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The Influentials: Politics

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Chung-Wha Hong and Lilliam Barrios-Paoli  

Chung-Wha Hong
Executive director, New York Immigration Coalition
Thousands of immigrants didn’t just decide to stage mass protests against Congress’s proposed immigration restrictions; one organization took the lead in getting them there. The New York Immigration Coalition is starting to thrive by taking on the daunting task of pulling together the city’s dozens of ethnic communities into one political force. Through its member organizations, the coalition has ties to political leadership in every corner and constituency of the city, and it has made its mark under new director Hong by lobbying with as much skill as it brings to organizing street protests.

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli
CEO, Safe Space
Barrios-Paoli runs a humble nonprofit sheltering teenagers in trouble, but behind the scenes, she’s the first call for the mayor’s top deputy on poverty, Linda Gibbs, when Gibbs wants to make sure new programs will catch fire outside City Hall. Gibbs and Barrios-Paoli are tight friends, going back to the time Gibbs served in Giuliani’s budget office and Barrios-Paoli headed the city’s personnel and, later, welfare agencies. Then Barrios-Paoli did the unthinkable: She refused to carry out Giuliani’s orders to throw welfare recipients off the rolls en masse.


Left to Right: Nydia Velasquez (Photo: Richard B. Levine), Christopher Kui (Frances M. Roberts), and Rafael Lantigua (Newsday)  

Clout in the Community
In a city of immigrants, these ethnic civic leaders have power beyond their enclaves.

Christopher Kui
Executive director of Asian Americans for Equality and the new “mayor of Chinatown”; steered LMDC funds to Chinatown last year.

Alex Shchegol
Founded ASA Institute in 1985 with twelve students; now the college attracts thousands of recent Russian immigrants whose advanced degrees aren’t recognized here.

Nydia Velasquez
The first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress; a highly effective advocate for minority-owned businesses.

Niall O’Dowd
Founder and publisher of the Irish Voice; now New York’s most important diplomat to Eire.

Andy Shenoy
Diamond jeweler and special adviser to Governor Pataki on South Asian affairs; stimulated investment by Indian-Americans in biotech companies back in India.

Oscar Paredes
Ecuadoran labor leader who founded The Latin American Workers’ Project in 1997, assisting new immigrants by opening job centers and holding immigration-law workshops.

Rafael Lantigua
A doctor at Columbia Presbyterian; founded Alianza Dominicana in 1987 out of exasperation with city hospital-budget cuts and turned it into the dominant social-services group in the Dominican community.

Lamuel Stanislaus
Any West Indian politician needs a sit-down with kingmaker Stanislaus, Grenada’s permanent ambassador to the U.N.

News powers
These media people change the political game by observing it.

Ben Smith
When at the New York Observer, Smith launched The Politicker, a blog on local politics that tapped a previously unseen audience and spawned a half-dozen imitators. Now at the Daily News, he may reach a larger audience.

Fred Dicker
Dicker’s “Inside Albany” column is the “Daily Racing Form of state politics,” says an Albany insider—must-reading for anyone struggling to fathom the byzantine world of the capital.

Bob Slade
Bob Slade, the host of “Open Line,” a weekend call-in show on WRKS, is the go-to guy for political talk radio among African-Americans, with guests like David Dinkins and Al Sharpton, and the power to swing an election.

Bob Hardt
NY1 is playing on a TV in the office of every politico in town, and as the channel’s political director, Hardt provides the grist of the daily political conversation.

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