Corey Johnson (politician)

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Corey Johnson
Speaker of the New York City Council
In office
January 3, 2018 – December 31, 2021
Preceded byMelissa Mark-Viverito
Succeeded byAdrienne Adams
Member of the New York City Council
from the 3rd district
In office
January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2021
Preceded byChristine Quinn
Succeeded byErik Bottcher
New York City Public Advocate
In office
January 1, 2019 – March 19, 2019
Preceded byLetitia James
Succeeded byJumaane Williams
Personal details
Born (1982-04-28) April 28, 1982 (age 41)
Beverly, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationGeorge Washington University (attended)
WebsiteOfficial website

Corey David Johnson (born April 28, 1982) is an American politician and lobbyist. A member of the Democratic Party, he was Speaker of the New York City Council from January 2018 to January 2022.

The third district includes Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village, as well as parts of Flatiron, SoHo, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He also concurrently served as Acting New York City Public Advocate for a few weeks in early 2019.[1]

Johnson was first elected to the council as the member for the 3rd district in 2013. At the time, Johnson was the first out gay man to serve as speaker, and the only openly HIV-positive politician in New York State.[2]

In 2019, Johnson announced he was running for mayor of New York City, but he stopped fund-raising in March 2020, and in September 2020 withdrew from the race, saying he had had depression since May 2020 and did not think he could campaign and be effective as speaker while monitoring his mental health.[3] He instead ran unsuccessfully for comptroller.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, and raised in nearby wealthy Middleton, by his mother, Ann Queenan Richardson (who worked at a variety of jobs, including at a thrift shop that she founded and manages),[4] and his stepfather, Rodney Richardson, owner of Middleton Tire Service and a truck driver.[5][6][7] Johnson's father, David Johnson, the son of an American father and a Korean mother, left the family when his son was very young.[4]

Johnson made national headlines in 2000 when, while co-captain of the Masconomet Regional High School football team, he publicly came out as gay. His story was reported by major national news outlets, including The New York Times and 20/20.[8][9] He graduated from high school in 2000.[4]

In 2004, Johnson was diagnosed as HIV-positive. In 2009, he acknowledged to himself that he had been addicted to alcohol and cocaine for six years and had to stop, deciding to become sober.[10][11][4]

Early career[edit]

Johnson spent less than one month at George Washington University before dropping out.[4] He then moved to New York City and engaged in LGBT rights activism.[4][12] He was a contributor and eventually the political director of the LGBT blog Towleroad.[13] In 2005, he joined Manhattan Community Board 4 (CB4).[14] From 2008 to 2010, Johnson was the government relations director at GFI Development, a Manhattan-based real estate developer.[15] He was elected chair of CB4 in 2011, becoming New York City's youngest community board chair at the time.[16] The same year, City & State profiled him as a "rising star" in New York City politics.[17]

New York City Council[edit]

Johnson in 2016

In 2013, Christine Quinn ran for mayor of New York City, as her term in the city council was expiring. Johnson, then chair of Community Board 4, ran to succeed Quinn in the 3rd district, and was elected in November 2013 with 86% of the vote.[18] He took office in January 2014.[19] Johnson's district includes all or part of the West Side neighborhoods of Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, west SoHo, Hudson Square, part of the Upper West Side, Times Square, FlatIron, Hudson Yards, the Theater District, and the Garment District.[20]

The council elected him speaker in January 2018.[21][22][23][24] He was the first out gay man to serve as speaker.[25] At the time, Johnson was also the only openly HIV-positive politician in New York State.[2][26][27]


As chair of the council's Committee on Health, Johnson oversaw hearings on health issues such as the proliferation in the city of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2.[28] Johnson's legislation to require transparency regarding health services administered at Rikers Island was signed into law in June 2015.[29]

In April 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Johnson's bill prohibiting the use of smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, at sports stadiums and arenas that host events that require a ticket for admission.[30] The legislation effectively banned chewing tobacco from professional baseball in New York City.[31] A similar ban had previously been enacted in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago.[32] New York Yankees pitcher Andrew Miller noted: "It's a completely legal substance. It's available to purchase at any 7-Eleven", and his teammate third baseman Chase Headley wondered, "How is it legal around town, around wherever else, but just at the ballpark it's not?"[33] New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson said, "The only question we have is, the guys who do it, how do they know what's going on? ... if a player accidentally chooses to do it, will he get a citation? Will we stop the game? And will the same thing happen to the fans in attendance? That hasn't been identified yet, so we're still waiting to hear that."[31]

In 2017 Johnson along with others occupied the offices in the U.S. Capitol of Senate Republicans to protest efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and was arrested and zip-tied.[34][35] During the protest, Johnson screamed: "'ACT UP!' 'Fight back!'".[36] He later tweeted, "By occupying offices of Senate Republicans, we demand they cease attempts to strip health care from millions!"[34] He was charged with "misdemeanor incommoding, a District of Columbia statute that prohibits demonstrations inside the Capitol complex."[34]

Criminal justice reform[edit]

In August 2016, the City Council passed legislation introduced by Johnson and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to create a city office responsible for the coordination of social and healthcare services for ex-cons who have been released from the New York City Department of Correction system.[37]

In 2018, Johnson sponsored a new law requiring that inmates in New York City jails be provided with free telephone calls.[38] At the time, poor inmates were already given three free calls per week, and sentenced inmates were given two free calls a week, but under the new law all inmate calls are free of charge.[38]

In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson called for the New York Police Department to stop making low-level arrests. He also called for the police to stop executing bench warrants for failure to appear in court.[39]

Johnson supports making it legal for sex workers to provide sexual services, but not for their clients to be free from criminal prosecution.[25] He supports the Defund the Police movement.[40]

LGBT rights[edit]

In 2014 Johnson introduced legislation to remove surgical requirements for transgender New Yorkers to change the gender on their birth certificates.[41] The legislation passed the City Council in December 2014 and was adopted in January 2015.[42]

In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, sparking the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named Johnson one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".[43][44]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, in 2020 a 68-bed field hospital was run by Samaritan's Purse and Mount Sinai Hospital in Central Park.[45] Johnson spoke out against it, due to the evangelical Christian aid group's requirement that their employees commit to a statement of faith, including a traditional view of marriage and sexuality.[46][47][48][49] The charity's CEO Franklin Graham said, "we have never asked any of the millions of people we have served to subscribe to anything. In other words, as a religious charity, while we lawfully hire staff who share our Christian beliefs, we do not discriminate in who we serve."[50] The field hospital was dismantled in May 2020.[45] It had treated over 300 patients.[51][45] Mount Sinai eventually severed ties with the organization due to the protests against its participation.[48][49][52]

Animal welfare[edit]

Johnson worked with Council member Elizabeth Crowley in 2014 to introduce a set of bills to regulate the sale of pets in New York City, with the purpose of animal rights protection. The bills regulate breeders, provide for the accounting of animals, and ensure that known animal abusers are unable to obtain animals. The legislation passed in December.[53] The bills also banned the sale of rabbits, and required that pet shops spay or neuter dogs in their care.[54]

In 2015 Johnson introduced legislation mandating that either fire sprinklers or supervision be present in all establishments that house animals for more than 24 hours.[55]

In 2016, Johnson co-sponsored legislation by Council member Rosie Mendez to ban the use of wild animals and exotic animals in circuses for public entertainment; the legislation exempted dog shows and camels for Manhattan's Radio City Christmas Spectacular.[56] In October 2016 he held a hearing in the Health Committee and spoke in support of the legislation, saying to the media that "trucking wild animals in and out of the city strictly for entertainment purposes is not a humane way to be treating them".[57] The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said that if the legislation passed, its circus would stop coming to New York City.[56] In June 2017, Johnson chaired a meeting of the Health Committee that passed the bill by a vote of 7–0,[58] and the full council passed the bill later in the month. Bill de Blasio signed the bill into law in July 2017.[59]

In 2019 Johnson urged the council to adopt a bill he introduced banning the sale of fur garments and fur accessories, with fines of up to $1,500 and forfeiture of money made from the sale.[60] He said the fur industry was brutal, and received support from animal activists.[61][60] But Black pastors and rapper Safaree staged protests, arguing that wearing fur is a sign of achievement in the Black community, and that Johnson's proposed ban elevated animals over Black lives and conflicted with centuries of cultural tradition.[62][60][63] At the same time, Jewish Hasidic rabbis, concerned with the elimination of hats made of fur known as shtreimels or spodiks that Hasids customarily wear on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, said Johnson's proposed prohibition conflicted with centuries of religious tradition.[64][62][60] Politico wrote, "Johnson, who is eyeing a mayoral run ... cannot afford to draw the ire of those groups."[65] Fur shop owners and garment manufacturers also expressed concern that such a prohibition would lead to the loss of jobs in New York City,[60] the nation's largest fur retail market, with 150 fur businesses creating 1,100 to 7,500 jobs.[60][66] The owner of one city fur company said, "There's a political agenda. If this ban happens, the leather industry will be attacked, the meat industry will be attacked. There's a slippery slope. Are politicians going to tell us what to do, what to wear and what to eat? It's a little bigger than fur."[60] Councilman Chaim Deutsch echoed the sentiment, saying: "Once you start with one thing ... What is next? We can't eat chicken? We can't eat meat?"[60][67] Larry Cowit, vice president of Madison Avenue Furs, mused: "There has to be a line, or we're all going to eat tofu and walk around in plastic sandals. Where does it end?"[68] Similarly, The New York Daily News wrote in an editorial:

"it is rich indeed for city government in the name of animal rights to outright ban the sale of fur, an important piece of an important New York industry, while allowing sale, on a scale that dwarfs the fur industry, of cow leather and sheepskin ... And while allowing sale by the tons, in supermarkets and restaurants, of meat ... The slope is slippery ... Johnson and the Council enjoy the symbolism of a fur ban, but they wouldn't dare go after the many other ways humans benefit from inexpensive and plentiful protein and, well, just plain tasty food. Would they?"[69]

Women's issues[edit]

Johnson's first legislation to pass the City Council was a bill granting a presumption of eligibility for people transitioning from domestic violence shelters to Department of Homeless Services shelters. The bill allows these individuals to bypass extensive intake procedures they already underwent during their first shelter placement.[70]


Johnson introduced legislation with Council member Vanessa Gibson to require the NYC Department of Education to report on the use of disciplinary measures in public schools. The legislation passed in September 2015, and was signed into law the following month.[71] Johnson later introduced legislation requiring the Department of Education to regularly report on student health services in public schools, to ensure that such services are adequately serving students. De Blasio signed the legislation into law in February 2016.[72]

Rent regulation[edit]

Johnson was the prime sponsor of legislation declaring a housing shortage emergency in 2015, which allowed rent stabilization laws to be extended.[73] On June 3, 2015, he and others occupied the offices of Republican senators in Albany in an act of civil disobedience while protesting for the extension of rent regulation and the reform of New York's rent laws, and he was arrested and handcuffed, charged with disorderly conduct, and given a desk warrant.[74] Fifty-five protesters were arrested for blocking the entrance to Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, and Johnson said that a number of protesters occupied Senate office buildings, which he said "shows how much is on the line".[75][74] It was Johnson's fourth arrest for civil disobedience.[74]


In May 2015, the City Council passed Johnson's legislation requiring all heavy-duty vehicles in New York City's fleet to be equipped with side-guards, devices meant to reduce casualties that large trucks at times cause to pedestrians and cyclists.[76] In December 2018 Transportation Alternatives gave Johnson its first-ever Vision Zero Leader of the Year Award.[77]


In response to a growing trend of hotel rooms being converted into luxury condominiums, Johnson introduced legislation to limit the number of condo conversions hotel owners can make. The legislation's goal was to protect jobs in the hotel industry. The City Council passed it in May 2015 and it was signed into law the next month.[78]


In 2018 Johnson supported a ban on plastic straws.[79] In 2019 he supported a five-cent fee on paper bags and banning styrofoam food containers.[80][81]

Election history[edit]

New York City Council: District 3
Election Candidate Party Votes Pct Candidate Party Votes Pct
2013 primary election[citation needed] Corey Johnson Dem 12,538 63.28% Yetta Kurland Dem 7,275 32.72%
2013 general election[82] Corey Johnson Dem 23,608 78.3% Richard Stewart Rep 3,691 12.2%
2017 general election[83] Corey Johnson Dem 25,744 84.3% Marni Halasa Other 1,556 5.1%

2021 campaigns[edit]

In 2019, Johnson began accepting contributions for a potential run for mayor of New York City. He stopped fund-raising in March 2020[3] and announced that he would not run in September 2020.[3] He said he had had depression since May 2020, and did not think he could campaign and be effective as speaker while monitoring his mental health.[3] In March 2021, he launched his run[84] for the 2021 New York City Comptroller election, but lost the Democratic primary, 51.9%–48.1%, to Councilmember Brad Lander.


While holding public office[edit]

Johnson was a real-estate lobbyist or government relations director at GFI Development from 2008 to 2010.[15] Anna Sanders reported Johnson received around a tenth of his mayoral campaign donations from "people who work for or serve hundreds of entities that have gotten millions in discretionary funds from the Council"; Johnson denied allegations of pay-to-play.[85][86] Sanders and other sources mention other close ties to lobbyists,[87] especially the Kasirer lobbying firm, as one of its vice presidents, Jason Goldman, served as Johnson's deputy chief of staff.[88][89]

Cojo Strategies[edit]

Soon after ending his campaign for mayor, Johnson moved to start a government relations consulting firm, Cojo Strategies, which began advising to a subsidiary of the Brooklyn Nets and the Central Park Conservancy.[90] An Israeli tech firm hired Johnson as its United States government relations advisor, with a focus on New York. He will advise and "liaise with municipal and state officials".[91]

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ a b c d e f Goodman, J. David (January 4, 2018). "Sober and H.I.V. Positive, New Council Speaker Has Weathered Adversity". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  5. ^ Honan, Katie (March 24, 2019). "She's OK Being Called NYC's First Mom, as Long as Her Corey Is Happy". The Wall Street Journal.
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  42. ^ Erin Durkin (December 8, 2014). "Transgender birth certificate bill passes Council". The New York Daily News. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
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  52. ^ Stack, Liam; Fink, Sheri (May 10, 2020). "Franklin Graham Is Taking Down His N.Y. Hospital, but Not Going Quietly". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 10, 2020."Controversial Central Park Field Hospital to Close; Samaritan's Purse Staffers Will Stay at Mount Sinai". NBC New York. May 2, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
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  85. ^ Anna Sanders (August 7, 2019), "Speaker Corey Johnson's campaign for mayor fueled by donors getting millions in Council pork", New York Daily News
  86. ^ Anna Sanders (August 12, 2019), "Council Speaker Corey Johnson says his 2021 fundraising 'not in any way a pay-to-play thing'", New York Daily News
  87. ^ Michelle Bocanegra (August 26, 2020), "After a year of lobbying, Johnson backs fossil fuel bill over green objections", Politico
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  89. ^ Michael Gartland (March 15, 2020), "Top lobbyist Suri Kasirer enjoys strong ties to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson", New York Daily News
  90. ^ Annie McDonough (March 23, 2022), "Where are your old council members now?", City & State
  91. ^ Jenya Volinsky (January 18, 2022), "An Israeli President and an N.Y.C. Politician: Israeli Tech Firm Enlists Big Names for Big Apple",

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by New York City Council, 3rd district
Succeeded by
Preceded by Speaker of the New York City Council
Succeeded by
Preceded by Public Advocate of New York City

Succeeded by