is an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton.
1. D.J. Kool Herc (Clive Campbell)
Herc was an originator of an art form that emerged from New York City and transformed global youth culture. He’s credited with combining the musical elements that evolved into hip-hop.
2. Rudy Giuliani
With his crackdown on crime, Giuliani raised New Yorkers’ quality of life. He was also largely responsible for the homogenization that brought about the disappearance of New York as a distinctive city.
3. Donald Trump
Trump’s mark on the city, while significant, has largely been negative. He embodies both the Wall Street greed of the eighties and nineties and the incredible real-estate transformation of Manhattan.
4. Robert De Niro
De Niro, and most of the characters he portrays, are so quintessentially New York. With the creation of the Tribeca Film Festival, De Niro brought New York to Hollywood and vice versa.
5. George Steinbrenner
Steinbrenner is the Yankees to many people—he resuscitated the franchise and made it incredibly lucrative. The fortune of the Yankees has always been important to the psyche of the city.
6. Jimmy Breslin
The media voice of the New York common person. There’s a lot of this city beyond Manhattan, and Breslin brought it to us.
7. Clara McBride Hale
She founded the Hale House, which brought in and cared for orphans, HIV children, and other forgotten young people. Through Hale’s works and dedication, she inspired others to do good.
8. Jerry Seinfeld
Seinfeld—with its quirky, oddball characters who, for all their idiosyncrasies, were basically welcoming—shaped how the rest of the world saw our city and its inhabitants.
9. Robert Christgau
This music critic and longtime editor of The Village Voice, who was an early champion of indie music and hip-hop, has influenced generations of New York cultural critics and had a hand in shaping both art forms.
10. Majora Carter
Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx. She’s the future of the city—her vision is to get city leaders to rethink local economies in the South Bronx and, on a larger scale, to rethink urban planning based on community needs.