The Brooklyn Influentials: 128 People Who Matter Right Now

Bushwick drag queens, Williamsburg gallerists, Dumbo developers and more.

To say anything general or sweeping about Brooklyn these days is to invite all kinds of nonsense. Bloggers say it’s over; developers say the party is just getting started. Celebrities say it’s a quiet place to retreat, but one look at the Brooklyn Bridge on a Saturday suggests otherwise. (And don’t say anything at all about Williamsburg. Just don’t.)

Those who reside elsewhere sometimes say Brooklynites are smug about where they live. O.K., you got us there.

Maybe there is a bit of outsize, even cloying, pride about living in one of the most vibrant swaths of land anywhere, where tech jobs are booming, rents and home prices are soaring year in and out (because who doesn’t want to live there?) and tourists are pouring in by the L-trainload. Brooklyn’s comedic talent is all over TV, its tastemakers are dressing Hollywood, and its tech visionaries are redefining social media. Etsy, Kickstarter and Rap Genius—all born in Brooklyn.

On our list of Brooklyn influencers, you’ll meet builders who are redrawing the skyline, educators who are reinventing schools and restaurateurs who are pioneering tastes and neighborhoods. Others are making waves far beyond the borough’s borders, be they artists, writers, stylists, tinkerers, scene makers or simply muses.

(Illustration by Victor Juhasz)

(Illustration by Victor Juhasz)

There are a lot of very important Brooklynites you don’t see on this list, because their borough of residence is incidental to their cultural impact. (Of course, we thought of Pat Kiernan.) If everyone who ever lived in Brooklyn were eligible, these pages would not be able to accommodate all of the Barbra Streisands, Jay Zs and Jimmy Fallons of the world. And not everyone on this list actually lives in Brooklyn. Shane Smith of Vice, for instance, lives in Tribeca, but the media company he runs out of Williamsburg can’t be left off a roster of game changers.

Taken in total, the list gives a picture of Kings County circa 2014. Parts of the borough are awash in crazy money, to be sure, but Brooklyn remains a place whose creative heart still beats in underground lofts as well as luxury ones. Go ahead and curse the condo boom, then see drag queen Horrorchata at Bushwig, catch a free outdoor movie any night of the summer or find out what a gallerist has cooking in a North Williamsburg boiler room. Sorry, there goes that pride again.

So be it. As the folks on the following pages can attest, a healthy dose of self-regard never hurt anyone—not in Brooklyn, anyway.

—Colin Campbell, David Colon, Drew Grant, Matthew Kassel, Michael Miller, Molly Mulshine, Josh Ozersky, Faye Penn, Chris Pomorski, Andrew Russeth, Jack Smith IV, Joshua David Stein, Jordyn Taylor, Kim Velsey and Helen Zelon


FOOD


The Progressive Cuisiniers
Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stevens

The Red Bloods
Frank Castronovo, Frank Falcinelli

The Manhattan-Caliber Chefs
Joseph Ogrodnek, Walker Stern

The Authentic
Carlo Mirarchi

The Scene Definer
Zak Pelaccio

The Brooklyn Branders
Steve Hindy, Garrett Oliver, Tom Potter 

The Taste Architect
Andrew Tarlow

The Vintage Modernists
Evan and Oliver Haslegraves

REAL ESTATE


The Dumbo Developer
Jed Walentas

The Skyline Shaper
MaryAnne Gilmartin

The Entrepreneur
Jonathan Butler

The Boom Surfer
Deborah Rieders

The Navy Captains
David Ehrenberg, Douglas Steiner

The Territory Trailblazer
Andrew Kimball

The Rezoning Sentinel
David Greenfield

The Downtown Reanimator
Karen Brooks Hopkins

The Centers of the Universe
Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet

The Waterfront Reviver
David von Spreckelsen


STYLE


The Muse
Alexa Chung

The Original Muse
Chloë Sevigny

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Couturier
Rachel Antonoff

The Lens
Cass Bird

The Producer
Dev Hynes

The Star Dresser
Kate Young

The Anti-Bridal Designer
Molly Guy

The Model Magazinists
Prince + Jacob

The Baubler
Rony Vardi

The Style Setter
Athena Calderone

The Thoroughly Modern Marthas
Grace Bonney, Julia Turshen

 

TECH


The Funding Gatekeeper
Alexis Ohanian

The Digital Strategist
Aaron Shapiro

The 3-D Evangelist
Bre Pettis

The Curation Cultist
David Karp

The Lifestyle Platformer
Philippe Von Borries

The Educator
K. R. Sreenivasan

The Dream Enabler
Yancey Strickler

CULTURE


The New Girls
Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson

The Omnipresent One
Hannibal Buress

The Breakout
Sasheer Zamata

The Hitmaker
Beau Willimon

The Gadabout
Eugene Mirman

Your Brain on Brooklyn
John Hodgman

The Agitator
Spike Lee

The Brooklyn Siren
Michelle Williams

The Game Changers
The Nets

WORDS


The Original Snarkist
Kurt Andersen

The Big Debut
Adelle Waldman

The Risk-taker
Jill Schoolman

The $2M Bet
Garth Risk Hallberg

The Literary Pillar
Colson Whitehead

The Powerhouse Agent
Susan Golomb

The L Trainers
Daniel and Scott Stedman

The Outlaw
Shane Smith

The Gothamite 
Jake Dobkin

 

VISUAL ARTS


The Tastemaker
Michael Nevin

The Ring Leader
Dustin Yellin

The Original Gallerist
Joe Amrhein

The Eye
Olivier Babin

MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE


The Post-Punk Revivalists
The National

The Imitated
Grizzly Bear

The Scene Makers
The So So Glos

The Hip-Hop Linchpin
Wes Jackson

The Bookers
Billy Jones, Zachary Mexico

The Royal She
Horrorchata

The Truth Teller
Angel Haze

The Indie Promoter
Todd Patrick

The Glamorizer
Peter Shapiro

The Annotators
Tom Lehman, Mahbod ‘Maboo’ Moghadam, Ilan Zechory

The Afropunks
Matthew Morgan, Jocelyn Cooper


POLITICS


The Homegrown Mayor
Bill de Blasio

The Activist First Lady
Chirlane McCray

The Heir Apparent
Eric Adams

The Business Booster
Carlo Scissura

The Shadow Speaker
Brad Lander

The One to Watch
Hakeem Jeffries

The Insurgent
Kenneth Thompson

The Mayor’s Ally
Yvette Clarke

The Orthodox Delegates
Moshe Indig, David Niederman

The Course Corrector
Carmen Fariña

The Mayoral Whisperer
Emma Wolfe

The Reformer
Karim Camara

 


EDUCATION


The Dissenter
Anna Allanbrook

The Alternative School Virtuoso
Lisa Gioe

The Charter Upstarts
Allison Keil, Sara Stone

The Teacher Maker
Timothy Daly

NON-PROFIT


The Freelancers’ Champion
Sara Horowitz

The Prospect Park Reviver
Tupper Thomas

The Cool Rabbi
Andy Bachman

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Visionary
Regina Myer