Beacons of Hope

Every year Crain’s New York Business identifies 20 individuals in their 20s who promise to become leaders in the decades ahead. As the city continues its slow march out of the pandemic, inequality among New Yorkers has only widened. This year Crain’s wanted to shine a spotlight on those who are striving to build a city that is more compassionate and attentive to communities that are often overlooked, marginalized or misunderstood. 

Through their grit and determination, these individuals are heeding the voices of a generation hungry to build a city more resilient to the challenges ahead and willing to fix the mistakes of the past. They have organized labor movements, electrified city infrastructure and built a bridge between New York’s underground art scene and the upper echelons of the industry. They have identified health disparities exposed during the pandemic and created new, affordable ways to provide care with a focus on equity. They have also changed our perspective on investing, sports, technology and more. 

Not only are these individuals cementing themselves in their respective fields, but many have also partnered with community groups and youth programs to lift others into positions of power. 

This cohort has achieved so much in such a short amount of time that they should give all New Yorkers hope that the abundance of challenges in front of us can be solved. I’m confident you will continue hearing many of these names in the years ahead. 


—TAYLOR NAKAGAWA, Digital Editor


Justin Chae, 23
CEO and Co-founder

Meridian Strategies

Justin Chae has been working on political campaigns since high school. Now in his early 20s, he’s winning them too.

As CEO of Meridian Strategies, a political consulting firm, Chae advises politicians, unions, corporations, nonprofits and city agencies on how to win votes in elections and gain support across statehouses. In 2021 Chae’s company was selected to run the community outreach for NYC Health + Hospitals’ Test and Trace Corps campaign.

“We were doing deep persuasion of underserved communities that were skeptical of government or vaccines,” Chae said. “We spent nine months going door to door persuading people to get their first [Covid vaccine] shot.”

The Long Island–born Chae’s other clients included the Real Estate Board of New York, state Sens. Andrew Gounardes and Joe Addabbo Jr. and former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“He’s very smart,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a national political strategist who mentored Chae. “I think he’s among the brightest people in that generation coming up.”

Sheinkopf noted that Chae “has a sense of combat” and is willing to mix it up for the sake of his clients.

Chae is not only interested in politics. He sits on the board of directors for the Stonewall Community Development Group, a nonprofit dedicated to securing affordable housing for LGBTQ elders.

“It’s the craziest thing: The majority of my business now comes from picking up the phone,” Chae said. “People have started to realize that Justin Chae is the only person who picks up the phone in a timely manner.”

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