Queens Borough 50
It is fairly common knowledge that Queens is the most diverse borough in New York City. But what few people realize is that it is literally the most culturally and ethnically diverse place in the entire world. The United Nations may be on the other side of the East River, but in the 70 square miles that make up the borough, you can experience the entire culture of the globe. As we put together this list, this core identifier kept coming up. Each neighborhood has its own organizers, activists, or business leaders who wield great influence where they live. Of course, this also means that there are few people who have a large impact on all areas of the borough.
Just a reminder about the restrictions we’ve set for this series: The list DOES NOT include elected officials, and everyone on the list has to live in the borough. Without further ado, here’s our 2016 Queens Borough 50.
#1: Dennis Walcott
President and CEO
Queens is a segmented borough of neighborhoods that are often vastly different than areas just miles away, but the one institution that unifies the borough like no other is its world-class library system – so whoever was in charge of the organization likely would be on this list. But in Dennis Walcott, the library has a president and CEO who has dedicated his life to making Queens better and improving education throughout the city. The former New York City schools chancellor only took over the library system in March, in the wake of a troubled time for the organization’s leadership, but by all accounts he has more than righted the ship with his hand-on approach, visiting the borough’s 62 branches, talking to patrons and addressing their needs no matter how small. He has everything you’d want in a CEO of an organization like the Queens Library: experience, an effective management style, knowledge of how to navigate city and state government – and a vision for the future.
#2: Héctor Figueroa
You can’t talk about Queens without talking about the two major airports that serve as economic drivers for the region. Thousands of workers head to LaGuardia or JFK every day, and most of them are members of 32BJ, the union Héctor Figueroa has led since 2012 after moving through the ranks of union leadership. In recent years he has been a fierce advocate for better wages and other rights for his workers, organizing disruptions at the major airports and successfully leading the charge for a $15 minimum wage in New York state. An immigrant from Puerto Rico, Figueroa has also become a leading voice for fair pay and providing services and education to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the five boroughs. His experience as a laborer and his education in economics make him a respected figure when it comes to understanding the impact of policy on workers – and a unique and powerful union boss.
#3: Lysa Scully
There’s a lot happening at LaGuardia Airport these days, including a $4 billion expansion that’s taking place as the busy aviation hub tries to make travel for millions of people efficient and comfortable. In her role as general manager, Lysa Scully oversees day-to-day operations and maintenance of the facility, which employs 11,000 people and provides roughly $15 billion in economic activity to the area. She also spearheads the efforts to upgrade the facility, adding new retail options and other amenities to improve customer service. And, when she can find the time, she answers questions from the community about everything from traffic concerns, which are never-ending, to airplane noise. Scully took control of the airport in 2013, bringing more than 30 years of experience at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia. In that short time, she has established herself as a leader in the aviation world, and a powerful influence on a large section of the Queens economy.
#4: Anne Marie Anzalone
Chief of Staff
Rep. Joe Crowley's Office
One rule we put in place when we set out to make this list is that we wouldn’t include elected officials. What’s been great about that restriction is that we can highlight the power and influence of people who at times fly under the radar, like Anne Marie Anzalone. As the chief of staff to Rep. Joe Crowley, Anzalone has become in many ways a gatekeeper for the powerful lawmaker who runs the Queens Democratic party. A lifelong Queens resident, Anzalone has experience handling everything from constituent services to top policy for the congressman. She has been Crowley’s right hand since 2001, so she has a full perspective of how things work in Queens, and why. Not only is she tapped into the highest levels of Democratic politics, she is also an active member and district leader of the up-and-coming Powhatan Democratic Club, and has her own impressive record of fighting for what she feels is best for the borough.
#5: Carl Mattone
Real estate is king in New York City, and it’s no different in Queens. Carl Mattone has been building things in the borough for more than three decades, from luxury homes to massive projects like the Jamaica Center Site 1. His work in real estate development and property management makes him one of the top business leaders in the borough, but that’s not the reason he lands so high up on this list. Mattone is politically connected. He is a longtime supporter of Andrew Cuomo and several other prominent politicians, and they seek his input when it comes to what’s best for the borough and for citywide planning policy. If that wasn’t enough, Mattone is also one of the borough’s biggest philanthropists, donating to Catholic charities, veterans groups and other causes. Charitable work is so important to him that he lists “philanthropist” first when describing himself on his website.
#6: Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw
St. John's University
The Catholic Church is a powerful institution in all five boroughs. In Queens, its influence is seen best in the Church’s jewel of higher education, St. John’s University. It is the nation’s third-largest Catholic University, with more than 20,000 students, most of them on the Queens campus. But while its Catholic ties are important, the school has impact far exceeding its Vincentian mission. The hiring of Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw in 2014 signaled a shift in the history of the university. He is the first professional educator and layperson to run the institution, focusing heavily on improving the educational environment for students as well as expanding on partnerships with the community and abroad. The campus is an anchor of economic development in the heart of the borough, and Gempesaw has made integration of the campus and the community a key part of his vision for the school.
#7: Patrick Jenkins
Patrick Jenkins & Associates
Veteran political consultant Patrick Jenkins has been a power broker in Queens Democratic politics for decades. His deep ties to southeast Queens started with his seven-year stint working for Congressman Gregory Meeks, where he helped shape his policy and strategy in the district. From there, Jenkins went on to establish himself as an effective consultant working on a bevy of Democratic campaigns throughout the state and country, including the gubernatorial races of Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo. But, in recent years, his influence has increased tremendously. His tight relationship with powerful Bronx pol Carl Heastie paid off when he became Assembly Speaker last year. Jenkins has seen his firm grow in size and clients on a city and state level. His rise in power has also made him more influential in the borough of Queens where he still has deep ties, serving on several planning committees. With many local decisions having to go through Albany to get approval, his experience and connections make him one of the most influential people in the borough.
#8: Stuart and Alan Suna
The TV and film industry is booming in New York City, and Stuart and Alan Suna are benefitting from that boom. Their studios in Long Island City, the largest in the five boroughs, are home to hit shows and have been used for the filming of countless movies. Thanks to a friendly economic environment for the industry, the Sunas are about to expand into the Bronx as well. Their investment in the industry has created hundreds of jobs for the borough of Queens, and added millions to the economy. But that’s not all they are doing. The two are also getting into the real estate game. They recently worked with the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency on a six-acre mixed-use building near their studios that could be built in the next few years. The site would be a model for the fast-growing neighborhood, where the balance of residential, industrial, commercial and cultural is of the highest importance.
#9: Elizabeth Lusskin
Tops among the borough’s rapidly growing neighborhoods has to be Long Island City. From new residential high-rises to commercial and industrial developments, to some of the city’s trendiest restaurants and bars and most popular museums and cultural centers, the area on the East River has it all. The neighborhood’s balanced and thoughtful growth can be attributed in part to the work of Elizabeth Lusskin. Since she took over as head of the Long Island City Partnership three years ago, the organization has been one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the area and has also weighed in heavily in planning decisions to make sure the community maintains some of its character in the midst of this economic boom. As one nominee said, “Lusskin’s leadership and tenacity will impact future policies and actions which will make Long Island City a vibrant, culturally rich mixed-use community.”
#10: Floyd Flake
Greater Allen African Methodist Cathedral
The former congressman, Democratic power broker and religious leader has dedicated his professional life to the borough of Queens. These days, Floyd Flake’s primary role is as a spiritual leader to more than 20,000 parishioners of his church in Jamaica. He has built The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York into a cultural center and institution that has a dramatic influence on the borough through its charitable works and its ability to organize the communities it serves. But the main reason he is on this list is because of his political influence. Over the years, and still today, Flake has used his deep ties in and outside of the community to impact elections and policy. From social policy to city planning, he is a trusted and respected voice for both Democrats and Republicans. On top of all that, he is also a successful businessman and serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, special committees and large companies.
#11: Haeda Mihaltses
Executive Director of External Affairs
New York Mets
The New York Mets scored big when they landed Haeda Mihaltses, the former top aide to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to run their external affairs. Her experience coordinating the city’s needs with state and federal officials easily translated to the MLB team’s efforts to engage the community and be a better partner to Queens’ neighborhoods (many of which are home to plenty of rabid Mets fans). While only in the job for a few years, Mihaltses has already made an impact. And if her work with the Mets wasn’t enough, she also sits on the Queens Public Library’s board of trustees.
#12: Diane Call
Queensborough Community College
It should be no surprise that the most diverse borough in New York City is also home to one of the most diverse community colleges. As the school is quick to point out, close to half of its roughly 16,000 students were born outside the United States. Dr. Diane Call has sought to embrace and foster this diversity since taking over as president in 2013. She has implemented policies to better support the unique needs and goals of each student while also focusing on making the campus a resource to all who live in the borough.
#13: Peter Tu
Flushing Chinese Business Association
Among the many ethnic neighborhoods in Queens is the vibrant Chinese community in Flushing, where there are tens of thousands of Mandarin, Cantonese or Taiwanese immigrants, making it one of the largest urban concentrations of Asians outside of Asia. The voice for many of these immigrants has been Peter Tu. As head of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, he is a go-to voice for the community when it comes to government and politics. And for politicians, talking to him is the quickest way to get up to speed about what’s happening in the community.
#14: Mitchell G. Taylor
Co-Founder and CEO
Few people have dedicated their lives to a community like Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor Sr., who has lived in Astoria’s Queensbridge Houses for more than 40 years. He has been a spiritual leader to the community, and has also spent more than a decade fighting to improve living conditions for residents in the borough through Urban Unbound, a nonprofit he co-founded that provides residents with everything from financial consulting and employment services to help for young people trying to go to college, giving some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents a pathway to a better life.
#15: Ryan Eller
Resorts World Casino New York City
With more than 1,000 employees, Resorts World Casino is one of the biggest employers in the borough. That alone would land Ryan Eller on the list as president of the gaming establishment, but Eller has made it a priority to make sure RWNY is an active partner in the community. Under Eller’s guidance the casino has teamed up with organizations like the Queens Library, the Jamaica YMCA, and the FDNY and NYPD for an annual cook-off. And it also works with the American-Italian Cancer Foundation to do no-cost mammograms and screenings at a mobile clinic at the casino.
#16: Dermot Smyth
Queens Political Coordinator
United Federation of Teachers
The public education system in Queens faces many unique challenges that come with having one of the most diverse urban areas in the world. Dermot Smyth has built a reputation as a fierce fighter for the men and women in the classroom. Many lawmakers have given him high praise. One assemblyman said “he masterfully balances his members’ labor issues with the reality of the overall need for a public quality education for children of all ages.” And a state senator said the “community is grateful to have him as one of the leading education advocates in Queens.”
#17: Shiv Dass
Jackson Heights Merchants Association
Indian immigrants are among the largest ethnic groups in Queens. Nearly 400,000 live in the borough, with the largest concentration in Jackson Heights, which is also home to tens of thousands of immigrants from other parts of South Asia. For decades Shiv Dass has been a voice for this community. He is a business leader, a community organizer and member of the local community board and has worked tirelessly to establish a positive and open relationship between the community and elected officials, and in turn he is often sought out by politicians looking to get their message out.
#18: Marcia V. Keizs
CUNY York College
York College’s 8,400 student campus in downtown Jamaica has been steadily improving its academic credentials since Marcia Keizs became the school’s sixth president in 2005. In that time, the school has increased its number of national accreditations and launched new fields of study, and has also been expanding its campus. In the 2014-2015 budget the state approved a capital fund for the building of an academic village and conference center that will revitalize the community. Keizs also sits on several community boards and is a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council.
#19: Mark Weprin
Deputy Secretery of Legislative Affairs
If you’re talking about powerful families in Queens Democratic politics, you have to include the Weprins. Since former City Councilman Mark Weprin is no longer an elected official, having joined the Cuomo administration, he lands on our list. His current portfolio may focus more on getting things done on a state level or coordinating with city officials, but it’s clear he still has clout when it comes to borough issues. With their decades spent in public service, the Weprins have a record of delivering for voters in the eastern parts of Queens.
#20: Audrey Pheffer
When asking several Democratic insiders to name power brokers from the Rockaways, the name that kept coming up was Audrey Pheffer. While the former assemblywoman has been a county clerk since 2011, her decades of service have clearly had a lasting impact on many in the community as well as many politicians from the area. Her daughter Stacey Pheffer-Amato appears poised to follow in her mother’s footsteps if she is elected to the Assembly in November, which just adds to Pheffer’s influence.
#21: Laura Raicovich
President and Executive Director
Nestled in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Queens Museum is one of the borough’s great cultural centers. Since 2015, Laura Raicovich has been the museum’s president, continuing its tradition as a destination for residents of the borough, as well as visitors from around the world, to enjoy. In her short time in charge, Raicovich has shown commitment to the museum’s history of innovation and shown dedication to providing educational opportunities to the community, maintaining the museum as a gem of the borough.
#22: Peter Vallone Sr.
Vallone & Constantinople
It’s hard to make a Queens power list without including a Vallone somewhere. The family has been a political power broker in New York for decades. Since we aren’t including elected officials on our list, it made sense to put the former city council speaker, candidate for governor and mayor of New York City, and dedicated public servant on the list. Nowadays, Peter Vallone Sr. is part of the powerful consulting firm Constantinople & Vallone, and is still called on for his knowledge and connections when it comes to big decisions in the borough.
#23: Shlomo Nisanov
Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim
Central Queens is home to one of the largest populations of Bukharian Jews in the world, and the spiritual and cultural leader for many members of this tight-knit community is Rabbi Shlomo Nisaov of the Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim in Kew Gardens. In addition to being a voice for and providing services to this large group of Central Asian immigrants, he is also an astute political player. He has spoken out against anti-semitic sentiment and joined with other Jewish leaders to pressure the city for protection for his community.
#24: Jukay Hsu
Coalition 4 Queens
New York City is going through a mini-tech boom, and while Brooklyn and Manhattan get most of the attention, Queens also has a vibrant tech community. One reason is Jukay Hsu and the nonprofit he founded to teach tech skills to residents without college degrees. The Coalition 4 Queens has a simple goal: make the tech community more reflective of a society with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. And his work has gotten the attention of many, including the White House, where he recently sat on a panel to discuss how technology could solve the country’s biggest problems.
#25: Bob Turner
Queens Republican Party
A former congressman, Bob Turner took over a fractured county party in 2015 and immediately set his sights on keeping the GOP factions in the borough unified. On top of his agenda has been recruiting candidates for general election races where Democrats often run unopposed. This year, 21 candidates are running for Assembly or state Senate seats in the borough. While it’s unlikely that any of them will win, the increased engagement is a comforting sign for many Republicans who feel the borough has long been conceded to the Democrats.
#26: Michael Woloz
Connelly, McLaughlin & Woloz
The Queens native is one of the city’s top lobbyists, but he is also a power player in the borough. His lobbying and public affairs firm represents the Queens Library, several real estate firms who do a lot of business in the borough, and the new Queens-based taxi app company Arro, just to name a few clients. He doesn’t just do business in the borough. He is also the co-chairman of the Powhattan Democratic Club and well connected in the party circles. His close ties to the de Blasio administration also help him wield influence in the borough and beyond.
#27: Simon Pelman
Union Plaza Nursing Home
You have to look close to Democratic political campaigns to notice Simon “Shimi” Pelman. For many prominent pols in Queens and elsewhere, he has served as campaign treasurer. He is a well power broker who helps raise large sums for candidates for offices from Assembly to city council to mayor. Over the past decade, he and his family have also donated more than $150,000 to a bevy of Democrats, making him one of the borough’s biggest fundraisers for the party.
#28: Tom Grech
Queens Chamber of Commerce
The Queens Chamber of Commerce has been around for more than 100 years. It’s kept to its mission of promoting business interests through advocacy, networking and education, but lately the chamber has added to that mission. With the borough being one of the most diverse urban areas in the world, Grech has spent his first year in charge trying to reach out to the many communities to see how the chamber can better serve all Queens businesses. He’s also made energy issues a key part of his work to help make sure the growing borough doesn’t run into capacity problems.
#29: Archie Spigner
Former City Coucilman
Few people have done more for southeast Queens than Archie Spigner. He spent 27 years in the City Council, representing low-income neighborhoods with great needs, fighting for funds in the budget and infrastructure projects to improve the daily lives of his constituents and serving as a calm voice for the city when racial tensions flared. Since leaving the council in 2001 he has remained a respected voice in the community, an active member of the powerful Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club and a mentor to many younger politicians looking to serve.
#30: Travis Terry
Chief Operating Officer
Capalino + Company
When it comes to lobbying in the city, Capalino+Company is king. And since 2007, Travis Terry has been the firm’s COO, helping guide the team of lobbyists to assist countless clients on everything from land use projects to advocacy campaigns, many of which impact the lives of the people of Queens. A resident of Forest Hills, Travis has a long CV that includes work at city nonprofits and real estate giants. He’s also an active member of the community, lending his support most notably as a leader of the QueensWay project – the borough’s version of the High Line.
#31: Ana Maria Archila
The Center for Popular Democracy
For the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who live in Queens, organizations like the Center for Popular Democracy and its sister organization Make the Road New York are vital. These groups fight for policies to make their lives better in the long term and provide daily services to help them get by. Ana María Archila understands this firsthand. She emigrated to the United States from Colombia when she was 17. Since then, she has been an effective organizer and fighter for immigrants to have more access to the electoral process, education equity, and a host of other issues.
#32: Joshua Muss
For more than a century the Muss family has been involved in development in Queens and other areas of the city. They have become one of the biggest real estate development companies in New York, building massive commercial, residential and retail space throughout the borough, from Forest Hills Tower to Flushing Plaza. When it comes to politics, they are prolific donors to city and state Democrats, giving more than $100,000 in contributions in the past decade.
#33: Leroy Gadsden
Jamaica Branch NAACP
Among the many dedicated community activists in southeast Queens is Leroy Gadsden. He is a unifier, constantly working with community boards, elected officials and clergy to get things done to help residents in and around Jamaica. An active member of the NAACP for more than 30 years, Gadsden has fought hard on issues that impact the lives of residents, including advocating for infrastructure projects like sewer system improvements to reduce flooding, voter registration drives and re-entry workshops for former felons who are trying to reintegrate into the community.
#34: Hal Rosenbluth
President and CEO
Kaufman Astoria Studios
There is a nearly $9 billion film and TV wave in New York City, and Hal Rosenbluth is on the crest of it. The almost century-old Kaufman-Astoria Studios is growing fast, with two new sound stages scheduled to open in the next few years. And that means hundreds of new jobs are coming to Queens, in addition to the thousands of jobs the studio already sustains. The studio is also committed to being an environmentally friendly member of the borough, installing hundreds of solar panels on its buildings to offset the large energy use that comes with production.
#35: Ruschell Boone
Most Queens residents get their news from the hodgepodge of local newspapers and the big TV stations that generally only report on the borough when something bad is happening. But for more than a decade, Ruschell Boone has been focused on covering Queens, from the community fights over land use to the horrific crimes to the unique issues that pop up in the many diverse neighborhoods throughout the borough. There is no journalist more respected in the borough, and that comes from her honest reporting over many years.
#36: Tony Barsamian
Steinway Astoria Partnership
Publisher, planner, cheerleader and advocate: Tony Barsamian is all of these things, but mostly he is a dedicated resident of Astoria who works tirelessly to better the trendy neighborhood. As publisher of the Western Queens Gazette, he has his ear to the ground of the community. He is usually the first to hear about complaints residents have, even before many politicians. And as head of the Steinway Astoria BID, he wears another hat, advocating for smart planning to make sure that business continues to boom.
#37: Ivan Mrakovcic
Co-Founder and Member, Steering Committee
Friends of QueensWay
A Queens version of the High Line? That’s the vision of Ivan Mrakovcic. The Richmond Hill resident is leading a growing effort to reclaim 3.5 miles of abandoned railways to create a new park and bike trail called the QueensWay. The project is in the initial stages, but it already has support from private donors as well as the city and state government. Leading the way is the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Regional Economic Development Council, which has put $444,000 toward the project. Mrakovcic is also the co-founder and president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society.
#38: Janice Melnick
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
In a borough where each neighborhood has its own distinct culture and vibe, Flushing Meadows Corona Park serves as a unifying place where people from all over can see world-class sporting events, check out wonderful museums or just hang out. Janice Melnick, a veteran of the city parks department, is in charge of making sure the park is maintained. She also runs the newly formed Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance, which was designed to raise funds to help restore the park’s historic buildings, specifically the ones from the world’s fairs.
#39: Steven Taylor
Cambria Heights Civic Association
In New York City, civic associations can have a lot of power, but only if they are well run. If you want an example of how to organize one, look no further than the Cambria Heights Civic Association and its president, Steven Taylor. Several people who have had business in the neighborhood have been impressed with how well-organized, informed and passionate the members of the association are when new developments are proposed. The result has been the protection of a residential community made up overwhelmingly of single-family homes.
#40: Leslie Brown
Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce
A small-business owner herself, Leslie Brown knows what entrepreneurs and business owners need to succeed through changing times. As president of the Forest Hills Chamber, she works hard for the tight-knit group of more than 200 members who make the area a thriving business community with a focus on creating a vibrant culture for residents. To this point, she has recently pushed back hard on city proposals to limit street fairs, which are a fixture of the neighborhood.
#41: John Kaiteris
Executive Director and CEO
No one is more tapped into Queens’ large Greek population than John Kaiteris. For more than 40 years he has led the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, helping vulnerable populations from all backgrounds. What started as a committee to help Greek immigrants in Astoria get the assistance they needed has grown into a nonprofit that helps roughly 30,000 seniors, children and immigrants each year. In addition to his work at HANAC, Kaiteris has also done extensive work on aging and services for seniors with other committees and agencies throughout the borough.
#42: Justin Rodgers
Managing Director, Real Estate and Economic Development
Greater Jamaica Develop. Corp.
Southeast Queens, and specifically Jamaica, have seen tremendous growth in recent years thanks in part to the work of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. Justin Rodgers has been in the the middle of several of the biggest economic development projects, from the forming of the Jamaica Now Action Plan to the work to designate the Jamaica LIRR as a Brownfield Opportunity Area. The lifelong resident of the borough works tirelessly to develop strategies and cut deals to help grow the region, whether he’s leading negotiations with developers or making the case for more funding to state and federal officials.
#43: John "Sean" Crowley
Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron
John “Sean” Crowley is the brother of Queens Democratic Party boss and Congressman Joe Crowley, which we couldn’t ignore when making the list. He is well connected in the borough’s Democratic politics. He’s also an effective attorney and lobbyist focusing mainly on city and state issues, much of which have an impact on the direction of the borough. The Forest Hills resident is active in the community and volunteers his time for several charities.
#44: Michael Nussbaum
There are a bevy of local newspapers in Queens that keep residents up to speed on what’s happening, including the Queens Tribune. But Michael Nussbaum’s influence stretches beyond his work as publisher of the weekly newspaper. He has deep ties to politicians, including Democrats and Republicans, and close alliances in the borough’s many Jewish communities. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Nussbaum has “had a huge impact on civic life, and the discourse of this borough … he’s done so many other extraordinary things to benefit this community.”
#45: Ann Brown
East Elmhurst-Corona Civic Association
There is a lot of activity in the East Elmhurst-Corona area lately with the expansion of LaGuardia Airport, development plans for Willets Point and renovations to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, not to mention the steady stream of smaller projects popping up in the heavily populated section of the borough. All of this keeps Ann Brown busy as the head of the area’s civic association. A longtime resident of the neighborhood and active member of the community, she has a hand in all of these decisions, serving as a conduit from the public to the politicians, and vise versa.
#46: Margaret Honey
President and CEO
The New York Hall of Science is one of many outstanding educational institutions in the borough, and Dr. Margaret Honey has built it into a leader in science, technology, engineering and math education. Honey is a national leader on developing and implementing STEM education, and she has brought her experience and creativity to NYSCI to the benefit of thousands of young minds in Queens. Most recently, NYSCI has worked with the Department of Education to launch a pre-K program to start 4-year-olds on a path to loving STEM subjects.
#47: Yossi Blesofsky
Chabad Lubavitch of NE Queens
While many synagogues in Queens have had to merge for various reasons, Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky’s Chabad Lubavitch in Bayside has thrived. An immigrant from Australia, Blesofsky has been a part of the northeast Queens community since the early ’90s. In addition to providing spiritual guidance to thousands, he has also built a Chabad that provides a host of free services to local residents from after-school programs to adult education.
#48: Francesca Fiore
Assistant Dean of Workforce Development
LaGuardia Community College
For many of the tens of thousands of immigrants who call Queens home, LaGuardia Community College is a beacon of hope. The school provides a clear pathway from education to employment in a host of industries like building and construction, manufacturing and technology. Francesca Fiore has worked directly with small businesses in the borough to make sure that students find work, and that employers have the skilled workforce they need to thrive and grow. The college estimates that the small business program Fiore oversees has saved or created 9,000 jobs and generated $460 million in revenue for Queens.
#49: Orlaith Staunton
Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis
Orlaith Staunton is one of the nation’s fiercest advocates for sepsis education. She successfully pushed for the implementation of new protocols for early diagnosis and treatment in hospitals throughout New York in 2013 and now has taken her work to many other states. At age 12, her son Rory Staunton contracted sepsis through a cut on his arm. If his condition had been identified sooner, he could have easily survived, but at the time there was a lack of knowledge about the topic. Because of Staunton’s work that is no longer the case, and thousands of lives have been saved.
#50: Donnie Whitehead
In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama didn’t have a lot of supporters in New York, where party machine was solidly behind Hillary Clinton. But Donnie Whitehead didn’t care. Along with his wife, JoAnn, he organized members of his Southeast Queens community into a political force that helped turn out votes for Obama and became a thorn in the side of established Democrats with checkered ethics records. Now Whitehead is a respected leader in the community who local pols often consult if they are seeking office, or want the community to get behind a project or idea.