100 Most Powerless New Yorkers

A 'power list' for the rest of us

49. City University of New York students

CUNY students might have felt powerless to stop tuition hikes last year, but a few hundred of them decided to go to the school's public board meeting at Baruch in November, where the board is supposed to take input from the community. The students decided to make themselves heard, only to be beaten and arrested.

50. Journalists who come up with power lists

50. Steven Thrasher, the author of this "power" list
Caleb Ferguson
50. Steven Thrasher, the author of this "power" list
4. Taxi drivers looking to fill up
Caleb Ferguson
4. Taxi drivers looking to fill up


Whether it's compiling lists of powerful celebrities, rainmaking politicians, local media singles and couples, or 100 of the city's most powerless, there's always some reporter or editor with the thankless task of making estimates of power that only emphasize his or her own powerlessness.

51. Coney Island bathroom guards

The New York Post made the Work Experience Program workers who guard the bathrooms on Coney Island's boardwalk seem pretty powerful last summer when they reported on how the employees ration out toilet paper. The Voice also saw workers at the same "comfort station" chase a group of Japanese tourists away while screaming: "Rack it up, bitch! Rack it up!" But in truth, these WEP workers have little power, are not given enough toilet paper to keep their stalls filled, and terrorize tourists and New Yorkers alike to compensate for how little influence they truly wield.

52. All city pool guards

Like their brethren at the city's bathrooms, the WEP workers at the public pools have some trappings of power. (If you're male, they peek inside your bathing suit to make sure you have netting in your trunks before you can get in the water, for instance.) But they, too, are WEP workers who make little money and have little else going on in their lives except to harass hot, powerless New Yorkers trying to cool off on one of the handful of summer days when our pools are even open.

53. Camilla Guzman

Guzman is one of a handful of New Yorkers to make our list posthumously. She came to New York City from Chile to embrace greater acceptance as a transgendered woman. She was murdered on August 1.

54. Michael Grimm, Republican Staten Island house representative

Grimm not only has about the worst name for a conservative politician not trying to sound dour, but he's also one of the few Republican members of the house in New York City or State, which gives him (despite our Republican mayor) little room to push his weight around and establish any kind of power base.

55. Bill Thompson, former mayoral candidate

Thompson was a black Democrat running for mayor in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, against a mayor who overturned term limits voters had twice overwhelmingly passed, the same year the nation inaugurated its first black president. But he was so powerless, he couldn't get much of a real endorsement from Obama when he swung through town to haul cash, nor could he close the gap of just 50,000 votes to beat Bloomberg.

56. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, and Elena Kagan

Although the Supreme Court has four New Yorkers from four different boroughs (everyone's represented but Staten Island), they are relatively powerless. True, they sit on the highest court of the land, but as one reliable conservative vote and three reliable liberal votes, they are impotent compared with the capricious swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is quickly becoming the new Sandra Day O'Connor. Lawyers before the bench are increasingly building their cases tailored specifically toward him.

57. The Empire State Pride Agenda

ESPA, the biggest gay advocacy group in New York State, had one major goal: to achieve equality for LGBT people in the state. Whether or not they want to admit it, the passage of the Marriage Equality Act basically granted gay people equal rights under state (not federal) law. With the end of powerlessness for LGBT couples under NY State law, so ended the power of ESPA. They have nothing substantial to push nor chips to play, except to make excuses to their donors as to why they should still exist.

58. Those black guys harassed by Officer Michael Daragjati caught on federal wiretap

The Voice has covered NYPD misbehaviors and "stop-and-frisks" for decades while waiting for a "Rosa Parks" moment when a citizen would refuse to be arrested for just happening to be black at the wrong time. This, of course, never happened, even though the overwhelming number of stop-and-frisks (more than a half-million a year) are of young men of color who are doing nothing wrong. If they protest their unfair arrest, they're arrested for "resisting arrest." It was sheer luck that saved two anonymous black men when NYPD Officer Michael Daragjati boasted that he'd arrested and "fried another nigger" while he was on a federal wiretap investigating possible insurance fraud. No one would have believed these two powerless New Yorkers otherwise (one who had a previous record) if they had just told people they were arrested unfairly.

59. Anthony Weiner, former Queens house representative

Weiner began last year as a powerful potential mayoral candidate in the city. On the national and international stages, he married into American Democratic royalty by wedding Hillary Clinton's right-hand aide, Huma Abedin. With one public tweet that was meant to be a direct message, he ended it all, leaving the career politician with nothing to do except to turn his overwhelmingly Democratic district over to a Republican in a special election.

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