Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York. Photo: knowinsiders.
Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York. Photo: knowinsiders.

There’s something to be learned from each and every one of these powerful agents of change – most notable of which are their efforts to make the world a better place and take a stand against injustice, inequality, and adversity. These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.

This list of honorees is a reminder of the beauty and brilliance of Blackness, at a time when the political and cultural landscape has grown even more hostile to the idea of Black achievement. Here are top 30 most influential black politicians that we summed up:

List of 30 most influential politicians in New York

1. Eric Adams, New York City Mayor

2. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, State Senate Majority Leader

3. Carl Heastie, Assembly Speaker

4. Letitia James, State Attorney General

5. Hakeem Jeffries, Chair, House Democratic Caucus

6. Adrienne Adams, New York City Council Speaker

7. Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assembly Majority Leader

8. Gregory Meeks, Member of Congress

9. Jamaal Bailey, Chair, Bronx Democratic Party

10. Al Sharpton, Founder and President, National Action Network

11. George Gresham, President, 1199SEIU

12. Jumaane Williams, New York City Public Advocate

13. Keechant Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department

14. Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern, District of New York

15. Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Chief Adviser, New York City Mayor’s Office

16. David Banks, New York City Schools Chancellor

17. Sheena Wright, New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives

18. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Chair, Brooklyn Democratic Party

19. Darcel Clark, Bronx District Attorney

20. Ritchie Torres, Member of Congress

21. Yvette Clarke, Member of Congress

22. Kyle Bragg, President, 32BJ SEIU

23. Jabari Brisport, Chair, State Senate Committee on Children and Families

24. Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney

25. Errol Louis, Host, “Inside City Hall," NY1

26. Latoya Joyner, Chair, Assembly Labor Committee

27. Vanessa Gibson, Bronx Borough President

28. Jamaal Bowman, Member of Congress

29. Bill Thompson, Chair, City University of New York

30. Mary Bassett, Commissioner, State Department of Health

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Who are the most influential black people in New York?

1. Eric Adams, New York City Mayor

Mayor Eric Adams has served the people of New York City as an NYPD officer, State Senator, Brooklyn Borough President, and now as the 110th Mayor of the City of New York. He gave voice to a diverse coalition of working families in all five boroughs and is leading the fight to bring back New York City’s economy, reduce inequality, improve public safety, and build a stronger, healthier city that delivers for all New Yorkers.

Like so many New Yorkers, Mayor Eric Adams grew up with adversity—and overcame it.

As one of six children, born in Brownsville and raised in South Jamaica by a single mom who cleaned houses, Eric and his family did not always know if they would come home to an eviction notice on the front door or food on the table. And when he was beaten by police in the basement of a precinct house at 15, Eric faced a life-changing act of injustice.

But instead of giving into anger, as nyc.gov reported, Eric turned his pain into purpose and decided to change the police department from within. He joined the NYPD and became one of its most outspoken officers, calling out racism and bias in the department and pushing for major reforms.

2. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, State Senate Majority Leader

Andrea Stewart-Cousins was born and raised in New York to parents who encouraged a life grounded in education and service. These values, along with her strong belief in advocating for the underserved and championing the needs of working families, have distinguished her as a public servant and progressive leader.

First elected to the State Senate in 2006, Senator Stewart-Cousins currently represents Greenburgh, Scarsdale, and parts of White Plains, New Rochelle, and Yonkers. She previously served as a Westchester County Legislator, and during her tenure was elected Majority Whip and Vice-Chair. As a County Legislator, she authored and passed landmark legislation, including the first human rights laws in Westchester County. Before elected office, Andrea Stewart-Cousins was the first African American to serve as Director of Community Affairs for the City of Yonkers.

According to nysenate.gov, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has been honored with hundreds of recognitions and awards due to her extensive legislative work and community service. She was named a “Trailblazer of Democracy” by Eleanor’s Legacy; “Delores Huerta Award” by the New York Communities for Change; “Woman of the Year” by the Business and Professional Women’s Club; “Legislator of the Year” by the Community Health Association of New York State; “Leader in Social Justice” by Pace Law School; and “Champion of Choice” by New York State Family Planning Advocates. Andrea Stewart-Cousins has also been inducted into Westchester County’s Women’s Hall of Fame and the American Women of African Heritage’s Spirit of Women Archive.

3. Carl Heastie, Assembly Speaker

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Photo: cityandstateny.com.

Carl E. Heastie is the 100th Speaker of the New York State Assembly. He has the historic distinction of being the first African-American to serve as leader of the Chamber’s 150 members representing communities across the state of New York. Since February 3, 2015, he has led the Assembly Majority in efforts to uplift communities and promote a Families First agenda that prioritizes strategic investments in the health, safety, economic and social well-being of New York’s families. Under his leadership, the Assembly has won a number of landmark victories that deliver on the Assembly Majority’s promise to expand opportunities for achievement in communities around the state.

Prior to becoming Speaker, Heastie – a lifelong advocate for workers’ rights – served as chair of the Assembly Labor Committee. He was the principal negotiator in securing an increase in the minimum wage and in 2015, with the support of his Majority colleagues began the fight for $15 in the New York State Legislature. These efforts culminated in 2016 with the successful enactment of a graduated plan to raise the minimum wage across the state to provide workers at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder a fair chance to achieve financial independence and success. Before becoming Speaker he was also the prime sponsor of the Wage Theft Prevention Act that provided a framework for the State Department of Labor to root out incidences of wage theft and help aggrieved workers reclaim their illegally withheld earnings, as nyassembly.gov reported.

4. Letitia James, State Attorney General

Letitia “Tish” James is the 67th Attorney General for the State of New York. With decades of work, she is an experienced attorney and public servant with a long record of accomplishments. She is the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York and the first woman to be elected Attorney General.

In 2013, as ag.ny.gov reported, Ms. James was elected Public Advocate for the City of New York and became the first woman of color to hold citywide office. As Public Advocate, Ms. James served as a watchdog over New York City government agencies and as an advocate for the City’s most vulnerable communities. She transformed the Public Advocate’s office to be a formidable engine for change.

Her office handled over 32,000 constituent complaints and passed more legislation than all previous Public Advocates combined, including a groundbreaking law that banned questions about salary history from the employment process to address the pervasive gender wage gap. Ms. James successfully took on the gun industry by pushing New York City’s largest pension fund to divest from gun and ammunition retailers. She fought in court on behalf of children and families on issues including children in foster care, children with disabilities, and tenant protection. New Yorkers overwhelmingly elected Tish James to a second term as Public Advocate in November 2017.

5. Hakeem Jeffries, Chair, House Democratic Caucus

Hakeem Jeffries represents the diverse Eighth Congressional District of New York, an area that encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens. Serving his fifth term in the United States Congress, Rep. Jeffries is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Budget Committee.

Rep. Jeffries is Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, having been elected to that position by his colleagues in November 2018. In that capacity, he is the fifth highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. He is also the former Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus and previously co-chaired the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee where he helped develop the For The People agenda.

In Congress, Rep. Jeffries is a tireless advocate for social and economic justice. He has worked hard to help residents impacted by the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, reform our criminal justice system, improve the economy for everyday Americans and protect our health care from right-wing attacks.

During the 116th Congress, Rep. Jeffries was one of the most effective legislators, passing multiple bills through the House of Representatives and into law with substantial bipartisan and stakeholder support, as jeffries.house.gov reported.

6. Adrienne Adams, New York City Council Speaker

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Photo: gothamgazette.com.

Adrienne Eadie Adams is the Speaker of the New York City Council. Elected in January 2022 by her colleagues, she leads the most diverse and the first women-majority Council in New York City history as the first-ever African American Speaker. Elected to the City Council in November 2017, she is also the first woman to represent District 28, which encompasses the Queens neighborhoods of Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, and South Ozone Park.

During her first term, Speaker Adams secured a record level of funding for her district, which had endured years of disparity and disinvestment, including investments in schools, parks, libraries, housing, and sanitation services. As a member of the Budget Negotiating Team, she championed funding for cultural institutions, health care, digital access, child and adult literacy, community-based food pantries, small business assistance, as well as Fair Futures, an initiative providing mentorship and services for foster care youth.

As council.nyc.gov reported, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she fought to secure additional testing and vaccine sites in her district, which lacked equitable resources despite having one of the highest COVID-19 case rates in the entire City. While serving as Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus (BLAC) of the Council, Speaker Adams advocated for additional investments in foreclosure prevention programs, CUNY’s research institutions, and many other community support initiatives. Under her leadership, the City Council also funded the Education Equity Action Plan, an initiative to implement a comprehensive K-12 Black Studies Curriculum for all students in New York City’s public schools.

7. Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assembly Majority Leader

In December 2018 Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes was elevated to the position of Majority Leader of the New York State Assembly. Peoples-Stokes has served Buffalo’s 141st Assembly District since 2003.

As nyassembly.gov reported, Peoples-Stokes was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. The daughter of a school teacher and a sanitation worker, Peoples-Stokes attended Buffalo Public Schools before earning her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Master’s Degrees in Student Personnel Administration from Buffalo State College. Stokes also holds an Honorary Doctorate from Medaille College. She worked briefly as a school teacher before the Buffalo Urban League and Citizen Action of NY. Peoples-Stokes went on to serve on the Erie County Legislature from 1993 until 2002, being appointed as Majority Leader in 1998.

Peoples-Stokes has a reputation for being a strong advocate who puts people and principle before politics. She is a fearless fighter for diversity in our state and has been an integral part of ensuring that Minority and Women Owned Businesses have a fair chance in obtaining state contracts. In recognition of these efforts, an Assembly Subcommittee on MWBE was created and she was selected to serve as Chair in 2012. In 2015 she was appointed as Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Operations. This committee maintains oversight on ethics reform and FOIL requests, state police, homeland security, disaster and emergency preparedness, MWBE, crime victims, human rights, and military and naval affairs. In June 2017, she was voted by her colleagues to be Chair of the New York State Legislative Women’s Caucus which is a bi-partisan and bi-cameral group.

8. Gregory Meeks, Member of Congress

Congressman Meeks' compassion and ability to collaborate are rooted in his upbringing. His family ventured north during the Great Migration from Rock Hill, South Carolina, eventually settling in East Harlem. He grew up in a public housing project and knew in his early years that he wanted to be a lawyer. He was inspired by a mother and father who worked hard to ensure that their children would have opportunities for advancement that they never did. Meeks' parents passed on to him a profound sense of social justice, commitment to community, and willingness to extend a helping hand to those in need.

He carried these values with him to Adelphi University where he earned a bachelor's degree in history. At Howard University Law School, Meeks embraced the jurisprudence of his idol, Thurgood Marshall, and of Charles Hamilton Houston. In the years to follow, Congressman Meeks worked as a Queens County Assistant District Attorney, a prosecutor for a special anti-narcotics taskforce, and chief administrative judge for New York State's worker compensation system. In 1992, he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he served until 1998, when he won a special election to represent the Fifth Congressional District of New York.

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, now in his thirteenth term, has devoted his energy and skill to serving one of the most diverse constituencies in the nation. His efforts on behalf of his district, New York City and State, and the nation as a whole have earned Rep. Meeks the respect of his constituents, New Yorkers, and Democrats and Republicans alike. He is known for being an effective, principled, and common sense leader. As a fervent supporter of the Affordable Care Act enacted under President Obama, Congressman Meeks believes that it should be enhanced. Congressman Meeks is part of the forward-thinking, pro-growth Democratic members who comprise the New Democrat Coalition (NDC), the largest ideological caucus in Congress. He co-chairs the NDCC Trade Task Force.

9. Jamaal Bailey, Chair, Bronx Democratic Party

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Records show that New York state Sen. Jamaal Bailey's father, Stanley, is an employee of the city Board of Elections. Steve Sanchez/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

Throughout state Sen. Jamaal Bailey’s five years in office, he has been committed to criminal justice reform and greater police oversight. That includes sponsoring the Clean Slate Act and legislation that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law in December that raises the minimum age for arrest and prosecution of juveniles from 7 to 12 years old. Bailey also continues to play a key role shaping political developments in the Bronx as the head of the Bronx Democratic Party, as cityandstateny.com reported.

Jamaal believes that we must revamp the way we look at education- we must focus on the whole child and take a deeper look at the external factors our children face. All of our children need the tools to succeed, and it is our job to give them these tools. We should be providing academic, social, and emotional assistance to students from early childhood through graduation and college enrollment. We need greater funding for music, sports, the arts and humanities to create a well-rounded individual.

We must give our children access to greater gifted and talented programs, creating greater opportunity for access to NY's finest high schools. We need to prepare for the 21st century economy. In addition to providing technical skills and job training, we must ensure we are providing soft skills, such as financial literacy and credit counseling, which are vital in creating a society of individuals who will preserve wealth and build a better life for their families. We must address income inequality and we must close the wage gap and create greater opportunity for all members of our communities, as nysenate.gov reported.

10. Al Sharpton, Founder and President, National Action Network

Al Sharpton, in full Alfred Charles Sharpton, Jr., (born October 3, 1954, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.), American civil rights activist, politician, and minister who founded the National Action Network (1991) and later hosted a political talk show on MSNBC, according to britannica.com.

Sharpton began preaching at age four and became an ordained Pentecostal minister at age 10. In 1971 he founded a national youth organization that promoted social and economic justice for African Americans. He graduated from Tilden High School in Brooklyn in 1972 and briefly attended Brooklyn College. A colourful and popular figure in the African American community, he embarked upon controversial protests that gained wide coverage in the national media and sometimes precipitated confrontations with police. In 1991 Sharpton formed the National Action Network, a civil rights organization that promoted progressive policies, including affirmative action and reparations for African Americans for the enslavement of their ancestors.

In the 1990s Sharpton entered the political arena, unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic Party nominations for mayor of New York City and U.S. senator from New York state. In 2004 he campaigned unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency.

11. George Gresham, President, 1199SEIU

Gresham was born in 1955 in Virginia to a family of domestic workers. His father was a butler and chauffeur and his mother was a maid. His grandparents were sharecroppers. He lived in Virginia and attended segregated schools until he and his family moved to New York when he was 8. His father later became a truck driver and an activist with the Teamsters Union, as influencewatch.org reported.

George Gresham is president of the New York-based 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a position he has held since 2007. It is the largest union in the city with over 300,000 members. He also serves as an executive vice president for the national Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Gresham has a long career in labor unionism and left-wing politics; his father was a Teamsters union activist and Gresham spent 32 years in 1199 SEIU as a member and officer before taking office. He is also a member of the executive board of the national Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as a result of his position in 1199SEIU.

Gresham’s position as 1199SEIU president has made him a prominent figure in New York politics. In addition to serving on Mayor de Blasio’s transition team, Gresham has given a speech to the Women’s March protest of the Trump administration and served on the host committee for New York City’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

12. Jumaane Williams, New York City Public Advocate

Jumaane Williams has served as New York City’s Public Advocate since 2019. Prior, he represented Brooklyn’s 45th District in the New York City Council from 2009-2019.

Jumaane is a first-generation Brooklynite of Grenadian heritage. He was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and ADHD as a teenager, persevering as he came up through the public school system from pre-school to Master’s.

During his time at City Hall, Jumaane has championed landmark legislation to create transformational change. In his first term, Jumaane aimed to end the abuse of the NYPD’s use of stop, question and frisk by sponsoring the Community Safety Act. The legislation was enacted despite a veto from then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and helped put an end to unlawful policing practices typically used in communities of more color, while creating the NYPD’s Office of Inspector General to investigate unlawful or unethical practices within the department.

According to jumaanewilliams.com, throughout his over decade of service in government, Jumaane never stopped standing with marginalized communities to fight for justice and equity for all, and has never been afraid to put his body on the line. He has been arrested more than any other sitting elected official in New York, standing up for women’s rights, immigration rights, housing rights, and more.

13. Keechant Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Photo: mykuwaits.com.

Keechant L. Sewell was appointed the 45th Police Commissioner of the City of New York by incoming Mayor Eric Adams in December of 2021. She previously served as the Nassau County Police Department’s Chief of Detectives.

Sewell joined the Nassau County Police Department in 1997 and graduated the police academy as the Class Speaker. She worked patrol in the Fifth Precinct in Elmont, New York where she was selected to become a School Resource Officer and a police liaison to the Wayside Home for Girls. She worked undercover assignments, promoted to the rank of Detective and assigned to the First Squad in Baldwin where she investigated and assisted with successful convictions in numerous cases.

After being promoted to Sergeant, Sewell was assigned as a patrol supervisor and subsequently became an investigator in the Internal Affairs Unit. Sewell then became a Detective Sergeant in both the First and Narcotics/Vice squads overseeing drug and gun interdiction and suppression initiatives.

She is a graduate of the 235th Session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia where she was selected by her peers to be the Class Spokesperson for the National Academy’s commencement address, as nyc.gov reported.

14. Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern, District of New York

Damian Williams is the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Nominated by President Biden in August 2021 and confirmed by the United States Senate in October 2021, Mr. Williams is the chief federal law enforcement officer for the District, which was established in 1789 and encompasses the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, along with Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester counties.

As United States Attorney, Mr. Williams supervises the investigation and prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of all civil matters in which the United States has an interest. He leads a staff of approximately 450 lawyers, special agents, paralegals and other support professionals. Mr. Williams also serves as Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC), a select group of United States Attorneys who advise the Attorney General on matters of policy, procedure, and management.

Prior to his confirmation as United States Attorney, Mr. Williams served as Chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force in the Southern District of New York. As an Assistant United States Attorney, Mr. Williams primarily investigated and prosecuted white collar cases involving corruption in financial markets and politics. Among other matters, he prosecuted Congressman Chris Collins for insider trading and lying to the FBI and New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for bribery, extortion, and money laundering, as justice.gov reported.

15. Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Chief Adviser, New York City Mayor’s Office

A proud daughter of Barbadian and Panamanian heritage, Chaplain Lewis-Martin was born and raised in Brooklyn. Prior to her role as deputy Brooklyn borough president, she served for more than five years as then-State Senator Adams’ senior advisor and for seven years as his chief of staff, as nyc.gov reported.

Chaplain Lewis-Martin’s political career started in 1983, first volunteering on the re-election campaign for the late Representative Major R. Owens and later serving as deputy campaign manager. After receiving her license from the New York City Board of Education, Chaplain Lewis-Martin was hired as a middle school teacher in English and social studies at I.S. 320 Jackie Robinson, her alma mater. She taught at the school from 1984 to 1992, also serving as dean of students, graduation coordinator, as well as a teacher of modern and African dance in the after-school programs. Chaplain Lewis-Martin was later hired by Medgar Evers College first to work as an instructor in one of its programs geared at assisting women on welfare earn their high school diploma and college degree, and subsequently to be director of their Progressive Adolescent Vocational Exploration (PAVE) program, which allowed high school students to earn a maximum of 12 college credits within four years. She has also served as a part-time staffer for former Assembly Member Roger Green.

16. David Banks, New York City Schools Chancellor

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Photo: schools.nyc.gov.

David C. Banks is Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the largest school system in the nation. Appointed on January 1, 2022, he is the former President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, and the founding principal of The Eagle Academy for Young Men, the first school in a network of innovative all-boys public schools in New York City and Newark, N.J.

David is a lifelong New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, and proud graduate of New York City public schools, attending P.S. 161 in Brooklyn and Hillcrest High School in Queens. After a year working as a school safety officer, he began his first teaching job at P.S. 167 in his childhood neighborhood on Eastern Parkway. From there, he went on to become a founding principal at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, and later at the Eagle Academy for Young Men.

David’s vision of education emphasizes a partnership between schools and communities based on the guiding principles of academic excellence, leadership, and character development. With the Eagle Academy Foundation, he set out to prove that a high-quality college preparatory education for young men of color can be provided in a public-school setting, as schools.nyc.gov reported.

17. Sheena Wright, New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives

Sheena Wright (born January 6, 1970) is an American nonprofit executive who is the first woman president of the United Way of New York City. In August 2021, she was tapped as the chair of New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams' transition team. On December 20, 2021, it was announced that she would be the Deputy Mayor of Strategic Initiatives in the Adams administration.

According to thereaderwiki.com, after graduation from law school, Wright worked as a lawyer for Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in private equity firms and served as general counsel for Crave Technologies, a minority-owned software startup

Wright served as president and executive director of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the economic arm of the influential Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and under her tenure the company's portfolio increased significantly.

On the day Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, she became the first female head of the United Way of New York City in the organization's 79-year history. As president and CEO of United Way, she has been involved in Hurricane Sandy and Covid-19 relief work. She also led the ReadNYC initiative to support child literacy. In August 2021, she was named by Eric Adams to lead the mayoral candidate's transition team.

18. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, Chair, Brooklyn Democratic Party

Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn is the Assemblymember and State Committee Woman / District Leader for New York State’s 42nd Assembly District representing Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood and Ditmas Park in Brooklyn.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn is the first Haitian American woman elected in New York City; the first Engineer elected to the New York State Legislature; and the first woman to chair the Majority County Party in Brooklyn.

As assembly.state.ny.us reported, assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) and serves on the following committees: Banks; Education; Governmental Operations; Health; Higher Education; and Housing. She is also a member of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus and the Legislative Women's Caucus. She also sits on the Task Force on Women's Issues. In addition, Assemblymember Bichotte Hermelyn has been appointed to Governor Kathy Hochul’s Advisory Council on Domestic Violence and appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to NYC’s Advisory Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise.

19. Darcel Clark, Bronx District Attorney

Darcel Denise Clark became the 13th District Attorney for Bronx County on January 1, 2016. She is the first woman in that position and the first African-American woman to be elected a District Attorney in New York State. She was re-elected to a second term in 2019.

District Attorney Clark’s mission is “Pursuing Justice with Integrity,” and in fulfilling that mission she has restructured the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to reflect 21st Century prosecution, focusing on fairness to defendants, assistance for victims, crime prevention and community outreach. She enacted the Vertical Prosecution model, created a Conviction Integrity Unit, a Professional Responsibility Bureau, a Public Integrity Bureau, and established a Rikers Island Prosecution Bureau to decrease violence and corruption in the jails.

District Attorney Clark pioneered initiatives such as the Overdose Avoidance and Recovery Program that diverts low-level offenders at risk of opioid overdose directly into treatment, and Bronx Community Justice, which involves “circles” of community volunteers who resolve petty crimes with offenders outside of the criminal justice system, as bronxda.nyc.gov reported.

20. Ritchie Torres, Member of Congress

According to blackpast.org, Ritchie John Torres is a Democratic politician in the state of New York, representing the 15th congressional district. Torres was born on March 12, 1988 in the Bronx, New York. He identifies as Afro-Latino, as his mother is African American and his father is Hispanic and from Puerto Rico.

In 2013, Torres decided to run for council member of the 15th district of New York. When Torres won, he became the first openly gay Afro-Latino member, the first openly gay candidate elected in the Bronx, and the youngest elected official of the year. As one of his first actions, he held a New York City Council hearing in a public housing project so constituents would have the rare opportunity to observe governance up close. He eventually became chair of the council’s Committee on Public Housing, and also chaired the Oversight and Investigations Committee. Torres was a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and has been a strong supporter of Israel.

Torres served as council member from 2013 to 2020. While there he helped pass over 40 pieces of legislation. In July 2019, he announced his decision to run to succeed the retiring 15th district representative, Jose E. Serrano. Torres won the November 2020 election, making him the first openly gay Afro-Latino elected to Congress. He assumed office in January 2021 and is currently one of the nine co-chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in the 117th U.S. Congress. Torres lives in the South Bronx and is a member of the Committee on Financial Services and also serves as vice chair of the Committee on Homeland Security.

21. Yvette Clarke, Member of Congress

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Photo: gothamgazette.com.

Hailing from central Brooklyn, Congresswoman Yvette Diane Clarke feels honored to represent the community that raised her. She is the proud daughter of Jamaican immigrants and takes her passion for her Caribbean heritage to Congress, where she co-chairs the Congressional Caribbean Caucus and works to foster relationships between the United States and the Caribbean Community. Clarke is a Senior Member of both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Committee on Homeland Security, where she serves as Chair of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation Subcommittee. Clarke has been a member of the Congressional Black Caucus since coming to Congress in 2007 and today chairs its Immigration Task Force, according to clarke.house.gov.

As the Representative of the Ninth Congressional District of New York, Congresswoman Clarke has dedicated herself to continuing the legacy of excellence established by the late Honorable Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman and Caribbean American elected to Congress. In the 117th Congress, Congresswoman Clarke introduced landmark legislation, which passed in the House, the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). This legislation would give 2.5 million DREAMers, temporary protected status, and deferred enforcement departure recipients a clear citizenship pathway.

22. Kyle Bragg, President, 32BJ SEIU

Kyle Bragg became president of 32BJ in July of 2019, after the sudden death of Hector Figueroa, and was unanimously approved by the union’s executive board on July 24, 2019. Kyle was re-elected president of 32BJ in September of 2021. Under Kyle’s leadership, 32BJ successfully negotiated the 2019 commercial contract which raised standards and wages for tens of thousands of workers in New York and more beyond.

According to seiu32bj.org, prior to becoming president, he previously served as 32BJ’s Secretary-Treasurer. Kyle has been a member of 32BJ for more than 35 years and grew up in the labor movement. His father was an organizer and vice president of 1199 SEIU from the 1960s through the early 1980s. Kyle began actively organizing himself when he led his first strike at 16-years old. He began his union activism as a member and shop steward of 1199 while he was a student at York College of City University. In 2001, Kyle led the merger with Local 32E, bringing 9,000 Bronx and Westchester members into 32BJ.

As Secretary Treasurer he grew 32BJ’s Residential Division to 37,000 members in New York City, Westchester County, Long Island and New Jersey. Under his leadership, 32BJ scored a big victory with the 2014 residential contract where members won raises of more than 11 percent over four years, with increased pension contributions from employers and no givebacks. Similarly, Bronx residential members had a big victory at the bargaining table in 2015 as they won raises, maintained benefits and won a new 401k contribution from employers that starts in the second year of the contract. These victories in the residential division set a strong foundation for the union’s 2015 contract negotiations for commercial office cleaners.

23. Jabari Brisport, Chair, State Senate Committee on Children and Families

Senator Jabari Brisport is a life-long resident of Brooklyn -- born in Bed-Stuy and raised in Prospect Heights, -- the son of an undocumented immigrant, and a proud Caribbean-American. He represents New York’s 25th State Senate district which includes Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Gowanus, and Park Slope.

Senator Brisport became an activist more than a decade ago when he began organizing efforts in support of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. The bill was defeated in 2009 but he continued organizing around the issue until same-sex marriage was ultimately legalized in NY two years later. He continued his activism as part of the early Black Lives Matter movement and began organizing rallies and protests, as well as training protesters on what to do if stopped or harassed by the police, as nysenate.gov reported.

At the time of his election, Senator Brisport was a math teacher at a middle school in Crown Heights and an active member of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union. As a public school teacher, he saw firsthand how the chronic underfunding of our schools and massive increases in policing have created glaring injustices for New York’s students, and how those injustices are compounded by lack of access to basic needs like housing and healthcare.

24. Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney

Alvin Bragg is the 37th District Attorney elected in Manhattan. Alvin – a lifelong Manhattanite who served as a state and federal prosecutor – has spent more than two decades fighting to make our communities safer and our criminal justice system fairer.

Alvin served as an Assistant Attorney General at the New York State Attorney General’s Office and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In these roles, Alvin handled a wide array of criminal cases, including armed robbery, assault, gun possession, witness tampering, narcotics and gun trafficking, wage and hour violations, public corruption, money laundering, and antitrust violations. For example, he successfully prosecuted a bribery scheme involving corrupt politicians of both political parties, the owner of a multi-million dollar business for laundering millions of dollars for an international drug cartel, an FBI agent for making false statements, a government contractor for diverting approximately $1.7 million designed to provide internet access to public school classrooms, and individuals blocking a reproductive health facility.

From 2013 to 2018, Alvin served in a number of leadership roles at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, as manhattanda.org reported.

25. Errol Louis, Host, “Inside City Hall," NY1

According to uny.edu, Errol Louis is the host of NY1’s Inside City Hall, the preeminent political news show in New York City, and a CNN Political Commentator. He is also the Director of Urban Reporting at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, he served as a columnist and editorial board member at the New York Daily News and was a talk show host of WWRL radio. He has won numerous journalism prizes, and has taught at the Pratt Institute, Hunter College, Long Island University, and New York University. He has a BA from Harvard, an MA from Yale University, and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

26. Latoya Joyner, Chair, Assembly Labor Committee

Latoya Joyner (born September 13, 1986) is the Assembly member for the 77th District of the New York State Assembly. She is a Democrat.

Joyner was born and raised in the Bronx and graduated from the Richard R. Green High School for Teaching. She later attended SUNY Stony Brook for her undergraduate degree and later the University at Buffalo for law school. At Stony Brook, Joyner was a member of Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa.

Previously, she served as a member of the New York State Bar and with the New York City Criminal Court. She was a community liaison in the district office of former Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene, and later was a member of Bronx Community Board 4.

Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson resigned from her seat after being elected to the New York City Council in 2013, and following her resignation, the seat remained vacant for a year. Joyner entered the race to succeed her, and in a four-way primary, easily won the election.She would win the general election with nearly 95% of the vote.

Joyner was sworn in for her first term on January 1, 2015. Currently, she serves on the Subcommittee on Diversity in Law as its Chairwoman.

27. Vanessa Gibson, Bronx Borough President

Top 30 Most Influential Black Politicians In New York
Vanessa Gibson (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)

According to ballotpedia.org, Vanessa Gibson (Democratic Party) is the Bronx Borough President in New York. She assumed office on January 1, 2022. Her current term ends on January 1, 2026.

Gibson (Democratic Party) ran for election for Bronx Borough President in New York. She won in the general election on November 2, 2021.

Gibson previously served on the New York City Council, representing District 16 from 2013 to 2021.

Gibson was previously a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, representing District 77 from 2009 to 2013.

Gibson earned her B.A. in sociology from State University of New York at Albany and her M.P.A. in policy analysis and Evaluation from Baruch College, City University of New York. Her professional experience includes working as a legislative assistant and serving as district office manager for state Rep. Aurelia Greene (D).

28. Jamaal Bowman, Member of Congress

Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., represents New York’s 16th District, which includes the Northern Bronx and parts of Westchester County, including Yonkers, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon. Bowman was born and raised in New York City, spending his early years in public housing and rent-controlled apartments. He was raised by his mother, who supported them with her post office worker’s salary. After graduating from the University of New Haven, Rep. Bowman began his career as a crisis intervention teacher in a Bronx public school and went on to earn a master’s degree in guidance counseling from Mercy College and a doctorate in education from Manhattanville College.

Bowman was elected to Congress in 2020, running on a platform of transformative progressive policies that will improve the lives of those who have been legislated out of the American dream. Congressman Bowman is dedicated to passing visionary policy that infuses climate justice with economic and racial justice, and to highlighting the importance of research and investing communities of color, as bowman.house.gov reported.

29. Bill Thompson, Chair, City University of New York

William Colridge Thompson Jr. (born July 10, 1953) is an American politician who served as the 42nd Comptroller of New York City; sworn into office on January 1, 2002, he was reelected to serve a second term that began on January 1, 2006. He did not seek re-election in 2009. Instead he ran for mayor, and he was succeeded as comptroller by John Liu. On June 15, 2016, Thompson was appointed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo as chairman of the board of trustees of The City University of New York; his term ends in June 2022.

Thompson ran unsuccessfully in the 2009 election for Mayor of New York as the nominee of the Democratic and Working Families parties, and he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in the 2013 election for mayor.

William C. Thompson, Jr. served as the New York City Comptroller from 2002-2009. The son of a judge and a teacher, he is the proud product of the New York City public school system. Thompson has earned a reputation as a tough advocate for New Yorkers, and has stood on the side of working people seeking a living wage and fairness on the job.

30. Mary Bassett, Commissioner, State Department of Health

Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H., was appointed Acting Commissioner of Health on December 1, 2021 and confirmed by the New York State Senate on January 20, 2022. She previously served as Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights in the department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Prior to that, she served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Director for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's African Health Initiative and Child Well-Being Prevention Program; and as Deputy Commissioner of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Early in her career, Dr. Bassett served on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe and went on to serve as Associate Director of Health Equity at the Rockefeller Foundation's Southern Africa Office, as health.ny.gov reported.

After returning to the United States, she served on the faculty of Columbia University, including as Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in the Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Bassett received a B.A. in History and Science from Harvard University, an M.D. from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and an M.P.H. from the University of Washington.

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