Latinos are on the ascent in New York. While there has still been no Latino governor or mayor of New York City, there are plenty of rising stars who could break through in coming years. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a progressive icon whose name recognition alone would make her a compelling candidate for a more powerful post. State Sen. Jessica Ramos’ name is in the mix as a potential contender for mayor of New York City. And Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado is a heartbeat – or a scandal – away from the governorship.
Apart from elected officials, state Education Department Commissioner Betty Rosa quietly wields her influence over major state spending priorities and hot-button policy debates. The new commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Edward Caban, is tasked with ensuring the nation’s largest city remains safe. And Ana Almanzar, New York City’s deputy mayor for strategic initiatives, recently made history as the city’s first deputy mayor of Dominican descent.
These Latino leaders – and dozens more – make up this year’s Power of Diversity: Latino 100. The list, compiled by City & State in partnership with journalist Felipe De La Hoz, features political players, business executives, labor leaders, educators, advocates and other accomplished Latinos who are active in city and state politics and government.
Education sits at the locus of many of the state’s most pressing issues – COVID-19 pandemic recovery, shifting workforces and battered trust in democratic institutions, among others – and overseeing it all is an influential but perhaps unenviable job. The Puerto Rico- and Bronx-raised Betty Rosa, boasting more degrees than a thermometer and plenty of hands-on experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent and state Board of Regents chancellor, has stepped up, overseeing 731 school districts and almost 2.5 million public school students, as well as the state’s entire higher education system.
Up until July, the Bronxite cop from a Puerto Rican family would have been known mainly to NYPD insiders and beat reporters, but Edward Caban was thrust into prime time following the resignation of Keechant Sewell. He’s now the department’s first Latino commissioner, after rising through the ranks since joining the force in 1991. He has a complicated path ahead, navigating a relationship with a mayor and deputy mayor with a reputation for micromanaging the department and some questions swirling about his own record.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s 2017 primary win, 20 years after he first joined the Assembly, was a victory for the Upper Manhattan legislator, but also one for the borough’s Latino and immigrant populations writ large. The Dominican-born Espaillat triumphed over longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel’s hand-picked successor and became the first formerly undocumented person in Congress. The ranking member on the House Legislative Branch Subcommittee has used his perch to advocate for immigrants, from former President Donald Trump’s crackdown to the contemporary New York City migrant crisis.
Progressives like to point out that, at age 33, the second-term member of Congress proudly from the Bronx is two years from presidential eligibility. For now, the star that upset the Queens political machine in 2018 is focused on her reelection – but whether they love or hate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, political observers agree that the vice ranking member of the influential House Oversight and Reform Committee has a future trajectory to be watched. Few are as deft at both the bully pulpit and the technicalities of policymaking.
While politicians are often thought of as bombastic, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, a careful and methodical reformer, has grown into the role after the 2016 death of his mentor Ken Thompson suddenly put him in charge. At least the Brooklynite of Puerto Rican descent knew the ins and outs, having worked at the district attorney’s office since 1995 and rising to be second-in-command. In securing unopposed reelection in 2021, Gonzalez is part of a crop of progressive prosecutors who have succeeded in pushing reforms while weathering shifts in public opinion.
The house always wins, except against state Sen. Jessica Ramos, the Queens-born daughter of Colombian immigrants who recently froze billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen’s plan for a casino near Citi Field. This willingness to stare down the city’s power players was honed over decades of activism beginning in her teens and culminating with her 2018 defeat of the late Independent Democratic Conference member José Peralta. Now, her name has been floated in conversations about becoming the next state Democratic Party chair or even as a candidate for mayor of New York City.
Universities are often judged by endowments and awards and prestige, but in the categories that really matter for most regular people – social mobility, economic diversity, return on investment – CUNY is the undisputed victor. Building on that legacy is Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, the system’s first Latino chancellor, who cut his teeth as the president of Queens College, following a career in academia and the Puerto Rican government before coming to lead the system’s 25 campuses and the 55,000 degrees it awards each year.
Henry Garrido is the leader of District Council 37, New York City’s largest public sector employee union with about 150,000 members and 89,000 retirees – and he has had a big year. The Dominican-born, union family labor leader who has helmed DC 37 since 2014 reached a tentative deal for a five-year contract that includes bonuses and raises. Yet, he also suffered a rare political loss as the Adams administration’s effort to move retirees to a Medicare Advantage Plan, which Garrido had thrown his weight behind, was stalled in court.
Of the many issues New York City faces, a decent chunk of them are downstream from a persistent lack of housing. Everyone agreeing on the problem but not the solution often puts New York City Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr., the Bronx-born son of Puerto Rican parents and chair of the Land Use Committee, in a tough spot – although several major rezonings have advanced on his watch. The former Bronx Community Board 2 district manager navigates the pressures by keeping affordable housing top of mind while working with colleagues of all ideological stripes.
With the arrival of the scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis is technically no longer the only House Republican representing New York City. Yet, the child of a Greek father and Cuban mother and the 2017 GOP New York City mayoral candidate who last year won a hard-fought congressional reelection rematch against Max Rose still fights like a lone warrior. She is battling what she sees as encroaching one-party rule, with antics to annoy her Democratic counterparts like proposing Trump’s Manhattan trial be moved to Staten Island – and that Staten Island should secede from the city.
The shuffling around of leadership at City Hall has worried some observers, but also opened up opportunities for new blood – like the Dominican-born Ana Almanzar, who became New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ first Latina deputy mayor in May upon the elevation of Sheena Wright. Almanzar had previously been director of community relations for Mother Cabrini Health Foundation and director of nonprofits under then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The CUNY grad now has a role working with the higher education system’s leadership, as well as helping the city navigate a complicated post-coronavirus pandemic moment.
Fresh off a reelection to a fourth term, Vincent Alvarez continues his stewardship over the New York City umbrella organization representing 1.3 million workers in over 300 unions. He has pushed for the city to move forward with minimum pay for delivery workers and backed strikes across an array of industries. Alvarez, a more than three-decade member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, is also a Federal Reserve Bank of New York director and serves as a board member or officer for numerous civic-minded groups.
The Puerto Rican-born Working Families Party member seems to delight in placing himself as a foil to the moderate tendencies of some other Democratic officials, pushing the envelope on priorities like universal single-payer health care, of which he has been the main sponsor since before he became chair of the state Senate Health Committee. A prior career as an Obama campaign staffer, community organizer and adjunct lecturer surely gave state Sen. Gustavo Rivera some experience herding cats.
Assembly Member Catalina Cruz has been a high-profile lawmaker since taking office in 2019, and this past session, the former “Dreamer” spearheaded the Clean Slate Act, which would seal criminal records for many New Yorkers. The bill passed both houses but has not been signed by the governor. Another proactive lawmaker is Assembly Member Karines Reyes, who sponsored key legislation protecting workers at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The registered nurse took the helm of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force this year. The committee was previously led by Assembly Member Maritza Davila, who was reassigned to lead the Social Services Committee. Assembly Member Phil Ramos of Long Island, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate last year, was promoted to the role of deputy speaker this year.
Assembly Member Kenny Burgos, who chairs the Reentry and Transitional Services Subcommittee, is another rising star in state politics. He has been an outspoken critic of the poor conditions on Rikers Island, though he has also questioned the plan to shut it down. Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas, who knocked out an incumbent in the 2020 primary, sponsored a “Coverage for All” bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get government-subsidized health insurance – but it hasn’t crossed the finish line.
Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes, who’s part of a small but growing contingent of democratic socialists in the state Legislature, has focused on tenants rights and environmental justice. A rare Latino lawmaker from upstate New York, Assembly Member Jonathan Rivera of Buffalo has helped garner support for the Clean Slate Act and legal services funding for immigrants.
Veteran Assembly Member Erik Dilan, who chairs the Correction Committee, eked out a win against a progressive primary challenger last year. Assembly Member George Alvarez did upset a longtime incumbent in his race last year, knocking out José Rivera, a former leader of the Bronx Democrats.
As half of a New York political power couple (he’s engaged to former Assembly Member Diana Richardson), state Sen. Zellnor Myrie is a legislator’s legislator. After serving as a legislative director in the New York City Council and crushing former Independent Democratic Conference member Jesse Hamilton in the 2018 Democratic primary and general, Myrie has been dedicated to understanding the ins and outs of key legislation, including signature pushes for bail reform and tenants rights. His parents emigrated from Costa Rica to Crown Heights.
This past January, the Puerto Rican powerhouse legislator marked the completion of her third decade in Congress. Neither wayward challengers nor redistricting can stop the former Hunter College professor who first came to the city in 1974 to pursue a master’s degree at New York University. With her 2006 appointment as chair of the Small Business Committee, Rep. Nydia Velázquez became the first Latina to chair a House committee, and today remains its ranking member, advocating for New York City’s thriving small entrepreneurs.
A tumultuous early life going from Puerto Rico to New York City public housing is the sort of thing most people wouldn’t want to discuss – but for New York City Council Member Diana Ayala, it’s the root of political life, marrying progressive sensibilities with pragmatic intent. Her work for former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito paved a pathway to the City Council. While she dropped her own bid for speaker, she’s in a key role as deputy speaker – and has guided efforts like the override of a mayoral veto over expanding city housing vouchers.
The third time was the charm for this Dominican-born public official’s runs for the New York City Council, which he joined in 2009 before rising to chair the Transportation Committee. Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, who also had a career that involved driving a cab and co-founding a couple public schools, is settling into his role as one of the Adams administration’s Latino department heads. He has navigated complicated street redesigns and spiraling traffic fatalities that the city just managed to reduce last year.
New York City has no Latinos in citywide elected posts, but there’s a strong bench of Hispanic up-and-comers in the City Council. New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera was a high-profile candidate for Congress – and for council speaker – but ultimately fell short. Rivera then won a competitive Democratic primary this summer and has continued to focus on quality-of-life issues like lead and use of public space.
Two other council members – Christopher Marte and Marjorie Velázquez – fended off primary rivals in June after battles over affordable housing. Marte failed to block the construction of senior housing units on the site of Elizabeth Street Garden, while Velázquez came around to supporting an affordable housing development in Throggs Neck.
Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, who chairs the Labor Committee, has been at the center of another heated debate. She sponsored legislation to authorize the city’s union-backed, cost-cutting plan to shift health care coverage for public retirees, an effort that has been stalled in court.
Council Member Tiffany Cabán, who broke onto the scene by nearly scoring an upset win in the Queens district attorney race, is an outspoken progressive legislator who has taken on the Adams administration on everything from Rikers Island to the influx of migrants.
Other council members who chair key committees include Pierina Sanchez, who chairs the Housing and Buildings Committee; Amanda Farías, who chairs the Economic Development Committee; Sandy Nurse, who chairs the Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee; Alexa Avilés, who chairs the Public Housing Committee; and Jennifer Gutiérrez, who chairs the Technology Committee.
Meanwhile, Council Member Shaun Abreu chairs the State and Federal Legislation Committee; and Council Member Oswald Feliz is co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. Council Member Francisco Moya, who fell short in his bid for the speakership, has scored a legacy-making victory with a planned new professional soccer stadium coming to Queens.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, a rising star in the Democratic Party, became the youngest elected official in New York City’s history with his elevation to the City Council in 2013, eight years before heading to Congress. He won progressive support for an emphasis on affordable housing, and has more recently gained notice for his steadfast support for Israel and rejection of cutting police budgets. As a gay Afro Latino who grew up at the Throggs Neck Houses, he straddles multiple identities and seems determined to chart his own path.
Third-term state Sen. Julia Salazar went to Albany to advance a progressive vision she has been developing since her days organizing a rent strike while still studying at Columbia University. The Florida-born daughter of a Colombian immigrant father, Salazar parried early questions about her personal biography during a successful campaign to oust incumbent Martin Malavé Dilan. She has used her position leading the Crime and Correction Committee to defend bail reform and push for less punitive enforcement, while also sponsoring a high-profile “good cause” eviction bill.
Havidán Rodríguez wants to develop a university for the future, as evidenced by the recent announcement of the reintegration of his institution’s College of Nanotechnology, Science and Engineering. Perhaps the academic, who grew up in New York and Puerto Rico, can better see the writing on the wall given his commitment to continuing to publish research even while serving as the first Latino president of a four-year SUNY university. He returned to the state for the role after serving in leadership at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
State Sen. José M. Serrano, the chair of the Majority Conference and a bowtie aficionado, has served in the state Senate since 2005 following a three-year stint in the New York City Council, a run he’ll have to more than double to match his father, former Rep. José E. Serrano, who enjoyed nearly a half-century in elected office. The younger Serrano is tackling the legacy with gusto, embracing a progressive agenda while carving out a space as a staunch defender of arts funding amid talk of cuts.
State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, the Brooklyn-born son of Puerto Rican parents, found himself in an intra-Latino squabble when his receipt of Dominican citizenship last year prompted complaints of pandering. The former Assembly member is no stranger to controversy within his conference, clashing with fellow senators over support for state chief judge nominee Hector LaSalle. But he holds a key role as chair of one of two important committees on cities.
After a two-term stint in old boss Mark Gjonaj’s Assembly seat, state Sen. Nathalia Fernandez made the jump to the redrawn 34th state Senate District with comfortable primary and general election margins. The daughter of a formerly undocumented Colombian mother and a Cuban refugee father has set her sights to the state’s rampaging opioid epidemic as chair of the Alcoholism and Substance Use Disorders Committee and its related task force, becoming an outspoken voice for harm reduction approaches.
Two other Latinas joined the state Senate this year. State Sen. Monica Martinez, a moderate Democrat from Long Island, regained a seat after serving for a single term from 2019 to 2020. She now chairs the Local Government Committee. State Sen. Kristen Gonzalez, who was backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, chairs the Internet and Technology Committee. She has passed legislation targeting ransomware.
The Schenectady-born former member of Congress with Cape Verdean, Mexican, Venezuelan and Colombian ancestry occupies a strange place in the political firmament, having been Gov. Kathy Hochul’s second pick for No. 2 in a role that’s largely ceremonial. As he crisscrosses the state as a sort of envoy, Antonio Delgado must keep his own ambitions close to the vest, but his notably moderate House voting record suggests a successor to the state’s ever-besieged moderate Democratic wing.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, the Williamsburg-born son of Dominican parents, followed former boss Diana Reyna to the New York City Council for two terms before jumping to the office vacated by the current mayor. The role has long been thought of as largely a bully pulpit, and Reynoso has used the megaphone lately to join calls for the state and federal government to commit more help for migrants – while maintaining a long-running focus on improving maternal health. And we all know where the last Brooklyn borough president ended up.
Few political operatives have had as much of a hand in shaping the Latino political movement as Luis Miranda Jr. Before co-founding his firm in 2000, he was founding president of the powerhouse Hispanic Federation in 1990 and serves as board chair of the Latino Victory Fund. The Puerto Rican-born consultant, whose son Lin-Manuel Miranda now also has a well-known career in the arts, served in city government in the 1980s and 1990s. Helping run the firm are Eduardo Castell, who served as executive deputy comptroller of New York City under then-Comptroller Bill Thompson, and Catherine Torres, who previously served as chief of staff for Assembly Member Roberto Ramírez – a co-founder of the firm.
Perhaps no one in city or state government has as stressful of a role as Manuel Castro, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ chief adviser on immigration. Castro is caught between his desire to deal humanely with over 100,000 migrant arrivals and the logistical limitations of the city’s obligations under the right-to-shelter policy. Castro, who previously worked for New Immigrant Community Empowerment and the New York Immigration Coalition, is keenly aware of their struggle: His own family left Mexico and settled in Brooklyn without documents in the 1980s.
While three executive directors is unusual, the trio has come up together in the economic and immigrant advocacy and services organization, with Bushwick-native Jose Lopez having joined the Youth Power Project – which he came to lead – at the age of 13. Arlenis Morel immigrated from Venezuela with her mother Cristina, who’d become a founding member, and joined in 2003, and Theo Oshiro, who hails from Perú, joined in 2005 as the first health advocate. The three took the reins in 2021, in time to guide continuing response to the COVID-19 crisis and then quickly pivoted this year to migrant arrivals.
The East Harlemite of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent has occupied roles in and out of government at all levels, from executive work at the AARP and the Hispanic Federation to being the first Hispanic secretary of state of New York. Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez was then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s choice to guide the city’s response to a growing population of older New Yorkers and has been kept on by Mayor Eric Adams to pursue initiatives like anti-ageism in education and workforce programs.
Adolfo Carrión Jr. is a true multiborough New Yorker. He was born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, raised in Manhattan and then served as Bronx borough president – not to mention his addition to stints as a New York City Council member and an Obama administration official and his erstwhile New York City mayoral run on the Independence line. In over a year heading the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Mayor Eric Adams’ point person for affordable housing has faced headwinds, from inflation to Albany inaction to the resignation of the city’s chief housing officer.
As restrictions on LGBTQ+ people become a reliable political issue and legislative agenda for the GOP in several states and the country faces a post-Roe v. Wade future, the São Paulo-raised Ana Oliveira continues her decadeslong work advocating and arranging funding for initiatives to protect the health and safety of women and LGBTQ+ people. Prior to taking over the foundation in 2006, she served as executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and in other roles focused on combating HIV/AIDS.
Tonio Burgos is the relatively rare person with appointments by governors of both New York and New Jersey, not to mention former President Bill Clinton, who had him serve on an HIV/AIDS advisory council in 1995. His longest stint was 15 years in various roles for Mario Cuomo amid his rise to the governorship. Burgos’ influential firm has interests in Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and New York, the latter of which are overseen by the Dominican American Elvin García. García came from the Open Society Foundations and, before that, the Hispanic Federation, working on census and immigration issues, among others.
The next few months could be very good or very bad for Louis Molina, the Bronx-born son of Puerto Ricans, who came back to the city after heading public safety in Las Vegas to turn a troubled department around. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams has called for a federal takeover of Rikers Island, and the federal monitor in the decades-old Rikers settlement has accused Molina of hiding poor conditions, making it seem dangerously close to having a federal judge take the whole department out of his hands.
As Robert J. Rodriguez was being raised in East Harlem, his name was already a known quantity, owing largely to his father’s work as a New York City Council member and state official. The younger Rodriguez decided to follow those footsteps and work his way up from Community Board to Assembly to New York’s secretary of state. Positions in public finance prepared him to wield the role in furtherance of helping New Yorkers find and keep housing.
Born in the Bronx to parents from Puerto Rico, Rossana Rosado has enjoyed an illustrious career in both media and public service. She served as the first female CEO, editor and publisher of El Diario before she was confirmed as New York’s secretary of state in 2016. As secretary of state, she implemented programs including several targeted at helping immigrants and those serving criminal sentences, making her move to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services a natural one. She also serves on the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
In recent months, the charismatic leader of the national advocacy group and association of Hispanic-facing nonprofits has drawn upon his experience facing harassment as a gay youth growing up in Puerto Rico to become a prominent voice against recent anti-LGBTQ+ policymaking in states like Florida. Frankie Miranda knows the state well, as it’s an area, along with North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Illinois, where he was previously tasked with expanding the Hispanic Federation’s operations after first joining as program coordinator in 1998.
In a state as diverse as New York, Julissa Gutierrez’s job is to ensure that diversity isn’t just a buzzword but a concrete effort, such as by encouraging public investments in minority- and women-owned businesses. The Queens-born daughter of a Colombian family served in various government roles, like the state COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Task Force and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and now serves as a board member of New Immigrants Community Empowerment and trustee for the Queens Public Library.
Despite providing crucial support to millions of New Yorkers, New York City’s nonprofits are often strained by notoriously slow payment. Lisa Flores, who joined the Adams administration during the transition in 2021, got to work with old boss New York City Comptroller Brad Lander – she’d served as deputy comptroller for contracts and procurement – to clear a backlog of over $4.2 billion in funds owed to hundreds of organizations. This month, she’ll hit two decades working for the city in various departments.
Unlike many others on this list, Fernando Delgado isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, having spent two decades in public college administration in Arizona and the Midwest, serving as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Minnesota Duluth before being named the Latino-heavy Lehman College’s fourth president in 2021. Yet, the son of a Mexican father and Spanish mother has taken to the role with enthusiasm, cementing Lehman’s place as an engine for social mobility and opening a business school.
Grace Bonilla took over the storied economic justice organization last year at a time of COVID-19 pandemic-driven economic uncertainty and runaway inflation, making her immediately a visible presence sounding the alarm about New Yorkers’ financial struggles. The Queens-born daughter of Ecuadorian parents pursued corporate law before turning to public service, navigating the government and nonprofit worlds before leading the New York City Human Resources Administration and then becoming founding executive director of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF is now a ubiquitous force in New York politics and advocacy, but it wasn’t around forever. Cesar Perales, the son of a Puerto Rican father and Dominican mother, co-founded the organization in 1972, modeling it on the NAACP’s legal arm and winning victories like an anti-gerrymandering battle. Perales went on to serve in the Dinkins mayoralty, Mario Cuomo governorship and the Carter presidency. In his SUNY role, Perales has strived to increase access to the university system.
Emerging from the milieu of local government and the nonprofit world – Teresa Gonzalez in leadership at the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and Department of Cultural Affairs under then-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg; Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez as director of executive operations and scheduling for then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, among other roles; and Keyla Antigua in policy leadership at the nonprofit Children’s Aid – this trio of influential Latinas now helps helm one of the state’s largest and most storied public and government relationship firms that’s involved in pretty much every area of legislation and public policymaking. Gonzalez and Salazar-Rodriguez are partners, while Antigua serves as executive vice president of government affairs in New York and New Jersey. Jose Rodriguez, the spouse of Salazar-Rodriguez, joined the firm earlier this year as senior vice president after holding key governmental roles at the city, state and federal level, including most recently as chief of staff to New York City Council Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. Gonzalez and Salazar-Rodriguez are also behind Evolution Strategies, a new firm aimed at empowering and electing Latinas in New York government and politics.
Guillermo Chacón has spent decades advocating and organizing around an issue that many felt was long ignored by the government: the spread of HIV and AIDS. That led him to help organize the first National Latino/Hispanic AIDS Leadership Summit in 2008 and take the reins of the Latino Commission on AIDS in 2009. The skills organizing to promote public health would prove valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Chacón served in advisory roles for both the city and state government.
As smaller hospitals and clinics struggle with economic headwinds, premier systems like Montefiore Medicine see an opportunity to expand. Who better to help than two exceedingly well-connected former Bronx elected officials? Marcos Crespo, born in Puerto Rico, arrived in New York as a child, where he eventually joined the Assembly and became the powerful head of the Bronx Democratic Party. He stepped down to join Montefiore in 2020. Lifelong Bronxite Ruben Diaz Jr. also did an Assembly stint before becoming Bronx borough president for over a decade and then a potential mayoral contender before decamping to Montefiore in 2022.
It’s never easy to chair the board of the nation’s largest public hospital system, but the coronavirus years tested NYC Health + Hospitals like never before. José A. Pagán, who also chairs the Department of Public Health Policy and Management at New York University, was chosen to helm the board in 2019. He has used his health economics expertise – he doesn’t have a medical degree but completed a doctorate in economics – to keep the system steady. For his efforts, he has also been elected to the National Academy of Medicine.
The Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network’s educational and civic programming is estimated to be seen by some 44 million Latino viewers around the country, with Michael Nieves having overseen a burst of subscription growth. Prior to that, HITN’s Nieves advised an array of New York elected officials at every level of government, served in several high-level roles in the New York City Council and has supported Puerto Rican culture by serving on the boards of the Puerto Rican parade and Chicago’s National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.
Editor’s note: Michael Nieves is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
While hospitals handle complex medical interventions such as surgeries, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers receive primary and mental health care at community health centers like Urban Health Plan. The organization runs a dozen health centers and a dozen school-based health centers, in addition to other clinics. Its expansion from a single center in the South Bronx to having the capacity for some 400,000 annual patient visits was largely overseen by Bronxite Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez, whose father founded the organization.
The former business reporter has spent over 20 years leading the 20,000-member women’s rights organization and was appointed to the New York City Commission on Gender Equity in 2016. Sonia Ossorio has not been shy about taking controversial stances on significant policy issues, including opposition to Rowan Wilson, the governor’s since-confirmed nominee for state chief judge, and against the potential decriminalization of sex work, which has put her at odds with other advocates and progressive lawmakers.
The Federal Reserve board has been in the news for a lot of consequential decisions lately, highlighting why it and its regional branches need steady leadership. Enter Rosa Gil, who was designated board chair for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year. Gil has also spent more than three decades running Comunilife, a nonprofit she started to address holistic causes of the dearth of health and housing discrepancies for Latino communities. She’s also had other key roles in government – such as former chair of what’s now NYC Health + Hospitals – and in academia and the private health sector.
One of the Executive Chamber appointees that survived the turnover from Andrew Cuomo to Kathy Hochul for governor, Edgar Santana was appointed deputy secretary in 2022 after having served as downstate director since 2019. Prior to that, he had been head of political and government affairs for the Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund, representing the interests of tens of thousands of construction workers across multiple states and Puerto Rico. He also served as a trustee to the Yonkers Board of Education.
Growing up with Puerto Rican parents in Bronx public housing, Miguel Centeno experienced many hardships. He became determined to combat challenges faced by others, putting him on a path to the Brooklyn borough president’s office and then the federal Small Business Administration, where he oversaw a significant increase in loans to Hispanic businesses. Centeno, a salsa aficionado who plays in his own band, then made the jump to Aetna and Healthfirst, where he focuses on bringing affordable health care to businesses.
While the idea of human rights law might sound vague, New York City’s robust definition includes everything from combating housing discrimination to ensuring wage equity. After 14 years in the New York City Council representing the Bronx, a stint at the city Department of Social Services and the role of chief equity officer of the city’s Test & Trace Corps, Palma was well-equipped to carry this mission out. Under Palma, the commission has expanded protections to domestic workers and put in place more salary transparency measures, among other initiatives.
As political and institutional players clash in the public eye, it’s often Jason Ortiz shaping things behind the scenes. The experienced consultant played a role in the election of Eric Adams as New York City mayor through his work with the Strong Leadership NYC political action committee, following a stint handling political work for the influential Hotel and Gaming Trades Council. He joined forces with PAC colleague Jenny Sedlis to launch Moonshot Strategies, which has thrust him occasionally to the spotlight – including as a player in Mets owner Steve Cohen’s push for a Queens casino.
Camille Rivera is a sought-after voice in political commentary and political action, offering unvarnished analysis for a variety of news outlets. The Bronx-born Afro Latina hyped up Gov. Kathy Hochul before last year’s election but criticized her failure to pass a housing plan this year – while helping run and advise various campaigns. Among them were Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign and SEIU’s Latino expenditure program in several states. Previously, she held roles in various nonprofits and unions, as well as the New York City Department of Homeless Services.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Rochester, Rafael Cestero first became interested in financing for low-income housing and communities after a 1989 internship in New York City. This experience eventually led him to an appointment as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and then, in 2012, to take the helm of the nonprofit Community Preservation Corp. At the organization, he stepped away from risky investments and refocused the organization on a mission of funding affordable housing.
Born in Brooklyn as one of seven daughters of Puerto Rican father Andrew Velez, who founded the Velez Organization in 1971, Elizabeth Velez came up in the construction world. At just 21, her father selected her to lead a project in a city-run program to build affordable housing, and she continued on that path, eventually helping develop hundreds of affordable units. Last year, she finished a two-year stint as chair of the New York Building Congress and now serves on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Panama-born consultant Lupe Todd-Medina not only advises and represents a slate of politically significant organizations and Democratic candidates, but is a sought-after analyst herself, asked to comment on issues as diverse as the impact of Twitter on campaigns, migrant arrivals and longtime client Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ ascension to leading the House Democrats. The Afro Latina, who launched her own firm in 2013, has also made it a point to lift up the careers of other Black women.
Editor’s note: Lupe Todd-Medina is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Sally Hernandez-Piñero has served since 2019 as board chair for MetroPlusHealth, the low-cost health insurance plan affiliated with New York City’s massive public health care system, NYC Health + Hospitals. Hernandez-Piñero brings a wealth of experience to MetroPlus – which has more than 700,000 members – as she was previously deputy mayor for finance and economic development in the Dinkins administration, worked in the corporate sphere at Fannie Mae and led the nonprofit City Harvest as executive director.
When people think “New York media,” they think The New York Times and WNYC and this magazine, but there’s a rich tapestry of smaller outlets in dozens of languages serving New York City’s many ethnic communities. Bayona, a CUNY graduate and native of Colombia who worked for outlets like El Diario and NY1 Noticias before founding a consulting firm, was chosen by the New York City mayor to lead the Office of Ethnic and Community Media as the city expands spending and engagement with community media on issues from COVID-19 to migrant arrivals.
Following an energetic campaign that had him face off against the sister of the departing Assembly member, the Brooklyn-born son of Dominican immigrants and former New York City Council aide joined the legislative body at the age of just 27. Rafael Espinal then made the jump to the City Council, where he became known for creative policymaking and progressive ideals, before catching some colleagues off guard with a 2020 resignation to lead the Freelancers Union, which engages in advocacy and provides tools for independent workers.
After holding several positions at the large social services organization over almost a decade, the Puerto Rican-born Lymaris Albors took the helm of Acacia Network in 2022 and has kept busy with announcements of new affordable housing construction, including a development in Syracuse by local affiliate Spanish Action League and another in Buffalo. She has also maintained a keen interest in the preservation of Puerto Rican culture, leading her to establish the Acacia-affiliated Loisaida Center as a self-sustaining center.
Two key officials at Ponce Bank, a community-focused financial institution based in the Bronx, are Frank Perez and Melissa DeLeon. Perez serves as executive vice president, chief investment relations officer and head of sustainability. The Puerto Rican immigrant and U.S. Army veteran started out as a bank teller in 1996 and worked his way up the ranks at several banks before returning to the Bronx to join Ponce Bank as chief financial officer in 2017. On his watch, Ponce Bank has been designated as a federal minority depository institution and a community development financial institution. DeLeon, a senior vice president and human resources director, drives human resources strategy across all departments for the growing bank. She joined Ponce Bank as a payroll representative in 2015 and held several roles before being promoted to her current position last fall.
Nick Lugo, a New Yorker who studied in Puerto Rico, learned the family trades of travel and publishing from his entrepreneur father, and decided to help other Latino business owners by founding the New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2006. In addition to real estate investment and his travel company, Lugo serves as a director of Ponce Bank and on the boards for several other advisory bodies and Puerto Rican cultural organizations. Helping run the day-to-day operations is the East Harlem-born Cindy Estrada, who started her own clothing companies as a young adult in the ’70s. Estrada has served as executive director since the chamber’s founding in 2006, overseeing its growth in membership and impact.
Beyond having founded and chairing New York City’s largest physician-led health network, the Dominican-born Dr. Ramon Tallaj, who served in government public health roles in his birth country, has become something of a health statesperson. He has lent his expertise to questions like how New Yorkers can protect themselves from unhealthy air quality and the best path forward on COVID-19. To run his network, which he founded in 2015, Tallaj brought on Mario J. Paredes, a charter revision commissioner under then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch, former Merrill Lynch executive, Catholic scholar and Latino media commentator.
After being raised by a nurse single mother in Brooklyn and making it to Harvard, David Garza went into retail and the corporate world. But a 2001 epiphany about his enthusiasm for service had him take a 180, and he filled in teaching a résumé writing course at Henry Street Settlement. He was quickly hired full time and then ran the whole workforce development section before being selected to head the whole organization in 2010, overseeing an organization providing an enormous range of social services.
Settlement houses have helped generations of immigrant New Yorkers settle in and get on their feet, and Grand St. Settlement has been around for over 100 years. That legacy is now shepherded by Robert Cordero, a Chicago native of Puerto Rican descent who landed in New York City after social services and policy roles in several large cities. He now also serves as board chair for the New York Foundation and as a board member for the settlement house umbrella group United Neighborhood Houses.
Born in Holland to a Mexican father and Canadian mother, and raised partly in Indonesia, where else could Philip Klint land but New York City? The Emmy-winning anchor joined the fledgling Spanish-language channel 20 years ago and has since beamed into the homes of Latino families around New York since, providing everything from on-the-ground coverage of the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 hurricane to discussing the impact of Mexican culture on the city.
The Queens-born daughter of Dominican immigrants’ most shocking political moment was not a race she won or lost, but one she dropped out of. Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the former New York City Council Finance Committee chair, was considered a front-runner for the council speakership before she stunned observers with a 2017 announcement that she was leaving politics. While she did leave elected office, she ended up not straying too far from politics itself, becoming a partner at the lobbying firm Hollis Public Affairs in 2021, with clients like T-Mobile.
In the summer of 2022, Nestor Ramos was promoted to metro editor for the New York Times, a role that involves directing some of the most consequential coverage of New York City politics and government. Ramos, who joined the Times during the coronavirus pandemic after serving as a Boston Globe columnist, has helped guide coverage of major stories, such as the Adams administration’s response to the migrant crisis and the Manhattan district attorney’s indictment of former President Donald Trump. The role was previously held by Jim Dao.
Raised in the Bronx and New Jersey in a Puerto Rican family, Dr. Oxiris Barbot spent close to two decades in public health, including a stint leading the Baltimore Health Department and eventually becoming New York City’s first Latina health commissioner, by the time the coronavirus pandemic hit. Within months, she resigned in disgust over what she felt was a reluctance to tackle the crisis aggressively – and most of her recommendations would eventually be followed. Now, she’s working to change health systems from the outside atop United Hospital Fund, a noted nonprofit research institution.
Having served as Hostos Community College’s interim president since August 2020, during the depths of COVID-19, Daisy Cocco De Filippis became the first Dominican woman to be a CUNY president with her formal appointment in July 2021. She certainly knows the system well, having earned no less than four degrees from the system and then teaching for two decades. During this time, the academic also became internationally known for her work in Dominican women’s studies and writing.
Born in Washington Heights to Puerto Rican parents, Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick blazed a pioneering legal path that led her from being one of only eight women in her law school graduating class to The Legal Aid Society to eventually becoming the first Latina appointed to the state Court of Appeals in 1993. Upon her retirement in 2013, she joined Greenberg Traurig and co-chaired a state task force on wrongful convictions before being appointed last month to be the state’s independent monitor for racial bias.
Sam Rivera first heard about harm reduction growing up with a nurse mom on the Lower East Side, but he became committed to the concept after witnessing the ravages of HIV in prison. As executive director of the country’s first overdose prevention centers since 2021, Rivera is effectively the primary advocate for an effective but controversial approach to harm reduction. He has held fast in the face of setbacks like the state’s refusal to fund OnPoint NYC’s operations and a federal prosecutor’s threat to shut down its work in New York City altogether.
Growing up with homophobic parents in a Cuban American family in Miami, Alexander Roque experienced some of the same circumstances as the clients of the center he leads – which started as six cots in a church basement in 2002 and is now one of New York City’s largest service providers for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. He took the reins right around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after almost a decade as development director and recently stood his ground against a city policy to prohibit overnight stays at drop-in centers.
While the prospect of an “LGBT agenda” gets raised darkly in some right-wing circles, Elisa Crespo is clear that she does have a concrete agenda: to advance the cause of equality for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers on an array of fronts, from housing to health care. That’s what motivated the former student organizer, born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, to mount a 2021 run for New York City Council that would have made her the first out transgender legislator in New York. While unsuccessful, the campaign brought attention to the cause.
After two decades with the massive legal services organization NYLAG, Lisa Rivera became its first Latino leader in 2022, helming an organization of 350 attorneys, paralegals and financial counselors. Hailing from a Puerto Rican family, she decided that the best way to help her community was public interest law, eventually leading NYLAG’s Domestic Violence Law Unit and co-directing a clinic at St. John’s University School of Law. Lately, NYLAG has been filling some of the massive need for immigrant legal services for asylum-seekers.
Raised in a Puerto Rican family on the Lower East Side, Rosemary Rivera came to intimately understand the need to organize – including while she was incarcerated in the 1980s. Rivera then found her way to organizations including Syracuse United Neighbors, 1199SEIU and the Healthcare Education Project before becoming Citizen Action’s state organizing director in 2010. This year, she was chosen to be the organization’s first Latina executive director, and she has continued progressive campaigns, including one to limit the use of school suspensions.
The Bronx-born Alicia Guevara is the first woman to lead the mentoring organization, which provides services for over 5,000 young people around New York City. She brings a sensibility that she attributes to the mentorship of her own mother, and her 2019 arrival to the nonprofit capped a career in social services and youth mentoring organizations that included executive roles at Year Up, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Part of the Solution.
Even a couple decades ago, the idea of a digital campaign operation was mostly an afterthought. Now, it’s sometimes a determinative force in getting a message out there. Prior to his promotion to digital director in 2021, Jorge Perez had served as an associate at the strategy firm since 2015 and first got involved in politics interning for fellow list honoree Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Rep. Charles Ruppersberger while still attending American University.
Even as she took the operational and medical reins of AdvantageCare Physicians’ citywide system, Dr. Navarra Rodríguez never hung up her lab coat. The Harvard and Columbia University graduate, who completed her residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, continues to see patients and has written about the importance of not letting our guard down against respiratory illness, all while managing the web of health care centers dedicated to treating people of all backgrounds.
Ligia Guallpa, the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrant laborers, is intimately familiar with the challenges faced by low-wage immigrant workers. Through a project that eventually led to the creation of Los Deliveristas Unidos, Guallpa and the organization managed a stunning political victory with new city rules to guarantee delivery workers a minimum wage, the first of their kind. As the old adage goes, success can be a curse, and this triumph led to rifts in the Workers Justice Project as some workers complained of delays in implementation and other concerns. Implementation of the rules is still pending first by delays by city officials and then by ongoing litigation.
Bethaida González’s first electoral victory came at Syracuse’s Corcoran High School, where she became senior class president. The Puerto Rican-born academic then dedicated her life to academia and service, joining the staff of University College of Syracuse University in 1984 before eventually becoming the school’s interim and then permanent dean in the 2000s. She also made history as the first Latina elected to the Syracuse Common Council. After retiring in 2020, she was confirmed as the New York Power Authority’s first Latina trustee in mid-2021.
In addition to his work as New York litigation leader for the large corporate law firm, Fernando A. Bohorquez Jr. is a board member of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, as well as The New York Community Trust and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, putting him at the intersection of multiple questions about government, social services and Latino rights. In his spare time, he provides counsel to minority- and women-owned technology companies and startups.
This year marked three decades since Samuel Padilla launched his construction firm. Its founding came after Padilla had stints working for Con Edison and American Electric Power. The firm subsequently grew from five employees to 150 and has worked on projects as diverse as the relocation of the famous Sphere by Fritz Koenig, the construction of a leopard enclosure at the Staten Island Zoo and the development of a screening center for the United Nations. Padilla also serves as treasurer of the National Hispanic Business Group.
While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spends much more time in the news, for reasons good and bad, it’s not the state’s only big transit agency. The Regional Transit Service operates in eight upstate counties serving nearly 8 million people a year, and as of this year, it’s run by Miguel Velázquez, who first joined the information technology team in 1999 and rose to hold multiple executive titles. These roles had him overseeing significant projects like the RTS Transit Center.
Ramon Rodriguez went quickly from theory to practice as he jumped from a state task force examining troubled hospitals to leadership of the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in 2011. Rodriguez, a lawyer who’d previously been parole commissioner, proved his mettle by reining in corrupt practices and expanding clinics. The hospital ended up being a crucial lifeline for one of the communities to be hardest hit by COVID-19, while also making the case for ensuring that smaller safety net hospitals survive.
The Dominican-born Quenia Abreu has a long history of focusing on economic development, having served as director of the Queens Economic Development Corp. and other entrepreneurship-focused jobs before founding the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce in 2002. In the role, she has supported the creation of 15,000 businesses. Her influence grew earlier this year as she was appointed to the board that will weigh in on the placement of up to three casinos in the downstate New York region.
Housing is one of the most pressing policy battles in New York, and John Sanchez is on the front lines. His 5 Borough Housing Movement is pushing to change the state multiple dwelling law, lift the floor area ratio cap and make it easier to convert offices to residential housing. The effort is backed by a coalition of homeless services providers, environmental advocates, trade associations and civic groups. Sanchez, a former state legislative staffer, charter school advocate and community board district manager, took on his current role in 2022.
“Run for something” is a rallying cry among young Democrats, and you don’t have to tell Denny Salas twice. The consultant, born in Massachusetts to Dominican parents who would settle in the Bronx, has run primary campaigns for the New York City Council in 2021 and Assembly in 2022, positioning himself as a moderate foil to progressive rivals. You get the sense he views the losses as practice for what will be an eventual successful run.
After moving to the Bronx from the Dominican Republic at the age of 2, Ariana Collado married an interest in medicine to an organizing spirit to raise money for ALS research and began volunteering on campaigns. After graduating from Lehman College, she went to work for then-New York City Council Member Andrew Cohen and impressed Bronx Democratic Party Chair Jamaal Bailey enough that he hired her as executive director in 2021. In the role, she has made it a priority to back more women running for office, including Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson.
While judges and district attorneys get the most of the glory (and controversy) in the criminal justice system, clerks keep the operation working. Ischia Bravo, a Bronxite who previously served as the district manager for Bronx Community Board 7 and previously worked for state Sen. José M. Serrano and his father, who was a former member of Congress, was elevated to the clerkship by unanimous vote, making her the first woman and first Latina in the job. There, she’ll manage jurors, among other responsibilities.
Anderson Torres is the longtime leader of RAIN Total Care, a social services nonprofit that has been serving seniors and people with disabilities since 1964. The Bronx-based organization recently started working with City Hall on the New York City Department for the Aging’s “Silver Corps Program,” a pilot project funded by AmeriCorps with the aim of helping older adults develop new skills and stay in the workforce.
In this heavily Democratic city in Westchester County, Yadira Ramos-Herbert is almost certain to win the general election to become the first Hispanic mayor. The Afro-Latina of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, who’s a New Rochelle City Council member, Columbia Law School administrator and former public library trustee, overcame questions over big donations from local developers to secure the nomination partly on the strength of a growing local Latino population.
There’s hardly a social issue Catholic Charities doesn’t touch, from COVID-19 recovery to providing English language instruction to migrant arrivals. Luz Tavarez has been advancing the organization’s mission for over 15 years, first as director of government and community relations before moving to her current job right as the coronavirus pandemic was slamming New York. Her multifaceted roles have had her doing everything from testifying before the Assembly to delivering food to Puerto Rico during recovery from Hurricane Maria.
Alana Sivin is a longtime criminal justice advocate in New York. The former Harlem elementary school teacher and a Jewish Puerto Rican vegan has been working on the issue from all sides, including in government as senior legislative counsel to the New York City Council Criminal Justice Committee; in media as an analyst and host for The Appeal; in practice, as a public defender; and through advocacy, including now at FWD.us. The trajectory culminated in a run for Assembly that, though unsuccessful, marked her entry to electoral politics.
If there’s one thing most New Yorkers can agree on, it’s that there’s nowhere near enough affordable housing. Sheila Garcia started out as a community organizer at the Community Action for Safe Apartments project in September 2011 and since risen to be New Settlement’s director of community organizing and a board member of the umbrella Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development. Her most contentious position, though, is on the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, where she has stringently questioned recent efforts to raise stabilized rents.
Cynthia Travieso is leaving her role as deputy director of Community Voices Heard, but the longtime New York advocate isn’t leaving progressive politics behind. Travieso is taking on a new role as director of power building strategies at Community Change, a national advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that supports grassroots efforts to combat injustice and defend the marginalized. The daughter of immigrants, Travieso was raised in Los Angeles and has worked in organized labor, on political campaigns and for community organizations.
When Midori Valdivia offers transportation consulting, it’s not just from an academic perspective. Since 2022, she has sat on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and was previously chief of staff to the MTA’s chair and CEO, a perch from which to get intimately acquainted with the sprawling operation’s nuts and bolts. She has also held senior roles at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and she helped others realize a leadership vision as chief operating officer of the Coro New York Leadership Center.
Rarely can you engage in a conversation about Latino political power and organizing in New York without Eli Valentin’s writing coming up. As a longtime Gotham Gazette contributor, an educator at multiple colleges and universities and a frequent pundit appearing on panels and in the media, Valentin has relentlessly chronicled, analyzed and opined on various eras of Latinos political development. This year, he decided to continue this pursuit through his new think tank, with an eye to convening stakeholders and producing research.
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