Eliot Engel is no Joe Crowley. Sure, the soft-spoken foreign policy wonk hasn’t had a competitive race in 20 years and he’s not as progressive as some want, but he shows up in district frequently and is well-liked. Engel’s challengers in the Democratic primary are running at him from the left, but Engel is hardly a moderate. He’s called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump and uses his chairmanship to investigate the president.
The 2019 Bronx Power 100; 6 - 50
The 2019 Bronx Power 100; 6 - 50
The leader of New York’s largest union has the war chest and manpower political machines only dream of. Because Gresham is massively influential in the Bronx, a borough where more people work in health care than anywhere else. An early supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio and a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Gresham is a particularly skilled political operator. When Republicans were in power, he directed donations their way, even while championing progressive causes.
The first African-American woman elected district attorney in New York, Darcel Clark is cruising to re-election after an unopposed primary and with no one else on the ballot for the general election. Clark isn’t the darling of criminal justice reform circles, but she has the full backing of Bronx Democrats. Clark publicly supported reforms like closing Rikers and ending cash bail – and she has four more years to enact them.
Rafael Salamanca is a “county guy,” and isn’t afraid to say so. The former district manager of Community Board 2 was the Bronx Democrats-backed candidate to replace Maria del Carmen Arroyo in a 2016 special election. When Corey Johnson ascended to the City Council speakership with the support of the Bronx delegation, Salamanca was named Land Use Committee chairman. During his chairmanship, Salamanca oversaw rezonings in the Garment District, Inwood, and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.
The state’s top education policymaker spent the early part of her career serving in various positions within the New York City Department of Education. Betty Rosa, who represents the Bronx on the Board of Regents, was unanimously reelected to a second term as chancellor by her colleagues on the board. She recently began floating the possibility of changing the Regents exam requirement, a staple of New York state high school education for over a century.
The rising star has risen. Ritchie Torres has long been a media darling with a promising future, but the future is now. The first openly gay elected official from the Bronx is a favorite for New York’s 15th Congressional District. A clever politician, Torres used his role as chairman of the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations to delve into the activities of NYCHA and Jared Kushner.
After finishing fourth in a crowded public advocate race, Michael Blake jumped into the race for New York’s 15th Congressional District. Fundraising won’t be an issue for Blake – his vice chair position with the Democratic National Committee brings in plenty of money and, in the public advocate race, an endorsement from actor Ethan Hawke. Blake’s connections could help if the race starts to get messy and the national party puts a finger on the scale.
Rubén Díaz Sr. barely missed a beat after making a series of homophobic remarks and a refusing to “rat” out sexual harrassers, which drew nearly universal outcry, including from his son. Though his proclivity for insensitivity cost him a committee chairmanship, he’s a top contender to replace the retiring José Serrano in Congress. His strong constituent services and consistent procurement of in-district funding go a long way in the South Bronx.
An ally of Carl Heastie and Ruben Diaz Jr. in the so-called Rainbow Rebellion about a decade ago, Jeffrey Dinowitz has consolidated power in the Northwest Bronx. The local political club, the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club, is firmly in Dinowitz’s control even with a recent influx of Alessandra Biaggi supporters. Andrew Cohen is his close ally, and Dinowitz hopes his own son, Eric, will win the 2021 race to succeed the term-limited councilman.
The toppling of state Sen. Jeff Klein last fall catapulted Alessandra Biaggi into the spotlight, and she capitalized. The freshman state senator chaired marathon sexual harassment hearings and led the charge on the Child Victims Act. Despite staff turnover and complaints about time spent in-district, Biaggi does not lack friends. Hillary Clinton administered vows at her wedding and she is close with senate leadership and the phalanx of progressive women driving the conversation in Albany.
Though he only represents a sliver of the Bronx, Adriano Espaillat commands tremendous respect in a borough where a large portion of the population is of Dominican descent. The first Dominican-American congressman and a former undocumented immigrant, Espaillat is known for his opposition to President Donald Trump, especially on immigration issues. Last year, an anti-white-supremacy rally organized by Espaillat in Inwood was monitored by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A Carl Heastie protege and the youngest state senator after his 2016 election, Bailey was the promising, young progressive in the state Senate until a small army of promising, younger progressives showed up this year. Now as chairman of the Codes Committee, Bailey will play an integral role in the balancing act between left-wing policy demands and the realities of navigating an upstate-downstate coalition through criminal justice reforms like eliminating cash bail and legalizing marijuana.
Luis Sepúlveda doesn’t always back the right horse, but he always backs the left horse. After being the first Bronx official to endorse Bill de Blasio in both his mayoral races, Sepúlveda again endorsed him for president. A month before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backed Tiffany Cabán, Sepúlveda endorsed the progressive district attorney candidate. Don’t be surprised if Sepúlveda runs for Bronx district attorney in 2023 – he was talked out of running in 2015 by Marcos Crespo.
The progressive, anti-Cuomo state senator declined to run for the open 15th Congressional District seat, an oddity considering half of the Bronx is running for the gig. Gustavo Rivera is staying put for a number of reasons, unfinished business in Albany being chief among them. Since taking office, the chairman of the state Senate Health Committee has sought to address health inequity and wants to make New York the first state to pass universal health care.
Mark Gjonaj reportedly spent $1 million to win his council seat in 2017, so don’t be surprised if he spends $2 million in 2021. The pro-business Democrat was the first Albanian-American elected to the state Legislature and the New York City Council, scoring a monumental victory for the Albanian community in the Bronx. He uses his Small Business Committee chairmanship to challenge Mayor Bill de Blasio’s employee benefit proposals and tech companies like Grubhub and Airbnb.
In December, Randy Levine was on the shortlist for one of the most powerful jobs on the planet: chief of staff to the president of the United States. He declined, telling reporters he was happy to remain president of the New York Yankees. Since 2000, Levine has overseen the construction of Yankee Stadium, built YES Network into a $3.5 billion property, and brought Major League Soccer’s 20th expansion team to the Bronx.
Though Marlene Cintron has never held elected office, she’s arguably among the most experienced candidates for the 15th Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. José Serrano. Born and raised in the South Bronx, Cintron led Mayor David Dinkins’ Latino outreach efforts, ran the district office of Serrano’s predecessor, and directed the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration. Since 2010, Cintron has helped longtime friend Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. bring billions in private investment to the Bronx.
The New York Police Department’s top uniformed cop is a Bronxite through and through. Born and raised in Parkchester in a family of cops, Terence Monahan started out as a patrolman at the 41st Precinct, whose station house was infamously dubbed “Fort Apache.” Monahan worked his way through the ranks, eventually promoted to executive officer of Patrol Borough Bronx. The brain behind the NYPD’s neighborhood policing initiative, Monahan oversees 40,000 uniformed cops.
While Patrick Jenkins is a Queens guy, he has plenty of friends in the Bronx. Jenkins was well established as a New York City power broker and campaign consultant before his Stony Brook University roommate Carl Heastie became speaker of the Assembly, but Heastie’s ascension certainly didn’t hurt. Jenkins’ list of clients includes Heastie, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Uber. Jenkins personally donates thousands to Bronx campaigns each cycle.
Steven Safyer recently announced his retirement after 40 years at Montefiore, but he will continue leading one of the borough’s largest employers and health care providers (a third of Bronx babies are born in a Montefiore facility) until a successor is named. Social justice in health care is important to Safyer, who led an initiative to combat HIV at Rikers in the 1990s. When Safyer speaks, people listen, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. once said.
One of the first city officials to have a car phone, Charles Moerdler has been a fixture of New York City politics for six decades. He serves on numerous influential boards and committees, including the New York Law Journal’s editorial board and the board of the city’s Housing Development Corporation, which oversees billions in affordable housing investment each year. In Riverdale, Moerdler frequently clashes with city officials as chair of Community Board 8’s land use committee.
Perhaps Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s most valued ally, Paul Del Duca has worked alongside Diaz since his days in the state Assembly. In 2013, Diaz announced his support of same sex marriage and cited Del Duca, who is gay, as an influence on why he changed his mind. With the borough president gearing up for a mayoral run, Del Duca is undoubtedly crafting strategy and finding away to get his friend to Gracie Mansion.
John Calvelli was knighted by Italy in 1999, when he ran Rep. Eliot Engel’s legislative shop. A vice chairman with the National Italian American Foundation, he joined the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2000. Cristián Samper arrived in 2012 to oversee the world’s largest collection of urban parks – including the Bronx Zoo – and a global conservation operation. A former advisor to Barack Obama and director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Samper is a renowned environmental expert.
Last November, Fernando Ferrer was named acting chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board. Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo later removed him, the former Bronx borough president and two-time candidate for mayor still has plenty of friends in the Bronx and beyond. An expert on the revitalization of cities, Ferrer serves on the board of trustees for the City University of New York and on the board of directors for Sterling Bancorp, a regional bank.
Erik Langhoff has led the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, one of the largest health care providers and employers in the Bronx, since 2012 – overseeing nearly 2,000 staff members, 37,600 veterans, and a $280 million budget. A world leader in spinal cord research, the Bronx VA draws millions in private and public investment. Langhoff also serves as dean for Bronx VA affairs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
The longtime head of the Guggenheim went north in 2015 and took a gig running a 28-acre public garden on the Hudson River. Now Karen Meyerhoff oversees Wave Hill’s daily workshops, art exhibits and tours for interested gardengoers. The Riverdale estate has been a vacation home for both a preteen Theodore Roosevelt and an aging Mark Twain. Wave Hill was named New York City’s “Most-Loved Cultural Institution” by Time Out New York last year.
Michael Brady will not compromise – not when it comes to the South Bronx. He said as much when he was encouraged to sign on to the city’s community jail plan in exchange for more resources for his community. The BID rapidly expanded membership under his leadership, and he’s planning on more. Business is not yet booming in the South Bronx, but it will be and Brady will be there to encourage it along the way.
Among the most respected and accomplished community organizers in the Bronx, Sandra Lobo and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition helped lead the charge on rent reform. After years of combating the Bronx’s worst slumlords and imploring Albany to do something, the coalition’s efforts finally paid off. Lobo also played a key role in securing the unprecedented community benefits agreement from the developers of the long-delayed Kingsbridge National Ice Center project.
Mychal Johnson moved to Mott Haven about 15 years ago and has been fighting for his community ever since. Central to his cause is combating the pollution that plagues the South Bronx thanks to a confluence of highways, bridges, industry and neglect. Johnson and South Bronx Unite also got behind the No New Jails movement, opposing the mayor’s community jails plan. He serves on the city’s Waterfront Management Advisory Board and the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality.
Angela Fernandez is the state's newest commissioner of the Division of Human Rights, headquartered at 1 Fordham Plaza. Prior to her nomination by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February, she was the executive director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights and a mayoral appointee to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Fernandez previously served in the office of then-U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley and as district chief of staff for Rep. José E. Serrano.
Each year, 2 billion pounds of meat comes through the Hunts Point Meat Market. Bruce Reingold, the general manager of the market’s cooperative and its chief advocate, has kept a watchful eye over the meat market since the 1990s. He’s secured hundreds of millions in funding for the 60-acre market that supplies meat to many of the city’s restaurants and supermarkets. The meat market generates an estimated $3.2 billion in sales annually.
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez spent the last 30 years as an emergency room nurse at Montefiore Medical Center in Norwood. In March, she led the nurses at Montefiore Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and Mount Sinai hospital systems in protests to demand that the hospitals provide better pay and address critical understaffing. The four-year deal they reached required the hospitals to hire more nurses and establish nurse-to-patient ratios for shifts.
Through Children’s Aid, Abe Fernandez helped start South Bronx Rising Together in 2014. With a focus on the area served by Community Board 3, the nonprofit works on cradle-to-career programs and coordinates other organizations, businesses, schools and agencies with an overarching goal: a healthier, more prosperous South Bronx. Fernandez also serves as director of the Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools, an initiative that works to partner schools with community resources.
After a monumental victory in 2018, nearly sweeping the old Independent Democratic Conference out of Albany, Gus Christensen moved operations to the Bronx, the site of perhaps the anti-IDC movement’s greatest victory: Alessandra Biaggi’s upset victory over IDC architect Jeff Klein. Now Christensen is turning his efforts to the Assembly, with grand plans to primary centrist Democrats. His first candidate already announced: Puerto Rican activist Jonathan Soto will challenge Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.
Daniel Barber lived his whole life at the Jackson Houses in Melrose and spent much of that time trying to hold the New York City Housing Authority to account. He and other tenant leaders sued NYCHA in 2018 so a judge would appoint an independent monitor. Barber reportedly has the ear of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and stood beside him in 2018 as Cuomo allocated $250 million in emergency funding for NYCHA.
Outside his work for the city’s hospital system, John Doyle is a respected political operative who worked for Jeff Klein, Ritchie Torres and David Carlucci. Doyle is one of City Island’s biggest advocates, finished third in the 2017 Democratic City Council primary, and is a young face for the Bronx’s aging Irish population. In 2019, Doyle helped found a City Island community organization and signed on to run Assemblyman Michael Benedetto’s re-election campaign.
Iris Rodriguez-Rosa oversees thousands of acres of parkland, including two of New York City’s three biggest parks, Pelham Bay Park and Van Cortlandt Park. Cumulatively, Bronx parks make up nearly a quarter of the borough’s land. Before she started the Bronx’s top parks job in 2015, Rodriguez-Rosa worked as chief of recreation in Queens and the Bronx for several decades, overseeing upgrades to recreation centers and the addition of new facilities.
A familiar face in Bronx politics, Marricka Scott-McFadden once helped oversee the borough’s elections. Her day job now is to appear at events and testify at hearings on behalf of the borough president, but she spent a decade running Carl Heastie’s office. A veteran of the political fight that elevated her current and former bosses to power in the Bronx, Scott-McFadden will likely play a role in the fights to come.
Wilma Alonso oversees the Bronx’s biggest business improvement district, with more than 300 businesses and an operating budget of over $1 million a year. The incoming $34 million Fordham Plaza project will be a boost to the region, even though a deal for the BID to manage the plaza’s shops fell through. Under Alonso’s leadership, the BID expanded to include 1 Fordham Plaza and helped organize the Bronx Night Market, a citywide hit.
After 30 years as the director of the Bronx Council of the Arts, Bill Aguado continued to be a major booster for the arts at the helm of En Foco, a nonprofit that supports minority photographers. Aguado is the Bronx representative on the Taxi and Limousine Commission, nominated by the Bronx Council delegation in 2015 for a term ending in 2022. At Hostos Community College, Aguado is an emeritus board member.
One of the world’s most important plant research and conservation institutions, the New York Botanical Garden attracts over 1 million visitors every year. Under the direction of Carrie Rebora Barratt, who came over in 2018 after a 34-year career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, art exhibits have become even more daring and intertwined with the horticulture. In June, the NYBG debuted its largest exhibit yet: a tribute to Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
Joseph Simone is responsible for millions of square feet of Bronx real estate, including the 42-acre Hutchinson Metro Center, which houses Bronx institutions like the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and a Montefiore Medical Center campus. Simone started the business in 1988 with money he and his father earned from their Morris Park auto parts shop. A frequent donor to both parties, Simone has given tens of thousands to Bronx elected officials’ war chests.
While its new building won’t open until early next year, the “museum without walls” has been a tremendous success under the leadership of Carla Precht, who has raised millions and secured support from high-profile investors. The museum hosted Kerry Washington and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor earlier this year. The View’s Sunny Hostin and Roc Nation Vice President of Brand Development Shawn “Pecas” Costner are on the board of directors.
Maria Torres, who co-founded The Point in 1993, has built up the organization’s after-school and cultural programs. Through the lens of environmental justice and youth development, The Point provides after-school and summer programming for 500 children every year. Torres worked to create a free WiFi network in Hunts Point. Much of her work is dedicated to preparing the peninsula community for extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy.
Outside of his work leading the influential Realtor trade association, Eliezer Rodriguez is a civil servant with a long track record. An Army veteran, Rodriguez moved to New York in 1986 and began working at the Department of Sanitation, where he would spearhead the city’s recycling program within community boards. Rodriguez is a longtime member of Community Board 11’s Public Safety Committee.