100 Most Powerless New Yorkers

A 'power list' for the rest of us

19. Patrick Sullivan, Manhattan's Panel for Educational Policy appointee

After "mayoral control" was enacted, the Board of Education was replaced by the Panel for Educational Policy, which has eight members appointed by the mayor and one appointed by each of the five borough presidents. Patrick Sullivan, Scott Stringer's appointee for Manhattan (whose kids go to the segregated Lower Lab gifted school the Voice profiled in 2010), routinely votes against the mayor's eight appointees. But even if he got all four other beeps' appointees to vote with him (which he never does), he could never have any effect. In fact, the mayor's appointees have little power, either, as he'd simply fire them if they ever stood up to him. The entire PEP is a powerless farce to give the appearance that the mayor is listening to anyone in making educational decisions, and the meetings often feel like they're about to break out into a riot.

20. Cathie Black, former schools chancellor

22. Tiffany Cocco, homeless young lesbian
Caleb Ferguson
22. Tiffany Cocco, homeless young lesbian
45. Pay-telephone users
Caleb Ferguson
45. Pay-telephone users


Black was once a media mogul for a powerless, dying industry (print media!), and then her billionaire fellow media-mogul friend must have said something to her along the lines of: "Hey! You've perhaps never even been in a public-school building your whole life! Wanna run the biggest public-school system in the nation?" at a party. She said, "Sure!" But, after joking about birth control preventing future students as a creative answer to overcrowding, flirting with reporters, and acting like Marie Antoinette at PEP hearings, her BFF Bloomy lost patience after three months and tossed her under a yellow school bus.

21. Joel Klein, former schools chancellor

Klein, a product of the city's public-education system, came to helm its highest post despite little formal education experience. Eight years later, he departed, having learned how to masterfully interact with the city's million schoolkids, 100,000-plus teachers, and infinite stakeholders. He was also a national player in education reform and was reportedly on Obama's short list for Secretary of Education. He traded this in to go work for Rupert Murdoch, who shipped him off to London to be his legal butt boy, defending Murdoch from possible criminal charges (and the occasional custard pie) in the phone-hacking scandal while trying to stave off the worldwide collapse of News Corp.

22. Tiffany Cocco, homeless young lesbian

Cocco sounded damn powerful when she spoke about LGBT youth homelessness at a recent Union Square rally. But she also talked about the beauty of waking up to the sun rising in Far Rockaway after spending the night on the A train. Cocco (and nearly 4,000 homeless youth, who are disproportionately LGBT) has to fight for one of less than 300 shelter beds for homeless kids. Of those on the street, about 20 percent become HIV-positive. The budget to help combat homelessness has gone down under Mayor Bloomberg's tenure, while rates of homelessness (and his personal wealth) have consistently risen.

23. Tina Brown, editor, Newsweek/The Daily Beast

After running a series of publications into the ground (and starting one of her own to destroy), Brown took over Newsweek only to make it into a media player so powerless, an issue earlier this year contained just six ads. (We imagine she'll be screaming "B to the W!"—"balls to the wall"—even as the ice-cold water of the North Atlantic starts sweeping the desk chairs away.)

24. Howard Stern

Stern makes a bajillion dollars these days and doesn't have the FCC riding his ass all the time, but nobody hears him. The day he went to Sirius was the last time a single deli butcher, cab driver, construction worker, and Wall Street suit ever asked, "Did you hear what Stern said this morning?" How powerless has the one-time "King of All Media" become? He has to go on America's Got Talent, like any unknown entertainer, just to get people to notice him again.

25. Scott Stringer, Manhattan borough president

As if being a borough president isn't impotent enough, holding the ceremonial post is especially humiliating in Manhattan. It's the borough, after all, where the mayor (who is also the city's wealthiest citizen) lives and works, making the beep look especially irrelevant. This leaves Stringer wielding about as much power over New York City as the mayor of Washington, D.C., does over the federal government.

26. Juan Baten, deceased tortilla-maker

Baten, a 22-year-old undocumented Bushwick tortilla-factory worker, was killed in January when he fell into a mixer. Despite the fact that a relatively inexpensive guardrail over the machine would have prevented his death, the factory was never closed for safety violations. (Instead, it was shut for just slightly more than a week because the owner hadn't paid workers' compensation.) Baten had toiled at the factory for six years before his life ended there. The food-processing industry is one of New York's few manufacturing sectors that is alive and well, but it depends entirely upon an invisible, undocumented workforce that is largely powerless against wage theft and unsafe working conditions.

27. Members of the FDNY "limbo class"

When federal judge Nicholas Garaufis told New York City that its FDNY hiring process was racist and gave the city five options to reform it, Mayor Bloomberg basically said: "F--- you. We ain't takin' none of your stinking options." The entrance exam was scrapped, and a new one was written. But for years, there was a "limbo class" of would-be firefighters who aced the allegedly "racist" exam even though many of them weren't white. They have been held in purgatory for years and have to study for (and hope they similarly ace) the new test scheduled for February or March.

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