa made it a point to serve the ballooning African immigrant community in the Bronx.
A resident of Fieldston, Jeff Torkin has focused the work of his development firm, Timber Equities, on the Bronx and Upper Manhattan since its founding in 2017. Recent undertakings include a planned 30-unit Riverdale apartment building, backed by a $19 million loan from an Israeli lender, and an 11-story building on the site of an Inwood parking lot, one of the first major developments since the Bronx adjacent neigborhood’s rezoning.
Daren and Haywood Hawthorne, Golden Krusts’ presidents of restaurants and retail, respectively, help lead the Caribbean restaurant chain founded by their father that now has over 100 locations across the country, including nine in the Bronx. Both men serve on the board of a foundation named for their father, Lowell, that funds education for students in the United States and the Caribbean, and Daren serves on the board for Co-Plan It, a New York City-based education nonprofit.
After two decades at Bronx locations in the New York Public Library, Kathleen Carrasco now oversees the borough’s 35 libraries. While city libraries fought off proposed cuts, Carrasco and her colleagues will have potential funding worries going forward. But there are positives on the table for Carrasco and her team. The branch in Edenwald just received $10.6 million from New York City Council Member Kevin Riley for upgrades and construction on a brand-new, 12,000-square-foot library in Westchester Square that will glow green, inspired by city parks, is expected to begin this year.
After seven years boosting the South Bronx’s business community, Michael Brady called it quits in March. But the bar owner and community leader isn’t leaving the Bronx or retreating behind the bar. He’s said he will stay involved with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, offer his consulting services and work on several development projects in the borough. Upon his departure, New York City Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. heralded him as a hero who helped generate $3 billion in investment in the Bronx.
Last fall, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson chose Robert Walsh, the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services for 12 years during the Bloomberg administration, to take the lead on the borough’s economic development efforts. A Fordham University graduate who served as a senior adviser at Riverdale’s Manhattan College, Walsh’s Bronx roots run deep. He teaches at Columbia University and hosts a small business segment on 1010 WINS.
City Island Oyster Reef has an ambitious goal: reestablish the once-thriving oyster population off the coast of City Island and in the Long Island Sound. A 22-year resident of City Island, Sally Page Connolly has dedicated herself to the community, particularly youth programs. Professionally, she served in the community affairs division of the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Now, she hopes to restore oyster reefs off the coast to improve water quality, protect shorelines against storm surges and flooding, and provide habitats for other species.
At the helm of MBD Community Housing Corp., Derrick Lovett oversees 39 buildings and 1,200 units of housing in Crotona Park East, providing building maintenance services, tenant account management and social services for seniors and families. In February, the New York City Housing Authority announced that MBD Community Housing Corp. would be part of the team making $128.5 million in repairs and renovations to three NYCHA campuses in the northeast Bronx.
Founded in the South Bronx, Spring Bank, led by Demetris Giannoulias, is one of the few banks based in the borough and is focused on community banking. In December, Mizuho Bank, one of Japan’s largest banks, deposited $10 million with Spring Bank, which Giannoulias said Spring Bank will use as capital to help grow South Bronx small businesses and nonprofits including Empire Tool Rental, Rocking the Boat and the Bronx River Alliance. The bank has funded charter schools and secured Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic.
A former Bronx congressional candidate, Tomas Ramos founded the Oyate Group to take on poverty in his home borough and build off his work during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the group has launched a $20,000 scholarship for college-bound Bronx high school seniors in honor of Brandon Hendricks-Ellison, a Bronx basketball player who was killed in 2020. Oyate also started an internship program for 60 undocumented high school students in partnership with Fordham University and Lehman College, provides funding for entrepreneurs, operates a food program and partners with local officials on gun buybacks.
Anderson Torres has spent nearly a decade leading RAIN Total Care, a Bronx-based social service agency for seniors and people with disabilities. In May, Torres’ organization teamed up with the Adams administration as a partner on the New York City Department for the Aging’s “Silver Corps” workforce development pilot program for older New Yorkers. Among the organization’s backers are Bronx real estate developer Joseph Kelleher of Simone Metro Properties and Anthony Mormile of Orange Bank & Trust Co.
At the helm of Westbridge Realty Group, Steven Westreich has helped buy and sell dozens of Bronx properties to the tune of tens of millions of dollars since its founding in 2015. He works closely with Bronx-based developers and investors to help them expand their portfolios. Westreich recently formed West Orchard Management to build new housing and renovate old stock in the borough, including a proposed building expansion project in Mount Hope.
The country’s only rabbi who also serves full-time in government, Rabbi David Evan Markus knows how to keep busy. He works as a judicial referee for the state Supreme Court and has been a spiritual leader at the Temple Beth-El of City Island for more than 13 years. A former staffer in the Assembly and state Senate, Markus was part of last fall’s delegation of rabbis and Bronx officials to Israel. He will become spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Ami in Greenwich, Connecticut, over the summer.
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Correction - A previous version of this article said that the students Tomas Ramos' program is working with are from Fordham University and Lehman College, the post has been updated to read the students are in high school and Fordham and Lehman are partners in the internship program.
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