Ruth Hassell – Thompson
Former New York State Senator
Special Advisor for Policy and Community Affairs
NYS Housing and Community Renewal
Ruth-Hassell Thompson of Mount Vernon, New York is a former State Senator who represented the 36th district of New York, which includes the Bronx neighborhoods of Norwood, Bedford Park, Williamsbridge, Co-op City, Wakefield and Baychester and the Westchester city of Mount Vernon.
Hassell-Thompson has served in the New York State Senate from 2001 to 2016. She is also a former City Council President and Acting Mayor of Mount Vernon, having been first elected to the City Council in 1993. She is also a retired nurse for Mount Vernon Hospital, specializing in pediatrics and substance abuse counseling. She is the founding President and CEO of “The Gathering,” a volunteer-staffed women’s center in Mount Vernon that provides counseling and support services, and has also worked extensively with individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS.
Hassell-Thompson is well known for her expertise on minority business needs and has initiated numerous workshops and seminars on business development. From January 1980 to June 1987, Ms. Hassell-Thompson was the Executive Director of the Westchester Minority Contractors Association (WMCA). In this position, she became well-versed in economic development issues which impact women and people of color. She became one of their most ardent advocates and successfully persuaded members of both the public and private sectors to increase economic participation with minority and women-owned businesses.
She served on numerous boards and committees that focused on issues related to minority and women business ownership. Among her many achievements was her ability to spearhead bank loans for financing minority and women-owned business activities. She continues to serve as an advocate for these concerns.
Hassell-Thompson announced on April 22, 2016 that she would be leaving the Senate to work for Governor Andrew Cuomo as Special Advisor for Policy and Community Affairs of New York State Homes and Community Renewal.
Senator James Sanders Jr.
New York State Senator
10th Senate District of New York State
James Sanders Jr. is a member of the New York State Senate, serving since January 2013. He represents the 10th Senatorial District, which includes the Queens neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Rosedale and parts of Far Rockaway.
Now in his fourth term, New York State Democrat Senator James Sanders Jr., a lifelong public servant, Marine Corps veteran, proponent of education and advocate for working class families, continues to approach the legislature with a fresh perspective and promise to bring economic opportunities and resources to the people of Southeast Queens.
As Council Member, Sanders was unanimously voted Chairman of the Economic Development Committee, making him the first African-American in City history to hold the post. Having an immediate impact in his new role - overseeing the EDC and Department of Small Business Services - Sanders commissioned a major study that became the basis upon which New York City re-instituted policies of affirmative action, and enhanced opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses.
Since in the Senate, Sanders has risen to become the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks and heads the Senate Task Force on Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE). The Task Force is charged with working to find innovative ways to better encourage and support MWBEs as a valuable part of growing the New York economy. In addition, Sanders is a member of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Advisory Council on MWBEs. The Advisory Council guides policy making and strategy to aggressively assist the City in reaching its pledge to award more than $16 billion dollars to MWBEs over a 10-year period. It was Sanders, who in his City Council tenure, set the stage as author of MWBE NYC Local Law 1 to help strengthen the MWBE program, and Local Law 129 that established participation goals for MWBEs to help increase the number of certified firms from 700 to over 3,500 program participants, and win over $3 billion dollars in City contracts.
Senator Sanders makes constituent services a top priority and believes in strengthening transparency and accountability in New York State’s government.
42nd District of New York State
Rodneyse Bichotte is the Assembly Member and State Committee Woman / District Leader for New York State’s 42nd Assembly District. Assemblymember Bichotte has been appointed Chair of the Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs) Subcommittee. She currently serves on the following committees: Housing, Government Operations, Economic Development, Small Businesses, Banks, and Social Services.
In her first term, Assemblymember Bichotte has introduced 36 pieces of legislation, of which four became law. In addition, the Assemblymember co-sponsored 178 pieces of legislation.
Rodneyse Bichotte is the first Haitian-American woman elected into office in New York City. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Rodneyse’s advocacy centers on providing resources on affordable housing and home ownership, financial literacy of her communities, public safety initiatives and better relationships with law enforcement, affordable healthcare, high-quality public and private education, and economic development, especially for individuals seeking to open small business. She has lobbied in New York City, Albany and Washington as a District Leader for affordable housing and healthcare, against cuts for special education programs, an increase the minimum wage, the passage of the Dream Act and growth in the small businesses and tech sector.
In addition, Rodneyse takes an active role in bettering her community through her on-the-ground work with organizations such as the Haitian American Caucus and Habitat for Humanity with President Jimmy Carter; she has helped to deliver resources to Haiti. Public service is a lifelong commitment for Rodneyse, and since her election in 2010 as District Leader, she has used her position to facilitate and sponsor a number of community events.
Brian W. Simon
Director of Government Relations
Davidoff, Hutcher and Citron LLP - New York Office
Brian W. Simon is Director of the firm’s Government Relations Group. Mr. Simon is based in the firm’s New York City office, where he focuses primarily on transportation and infrastructure, as well as provides legislative and regulatory guidance to Fintech firms, bank partnership platforms, small business lenders, and lastly, assists real estate clients on large to medium development projects.
Formerly a member of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, with an appointment as Director of Government & Community Relations at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Mr. Simon is especially adept in shepherding significant developments through project review and construction. While at the Port Authority, concurrently, he also managed the Office of Strategic Planning & Analysis. Mr. Simon worked closely with the Executive Chamber to advance the Governor’s vision and policy agenda regarding transportation infrastructure while promoting a strategically critical transit-oriented development agenda within the Port Authority. He has experience managing transportation planners and policy experts responsible for monitoring and influencing the policies of the White House, the United States Congress, the State Legislature, among other entities.
Prior to serving in Cuomo’s administration, Mr. Simon served as a senior staff member in the United States Congress. Some of his positions included: Deputy State Director to US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Executive Director to Congressman Gregory Meeks. In 2004, he was tapped by Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign where he served as the national Deputy Director for African-American Affairs.
NY Tri-State Chapter of NAMC
Jenifer Rajkumar is a Stanford Law School graduate with a wide range of experience in litigation, government, and politics. She was previously appointed by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo as Director of Immigration Affairs & Special Counsel, serving in the Governor's Executive Chamber and in the NYS Department of State. She led a statewide effort to ensure immigrants in New York State have access to counsel through New York State's first-in-the-nation Liberty Defense Project, served as a state ethics officer, and as a counsel for the state in a range of litigation. She practiced law for several years at Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, focusing on class action cases on behalf of disenfranchised workers, and on qui tam cases combatting corporate fraud. She was part of the legal team on Velez v. Novartis, which was ranked by the U.N. as one of the top 10 cases in the world advancing women's equality. In 2015 and 2016, she was named to the "New York Metro Super Lawyers list," awarded to no more than 2.5% of lawyers in the state. In 2012, she was named a "40 Under 40 Rising Star" by City & State. She teaches Political Science as a Professor at CUNY's Lehman College. She is a panelist on the national PBS Show "To the Contrary" which airs to over 1 million viewer nationwide. In 2017, she received the New York County Democratic Party's "Bella Abzug Award," the Glass Ceiling Award from the Queens Tribune and the "Stars Under 40" Award from the Queens Courier. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School (JD) with pro bono distinction and the University of Pennsylvania (BA), phi beta kappa, magna cum laude.