If New York was the high school cafeteria, Brooklyn would be the cool kids table, and every other county would be stuck trying to make fetch happen. It seems everybody who’s anybody lives in Brooklyn. Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries, all three citywide elected officials, Letitia James and many others all call Brooklyn home. Even the nation’s second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, was born and spent his early years in Brooklyn. There’s so much power that it makes San Francisco’s days of having the vice president, House speaker and California governor look smaller than the Wonder Wheel.
Activity is bustling across Brooklyn. New developments, the arts, new parks, the revitalization of Coney Island, a potential casino and even a museum dedicated to seltzer are popping up across the borough. Queens is the world’s borough, and Manhattan is the world’s capital, but Brooklyn apparently is set on global domination. Before you trip over a celebrity, a hipster or Schumer himself on your way for a Junior’s cheesecake or a Nathan’s hot dog, just remember one thing: There’s no sleep till Brooklyn.
In between his confabs with God and outings to Zero Bond, Eric Adams has opined that being New York City mayor is pretty easy. His attitude may have changed since then after his police commissioner and several senior leaders departed his administration, the New York City Council and key allies in Congress didn’t go along with his budget cuts and the arrival of a wave of migrants has strained city resources without federal help. Adams lamented a “coordinated” effort from opponents trying to make him a one-term mayor but with approval ratings close to 50% and God on his side, how can he lose?
New York’s senior senator may rather be at Junior’s than corralling U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin or managing U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s lengthy absences. But Chuck Schumer has relished being the leader of a slim majority where he’s confirmed a bevy of judges and drawn a contrast to the House’s chaotic leadership. Next year’s election cycle looks brutal for Democrats, which is why Schumer is hyperfocused on priorities including abortion rights bills, cannabis banking and a framework to regulate artificial intelligence.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries could have shrunk at succeeding the legislative equivalent of Michael Jordan, which is how he described Rep. Nancy Pelosi. But Jeffries, who learned how to brawl while challenging then-Rep. Ed Towns a decade ago, is making big moves both in Washington, D.C., and New York. He decried House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt ceiling negotiating tactics by raising a clean debt limit vote. Then, he lambasted the GOP-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s investigations into the Bidens. In New York, Jeffries is launching a virtual takeover of the state Democratic Party, knowing his home state may be the one to hand him the speaker’s gavel.
State Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against former President Donald Trump and his family business may be overshadowed by his classified documents and hush money indictments. But James has brushed off death threats and plowed forward interviewing Trump in April. She has also filed a lawsuit against anti-abortion activists, chided Target for pulling LGBTQ+ merchandise during Pride month and is leading a multistate effort encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision threatening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
There’s something about the Park Slope progressive that gets under New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ skin like few others. Maybe it was New York City Comptroller Brad Lander’s vows to scrutinize the costs of Adams’ tent city plan. Or the comptroller’s sharp criticism of the mayor’s remarks that the city can’t house more immigrants. Or his refusal to register Adams’ Medicare Advantage contract. Whatever the cause, Adams chided his rival for being the “loudest person in the city,” a recognition that Lander is not on Team Eric.
Eric Gonzalez’s plan to run for state attorney general in 2022 didn’t pan out, but the Brooklyn district attorney has more than enough to keep him busy. He announced a new initiative to tackle gun violence by targeting ghost guns and providing resources to at-risk youths. His office restructuring plan included creating a new division to respond to domestic violence and sex crimes. He’s also investigating a Brooklyn Democratic district leader for nominating individuals, including a dead woman, to the party’s county committee without their approval.
Bay Ridge New York City Council Member Justin Brannan could face another close election this fall after fellow incumbent Ari Kagan was smushed into the same district and became a Republican. Brannan immediately trolled Kagan on social media for switching parties and appears to have a leg up on fundraising and organizing, although southern Brooklyn is becoming more Republican these days. The council’s Finance Committee chair has been grappling with the city budget, wrapping up a spending plan days before the deadline.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ most loyal adviser has been called “Eric’s eyes and ears,” his “sister ordained by God’” and “The Lioness of City Hall.” An ordained minister, Ingrid Lewis-Martin also encouraged Adams’ public embrace of his faith in all aspects of policymaking. The full extent of her influence is becoming known. She was behind the hiring of three senior officials whose anti-LGBTQ+ views roiled advocates, an initiative to admit homeless people to hospitals involuntarily and The New York Times reported she was behind the move to reverse a Fort Greene Open Street.
Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn thought she might take a break when she was pregnant last year. Instead, the Brooklyn Democratic leader staved off challenges from a district leader and fellow Assembly Member Maritza Davila to keep her leadership role in September and gave birth a month later. Her pregnancy experience shaped her maternal health bill that would require hospitals to treat patients with a dying fetus. She could face some more political headaches as the Brooklyn district attorney is investigating allegations concerning forged petition signatures.
Even after the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus tightened its policy focus and reduced its ranks this year, it remains a force in the city and in Brooklyn. Its Brooklyn-based co-chairs are Council Members Shahana Hanif and Lincoln Restler. Hanif has been working on a number of issues, including expanding composting and providing paid sick leave to gig workers. Restler, a longtime progressive leader, is pushing key progressive ideas along with resolving over 1,500 constituent cases in less than two years. He has also found himself in a bizarre feud with Mayor Eric Adams over a street safety project. A Progressive Caucus vice co-chair representing a Brooklyn and Queens district, City Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez has worked to promote transparency in police stops and to reduce truck pollution.
The other members of the Progressive Caucus hailing from Brooklyn are Crystal Hudson, Chi Ossé, Sandy Nurse, Rita Joseph, Alexa Avilés and Charles Barron. A former sports marketing executive with Amtrak and chair of the Aging Committee, Hudson is behind a new aging policy package and is focused on redesigning Atlantic Avenue. The Cultural Affairs Committee chair, Ossé took the red carpet by storm at the Met Gala was profiled by Vogue – but is also focused on other issues, including budget injustice. Nurse has sought to address illegal evictions and has proposed to build farms in food deserts. Joseph, who chairs the Education Committee, has been pushing legislation to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes in New York City. Avilés, the Public Housing Committee chair, has been focused on addressing public housing funding and pushing for a better redesign of Seventh and Eighth avenues.
The caucus is losing a couple more members, including the veteran lawmaker Barron. Following over two decades in the City Council and the Assembly, time that included swapping seats with his wife, Inez, the firebrand’s time in City Hall – and as a thorn in the side of many council speakers – is drawing to close at the end of the year following his defeat in this year’s Democratic primary.
Among the more moderate Brooklynites in the City Council are Farah Louis and Mercedes Narcisse. Louis, the Landmarks, Public Sitings and Dispositions Subcommittee chair, wants to protect architecture and cultural institutions, while Narcisse, a nurse turned Hospitals Committee chair, is working to help nurses and people with autism. Meanwhile, Council Member Darlene Mealy has fended off criticism that she has not been showing up to do her job and won a contested Democratic primary in June.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Brooklyn has seen a resurgence on the right.
Council Member Kalman Yeger is a Democrat, but he’s also part of the legislative body’s center-right Common Sense Caucus, which is mostly made up of Republicans. Yeger used member deference to defeat a proposed eight-story apartment complex, supported by Adams, because developers would not reduce the height to five stories. After redistricting pushed him into a district with fellow Democrat Justin Brannan, Ari Kagan became a Republican and announced a challenge to Brannan. (Brooklyn Democrats drafted Kagan’s district leader resignation letter for him.) A Trump-supporting Republican from south Brooklyn, Inna Vernikov has questioned Kagan’s GOP cred, noting his recent party switch.
Coming off a failed run for governor, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams generally avoids direct conflict with Mayor Eric Adams, but knows how to pick his battles. Last year, he chastised the Adams administration’s plan to involuntarily hospitalize people with mental illness. Then, he warned City Hall against slashing city agency budgets while allowing police overtime to balloon. After touring Rikers Island, Williams demanded a federal takeover of the troubled jail complex. Williams has joined Adams to lobby for more federal funding to handle the increasing number of asylum-seekers.
Antonio Reynoso has made comprehensive planning reform the centerpiece of his Brooklyn borough presidency. The work to fix the city’s long-standing housing crisis by upending how the city does zoning has been slow going, so Reynoso has also prioritized devoting resources to maternal health, buying permanent spaces for nonprofit groups and adding teenagers to community boards. He’s also helped introduce legislation to change the approval process for bike lanes and other transportation projects that can get gummed up at the community board level.
Throughout three decades in Congress, Rep. Nydia Velázquez has made Puerto Rican self-determination and small businesses her top priorities. She used the closing days of the Democratic majority in December to get the House of Representatives to pass a Puerto Rico status bill. She introduced legislation to build electric bike charging stations in order to prevent battery fires, prohibit landlords from discriminating against those with housing vouchers and protect small businesses from predatory financing. In addition, Velázquez steered $2 million each to help Woodhull and Wyckoff hospitals upgrade their medical facilities.
Congress has received criticism for failing to understand the consequences of new technologies, but Rep. Yvette Clarke has been at the forefront of action on the use of deepfake videos and facial recognition, particularly limiting law enforcement’s use of it. When TikTok executives testified at a March hearing, Clarke asked about Chinese government access to user data, social media addiction and the company's moderation of Black creator content. Now, Clarke drafted legislation requiring campaign ads to disclose the use of artificial intelligence.
Assembly Member Helene Weinstein has reached the pinnacle of her power in Albany as chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee, which oversees her chamber’s state budgeting process that this year resulted in a $229 billion spending plan. Weinstein was focused on protecting state workers and health programs during this year’s prolonged budget fight. Now, she’s focused on getting a longtime priority, the Grieving Families Act, across the finish line.
Assembly Members Maritza Davila, Erik Dilan and Jaime Williams all picked up new gavels this year. Davila, who is Social Services Committee chair, outlined an agenda focused on the state’s delivery of public assistance programs. Dilan, the new Correction Committee chair, has been facing progressive challenges at the ballot box and outside his Brooklyn office. Williams has a statewide focus as Real Property Taxation Committee chair, a role in which she opposed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed land use overhaul, citing the impact on suburban and rural communities.
Assembly Members Robert Carroll and Marcela Mitaynes played key roles in top progressive energy issues. Carroll steered the Build Public Renewables Act to passage, while Mitaynes carried a successful Long Island wind energy bill, over the objections of Long Island Republicans.
The author of the state’s bail reform laws, Latrice Walker went on her second hunger strike in an effort to prevent any efforts to scale back the law, a top priority of other state lawmakers – although ultimately the governor pushed through revisions amid voter concerns about crime.
Assembly Members Phara Souffrant Forrest and Emily Gallagher, who are backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, are focused on progressive issues. Forrest is pushing the state to focus more on social safety net programs and Gallagher advanced the LLC Transparency Act to the governor’s desk.
Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein has been focused on battling antisemitism in the city and criticized CUNY School of Law over the commencement speech with anti-Israel comments. He also organized two popular Passover events in Brooklyn.
After her bid for Congress fell short, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon has been focusing this year on such issues as truck weight limits on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, reducing the number of school lockdown drills and increasing reading prep in state teacher education programs.
Assembly Member William Colton has been pushing to make Lunar New Year an official state holiday and opposed the placement of a homeless shelter across from a library and near Seth Low Park in Bensonhurst. Assembly Members Brian Cunningham and Monique Chandler-Waterman are focusing on mental health issues and ways to increase state programs in this area. Assembly Member Nikki Lucas has been working to better educate residents of her East New York district about affordable housing options, while Assembly Member Stefani Zinerman found herself picketed by the DSA for wanting changes to parts of the “good cause” eviction bill.
The four Republicans who represent portions of the borough – Lester Chang, Alec Brook-Krasny, Michael Novakhov and Michael Tannousis – are charting different paths. Chang, who avoided expulsion over residency questions, is working to build bipartisan relationships. Novakhov expressed frustration with the powerlessness of the minority. Brook-Krasny, a Democrat turned Republican, is being criticized for anti-transgender statements and for hiring a Jan. 6 insurrection supporter. Tannousis, a Staten Islander who also represents Bay Ridge, took the top GOP spot on the Judiciary Committee.
David Greenfield isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers in Brooklyn’s tightknit Orthodox Jewish community. He promoted COVID-19 shots for front-line pantry workers and polio doses for when misinformation about immunization was widespread in Orthodox neighborhoods. He has also been critical of Maimonides Medical Center’s leadership as the hospital defaulted on some of its debts. But Greenfield’s primary mission is to fight hunger and poverty. Amid the council’s 50th anniversary, he has worked with the White House to expand access to kosher and halal food to pantries across the country.
The incoming chair of the Real Estate Board of New York has bucked the office vacancy trend afflicting Manhattan by offering coveted workspaces with amenities in neighborhoods where the city’s creative class lives. That’s been the Jed Walentas’ formula that worked for decades in Dumbo, whose prewar office buildings have become an appealing destination for tech companies. So has South Williamsburg, where Two Trees has converted the brick Domino Sugar Refinery into a campus with 3,000 apartments, 600,000 square feet of office space and a waterfront park.
He’s a first-term bagel-loving, heir to a blue jeans fortune Manhattanite who was the chief investigator in then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. She’s a second-term Greek and Cuban “pulls no punches” Staten Islander, who voted to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Reps. Dan Goldman and Nicole Malliotakis may not have a lot in common, but they have parts of Brooklyn in their districts. Both kinda, sorta Brooklynites have been thorns in the sides of their opponents in Washington. Goldman sought to shame Rep. George Santos out of Congress and ridiculed Republicans censuring his former boss, Rep. Adam Schiff of California. Malliotakis chastised New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ migrant plan and sought to undo the state’s congestion pricing plan. Malliotakis and Goldman’s working relationship is off to an “only in New York” start, with the pair working together on subway safety and Brooklyn issues, but Malliotakis called Goldman an “elitist” for backing congestion pricing.
After a year as New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ chief of staff, Frank Carone packed up to launch his own consulting firm while advising Adams’ reelection effort. Carone isn’t allowed to lobby city government for a year, but his firm is growing. He recruited former Rep. Max Rose to work for him. Real estate titan SL Green Realty Corp. retained Carone to work on community engagement as they seek a license from the state for a Times Square casino. Plus, he’s back at his old law firm, Abrams Fensterman, as of counsel.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a Bay Ridge lawmaker and the Budget and Revenue Committee chair, is pushing a 25 cent online delivery tax to help pay for restoration of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and has said Brooklyn Democrats need to pay more attention to South Brooklyn. The Elections Committee chair, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, steered Clean Slate legislation to passage and got engaged to former Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Richardson. State Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee Chair Kevin Parker has been focused on implementing the state’s clean energy law in a methodical way and ultimately got behind and passed a version of the Build Public Renewables Act this year. Social Services Committee Chair Roxanne Persaud has worked to address needs in her district, including organizing a clothing drive for over 200 women and children.
State Sen. Julia Salazar, the first Democratic Socialists of America-backed lawmaker in the state Senate, has been focused on “good cause” eviction protections and proposed prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to ex-convicts. While New York City Mayor Eric Adams is a fan of Digidog, state Sen. Jabari Brisport is not. The DSA senator, who chairs the Children And Families Committee, has introduced a bill to ban the police robot. The DSA-aligned state Sen. Kristen Gonzalez, the only triborough state senator, has hit the ground running in her first term, including pushing to make it easier to file class-action lawsuits against local governments.
Another first-term state senator is Iwen Chu, the first Asian American woman in the state Senate, who has been focused on issues including protecting city libraries as state Senate Libraries Committee chair. A first-term Staten Islander who represents coastal Brooklyn, state Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton is focused on flood prevention and resiliency issues, along with crime and veterans.
State Sen. Simcha Felder, a key Jewish representative in Albany, recently skipped a Gracie Mansion dinner with other Orthodox officials, due to city reimbursement for private school tuition for children with disabilities. The move is the latest episode in Felder's long fight for the rights of special needs children and their families.
When Randy Peers surveyed his members in 2022, 72% of small businesses said their sales were below pre-pandemic levels and 41% had labor shortages. This year, Brooklyn businesses said they were making more money and felt more optimistic. Peers’ relentless promotion of the borough has certainly helped. His partnership with a Korean company brought new technology to Brooklyn’s commercial kitchens, the chamber launched a new mentorship program for entrepreneurs of color and the chamber’s holiday pop-up at Industry City was so successful, it is now year-round.
Two years ago, the Crown Heights native took the reins of the federal prosecutor’s office that secured convictions for R. Kelly and Keith Raniere. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace hasn’t avoided tough cases either. He charged Long Island Rep. George Santos with wire fraud and stealing public funds in a 13-count indictment and led the prosecution of Frank James, who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges after shooting into a crowd on the subway. Peace still listens to hip-hop stars even if R. Kelly fell off his playlist.
This Brooklyn-based trio is part of the powerhouse lobbying firm of Bolton-St. Johns. A former top lobbyist for District Council 37, Mike Keogh also brings key understanding of New York City Hall and the city’s budget to clients. He is also part of a top political power couple in New York, with his wife, Karen Persichilli Keogh, serving as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top adviser. Juanita Scarlett is a veteran of the administrations of former Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer and is a former top state economic development official. Teresa Gonzalez brings a keen understanding of arts and cultural issues to her clients, with a deep background in the city’s creative economy. Gonzalez has also co-founded a Latina owned political consulting firm, Evolution Strategies.
Editor’s note: Juanita Scarlett is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Carlo Scissura may not be a part of the Adams administration’s economic team, but he remains an influential voice on construction and infrastructure matters. New York Building Congress hosted Gov. Kathy Hochul at its February luncheon, and Scissura warned lawmakers that not tackling the state’s housing crisis would have dire consequences. Getting the New York City mayor to listen to his idea to tear down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s triple cantilever could be even more of a challenge after city officials appear to favor rebuilding it with a six-lane highway.
Downtown Brooklyn hasn’t been immune from office vacancies in the aftermath of the pandemic, but Regina Myer has helped revive the neighborhood. The urban planner attracted developers to build Brookyn’s first supertall, applauded NYU Tandon’s expansion of its engineering campus and turned City Point into the borough’s premier retail destination. Restaurants have been reopening in the area too, led by the city’s best new chophouse, Gage & Tollner. Myer is currently spearheading a new downtown master plan to create a walkable streetscape.
When New York City Mayor Eric Adams proclaimed that a divine voice told him to “talk about God” more in an appearance at the Christian Cultural Center, it was no coincidence. For the past 22 years, the Rev. A.R. Bernard has made the Starrett City megachurch a magnet for politicians of all stripes including former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. After a scary bout of COVID-19, Bernard partnered with developers to transform a CCC-owned site into 817 affordable homes, ensuring that community can still live and worship in the neighborhood.
Linda E. Johnson plunged the Brooklyn Public Library into the culture wars when she offered electronic library cards to teenagers around the country seeking to read books that their schools and public libraries had banned. So far, 5,100 teens have registered for the “Books Unbanned” program. Johnson and her Manhattan and Queens library colleagues took on New York City Mayor Eric Adams when he tried to slash public library budgets by $36 million. The librarians won as the New York City Council reversed the cuts in the final budget deal.
Evan Thies has positioned his top client well for reelection after New York City Mayor Eric Adams has managed multiple crises, reached a budget deal with the City Council and lowered violent crime. The public relations impresario questioned one metric showing some dissatisfaction among Black voters in a Siena College poll that still had Adams earning a 46% approval rating. And Thies shrugged off the $20,000 campaign finance fine to the mayor’s transition committee. He insists Adams shouldn’t worry about progressive challengers to his throne.
Brooklyn’s safety net hospitals have been on the front lines of the pandemic, gun violence and now bouts of wildfire smoke, but LaRay Brown has steadied One Brooklyn Health’s three hospitals and a dozen ambulatory care centers since 2017. She fended off a cyberattack last fall, then negotiated with striking nurses and pressed the governor for more funding to make Medicaid reimbursements more equitable. She also secured a $20,000 grant that will provide contraceptives to adolescent girls.
Camille Joseph Varlack has rapidly worked her way into New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ inner circle after stints in the Cuomo administration and as a top city Department of Education adviser. In December, Adams chose Varlack to be his new chief of staff after Frank Carone left to start his own firm. Varlack has the dual roles of shaping the mayor’s policy and managing the City Hall workforce. She has also helped manage the asylum-seeker crisis by asking city agencies to use their properties for temporary migrant housing.
Another high-ranking insider in the Adams administration is Tiffany Raspberry. The former lobbyist, who has also worked in the House of Representatives and in the New York City Council, joined the administration when Adams first took office and was later given added powers and began reporting directly to the mayor as part of a staff shakeup. She represents City Hall with national and international stakeholders.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard isn’t only a place for making movies. Under Lindsay Greene, who became its first Black and LGBTQ+ leader last year, the Navy Yard launched a $20 million 50,000-square-foot biotech hub that could generate 400 new jobs. The former shipbuilding facility is already hosting Yard Labs, a green technology laboratory program, and is home to scores of high-tech manufacturing startups supported by an innovation studio known as Newlab.
There may not be a journalist in New York City who understands Mayor Eric Adams better than Errol Louis. The multiplatformed anchor has a New York magazine column, a podcast and a guest gig on CNN. But Louis’ prime-time perch from which he has interviewed deputy mayors, labor bigwigs, education advocates and fellow journalists, often on the same night, remains the most accessible way to understand how power works in New York.
Three successful ballot proposals last year that will create a statement of values for New York City government, a commission on racial equity and an office to coordinate efforts across agencies were borne from the research of Jennifer Jones Austin’s advocacy organization FPWA. The author and civil rights leader has sought to get the city to tackle long-standing racial inequities. Last fall, she was appointed a visiting scholar at the NYU Silver School of Social Work.
As the Brooklyn leaders of New York City’s public hospital system, Gregory Calliste, Svetlana Lipyanskaya and Sheldon McLeod are working to keep the borough’s safety net hospitals functioning well to provide quality care to residents. Calliste presides over 320-bed Woodhull Hospital, where he recently received $11 million from Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso to create a new birthing center. Lipyanskaya led the rebranding of Coney Island Hospital to South Brooklyn Health, saw the hospital receive a Pathway of Excellence designation and garnered state funding for orthopedic and ophthalmology equipment. McLeod leads Kings County Hospital, where he oversaw the creation of the Brooklyn Neuroscience Center, a new unit for those with severe mental illness and was reelected to the board of America’s Essential Hospitals.
When Jocelynne Rainey joined the Brooklyn Community Foundation two years ago, she realized that the borough’s nonprofit community needed to do more to help its most vulnerable residents. So Rainey stepped up the foundation’s involvement and offered a $100,000 prize to five Brooklyn-based nonprofits to enhance their mission of racial justice (this year’s winners included the Workers Justice Project and the Kings Against Violence Initiative). The foundation has given $90 million in grants since 2009 and is nearly finished crafting a new strategic plan.
Maimonides Medical Center’s board has been in the crosshairs of nonprofit leaders, patients and even high-profile lawyer Alan Dershowitz after the hospital lost $145 million in 2021 and defaulted on debts. But Kenneth Gibbs, the hospital’s president and CEO, has community allies too, including state Sen. Simcha Felder who questioned those behind a $1 million smear campaign. Drama aside, Gibbs hosted a fundraiser for the hospital’s new pediatric trauma center, made donations to 43 local churches and co-wrote an op-ed about the significance of safety net hospitals.
Little production has gotten done at Steiner Studios during the writers strike, but Doug Steiner has been making transactions beyond content creation. He redeveloped Admiral’s Row making Wegmans, the best grocery store in America, its anchor tenant. Steiner has been marketing 80,000 square feet of retail space, and he recently sold his majority stake in a 55-story supertall. But Steiner’s biggest move is building a 500,000-square-foot film and television production hub at Sunset Park’s Bush Terminal with eight soundstages.
When Susan Donoghue left the Prospect Park Alliance to become New York City parks commissioner in February 2022, Iris Weinshall and the Alliance board looked to a longtime civil servant to run the 526-acre park. Morgan Monaco, Red Hook Initiative’s executive director, became the Alliance’s first Black leader. So far, Monaco has overseen a $40 million revitalization of the Vale, a redesign of the park’s interior loop to minimize conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists, and the renovation of Lefferts Historic House museum and an initiative to shift the museum's focus to the indigenous and enslaved African people who lived and worked on the land.
Dr. Scott Lorin is so dedicated to his Mount Sinai Brooklyn patients that the pulmonologist coordinated the hospital’s pandemic response from a stretcher at its Upper East Side branch when he was sick with COVID-19 in 2020. Fortunately, Lorin and Mount Sinai have both recovered. Last year, the Brooklyn outpost earned a prestigious certification for excellence in treating stroke victims, and in May, the hospital celebrated the expansion of its $4 million cancer treatment center that includes 15 infusion chairs, seven exam rooms and a mammography station.
Since Robert Guimento joined NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital five years ago, he guided the Park Slope hospital through the pandemic, expanded its facilities and brought on key staff. In March 2021, the hospital opened a new six-story ambulatory care center – the borough’s first in four decades. Two years later, Guimento brought aboard Dr. Natalya Chernichenko, who specializes in head and neck tumors, as the hospital’s otolaryngology leader. And last month, he ratified a new three-year contract with pay raises for nurses, averting a strike.
A super team with Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant looked phenomenal on paper but didn’t work once they realized they couldn’t have the ball at the same time. The Brooklyn Nets eventually traded all of them, and Joseph and Clara Wu Tsai never looked back as the team made the playoffs. Joseph Tsai is already part of another super team of sorts, having been named Alibaba’s new chair last month in an executive shuffle.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center is more than a decade older than the Civil War, but Gary Terrinoni has helped the borough’s oldest hospital learn a few new tricks. Last year, Terrinoni secured $9.2 million from Congress to expand and modernize the hospital’s emergency department, and by October, he celebrated a double ribbon-cutting for the renovated emergency room and a new cancer center too. Then in May, Terrinoni hosted a $1 million fundraiser that upgraded patient amenities and paid for more emergency room improvements.
The former Brooklyn Assembly member and legislative aide has leveraged her deep knowledge of Albany to benefit some of the borough’s biggest companies and nonprofits. Joni Yoswein’s clients have included Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Defender Services, Maimonides Medical Center and SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Her heaviest lift may have been to help Two Trees move its Williamsburg-based Domino Sugar redevelopment project through complex zoning negotiations in City Hall almost a decade ago and getting the New York City Council to approve its River Ring project in 2021.
When New York City Mayor Eric Adams needed an attorney intimately familiar with city government and labor operations to serve as the city’s corporation counsel, he turned to a longtime Brooklyn jurist. After the New York City Council unanimously approved Sylvia Hinds-Radix, she set about defending the administration’s $121 million payouts for police misconduct cases in a City Council hearing, suing counties that refused to accept asylum-seekers and pursuing a federal lawsuit against four electronic cigarette distributors. Last fall, the Women’s Bar Association named a $5,000 scholarship to a Brooklyn Law School student in her honor.
A campaign adviser to then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 reelection campaign, Amelia Adams has been centered on growing her presence in New York’s power structure. After founding her eponymous firm with Yvette Buckner in 2018, she added Partnership for New York City’s Kathryn Wylde as a client before she took on the challenging task of helping Gov. Kathy Hochul squeak by then-Rep. Lee Zeldin and become the first woman elected governor in state history. Adams has also been able to secure city and state funding for the Bard Prison Initiative. Buckner managed Attorney General Letitia James' reelection campaign last year and as chair of The New Majority backed Susan Zhuang's successful New York City Council bid in Bensonhurst.
Jo-Ann Yoo has sought to bring more attention to the alarming rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City and nationally by organizing marches and vigils to mourn the lives lost and demand justice. But Yoo has also advocated for more resources for mental health services to meet the community’s needs after the pandemic and a spate of attacks has traumatized Asian American New Yorkers. Last year, she helped secure $10 million from the state for organizations combating violent crime. More recently, Yoo launched a campaign to highlight Asian cuisines in different neighborhoods
Dr. Sandra Scott had spent her career in safety net hospitals and spent the pandemic as Brookdale Hospital Medical Center’s chief of emergency medicine, so she was the perfect candidate to lead its post-pandemic transition when she took over its reins as executive director two years ago. Scott is a trailblazer as the first LGBTQ+ Black women to lead Brookdale in its 100-year tenure. She has since secured a new partnership with Clinical Research Alliance to offer clinical trials to cancer patients.
L. Joy Williams celebrated the centennial of the Brooklyn chapter of the NAACP last year with a call for action to advance policies that expand civil rights and stamp out discrimination. Williams sought to mobilize her members to oppose Albany lawmakers’ efforts to repeal bail reform measures that passed in 2019. Each week, the political strategist and podcast host hits the airwaves with her podcast “#SundayCivics” which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award this year.
When politicians, tech gurus and media moguls get canceled (or do something far worse) and need help digging themselves out, there’s only one number they call. Risa Heller didn’t become the crisis consultant to New York City’s elite overnight. The former Schumer press aide has helped former Rep. Anthony Weiner, former Gov. David Paterson, Jeff Zucker and Jared Kushner navigate New York’s press corporations while remaining friends with some of its most venerated members like journalist Maggie Haberman. She recently helped disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes land a sympathetic New York Times profile. Maybe Rep. George Santos should get her number?
After a stint as bishop of Ohio’s capital city, Columbus, Long Island native the Rev. Robert Brennan returned to New York in 2021 to succeed the Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio as the top Catholic in Brooklyn and Queens. Brennan promised not to rock the boat (unless you count Williamsburg’s annual Giglio festival) and visited 127 parishes and 25 schools to get to know his diocese. Last month, he announced a new governance structure that would appoint four regional vicars and reorganize parishes to encourage collaboration. He has also handled ceremonial matters like issuing dispensation for corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.
As thousands of asylum-seekers come to New York City, Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel and Theo Oshiro make sure New York remains a beacon for newcomers despite Mayor Eric Adams’ interpretation of the city’s right to shelter law. The immigration advocates sought increased tenant protections as well as expanded unemployment benefits and health care from state lawmakers. They also demanded $70 million for legal services in the city budget after their survey found that about 7% of asylum-seekers had lawyers to navigate the application process and 58% couldn’t afford medical care.
Two decades away from a successful stint in the New York City Council, Ken Fisher is now the borough’s leading expert on zoning and land use matters. Fisher has worked with Gowanus developers to help their buildings access a nearly expired tax incentive (they need to finish by 2026) as well as a number of private zoning applications across Brooklyn. He’s taken a larger role with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce too by serving as co-chair of its Real Estate and Development Committee.
Michael Nieves turned the Hispanic Information Telecommunications Network into the largest noncommercial Spanish-language broadcasting network in the country. His network has elevated Latino issues into the national conversation while Latinos are underrepresented in network and cable news, as well as television and film. Nieves helped recruit former Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatia as HITN’s board chair.
Editor’s note: Michael Nieves is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
VOCAL-NY has been in the middle of New York City’s most pressing criminal justice issues for more than two decades. The community activist group’s protests couldn’t stop the state Legislature from rolling back the state’s bail reform laws, but Alyssa Aguilera and Jeremy Saunders’ members were able to persuade lawmakers to help defendants challenge wrongful convictions more easily. Now, they’re focused on holding the New York City Police Department’s Strategic Response Group accountable for its aggressiveness during protests and demanding more support for homeless New Yorkers.
When the New York City Department of Education ran late on its payments for early childhood centers because of a paperwork error putting them at risk for closure, Jahmila Edwards attended a rally and testified at a City Council hearing to demand action. Edwards has represented day care workers as well as other public sector employees in her more than eight years at District Council 37. She helped the union endorse City Council candidate Chris Banks, which propelled him to defeat Charles Barron in the Democratic primary for City Council District 42, and ensured that the state Legislature passed the Clean Slate Act.
The state nurses union warned hospitals that nurses were burned out from treating multiple surges of COVID-19 patients, but when hospitals still refused to add enough staff, Michelle Crentsil went to war. Crentsil organized strikes at seven hospitals in January including Maimonides Medical Center and The Brooklyn Hospital Center. Other labor actions rippled throughout the year, including one in May when 1,000 nurses picketed for safe staffing levels outside NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and authorized a strike. They ratified a three-year contract with raises a week later.
At the site of one of New York City’s most notorious riots three decades ago, Eli Cohen has sought to get Crown Heights’s Orthodox Jewish and Afro Caribbean communities to learn more about each other and live in peace. Cohen has teamed up with activist Geoffrey Davis to meet with 1,000 students at a half-dozen schools to discuss gentrification, bullying and depression. He also holds a Crown Heights festival at the end of August with Caribbean and Orthodox entertainment acts.
As one of New York City’s leading voices on environmental racism, it can get discouraging when elected officials weaken climate regulations. But Elizabeth Yeampierre is living proof that people have the power to change the health of their communities. She brought a community-owned solar roof to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and helped turn Sunset Park into a hub for offshore wind manufacturing, an economic boon to the neighborhood. In April, Yeampierre keynoted a climate summit at her alma mater, Fordham University.
The arc of the moral universe eventually bends toward justice, but the Rev. Kirsten John Foy knows how long that can take. The former Jumanne Williams aide and New York City Council candidate has served as a spokesperson for Consumers for Fair Legal Funding, which seeks to reform the lawsuit lending industry after having personal experience with a predatory loan. He works with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, where he served as Northeast regional director and continues to call for justice around police brutality.
Jelena Kovačević, the first woman to lead NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, has led a $1 billion expansion of its Downtown Brooklyn campus during her tenure. The school purchased 3 Metrotech last September with plans to renovate the 350,000-square-foot tower. She’s also bringing on 40 new professors in order to bulk up its offerings on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Kovačević won’t be seeing the project to the end, though – she announced in May she would step down from her dean’s office perch to return to the faculty.
Brooklyn College has been recognized by The Princeton Review and Education Reform Now for being one of the best values in the region for higher education and most generous with financial aid, thanks to Michelle Anderson’s leadership. Last fall, the Brooklyn College president launched a career readiness program that will help three companies connect with students who could become future employees. Anderson has also beefed up its lecture series, bringing in Center for American Progress President and CEO Patrick Gaspard, and promoted students’ work to protect a Colonial-era African burial ground in Flatbush.
Once developers withdrew their plans to rezone Industry City following community opposition, Alane Berkowitz and Jim Somoza pivoted to lease the 16-building Sunset Park waterfront campus to an appealing mix of tenants. Porsche and Volvo opened showrooms, West Elm added a 10,000-square-foot store and a production company joined soon after. This year, they welcomed BkOne, which opened a 100-seat theater, a Brooklyn-themed pop-up with locally made goods and NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ production center. They also hosted two different night markets.
David Niederman asked his Satmar followers to rank Eric Adams in their top two, which helped the New York City mayor narrowly defeat Kathryn Garcia in the Democratic primary two years ago. The rabbi has since sought to keep South Williamsburg a “community of interest” during the redistricting, and he vociferously defended yeshivas from criticism that they fail to educate Hasidic students. Niederman also personally reached out to neighborhood public schools in order to improve relations and reduce hate crimes.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is fed up with the state Democratic Party’s lethargy that lost several House seats last year – costing him a shot at the speakership – and has recruited his longtime political aide to advise a coordinated campaign to regain Democratic control of Congress. In addition to helping Jeffries chart his ascension in Washington, André M. Richardson has worked with Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, New York City Council Member Crystal Hudson, Assembly Members Monique Waterman and Nikki Lucas as well as City Council candidate Chris Banks, who unseated veteran East New York fixture Charles Barron in a June Democratic primary.
Trees do grow in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden President and CEO Adrian Benepe wants more than just the garden’s iconic cherry blossoms. Benepe wants to increase New York City’s canopy to 30% by 2025 to mitigate climate change, and city leaders are listening to his concerns about the impact of development. The City Planning Commission rejected two adjacent 39-story towers that would block sunlight from nourishing the garden’s plants. This spring, Benepe reopened the Yellow Magnolia Cafe and unveiled a new sculpture installation.
The largest dual provider of electricity and gas in New York, National Grid is playing a pivotal role in the state’s energy future and ambitious climate goals. Brooklyn-based Bryan Grimaldi advances and promotes National Grid’s mission statewide to ensure a clean, affordable and reliable energy system that works for all New Yorkers. In the last year under his watchful eye, the company backed the All-Electric Buildings Act – becoming the first utility with a significant gas business to do so – and opened a renewable energy project at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility in Greenpoint that converts organic waste into renewable energy in partnership with the city.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Gov. Kathy Hochul wouldn’t have arisen to their perches without Lupe Todd-Medina honing their messaging. The political consultant and Arzt Communications alum has been running her own shop for a decade now, assisting clients like New York City mayoral candidate Ray McGuire and Assembly Member Inez Dickens. Helping Jeffries shake up Brooklyn politics and reach the precipice of power in Congress remains her greatest success story.
Editor’s note: Lupe Todd-Medina is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
The progressive campaign strategist managed Jumaane Williams’ New York City public advocate campaign and was a state political director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign before starting his own firm during the coronavirus pandemic. Trip Yang, who’s perhaps the leading Asian American political consultant in New York, has worked most recently with New York City Council candidates Shekar Krishnan and Al Taylor, Assembly Members Grace Lee and Steven Raga, and state Sen. Cordell Cleare.
Editor’s note: Trip Yang is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
During the pandemic’s early months, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University exclusively served as a COVID-19 hospital to care for the borough’s poorest patients – while racking up a $160 million deficit. Dr. Wayne Riley made the difficult decision to close five school-based health clinics last year and pushed Albany to grant $69 million in this year’s budget to cover the state-run teaching hospital’s debt service. Riley has pressed ahead, lecturing at UT Health San Antonio on the dangers of health inequities and announcing a cancer care collaboration with Maimonides Medical Center in February.
Blondel Pinnock achieved a career milestone when President Joe Biden presented her with the National Medal of Arts for The Billie Holiday Theatre. The theater, founded by the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., won the nation’s most prestigious arts award in 2021. Pinnock has also been leading Restoration’s redevelopment plans that will expand the theater and add 16-story and 13-story office towers to the Fulton Street campus with the goal of bringing together mission-aligned partners to disrupt the racial wealth gap in Central Brooklyn.
When Kimberly Peeler-Allen and Glynda Carr founded Higher Heights for America in 2011, they had a goal of elevating more Black women into public office. A record number of Black women ran for office in 2022, and thanks to Peeler-Allen’s and Carr’s efforts, Black women were highly motivated to vote. This year, 10 Black women, including state Attorney General Letitia James, are serving in statewide executive offices nationwide, 27 Black women serve in Congress and Kamala Harris is the vice president. Only 6% of state and federal officeholders are Black women, a new Higher Heights report found.
Last spring, Donald Boomgaarden led the transition of the private Catholic Clinton Hill college to a full-fledged university. The name change, which the state Board of Regents approved last year, will allow St. Joseph’s to boost its marketing within the higher education community. Boomgaarden presided over the construction of a new $17 million student center on its Long Island campus. The school has also hosted high-profile events, including a Martin Luther King Jr. Day vigil with then-New York City Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
Under Miguel Martinez-Saenz, St. Francis College is a school on the move – literally. The college moved to a new campus on Livingston Street in September. The new building includes a 300-seat auditorium and modern labs, which received $1.5 million from Rep. Nydia Velázquez. But after the February sale of its Remsen Street campus temporarily fell through, Martinez-Saenz requested a leave in March, and the school’s acting president eliminated its athletic program the next day. The school sold its former campus for $160 million in April.
Tara Martin spent decades repping labor unions, including the RWDSU and state nurses, paving the way for the state’s fight for a $15 minimum wage and for New York's most important health care workers to secure better working conditions. More recently, Martin had a stint running James Dolan’s independent expenditure committee at Madison Square Garden for New York City's 2021 election and then worked for Miami-based parking facility disruptor Reef Technology. She recently joined Mercury as managing director.
Editor’s note: Tara Martin is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Last month, the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association selected Jovia Radix to be its new president, putting her at the head of an organization that her mother, New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix, once led. A few weeks later, Radix hosted a Zoom lunch with state Chief Judge Rowan Wilson. The Kasirer senior vice president has a long record tracking and advocating for legislation for the lobbying firm. She also served as Brooklyn regional representative for former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Her colleague, real estate lobbyist Briana Peppers, has had an interest in urban planning ever since she attended community meetings and canvassed for signatures with her parents while growing up in St. Louis. After a stint with Hester Street and in the de Blasio administration, Peppers joined Kasirer’s real estate team to guide owners through New York City’s land use approvals processes. The powerhouse firm has worked on One Vanderbilt, the New York Blood Center, the renovations at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport, and Innovation QNS.
When former CEO Floyd Rumohr stepped down in September, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center turned to longtime nonprofit executive Jessica Greer Morris to continue its essential work as a safe space for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. Morris has sought to beef up the community center’s services after it expanded into the Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Center, including health care for transgender individuals and weekly basketball games for the LGBTQ+ community.
During the five years she has led Kingsborough Community College, Claudia Schrader has sought to ensure the Manhattan Beach college maintains its famously high graduation and retention rates while expanding the school’s offerings. Schrader has made in-person greetings to incoming Kingsborough students, and in October 2022, she opened a satellite campus at a 14-story building in East New York. In June, Kingsborough received $100,000 from Citizens Bank in an expansion of Education Design Lab’s Community College Growth Engine.
Two years ago, Patricia Ramsey became the first woman and first scientist to lead Medgar Evers College. She later announced the school would offer CUNY’s first cannabis minor and helped secure a $25,000 Spectrum grant that would pay for laptops for 65 incoming students. Last month, Ramsey announced the school would expand its cannabis education program as more New Yorkers were launching dispensaries. Ramsay is focused on improving the college’s graduation rate, which is currently at 17% for graduating in four years and 23% for graduating in six years.
As one of the first social services agencies in the country, Brooklyn Community Services knows how to help people living in poverty. Janelle Farris has ensured that its 20,000 clients have access to educational services, health care, housing and workforce development during her past decade leading the nonprofit. Farris helped launch a pop-up shower van to help clients who didn’t have access to bathrooms, and BCS recently won a city contract to develop a suicide prevention program.
The longtime civil rights leader has been involved in local political races while also influencing public policy and discourse on issues affecting Black and immigrant families. Bertha Lewis released an election postmortem following the 2021 election, which found that turnout was low because voters felt they weren’t being engaged and candidates’ money was mostly spent on consultants and ads instead of organizers. Lewis is also calling on the New York City Council to help small restaurants and fix the delivery fee cap laws.
Last year, Coney Island returned with a bang as formerly paused events including the Mermaid Parade, sand sculpting contest and Friday fireworks revved up Surf Avenue. When the Alliance for Coney Island’s executive director Alexandra Silversmith left to join New York City Tourism + Conventions, the Alliance brought in Daniel Murphy in December to take her place. The former Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District leader pledged to make the boardwalk a destination on par with Times Square. Murphy secured a city grant to form a business improvement district last month, and the New York Post declared Coney Island an “underrated gem.”
Principals and vice principals have some of New York City’s toughest jobs due to the unpredictability of the pandemic and managing the competing needs of students, teachers and parents. Gabriel Gallucci advocates for these underappreciated school administrators. The union joined the American Federation of Teachers to warn Congress about the dangers of letting the country default while it seeks to boost its 15,000-person membership. Gallucci was also a member of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s transition team and remains a close ally. He is also a managing partner with Adams Buckner.
The Rev. Clinton Miller leads one of the more rollicking Sunday services in Downtown Brooklyn, where he has spread the gospel for more than two decades. Miller had wanted to be a lawyer but traded law school for Yale Divinity School when he realized he could pursue social justice and racial equity through worship. He remains a politically influential pastor whose endorsement in vote-rich Fort Greene is sought after.
Dr. Kitaw Demissie’s caution that New Yorkers should prepare for the effects of a prolonged pandemic have proven prophetic. The public health dean advised schools to avoid overcrowding by staggering student schedules to mitigate the spread of an airborne virus, and he was one of the leading voices urging city leaders to require municipal workers to get vaccinated as COVID-19 variants became more contagious. This month, he celebrated SUNY Downstate’s receipt of a share of a federal $9.8 million Cancer Moonshot grant.
Brooklyn’s Chinatown has been deeply scarred by a disturbing spate of anti-Asian attacks and discrimination in recent years, but Paul Mak has been fighting back to save his community. His association sought aid from the state to provide social services for immigrants, youth and seniors in Sunset Park. Mak has also promoted Chinatown businesses devastated by the pandemic and brought back Sunset Park’s annual Lunar New Year parade in January after a two-year hiatus.
The lobbyist and Navy vet has worked on deals for a number of real estate clients from her Jay Street office. Jacqui Williams started her own business and has since conducted government affairs and real estate lobbying for clients including Brooklyn Law School, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as well as the Chinatown mini-mall, which has been struggling since the pandemic. She remains a member of the Olori Sisterhood.
After stints as a top strategist with some of New York’s top officials and Risa Heller’s firm, Eric Soufer found a home at Tusk Strategies. He advised Andrew Yang’s upstart New York City mayoral bid before largely pivoting to lead the firm’s crypto and fintech practice last year just as New York’s fledgling cryptocurrency market took off. Soufer lobbied the state Department of Financial Services on regulations, such as registration fees for New York-based firms, and found an ally in New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Somia El-Rowmeim started organizing after Donald Trump was elected president in order to advocate for Arab Americans living in New York. She founded the Union of Arab Women of NYC, protested Trump’s Muslim travel ban and helped Democrat Andrew Gounardes unseat Republican state Sen. Marty Golden in Bay Ridge in 2018. Two years later, she founded the Women’s Empowerment Coalition to mobilize women in her community through events, education and leadership programs.
Andre T. Mitchell founded Man Up Inc. in 2004 with a mission to prevent gun violence in Brooklyn after 8-year-old Daesean Hill was killed by a stray bullet in East New York. Mitchell’s nonprofit expanded into providing youth development and social services with the help of millions of dollars in city contracts. New York City Mayor Eric Adams named Mitchell his gun violence czar to help reduce shootings but soon had to defend Mitchell’s past hiring practices. In November, Man Up completed its corrective action plan to clean up its fiscal management.
Yamil Speight-Miller isn’t afraid to take a hands-on approach as the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s top operative. The former corrections officer and state tax agent was appointed executive director in September, which immediately thrust him into running a chaotic party meeting in which little business got done and the lights went out. (Speight-Miller blamed iffy Wi-Fi). When New York City Council Member Ari Kagan changed parties last year, Speight-Miller waited on the steps of City Hall to hand him his district leader resignation letter. A dispute over fraudulent signatures on election petitions was the latest crisis to land on his desk.
The Central Brooklyn native and St. John’s alum founded the Life of Hope center with his brother in 2006 after seeing their mother struggle with her livelihood in her adopted country. Porez Luxama has since partnered with city and state agencies to serve 45,000 immigrant families and young people. In 2021, his community center provided application assistance and attorneys for Haitians applying for temporary protected status. Life of Hope has also sponsored street festivals, including Haitian Culture Day.
Electric scooters have had a bumpy introduction into American cities, but Phil Jones has been optimistic his micromobility devices can handle New York City’s overstressed streets. Lime won a bid to launch 1,000 scooters in the city’s long-awaited East Bronx pilot in 2021 that was so well received that the city expanded the pilot last year – and then made the program permanent. Now, shared electric scooters will be arriving in transit-deprived neighborhoods in Eastern Queens in 2024.
Cyriac St. Vil has continued the legacy of community leaders of color through the formation of his 500 Men Making a Difference. The group, which was founded in 2010, has sought to mentor hundreds of young people by engaging in one-on-one mentorship sessions as well as broader civic projects like cleaning up Herbert Von King Park. St. Vil has also hosted an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast and Father’s Day walk and now runs the Black Men’s Brunch.
The Rev. Robert Waterman ran for New York City Council in 2013 and 2021 and came up short, but that doesn’t stop this power player. The Antioch Baptist Church pastor works for his Bedford-Stuyvesant community as president of the African American Clergy and Elected Officials. The group’s monthly breakfasts at Waterman’s church are a must stop for a who’s who of New York leaders, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke, and state Attorney General Letitia James.
The ocean is a dangerous place these days (just ask any seal or Hamptons surfer) but Leigh Clayton has spent her career educating the public about the wonders of the deep. After managing the welfare of Baltimore and Boston aquariums’ fish, mollusks and mammals, Clayton joined the New York Aquarium in January. The wildlife facility received a $4.5 million New York City Council grant to strengthen life support systems. In June, Clayton welcomed the aquarium’s newest resident, Ryder the sea otter, to Coney Island.
Debbie Louis served as chief of staff to Assembly Member Brian Cunningham and ran her sister Farah Louis’ New York City Council and Kevin Parker’s state Senate campaigns before Gov. Kathy Hochul asked her to join her administration. Now, Louis represents Hochul at events such as the Brooklyn Canarsie Lions’ annual Memorial Day parade and a Haiti flag-raising. Louis has also advocated for allowing Creole translators more freedom of movement within poll sites and lost a district leader race in the Assembly District 43 last year.
After a decade as managing director at TD Ameritrade and a stint leading Ally Invest, Lule Demmissie wanted to do something different. In 2021, she joined the social investment network eToro to lead its U.S. operations. Since then, the fintech executive has been a frequent presence on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” and in Yahoo Finance and Axios sharing her thoughts on regulations for crypto investing, eToro’s new partnership with Twitter and using artificial intelligence in retail investing.
Last year, Jimmy Li entered a crowded race for a new congressional seat that had been drawn to include Manhattan and Brooklyn. Li campaigned on reducing hate crimes, improving racial equity and gun control. He didn’t set up a website or snag any significant endorsements – he didn’t win either – but he received double the number of votes that former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did. Li co-founded the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club and Asian American Community Empowerment.
It’s sparkling times for the soda man. Alex Gomberg’s family has been making seltzer the old-fashioned way since 1953, but the pandemic nearly shuttered the business. Now back in action, Gomberg has moved the company’s factory from Canarsie to Cypress Hills and opened up a seltzer museum, where New Yorkers can witness the city’s only seltzer bottling plant. It’s perfect in an egg cream, just brush your teeth afterward – seltzer does a number on your enamel.
Correction: This post has been updated to correct details about André M. Richardson's role in a coordinated Democratic campaign to win back the U.S. House of Representatives. He is advising, not coordinating, the campaign. This post has been updated with additional information about Yvette Buckner. This post has been updated to correct the name of South Brooklyn Health. This post has been updated with additional information about Gabriel Gallucci.
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