As a long-shot candidate, Tiffany Cabán made Queens’ first contested primary for district attorney in over 60 years historic in unexpected ways. The 31-year-old queer Latina public defender gained momentum in her self-described “decarceral” campaign, which was also a referendum on the Queens County Democratic Party. (It endorsed Melinda Katz.) Whether Cabán wins or loses after a post-recount legal battle, she caused a major disruption to establishment expectations for the second summer in a row.
The 2019 Queens Power 100; 6-50
The 2019 Queens Power 100; 6-50
The recent celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots has shined a spotlight on the city’s LGBTQ leaders. In Queens, Danny Dromm is the LGBTQ community’s leading voice. The former teacher is a tireless advocate for the vulnerable, and has recently been pushing to celebrate LGBTQ heroes in public schools. The Jackson Heights titan, now in his 10th year on the New York City Council, is chairman of the influential Finance Committee.
Queens has become a modern-day Ellis Island thanks to its two huge airports, which often serve as foreigners’ first point of entry to the United States. Dubbed “czar of infrastructure” by Gov. Andrew Cuomo after serving as the governor’s Special Counsellor for Interagency Initiatives, Rick Cotton is now in charge of multibillion-dollar projects to upgrade JFK and LaGuardia Airports. Keeping the massive renovations on time and on budget will surely test Cotton’s abilities.
A Southeastern Queens resident and lobbyist with long-standing ties to Gregory Meeks and Carl Heastie, Jenkins’ most notable victory at the close of the legislative session came from an education bill that never reached the Assembly floor. Jenkins’ firm was hired by billionaire cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder to advocate against a bill that would eliminate the admissions exam for specialized high schools. It never made it past the Assembly Education Committee.
“The Koz” might be the second-most powerful member of the New York City Council, and there is no doubt she is the leader of the Queens delegation. Her close ties to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson have helped her guide policy for the borough, and her finely tuned political instincts are an asset to both the speaker and her Queens colleagues seeking advice on how to get bills passed or which way to vote on a controversial issue.
In a borough known for its distinct neighborhoods, the Queens Library serves as connective tissue that binds cultural enclaves together with a shared mission of enlightening and empowering its residents. Under Dennis Walcott’s leadership, this institution that was once in disarray has reestablished itself as a core part of the community, with programs that serve the vulnerable, like English language classes or information on how to access city services.
Hope Knight’s vision of a walkable urban center is becoming a reality in the booming neighborhood of Jamaica. The community has become an anchor of commerce and high-density residential living, with high-end shops, great restaurants and luxury apartment buildings. Knight took over as head of the organization in 2015, when the city invested $150 million to bolster the neighborhood’s potential. She has been a leading voice in driving smart development in the area ever since.
According to political buzz, Donovan Richards was being lined up as the Queens machine’s preferred pick for borough president if Melinda Katz is elected Queens district attorney. Those plans may go by the wayside if Katz loses the Democratic primary to Tiffany Cabán, but Richards’ reputation as a respected political leader hasn’t changed. Higher office is likely in his future – though it is not clear which office.
Like state Senator Mike Gianaris, Jimmy Van Bramer helped lead the charge against bringing Amazon’s new campus to Long Island City. The councilman representing Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside encountered backlash from residents and business owners after the company scrapped the plan, which polls indicate a stunning 80% of Queens voters supported. Van Bramer has announced his candidacy for Queens borough president in 2021, saying the borough needs an “activist borough president.”
The Democrats’ commanding takeover of the state Senate has elevated this 20-year lawmaker to a new role of prominence. A former high school teacher, Toby Ann Stavisky is now chairwoman of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. Her sprawling district is home to large pockets of Asian and Jewish voters, and she has skillfully delivered for the complicated communities over the years – navigating controversial questions like changes to the SHSAT by seeking common ground.
Along with his partner, Harry Giannoulis, Evan Stavisky has built one of the most effective consulting firms in the state. He is a power broker in the Queens Democratic Party, where he is involved in high-level machinations, often smoothing out conflicts among elected officials and maintaining close ties to the borough’s most influential political leaders. “Since the Trump election there’s a newly galvanized group of Democrats,” he recently told the New York Daily News.>
This former Bloomberg administration executive has been a godsend for the Mets, helping build strategic community partnerships the franchise lacked in the past. Haeda Mihaltses is an experienced government hand, serving as the budget point person for City Council Speaker Peter Vallone before spending 12 years as Bloomberg’s head of intergovernmental affairs. She was recently tapped by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to join the MTA board to help rebuild New York City’s transit system.
Since Tom Grech took the reins of the Chamber in 2015, the century-old institution has had a renaissance. Membership has grown to its highest level ever, with more than 1,100 organizations representing more than 90,000 employees. Grech has focused on embracing the borough’s diversity and forming strategic partnerships, increasing the Chamber’s influence in city and state government as it advocates for policies and investment to promote growth in the borough.
After riding the anti-IDC movement into office last year, Jessica Ramos distinguished herself as one of the most legislatively prolific first-term senators. Among her signature legislative accomplishments was a bill that expands legal rights for farmworkers. She also advocated for a wide range of issues, from the Green Light Bill to the Climate and Community Protection Act, often taking on the role of legislative ambassador at panels and town halls in her district.
After unseating Tony Avella in the primary and winning the general election, John Liu stacked up a list of accomplishments that quickly overshadowed his status as New York’s first Asian American state senator, including passing a law that will increase green roofs across the city and snagging the chairmanship of the subcommittee on New York City education. In April, he used his perch to criticize Mayor de Blasio’s plan to diversify specialized high schools as “racist.”
Wooing Amazon to Long Island City was a tremendous accomplishment spearheaded in many ways by Elizabeth Lusskin. Insiders tell us she was the driving force behind the vision to attract the retail tech giant to LIC and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to try and keep the deal together. While Amazon’s decision to pull out of the deal was a blow to business, the future of the area is still optimistic with powerful advocates like Lusskin.
There is no bigger name in Queens real estate than Carl F. Mattone. The Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law at St. John’s University is just one example of the Mattone family’s connections to the borough and its philanthropic endeavours. For decades Mattone and his brother, Michael Mattone, ran the company started by their father, Joseph. Last year, Carl Mattone and his son, Carl J. Mattone, started a brand new real estate firm.
When an entire “city” with more than 14,000 residents bears your family name (LeFrak City), it’s easy to understand why you made this list. The son of real estate tycoon Samuel LeFrak, Richard LeFrak now controls one of the largest residential portfolios in New York City, with most of the properties concentrated in Queens. LeFrak has had a hand in rent regulation debates in Albany, and reportedly has close ties to President Donald Trump.
A fierce and unapologetic fighter for the men and women in blue, Patrick Lynch has maximized press coverage to gain leverage with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over the NYPD’s contract dispute. Even when de Blasio flees the city, as he did in June for a Democratic debate in Miami, the PBA follows him to call attention to the bitter fight, arguing that the mayor is not paying the city’s police officers a fair wage.
Given his environmental priorities, Costa Constantinides hit a strong benchmark in 2019 when the New York City Council passed the “Green New Deal” he introduced. The councilman sees climate change as an immediate threat and is dedicated to making the city greener – traits that make him popular in progressive Astoria, but (from the perspective of more conservative Queens voters) an outsider in his potential bid to succeed Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
If you look closely at the results of the Queens district attorney race you will notice that Melinda Katz performed best in heavily black Assembly districts near Floyd Flake’s powerful church, suggesting the former congressman still wields considerable influence in Southeast Queens. In addition to being a political power player, Flake also provides spiritual guidance to the more than 23,000 parishioners who attend services at the cathedral.
This Fortune 500 company started operations with a corporate headquarters in Queens and, after considering several other cities in 2010, ended up choosing Long Island City – becoming an anchor for the fast-growing community. Robin Hayes has maintained JetBlue’s reputation as an aviation industry powerhouse, and has played a key role in overseeing upgrades at JFK International Airport, where JetBlue is investing billions to expand and modernize Terminals 6 and 7.
This powerful union has been in the headlines for its high-profile contract dispute with Charter Communications, which owns NY1. Christopher Erikson has led that charge, forging political partnerships with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, convincing elected officials to boycott NY1, and orchestrating a media campaign urging residents to cancel their service. Erikson has long been a powerful voice for electrical workers, helping thousands of union members earn better pension and benefits packages.
After the sudden death of 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa in July, another Queens resident has taken the helm of one of the city’s most influential labor unions. Kyle Bragg, who previously served as secretary-treasurer at the union, has experience in community organizing as well as labor. He serves on the Southern Queens Park Association and Community Board 13 in far Southeast Queens, and is the founder of the Mount Zion Youth Literacy and Sports Program.
In addition to being among the city’s most sought-after consultants for real estate firms, the energy industry and health care, Michael Woloz is a leading voice in the world of Queens politics. He is co-chair of the Astoria-based Powhatan Democratic Club, with his finger on the pulse of Western Queens’ changing landscape. He’s also a leading advocate and lobbyist for the city’s taxi drivers and a member of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
St. John’s University is a source of pride for this heavily Catholic borough in both academics and athletics. The first lay person to lead the institution, Philippines-born Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw took over as president in 2014, and since then he has upped academic standards, increased international partnerships and boosted graduation rates. But the school’s academic accomplishments tend to be overshadowed by excitement over the men’s basketball team returning to the NCAA tournament this year.
The name Joseph Addabbo has been prominent in Southeast Queens for decades. Senior was a congressman for 25 years. Junior served on the New York City Council before winning a state Senate seat in 2009. With Democrats in power, Addabbo has taken on a powerful role as chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, working on implementing sports gambling while (with the Aqueduct Racetrack in his district) also advocating to keep horse racing strong.
Peter Tu is well-known to politicians, consultants, lobbyists and campaign hands. For many, he’s a conduit to understanding the complex and robust Chinese immigrant community in the United States that is rapidly growing. He’s also a trusted leader in the community, helping small businesses get started and spearheading cultural events like the Lunar New Year Parade. “I want to keep the culture strong,” he told the Queens Ledger.
Far more than slot machines, Resorts World Casino is a world-class entertainment venue that anchors the economy of Southeast Queens, along with neighboring JFK Airport and Aqueduct Racetrack. The casino employs more than 1,000 people and has generated nearly $2 billion in revenue for state education. Under Scott Molina’s leadership, Resorts World Casino is planning a $400 million expansion, including a new hotel expected to be up and running by next year.
For nearly two decades, Leroy Comrie has been a prominent figure in Queens politics as a New York City councilman, deputy borough president and state senator, replacing his disgraced predecessor Malcolm Smith. A steady and constant voice of reason, Comrie is the type of politician who puts his community ahead of himself, which is why he is well-liked among colleagues and trusted by constituents in the Southeast Queens communities he represents.
The Bayside native who’s spent more than 30 years with the FDNY comes from a family of firefighters and previously served in leadership positions in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx before becoming commissioner in 2014. Daniel Nigro is committed to the fire department’s efforts to increase its ethnic diversity. He’s trying to keep morale up at the FDNY as city officials debate whether they can afford a fifth firefighter on all engine companies.
One of the largest local newspaper families in New York, with a weekly circulation of more than 350,000 and more than 2.5 million monthly page views, Schneps Media produces community newspapers distributed throughout Queens on a weekly basis. Victoria Schneps-Yunis and Joshua Schneps’ media empire also features a full slate of events, conferences, special publications and the popular QNS.com website – connecting the organization with diverse pockets of the borough.
Brothers Stuart and Alan Suna had a dream in the 1980s – more than 30 years later, that dream has grown into one of New York City’s biggest film and television production studios. In addition to operating Silvercup Studios, where shows like “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos,” and “Mad Men” were filmed, the Suna brothers have developed residential real estate in Long Island City, playing a role in efforts to woo Amazon to Queens.
The former Salvation Army Booth Memorial hospital has gone through a transformation in recent years, with NewYork-Presbyterian taking over the facility and Jaclyn Mucaria leading efforts to make it a first-class experience for patients and their families. Located in the heart of Flushing, the hospital has expanded services, forged community partnerships, including with St. John’s University athletics, and is adding more primary care specialists so residents can receive on-site care.
Northwell Health is among the biggest health care providers in Queens, and Jason Naidich is responsible for overseeing the majority of its facilities in the borough, including Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, and Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital. A respected radiologist, Naidich is charged with developing strategic plans to provide quality care to tens of thousands of Queens residents. He is also president-elect of the New York State Radiological Society.
Thomas Suozzi represents only a small part of Eastern Queens, but the neighborhoods in his district are vital to his success. Suozzi relied heavily on the borough to win the Democratic primary, running up the tally there in general elections, so it’s safe to say Queens is his safety net. And in Congress, he makes sure he delivers for the borough by advocating for quieter skies, standing up to ICE and much more.
Over the course of nearly 40 years, Hal Rosenbluth helped build Kaufman Astoria Studios into one of the East Coast’s premier television and film production studios. Home to popular shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Nurse Jackie,” KAS offers more than 500,000 square feet of sound stages and production suites, enabling shows to plan, shoot and edit in the same place. He is a member of several local organizations, including the Queens Council of the Arts.
A lifelong Queens resident, Melanie La Rocca in June took the reins of the agency charged with regulating over 1 million buildings and 45,000 construction sites. The role combines her knowledge of the construction industry – she previously oversaw the development of new schools as vice president of development and external affairs at the School Construction Authority – with her community advocacy experience from her days as a member of Queens Community Board 1.
The rest of the country was introduced to Ana Maria Archila when she confronted then-Senator Jeff Flake last September during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh – speaking powerfully about her experience with sexual assault. The Columbian-born activist has established a reputation in Queens as a fighter for racial and economic justice. Her tireless work helped grow advocacy group Make the Road New York into a political powerhouse in the borough and beyond.
Roughly a third of Queens’ 2.4 million residents identify as Catholic, with the church’s education system serving as a pillar of the community from pre-K through high school. Nicholas DiMarzio is the spiritual leader for the borough and a leading international voice on protecting immigrants. He has consulted with world leaders on migration and testified before Congress about immigration issues, condemning the “inhumane” conditions at detention facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The former New York City councilman, assemblyman and trusted government aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo now plies his trade at Greenberg Traurig, one of New York’s most influential law firms. Mark Weprin uses his extensive experience to help clients navigate city and state government and complicated land use issues. He was among lobbyists recently deployed to push back against the opposition to Amazon’s plans to bring its headquarters to Long Island City.
James Sanders Jr. has always been something of a rogue Democrat. He was one of the few elected officials to back Tiffany Cabán’s Queens district attorney campaign. While the Marine Corps veteran can sometimes be a pain for the Queens Democratic Party, that hasn’t stopped him from being an effective state senator and grabbing the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Banks, where he fights for more access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
This lawyer trio has long dominated the Queens court system. Michael Reich, executive secretary of the Queens Democratic Party, doles out funding to judges running for office; Frank Bolz gets petitions from challengers invalidated; and Gerard Sweeney rakes in cash from disposing the estates of deceased residents. But after an insurgent candidate beat their pick for a judgeship for the first time in decades, activists are looking to take the party by storm in 2020.
Dermot Smyth is the borough’s leading voice for the powerful United Federation of Teachers, handling local issues and organizing teachers for larger actions like rallies at City Hall or in Albany. Smyth fights tirelessly alongside others from UFT to keep schools open, advocate for educators and push back against the de Blasio administration when necessary. He also leads the charge when it comes to identifying political candidates who will stand up for teachers once elected.
This Harvard grad and former Army officer has dedicated the past eight years to transforming the lives of those less fortunate through technology. With Pursuit, Jukay Hsu provides low-income adults a pathway to a tech career through an intensive four-year program that has landed hundreds of people well-paying jobs in the emerging industry. Because of the program’s success, elected officials and activists often seek Hsu’s advice on workforce development issues.