Kathy Hochul, who became New York’s first female governor last year, after her predecessor resigned following allegations of sexual harassment, won her first election as chief executive after a year of fiscal and legislative successes. Among her notable wins, Hochul pushed through a record-breaking $220 billion budget, including a contentious $600 million stadium for the Buffalo Bills and revisions to the state’s controversial bail reform laws, to the chagrin of more progressive fellow Democrats. She reportedly raised $45 million in donations – more than any other New York governor in the same span of time.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has been one of the most influential politicians in the state ever since her party took control of the state Senate in 2018. Stewart-Cousins, who went on to lead her conference to a veto-proof supermajority two years later, has ushered through a raft of progressive legislation. Yet, the suburban lawmaker has also accepted some compromises, such as revisions to the state’s bail reform legislation in this year’s budget in the wake of a backlash amid rising concerns about crime and public safety. In this year’s elections, however, her party lost several state Senate seats.
State Attorney General Letitia James, who just won another four years in office, has handled some of the nation’s most significant legal matters since taking office in 2019 – including a recent push to keep New York’s concealed carry law in effect while a legal challenge from a gun rights group makes its way through the courts. The former gubernatorial candidate led an investigation into sexual harrassment allegations against then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as spearheading a fraud lawsuit against former President Donald Trump.
Adrienne Adams, who earlier this year made history as the first Black lawmaker to become speaker of the New York City Council, told Gotham Gazette she found herself navigating “uncharted waters” as she began to tackle the city’s post-coronavirus economic recovery while contending with New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ budget-tightening – and striking a balance between the pro-police mayor and a more left-leaning council. In September, she announced the city is allocating $1 million – more than any other U.S. city – for the expansion of abortion services.
“The most prominent progressive voice in the House of Representatives,” according to The New Yorker, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – known to her more than 13 million Twitter followers simply as AOC – was recently described by GQ as “the most talented political communicator of her generation.” Since her landmark victory in 2018, Ocasio-Cortez has used her extensive platform to push for action on climate change, improve living standards in low-income communities and speak out against racism.
From pushing for federal legislation that improves access to health care and quality education to dealing with New York City’s growing migrant crisis – her recent plan to relocate asylum-seekers upstate has met with some resistance – U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been a staunch advocate for the middle and working class. A former presidential candidate, Gillibrand secured $35 million in funding to expand New York City’s health infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis and recently announced $60 million to help low-income New Yorkers heat their homes this winter amid rising energy costs.
Once viewed as a moderate Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik has evolved into a loyal defender of former President Donald Trump, becoming what Foreign Policy called “a bellwether for the Republican Party.” In 2021, the North Country lawmaker was joined by most other House Republicans in contesting the results of the presidential election. Her pivot to supporting the former president has paid off, as she succeeded Trump antagonist Rep. Liz Cheney as the No. 3 Republican in Congress. Now, the one-time rising star may amass more power, with the GOP on track to flip control of the chamber in the general election.
Since she was appointed commissioner of the state Education Department in 2021 after serving in an interim capacity, Betty Rosa has tried to get kids and struggling schools back on track after students’ learning environments were turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. A former teacher and principal with the New York City Department of Education and chancellor of the state Board of Regents, Rosa turned heads last month when she found a Brooklyn yeshiva was failing to meet state standards for secular education, in violation of state law.
Karen Persichilli Keogh has had a busy first year serving as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s top adviser. The veteran political consultant has earned a reputation for helping leaders such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg refocus their campaigns to connect with new voters. KPK, as she is known in political circles, previously led global philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase & Co., and earlier in her career served as statewide director for Hillary Clinton during her time in the U.S. Senate.
In December, then-New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams made a point of announcing five female deputy mayors who would help lead his administration – two of them Black, two Asian American and one white. His first deputy mayor, Lorraine Grillo, came in with a reputation as a can-do administrator in city government, previously running the New York City School Construction Authority and holding several critical roles in the de Blasio administration. Sheena Wright, the deputy mayor for strategic initiatives, is a longtime Adams ally whose partner, David Banks, is the city’s schools chancellor – and she’s rumored to be a contender for first deputy mayor if Grillo departs. Like Wright, who previously led United Way of New York City, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom comes from the nonprofit world, having led Harlem Children’s Zone. Two others have extensive experience in city government, with Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer having served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi having led the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission.
Appointed as New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ top adviser in January, Ingrid Lewis-Martin has worked closely with Adams for years, including as his chief of staff during his time in the state Senate and through his tenure as Brooklyn borough president – during which time she served as deputy borough president. As chief adviser, Lewis-Martin is empowered to make decisions in the mayor’s absence, and if you want to get to Eric Adams, chances are you’ll have to go through her.
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes – who led efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in New York – recently told Buffalo’s WGRZ that the rollout of licenses, which has been criticized for taking longer than expected, is progressing at an appropriate pace – considering that “New York is the No. 1 market in the world for marijuana” and that the state needs to ensure that local farms are growing enough product to meet demand. Peoples-Stokes has served in the Assembly since 2003 and as majority leader since 2018.
In a year that saw the state Department of Health continue its efforts to immunize New Yorkers against newer and more infectious variants of COVID-19, the threat of monkeypox and a recent resurgence of polio, Dr. Mary Bassett and her team mobilized quickly to shore up the resources necessary to deal with each crisis. Bassett, who took over as head of the department in January, previously served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Behind state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and her top deputy, state Sen. Michael Gianaris, women hold some of the most important roles in the Democratic conference. State Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan not only chairs the influential Finance Committee, but is also an old-school good-government advocate and is often in the midst of policy debates over such high-profile issues as legalizing marijuana and protecting abortion access. State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens has notched major legislative wins as chair of the Labor Committee, and state Sen. Shelley Mayer of Yonkers drives policy decisions on schools as chair of the Education Committee. State Sen. Julia Salazar was a trailblazer who in 2018 was the first of a growing cohort of democratic socialists elected to the state Legislature, where she has helped build support for progressive measures.
Elected in 2012 as the first Asian American Congress member from New York, Rep. Grace Meng has repeatedly called attention to incidents of anti-Asian harassment, which have been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meng, who represents Queens, is a fierce advocate for programs that provide resources to women, people of color and underserved communities. She has recently been working with local elected and environmental officials to mitigate the severe flooding that has struck parts of the borough.
A tireless champion for equal rights and economic justice and the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, is calling on the Biden administration to send additional aid to Puerto Rico after the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Fiona. This year, Velázquez joined Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso in backing about 20 reformist candidates for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, in an effort to push the party in a new direction.
Melinda Katz and Darcel Clark – who lead the Queens and Bronx district attorney’s offices, respectively – both created and oversee special units that focus on exonerating New Yorkers who were wrongfully convicted. Katz, a former Queens borough president, and Clark, who was a justice on the state Supreme Court, both made history as the first women to be elected district attorneys in their boroughs. Clark is also the first Black woman elected as a district attorney in the state. Just to the north of New York City, Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah is another progressive prosecutor who has made a splash since her 2020 election, including overseeing an ongoing investigation into a Trump Organization golf course.
Nearly half of New York City’s office workers are back at their desks, and Kathryn Wylde’s Partnership for New York City – which represents some of the city’s biggest businesses – predicts the figure will climb to 54% by January. To avoid pushback from employees, Wylde, a leading expert on the intersection of economics and public policy, cautions business leaders to have a well-thought-out plan for “purposeful work” before asking employees to return to the office.
Dubbed a “political celebrity” by New York magazine and a “bureaucratic all-star” by Crain’s New York Business, Kathryn Garcia lost the Democratic primary for New York City mayor last year but gained plenty of recognition. Under then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, she was asked to wear many hats, including leading the city Sanitation Department and NYCHA, as well as its pandemic food-relief response. Now appointed director of state operations by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the seasoned public servant draws on her years of experience to manage high-profile projects – including the anticipated redesign and expansion of Penn Station.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis’ Staten Island district remained largely intact in the final redistricting maps, while Rep. Claudia Tenney opted to jump into the new 24th Congressional District – which stretches west all the way to Niagara County – when her current district in central New York was significantly redrawn. Both Republican incumbents, who had joined other House Republicans in disputing the results of the 2020 presidential election, came out ahead in tight races – Malliotakis against former Rep. Max Rose and Tenney against Steven Holden, an Army veteran.
Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who made history in 2020 as the first woman to chair the Brooklyn Democratic Party, recently won reelection as the borough’s party leader despite opposition from reformers. Bichotte Hermelyn, who was elected to the Assembly in 2015, has sought to combat racial disparities in maternal health care in city hospitals – leading to a package of bills recently signed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, an ally. Queens Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, a Colombian American attorney and immigrant rights activist, pushed this year for the Clean Slate Act, a pending measure that would seal criminal records for misdemeanors and felonies after several years. Assembly Member Deborah Glick of Manhattan, who made history as the first LGBTQ member of the state Legislature, chairs the Higher Education Committee and sponsored legislation codifying Roe v. Wade into state law. Assembly Member Latoya Joyner chairs the influential Labor Committee and has teamed up with Assembly Member Karines Reyes, a fellow Bronxite, on worker protections in recent years. Hudson Valley Assembly Member Amy Paulin, meanwhile, is one of the most prolific lawmakers in Albany, and Assembly Member Helene Weinstein chairs the influential Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the annual budget proceedings.
New York City Council Members Diana Ayala and Gale Brewer were among those vying for the role of council speaker last year, but both dropped out and threw their support behind the eventual winner, Adrienne Adams. It was a smart move – both were rewarded with influential posts in the council’s leadership. Ayala was named deputy speaker, and chairs the General Welfare Committee. And – despite New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ wishes – Brewer was named chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, which has the power to investigate the mayor’s administration. Another Adams ally, fellow Queens lawmaker Selvena Brooks-Powers, was also named to the leadership team as majority whip.
First elected to Congress in 2006, Rep. Yvette Clarke was reelected again this year, and unlike the last two cycles, she faced no significant challengers. The chair of the House Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation Subcommittee recently announced a $1 billion federal government initiative to prevent cyberattacks at the state and local level, and introduced a bill that would make supposedly affordable housing more affordable for low-income New Yorkers.
Since she was sworn in as Bronx borough president earlier this year, Vanessa Gibson has been focusing on her top priorities for New York City’s poorest borough: improving access to health care, economic development and housing. In August, she approved a controversial rezoning project which would bring 349 new apartments to Bruckner Boulevard – but on the condition that one of the buildings would be reduced in size and that a portion of construction jobs would go to union workers from the Bronx.
Suri Kasirer started running her eponymous firm out of her apartment 25 years ago and has since worked with the biggest names in New York City and state politics, building what has become New York’s leading lobbying firm. Kasirer advises clients in industries ranging from real estate to education to health care, and serves on the boards of the New York League of Conservation Voters and the Women’s Leadership Forum, among other organizations.
Emily Giske and Juanita Scarlett handle public affairs consulting and government relations for one of New York’s top firms. Giske, whom The New York Times dubbed “one of the best-connected” lobbyists in New York, helped get same-sex marriage legalized in the state in 2011, in addition to advocating for many progressive causes. Scarlett, who previously held influential roles in the administrations of then-Govs. Andrew Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer and Mario Cuomo, also held public affairs positions at MTV Networks and the American Stock Exchange. Other key female executives at the firm include partners Teresa Gonzalez, Samara Daly, Violet Moss, Anne Marie Anzalone and Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez.
One of the key players in New York’s political ecosystem, top political strategist Valerie Berlin – who founded BerlinRosen in 2005 along with Jonathan Rosen and focuses on issues including women’s health, immigration and criminal justice – helped elect a number of Democratic candidates in recent years, like New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. Earlier this year, BerlinRosen acquired Onward, a diversity, equity and inclusion firm, with the aim of combining resources to create a new set of practice areas.
A policy pro who previously worked as a journalist at NY1 and WCBS-TV and director of communications for the New York City Department of Education, Kerri Lyon oversees a varied portfolio at leading public affairs firm SKDK, helping clients in fields ranging from education to business to energy navigate crises and strengthen their brands. Marissa Shorenstein – who was recently nominated as the next chair of the Citizens Budget Commission – joined the firm earlier this year, after serving as director of the executive transition for Gov. Kathy Hochul and in senior communications roles at WeWork and AT&T.
A former lobbyist who advised on high-profile economic development issues – as well as a onetime Rensselaer County public defender – Heather Briccetti Mulligan joined The Business Council in 2007 and has been one of New York’s leading advocates for economic growth. She recently opposed tax increases and a proposal to expand the state’s antitrust law and is among the early supporters of a proposed canal in downtown Albany.
Renowned civil rights and justice leader Twyla Carter joined The Legal Aid Society earlier this year as its chief attorney, vowing to continue the 145-year-old organization’s litigation work providing legal representation for low-income New Yorkers. She is the first Black woman and first Asian American to lead the organization. Carter previously served as national director of legal and policy at The Bail Project, as well as senior attorney with the Criminal Law Reform Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she litigated cases involving bail inequities.
Known as an architect of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ successful campaign, Katie Moore won accolades for the victory in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the city’s first major foray into ranked choice voting. Moore made a name for herself as political director of the Hotel Trades Council, an influential labor union that has backed successful campaigns including Corey Johnson’s bid for City Council speaker in 2017 and Ritchie Torres’ congressional bid in 2020.
Cristyne Nicholas is one-half of the prominent public relations firm Nicholas & Lence Communications, which she founded along with George Lence in 2007. Along with an array of clients in a wide range of industries, Nicholas has been a tireless advocate for New York City tourism – helping businesses recover after the 9/11 attacks as well as after the COVID-19 pandemic. Nicholas has recently been working with legislators and business and community leaders to help bring travel back to the area, as well as hosting a radio show highlighting New York’s post-pandemic recovery.
After leading protests and hunger strikes in the last several years, calling attention to the extreme financial burden faced by taxi drivers struggling with medallion loans after ride-sharing gutted their industry, Bhairavi Desai said a recently announced debt relief program for 3,000 drivers will “give the drivers a fighting chance of survival.” And there is a little more relief on the way for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s approximately 21,000 members: Cab fares are about to increase to reflect rising inflation.
When it comes to challenging established Democratic incumbents, the Working Families Party suffered setbacks in the primaries this year – underscoring the challenges faced by progressive candidates in New York. Sochie Nnaemeka and the WFP briefly considered mounting a rematch between Democratic congressional nominee Dan Goldman and WFP-backed Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, who lost to him in the primary for New York’s 10th Congressional District, but opted to focus on “defending our democracy against an increasingly extremist GOP” in November, Nnaemeka said.
A former City Hall reporter for The Wall Street Journal who also worked at the Daily News and The Atlantic, Mara Gay is one of the signature voices at New York’s paper of record. Gay knows New York backwards and forwards – as evidenced in her frequent New York Times opinion columns dissecting everything from criminal justice to health care, from her own struggles with long-term COVID-19 symptoms to the lack of adequate water safety training for city residents.
A public relations pro who built a career in communications focusing on racial injustice – the Rev. Al Sharpton has been her client for more than two decades – Rachel Noerdlinger handles strategic communications and crisis management at global public strategy firm Actum. Earlier in her career, Noerdlinger served as chief of staff to then-first lady Chirlane McCray. She joined Actum, a global consultancy firm, in a leadership role this year after seven years at the public strategy firm Mercury.
Before founding Risa Heller Communications, Risa Heller honed her strategic communications skills in a series of key roles in the offices of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and then-Gov. David Paterson. The firm handles crisis management and public affairs for high-profile companies and individuals – including, at one point, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, before dropping Kushner Cos. as a client after the 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville. Heller began her career as a communications director in the office of then-Rep. Jane Harman of California.
Ana Oliveira has spent over a decade and a half practicing “radical generosity” at The New York Women’s Foundation, among the largest women-led grant-making organizations in the world. The Brazilian American philanthropic leader has overseen the foundation’s efforts fighting for economic justice, reproductive rights and expanding democracy. The foundation has awarded more than $100 million in grants over the years, with funding going to such organizations as the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition, New York Transgender Advocacy Group and Churches United for Fair Housing.
A political strategist who has worked on scores of campaigns since launching Connective Strategies in 2008, Tyquana Henderson-Rivers is once again in the spotlight this year as senior adviser to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reelection campaign – recently assuring concerned Hochul allies that the quiet primary campaign was just saving its energy for an unusually fierce general election. Henderson-Rivers, a seasoned political organizer, lobbyist and campaign manager, previously advised political leaders including Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Rep. Gregory Meeks.
Amelia Adams, a veteran political consultant who advised Gov. Kathy Hochul on her reelection bid, partnered with leading lobbyist Yvette Buckner – state Attorney General Letitia James’ reelection campaign manager who, like Adams, played a key role in electing a record number of women to the New York City Council last year – to create a new political consulting firm. Adams Buckner Advisors handles issues ranging from housing and health care to immigration from a community relations perspective, an angle both Adams and Bucker know well, having started their careers as community organizers.
Camille Joseph-Goldman, who has a background in politics and public policy – including as the youngest deputy comptroller for public affairs in New York City – handles public affairs throughout the East Coast for Charter Communications. Charter recently partnered with the city to bring free broadband internet to 300,000 New York City Housing Authority residents in more than 200 developments – making it the largest nationwide program of its kind.
Jennifer Jones Austin is among the more politically active members of New York’s nonprofit community. Earlier in her career, she held key roles in New York City and state government, and she was an ally of then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, co-chairing his transition team and serving as chair of the New York City Board of Correction at the end of his administration. While still running FWPA, Jones Austin is now chair of the city’s Racial Justice Commission, which was behind three successful ballot initiatives that seek to address systemic racism.
Christina Dickinson began her career in politics more than 25 years ago, as a legislative aide in the state Senate, before pursuing a career in law, working as deputy counsel in the state Senate and eventually co-founding Dickinson & Avella in 2009. Now the seasoned lobbyist – whose firm has ties to Gov. Kathy Hochul and represents clients such as the Hotel Trades Council, Verizon and Charter Communications – advises clients in industries including cannabis, health care and criminal justice.
Lupé Todd-Medina is one of New York’s most sought-after political strategists as well as a go-to expert for local political journalists. Having previously served as director of communications for the late Kings County District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, Todd-Medina founded Effective Media Strategies in 2013 and has since represented clients including former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. She is currently serving as senior adviser on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reelection campaign.
Editor’s note: Lupé Todd-Medina is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Grace Bonilla took the reins at United Way of New York City in July, bringing with her more than a decade of leadership experience in government agencies, including the New York City Human Resources Administration – where she helped foreign language low-income New Yorkers connect with benefits and food – and the nonprofit Covenant House. In 2020, she led the New York City Task Force on Racial Inclusion & Equity created by city officials in response to the COVID-19 crisis and that year’s nationwide protests against systemic racism.
Since establishing Geto & de Milly in 1980, along with partner Ethan Geto, Michelle de Milly has delivered on behalf of high-profile clients in health care, education and government – using her expertise in government and public affairs to help her clients navigate some of New York’s most significant real estate development projects. Prior to launching the lobbying firm, de Milly served in advisory and public affairs roles at what is now Empire State Development.
A well-connected New York lobbyist with 15 years of experience, Jan Feuerstadt leads the state and city government relations practice at Mercury – a top lobbying firm where she works with clients in industries ranging from health care to finance to transportation to alcohol and beverages. Feuerstadt previously managed the consulting firm CGK Partners and ran fellow Mercury partner Charlie King’s 2006 bid for state attorney general and held leadership roles at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She also does pro bono advocacy for women’s rights and health care.
A seasoned political journalist who has hosted Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight” program since 2019, Susan Arbetter co-moderated the only gubernatorial general election debate between Gov. Kathy Hochul and Rep. Lee Zeldin this year. Arbetter, who has been working as a journalist for more than three decades, has brought a sharp lens to some of the biggest stories in New York, and her show is indispensable viewing for anyone involved in state politics.
The transgender activists who helped repeal the “walking while trans” ban in New York City, a loitering law that led to the the harassment of many trans women of color, have turned their attention to other advocacy work. TS Candii weighs in regularly on policy issues affecting transgender people – like the criminalization of sex work – in local and national publications; Cecilia Gentili published a memoir about the trauma she experienced in her youth; and Kiara St. James has been appointed to the New York City Commission on Gender Equity.
When Gov. Kathy Hochul replaced a governor engulfed in several scandals – including facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct – she made a point of filling out her staff with highly capable women. One of those appointees was Julie Wood, who largely stays behind the scenes as she helps the state’s chief executive craft her message. Wood has a wide range of communications experience, including in the Bloomberg administration, on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and most recently at Lyft.
With the Hochul administration’s push to increase New York residents’ access to solar energy by 2030 by powering 700,000 additional homes per year, Anne Reynolds and the member companies and nonprofits her organization represents are poised to play a key role in helping implement renewable energy projects statewide. Reynolds, who successfully advocated for the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that aims to grow the state’s renewable energy sources to 70% by 2030, previously served as deputy commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
From calling on New York City officials to make more electric bikes available citywide to pushing for a federal bill that advocates say could double the number of green energy jobs in the state, Julie Tighe leads efforts to fight climate change at the New York League of Conservation Voters. Before stepping into her current role in 2018, Tighe spent 11 years working at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, most recently as chief of staff.
Appearing on Errol Louis’ “Inside City Hall” in March, LaRay Brown – who leads a network of medical facilities including Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center – called for Medicaid reform and additional state funding to help the hospital system keep serving its mostly low-income patient population. Earlier this year, Brown committed the hospital system to procuring 10% of its nonclinical goods and services from local minority- and women-owned businesses by the end of the decade, in order to build more wealth in the communities it serves.
Leading New York nonprofit organizations and legislative campaigns rely on Catherine Torres’ vast expertise in public affairs, policy and government. The seasoned lobbyist, who joined MiRam Group in 2004, previously served as chief of staff for MirRam co-founder and then-Assembly Member Roberto Ramirez – a role in which she ran the Somos el Futuro Conference. Torres also served as deputy chief of staff to then-New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and as executive director of the Bronx Democratic County Committee, where she managed political campaigns for local, state and congressional candidates.
A seasoned lobbyist with high-profile clients such as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, FedEx and Walmart, Diana Ostroff’s firm has recently been focusing on New York’s millions of dollars in unspent federal pandemic relief – and how and where the state will allocate that money. She joined Ostroff Associates more than a decade ago, after holding leadership roles at the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Life Insurance Council of New York.
Lisa Marrello has more than two decades of experience as a lobbyist handling legislative and regulatory matters in industries including health care, racing and gaming, real estate, education and economic development. Marrello began her lobbying career at Wilson Elser – where she worked for more than 17 years – but she attributes her extensive connections in New York government to her time working for the Assembly and in the New York City mayor’s office.
A former commissioner for the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development, Jeanne Mullgrav draws from her experience in social services to provide planning, fundraising and strategy for Capalino’s nonprofit clients – including securing $12 million in funding to provide educational resources for children in foster care and those aging out of the system. Mullgrav was previously director of intergovernmental relations for the state attorney general’s office and serves on several nonprofit boards.
A former chief of staff for state Sen. Kevin Parker, Glynda Carr founded Higher Heights in 2011, with the goal of mobilizing voters to elect Black progressive women to public office around the country. L. Joy Williams, a political strategist and president of the Brooklyn NAACP, and Kimberly Peeler-Allen, who served as senior adviser to Letitia James’ gubernatorial campaign, serve as chair and co-chair of the Brooklyn-based PAC – the only organization of its kind. Peeler-Allen and Williams both backed Ray McGuire’s New York City mayoral bid last year.
Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now leads the city’s largest provider of shelter, housing and social services for homeless people in New York. Amid a growing influx of asylum-seekers from red states, she recently called on New York City Mayor Eric Adams to abolish a rule requiring people to spend 90 days in a homeless shelter before qualifying for more permanent housing. Quinn also pushed for a bill requiring the city to fund on-site mental health clinicians at homeless shelters serving families with children.
A former Queens deputy borough president, Melva Miller leads Association for a Better New York, a nonprofit that focuses on bringing together elected officials, advocates and business, nonprofit and labor leaders to develop bold solutions for New York’s most pressing problems. Last year, Miller co-authored an op-ed in City Limits urging elected officials to prioritize funding for the Gateway tunnel between New York and New Jersey, and bring long-overdue infrastructure upgrades to the New York region.
Two policy experts with combined experience in law, politics, cultural projects, business and government affairs, Katie Schwab and Rose Christ took the reins as co-chairs of Cozen O’Connor’s New York public strategies practice group earlier this year, succeeding longtime chair Stuart Shorenstein. Schwab is a seasoned attorney with experience in a variety of government roles; Christ brings to the role experience handling funding and budgeting matters for cultural institutions and social services.
With Hunter College at the center of New York City’s redistricting debate – which would put portions of the campus and other Manhattan neighborhoods like Sutton Place in a Queens district – Jennifer Raab testified before the New York City Council in September, urging council members to reconsider the plan. They listened, and the plan has since been reversed. Since 2001, Raab has raised more than $400 million for the school and continues to advance campus development projects such as a new East Harlem facility for the Silberman School of Social Work.
Beth Finkel oversees the AARP’s advocacy and lobbying efforts on behalf of New York’s aging population and helped pass groundbreaking legislation including paid family leave, which provides support for family caregivers. This year, she turned her focus to age discrimination, pushing for legislation – which recently passed in the state Senate – that prohibits employers from asking job applicants to disclose information revealing their age. Finkel is currently urging the state to keep heating bills down, which she fears will hit older New Yorkers especially hard this winter.
As the state’s top-ranked lobbying firm by revenue, Brown & Weinraub relies on a highly experienced team to guide clients through the intricacies of state government – which is why the company brought on Mary Beth Labate in 2021. The former state budget director has also led The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York, advised the SUNY chancellor on fiscal matters and held various budgetary roles at state agencies, granting her an in-depth understanding of public funding streams in New York.
A co-owner of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, along with her husband Terry Pegula, Kim Pegula sits on several advisory committees in the NFL and NHL, and has pushed for more diversity and inclusion in both leagues. Earlier this year, the Pegulas – who also own the Buffalo Bandits, Rochester Knighthawks and Rochester Americans – announced plans to build a $1.4 billion stadium for the Bills in Orchard Park outside Buffalo. What’s more, the Bills are widely considered to have credible Super Bowl aspirations this season.
A real estate leader with nearly four decades of experience in the industry, and former chair of the Real Estate Board of New York, Mary Ann Tighe was named to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ COVID-19 Recovery Roundtable and Health Equity Task Force earlier this year. Tighe, who stepped into her current role in 2002, is responsible for bringing more than 14.4 million square feet of new construction to the New York City area over the course of her career.
Contracts for about 30,000 New York State Nurses Association nurses are set to expire next month, and members of the union are preparing to mount a forceful bargaining campaign – for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Nancy Hagans, who became union president last year, will lead the fight for increased staffing levels and better wages along with Pat Kane, who was appointed executive director in 2019 and who last year helped pass a law requiring hospitals to establish committees that regulate staffing.
All eyes are on state Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright as questions abound about the slow rollout of New York’s recreational marijuana licenses – the first of which are expected to go to applicants who received a cannabis conviction or are related to someone who has. Wright, a former Assembly member who previously led the Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment within the state Department of Financial Services, told the Ithaca Times that the state expects to have its first cannabis sales by the end of this year.
Wendy Stark has taken the helm at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York as the organization mobilizes its resources in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade – a decision that is expected to bring to New York scores of abortion seekers from states where the procedure is now banned. Stark, a longtime advocate for reproductive rights, previously led Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, a health care organization serving LGBTQ New Yorkers.
Eva Moskowitz runs the largest system of charter schools in New York City – described by The Atlantic as “the nation’s most impressive school system.” Despite her efforts, the state budget this year didn’t increase the number of charter schools allowed in the city, and she slammed the state Legislature for expanding the cap on casinos, but not on schools – especially with so many kids falling behind due to the pandemic. Moskowitz, a former New York City Council member and chair of its education committee, founded Success Academy Charter Schools in 2006.
Former Assembly Member Joni Yoswein’s eponymous lobbying firm celebrated several legislative wins for its clients in the hospitality, health care, education and business industries last year – including helping secure funding for post-pandemic recovery, supporting health care institutions, creating educational programming and extending the outdoor dining and to-go cocktail laws in New York City. Before founding the firm in 1994, Yoswein also served as assistant commissioner for the city Department for the Aging.
Jessica Lappin, who runs the country’s largest business improvement district – where local businesses band together to improve the quality of life and promotion of the area – recently told Gotham Gazette that lower Manhattan is showing signs of economic recovery after COVID-19. A former New York City Council member who has served as head of the Alliance for Downtown New York since 2014, Lappin is one of lower Manhattan’s most enthusiastic advocates and said that art and cultural events were key to the area’s post-pandemic recovery.
A seasoned political consultant who knows Long Island through and through, Resi Cooper serves on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council – and was recently selected to a committee that will review applications for $250 million in construction grants being offered as part of the Long Island Investment Fund. Earlier in her career, Cooper was Hillary Clinton’s point person on Long Island during her time in the U.S. Senate and during her 2016 presidential campaign.
A leading mergers and acquisitions expert who has been with Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP for more than 30 years – and became partner in 1998 – Faiza Saeed has handled numerous high-profile media and technology deals, including advising Time Warner in its $109 billion acquisition by AT&T and Disney in its $85 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox. She was elected as presiding partner at Cravath in 2016, becoming the first woman leader in the firm’s 200-year history.
Leading up to the 2021 elections, a number of influential women in New York politics teamed up to elect 21 women to the 51-member New York City Council – and they were so successful that they ended up with 31 female members, making up a comfortable majority. The City Council Women’s Caucus, led by Council Members Amanda Farías and Farah Louis, is now a force, as it counts a majority of the legislative body as its members – although the three Republican female lawmakers opted not to join it.
This past summer, Phoebe Boyer co-wrote an op-ed in The Hill, urging lawmakers to support a bill that would make nonprofits part of the policymaking process as opposed to an afterthought – with many still reeling from the ripple effects of COVID-19. A veteran of the nonprofit sector who previously led the Robertson Foundation and the Tiger Foundation, Boyer was appointed as head of the 169-year-old nonprofit in 2014 and has since focused on bolstering the organization’s services for children and families.
Sonia Ossorio, one of New York City’s foremost advocates for issues affecting women, recently castigated Democrats for doing nothing to help working pregnant people and mothers in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade. Ossorio, who has led the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women since 2008, was instrumental in helping many women win seats on the New York City Council in last year’s election.
In 2019, Taryn Duffy became the first woman appointed to lead the New York Gaming Association – a trade organization encompassing racing and gaming venues across the state – bringing with her experience in both government and the casino industry. Previously an assistant to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and chief of staff to former state Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, Duffy currently serves as vice president of public affairs at MGM Resorts’ Northeast Group, which oversees Empire City Casino in Yonkers, where she is assisting the casino’s efforts to obtain a full-fledged gambling license.
Since taking the helm of the New York City School Construction Authority in 2021, Nina Kubota has managed a number of construction and renovation projects, including the opening of the Academy of American Studies, a 969-seat high school in Long Island City, and the ongoing construction of a 3,066-seat high school in Woodside, Queens. Kubota joined the authority in 1998 as an administrative coordinator and quickly moved up to management and leadership roles.
Lisa Linden has decades of experience as a media strategist focusing on crisis communications – and has worked on high-profile political campaigns and advised major companies and nonprofit organizations. Behind the scenes, she’s known in the political world as someone to turn to to keep your reputation intact. Among her key accomplishments, she worked with business clients after the 9/11 attacks to help New York City’s hospitality and tourism industries recover.
Appointed earlier this year to serve as an independent monitor overseeing reforms at the New York City Police Department, Mylan Denerstein filed a report in May concluding that though the law enforcement agency has made “significant strides” in improving its controversial stop-and-frisk practices, it is still underreporting stops – so there’s no way to know for sure how much progress the NYPD is really making. Denerstein, a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where she handles complex litigation.
Rossana Rosado has long been a leader in New York’s Latino community, from her tenure as editor and publisher of the venerable Spanish-language newspaper El Diario to her appointment as New York’s secretary of state. A year ago, she took on a new role running the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which provides law enforcement training, analyzes crime data, distributes grants and oversees probation departments and programs offering alternatives to incarceration.
A shareholder at Greenberg Traurig since 2004, Tricia Asaro handles high-profile matters at the intersection of health care, regulatory compliance and corporate governance – including advising Centene Corp. on its $17.3 billion merger with WellCare Health Plans. Now chair of the firm’s Health Care & FDA Practice in Albany, Asaro began her government career working on health care policy in the office of then-U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
Shontell Smith joined Tusk Strategies this year after 13 years in a number of roles in the state Senate, most recently as chief of staff and chief counsel to state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and as director of counsel and finance. Smith, whose time at the state Senate included successfully negotiating landmark legislation on voting reforms, health care and affordable housing, is now spearheading public policy campaigns at Tusk.
Earlier this year, Leecia Eve joined Ichor Strategies – a consulting agency that focuses on fostering communication between corporations and the communities around them – where she will certainly draw from her wide-ranging experience in public policy. Eve previously worked for Verizon, overseeing the wireless carrier’s rollout of 5G technology in New York, and served as adviser to then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She ran for state attorney general in 2018, losing in the primary to Letitia James.
Kimberly Nason wields enormous influence over some of the biggest projects in Western New York. Between overseeing law firm Phillips Lytle’s environmental reviews for a new Buffalo Bills stadium, a new $300 million Amazon warehouse in Niagara and a $100 million development project on Grand Island, she has had a busy year. Nason, who handles land use, zoning and environmental law matters at the firm and has been with Phillips Lytle since 2012, is a go-to expert in matters involving the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
With MTA expected to expand Wi-Fi coverage throughout the New York City subway system in a partnership with Transit Wireless, Melinda White will oversee a massive 10-year project to install the infrastructure, which is expected to cost about $600 million. White, who has been with Transit Wireless since 2018, has spent more than two decades working in the telecommunications industry and is a champion of public-private partnerships that bring wireless connectivity to communities nationwide.
Jennifer Richardson is a key executive at Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, the lobbying shop of Patrick Jenkins, who’s one of Albany’s most well-connected operators. Richardson joined the firm four years ago, after stints at Ostroff Associates and in various city and state government offices. Richardson, who’s held key roles overseeing public schools, is also an expert on minority-and women-owned businesses, criminal justice reform and the financial sector.
Debbie Almontaser is one of New York’s most prominent Muslim leaders, known for advising top elected officials and promoting cross-cultural understanding. An educator who served as the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, Almontaser is also a senior adviser at Emgage, which educates and organizes Muslim American voters; board president of Muslim Community Network, a civic organization aimed at shaping the public’s view of Muslim Americans; and board secretary of the Yemeni American Merchants Association.
Nicole Weingartner, who last year stepped into the role of regulatory analyst with Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron’s cannabis practice group – is poised to play a key role helping the firm’s clients navigate New York’s growing cannabis industry – which is expected to bring in $4.2 billion in revenue by 2027, according to The New York Times. Weingartner, who has been with the lobbying firm since 2014, previously coordinated intergovernmental relations for the Assembly.
Saima Anjam joined The Parkside Group in 2019 with more than a decade of experience advocating for nonprofits such as the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Since then, she has successfully pushed for legislation to protect the environment and improve living standards for New York’s vulnerable residents on behalf of her clients – which include labor, civil rights and environmental organizations.
No one needs more support than the health care workers who carried New York through the pandemic – and Donna Rey, Sandi Vito and Rossmery Dais provide it, in their respective roles managing benefit and pension funds, training and employment funds, and child care funds on behalf of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East’s nearly 450,000 members. Rey previously held leadership roles at the New York City Department of Education and city Department of Finance; Vito oversaw employment funds at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry; and Dais was program director at the Manhattan-Staten Island Area Health Education Center.
Eileen Cifone oversees lobbying and community relations in the New York City metro area and across Long Island for the major utility National Grid, which provides gas and electricity to millions of New Yorkers. Cifone, who monitors key legislation and hearings and interacts regularly with elected and appointed officials at every level of government, previously worked as a manager of government relations in the New York City Council.
Tara Martin is known for her background in the world of organized labor – she worked for such union heavyweights as the New York State Nurses Association and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union – but her professional experience is far broader than that. She’s worked for influential politicians (Rep. Yvette Clarke, then-Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz), presidential candidates (Barack Obama, John Kerry, Howard Dean), in the corporate sphere (Madison Square Garden Entertainment) and as a consultant – including as the principal of her own firm, TLM Strategic Advisors, which specializes in “social impact strategic development.”
Editor’s note: Tara Martin is a member of City & State’s advisory board.
Tricia Brown, who is also PAC chair for the Greater Capital Region Building & Construction Trades Council, has been a voice for union carpenters in the Northeast for the last two decades, successfully pushing for legislation such as the expansion of prevailing wage and other laws that provide benefits and protections for union members. The 28,000-member union is a staunch supporter of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Somia El-Rowmeim spent nearly a decade running educational programs at the Arab American Association of New York before she launched her own organization, Women’s Empowerment Coalition of NYC, in 2019. A longtime advocate for Brooklyn’s Arab American community, El-Rowmeim’s current work involves building diverse partnerships among women from many backgrounds. She also founded the Union of Arab Women, which promotes civic engagement and economic empowerment.
Sherry Glied is a national expert when it comes to health care policy, but the New York University academic now has a much broader portfolio. As the dean of NYU Wagner, she guides graduate students pursuing careers in public service in a wide range of specialties, some of whom go on to work in city and state politics and government. Glied, who also sits on the board of the New York State Economic Development Corp., will host former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as a visiting fellow at her school next semester. Her colleague Angie Kamath came on as dean of the NYU School of Professional Studies last year. Kamath, who previously held leadership positions at the City University of New York, Per Scholas and the New York City Department of Small Business Services, was appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams this summer to the “New” New York blue-ribbon panel to revitalize the local economy.
With tourism in New York approaching pre-pandemic levels, Kelly Fay – who joined Airbnb in 2015 as a community organizer and now serves as liaison between Airbnb users, elected officials and the community – is certain to have a busy year ahead. During the coronavirus pandemic, Airbnb hosts on Long Island earned $95 million during the first three-quarters of 2021 – an 83% increase over 2019. Hosts in Syracuse saw a 126% bump in that same period. It remains to be seen whether the phenomenon will continue with the return of international travel.
When Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani took a step back from handling the day-to-day operations of her nonprofit last year, she promoted Tarika Barrett to take over as CEO. Barrett, who previously served as chief operating officer, guided the organization through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and kept its focus on closing the gender gap in computing – with a special focus on reaching low-income girls. The New York-based nonprofit’s programs have served more than half a million individuals since its launch a decade ago.
Eleanor’s Legacy was launched two decades ago with the goal of electing more Democratic women in New York who support abortion rights – and found itself taking a couple big steps back this year. First, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Then, several of the Democratic candidates for the state Legislature that Eleanor’s Legacy backed fell short in the November general election. It’ll be up to Sophie Nir, who took the reins of the organization last year, to find a way to bounce back.