Monthly Archives

June 2017


Patch: Aetna Headquarters To Move To Chelsea

June 29, 2017

June 29, 2017

CHELSEA, NY — The health insurance giant Aetna will move its headquarters to Chelsea, transplanting its massive operation from Connecticut and bringing with it 250 new jobs to Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday morning.

De Blasio touted the company’s move as one that would bring 250 “good-paying jobs” and $146 million in economic benefit to the city, according to a statement from his office. The company is getting a $9.6 million financial assistance package from the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

The company’s move is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Property records show that the address listed for Aetna’s new home, 61 Ninth Ave., is currently a vacant plot of land that stretches down 15th Street. The company’s headquarters will be located near Chelsea Market and Google’s New York campus.

“Aetna will bring hundreds of good paying jobs to New York City and I couldn’t be happier that they’re locating in my district,” Council Member Corey Johnson said in a statement. “Aetna’s presence will also help support our local small businesses and provide local hiring opportunities.”

The company’s current headquarters are in Hartford, Connecticut.

De Blasio framed the company’s move as part of his New York Works initiative, a plan he debuted with much fanfare but few details when he promised to spur 100,000 well paying jobs to NYC in the next decade. Aetna’s move will make a 250-job dent in that 100,000 goal, according to his office.


Gothamist: NYC’s Massive LGBTQ Pride Parade Mixes Party And Protest

June 26, 2017

June 26, 2017

A week’s worth of LGBTQ gatherings and celebrations was capped off yesterday afternoon with the enormous Pride Parade, as thousands of marchers, protestors, dancers, singers, and lovers made their way through from Midtown to the Stonewall Inn.

Spectators packed the sidewalks and side streets throughout the entire route, making it feel like the most crowded Pride in years. (And last year’s parade had 2 million spectators!)

The march seemed more politicized than recent years. The front part of the march was led by numerous protest groups, including Gays Against Guns, Black Lives Matter, the ACLU/NYCLU (which was also a grand marshal and invited Gavin Grimm and Chelsea Manning to ride on its car), and several outraged anti-Trump/anti-GOP and contingents. One group, No Justice Peace, returned later in the day to briefly block the parade near Stonewall, resulting in a dozen arrests. The direct action was intended to call attention to what the group calls “the LGBT movement’s complicity with systems that oppress,” particularly the march’s corporate sponsors and the NYPD.

That was after the politicians made their way down Fifth Avenue, a full slate that included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio (who with First Lady Chirlane McCray frequently bolted to the sidelines to high-five spectators), Senator Chick Schumer, State Senator Brad Hoylman (who passed out 5,000 copies of the Constitution), and City Comptroller Scott Stringer. No public servant appeared to be having more fun than City Councilman Corey Johnson, who put on an extended show for the delighted crowd with a range of not-bad dance moves.

Once the corporate-sponsored floats started coming, the mood switched over to non-stop party, as freebies were tossed, club classics blasted, and the sexiness-level soared.


Gothamist: Now There’s A Rainbow Crosswalk Outside Stonewall Inn

June 25, 2017

June 25, 2017

Members of New York City’s Department of Transportation paint the crosswalk outside of Stonewall Inn with the colors of the pride flag in honor of pride week on June 25, 2017 (NYC Department of Transportation)

Just in time for Sunday’s big Pride Parade, the NYC Department of Transportation has painted the crosswalk outside the Stonewall Inn with rainbow colors.

Heritage of Pride, which organizes Pride Week activities, paid for the DOT crew’s overnight work. HOP co-chair David Studinski told AMNY, “NYC Pride is honored to bring Gilbert Baker’s original rainbow to the very streets where the modern LGBT movement began. We are proud to fund the installation of this exciting project. We thank the mayor, city council members and department of transportation for helping us make this long-awaited tribute a colorful reality.”

There will also be rainbow decals placed on crosswalks along the parade’s route, on Fifth Avenue between 36th and 24th Streets. Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Pride Month reminds us that the fight for LGBTQ rights is not yet won, but that we can be proud as a city to have blazed the trail.”

A group has been petitioning—with nearly 20,000 signatures so far—to add permanent rainbow crosswalks to NYC. We’ve contacted the DOT to see if this crosswalk will become a full-time fixture.


Gothamist: Cyclist Killed By Charter Bus Driver Was 80-Year-Old Cobbler

June 18, 2017

June 18, 2017

The cyclist who was hit and killed by a charter bus driver has been identified as an 80-year-old man who owned a shoe store in lower Manhattan.
The NYPD identified the man killed by the charter bus driver as 80-year-old Chelsea resident Michael Mamoukakis. Mamoukakis was killed at about 1:30 p.m. when, riding his bike south on 7th Avenue, a charter bus driver also going south on 7th Avenue turned into him while trying to make a right onto West 29th Street. The driver, who remained on the scene, was not charged.

An NYPD spokesperson originally told Gothamist that Mamoukakis was killed shortly before 4 p.m. when he was going south on 7th Avenue and collided with the bus that was moving west on West 29th Street.

The bus driver told the Post that she didn’t realize she’d hit someone until people started yelling for her to stop the bus. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” she told the paper. “I was driving the bus, but when I looked, I didn’t see anybody. When I heard the thump, I didn’t see anything.”
The News spoke to a witness who told the paper “I turned around and I saw bus wheels go over a man’s body.” The paper also spoke to members of Mamoukakis’s family, who told the paper he was a cobbler who owned Mike’s Shoes in lower Manhattan.

With Mamoukakis’s death coming just days after the death of Citi Bike rider Dan Hanegby, who himself was killed by a charter bus driver just blocks from where Mamoukakis was hit, Chelsea City Council Member Corey Johnson issued a statement in which he wrote that “traffic violence is preventable” and that the “City can and must do better” in working to reduce traffic violence.

“I am angered and heartbroken to learn of a second cyclist fatality tonight in my district,” Johnson wrote in the statement. “This is the second cyclist fatality in Chelsea in five days. Both fatalities were caused by charter buses and both incidents took place in the West 20s near Seventh Avenue.”

Johnson went on to call for “an emergency meeting that includes the NYC DOT, the NYPD, my colleagues in government, Community Board 4 and representatives of charter bus companies that operate in Chelsea and West Midtown.”


NY Times: Stonewall Inn Project to Preserve Stories Behind a Gay Rights Monument

June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017

The little park outside the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, the site of a major turning point in the gay rights movement nearly 50 years ago, became a permanent beacon last year when it was named a national historic monument.

But those who remember the night Stonewall patrons defiantly clashed with the police have dwindled over the years. Their stories risk going untold.

On Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York announced a $1 million grant from, the internet giant’s philanthropic wing, to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, to start a project preserving the oral histories and human experiences of the people who stood up and fought back during those tense days in 1969. The initiative is in conjunction with the National Park Foundation, which will create an educational curriculum for students and a digital platform intended to magnify the reach of the monument beyond the small triangle of parkland in the West Village.

“The purpose is to spread the word about the Stonewall uprising and the progress we have made as well as the distance we have to go,” Mr. Schumer said. “And it sends a great message to Washington, especially in these times: We celebrate our diversity and cherish it, we don’t shrink from it and we don’t fear it.”

On the night of June 28, 1969, Martin Boyce was at the Stonewall Inn on the gay haven of Christopher Street. Mr. Boyce and other patrons fought back when police arrived for one of their near-nightly stops at the bar, lining up customers and arresting several for what seemed like arbitrary reasons.

“The only place we had to go was Christopher Street,” said Mr. Boyce, now 69 and a chef living in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. “Christopher Street was the one place you didn’t have to look behind you, it was all your people. Here was the one spot we had — now raided and ruined.” When the police told a group to disperse, he remembers, that night they advanced instead. “People who didn’t even want to do this, they just wanted to be free,” he said.

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, an artist and a veteran of the Stonewall uprising in 1969. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times
The idea for the project came from William Floyd, Google’s head of external affairs for New York, who lives with his husband in Chelsea and walks past the Stonewall Inn when he takes his young son to school. Unlike some other national monuments, Stonewall commemorates a struggle that continues to evolve, he said.

“This is a living, breathing, active thing,” he said. “It’s not like Mount Rushmore or a physical natural thing of beauty, it’s civil rights. We thought it was really important that we could provide money and technology to capture those voices and help amplify them.”

One of the voices will probably come from Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt. As a teenager in the ’60s, he had run away from home in Linden, N.J. Stonewall was a refuge, he said, explaining how he ended up as one of the self-described “street kids” who joined the fray that night.

“It happened spontaneously, and it happened mostly because of the civil rights movement in the ’60s that broke ground before it, and the women’s movement,” said Mr. Lanigan-Schmidt, now 69 and an artist. “They created a mentality that’s about freedom and being a full person. When we were in the street that night, that exchange of ideas had built up to that point. Everyone became a fighter pretty quick.”

The Stonewall project will join a group of similar initiatives by Google to preserve oral history. In conjunction with the Equal Justice Initiative, a group working to end mass incarceration, Google has funded a project that documents stories of lynching through the descendants of those who were murdered.

Though the $1 million donation is significant, the West Village’s gay center still needs to raise money to pay for components of a monument like an informational kiosk in the park. The goal is $2 million, which the Park Foundation is raising. Mr. Floyd said Google’s donation would cover things like the oral history component, a social media platform for visitors to share their stories, and educational aspects, which Google is best suited to support.

“My hope is that we transform the scale and the reach of the Stonewall National Monument from a physical location to really a shared experience,” said Glennda Testone, the executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “What we want to do is make sure that that inspiration and that touchstone is available to everybody, wherever they may live in the world.”



June 17, 2017

June 17, 2017

“I am angered and heartbroken to learn of a second cyclist fatality tonight in my district. This is the second cyclist fatality in Chelsea in five days. Both fatalities were caused by charter buses and both incidents took place in the West 20s near Seventh Avenue. Tonight’s fatality took place one block from my district office.

Although the NYC Department of Transportation has made a number pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements in recent years and is in the process of planning a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue, our City can and must do better.

I believe all stakeholders should convene an emergency meeting that includes the NYC DOT, the NYPD, my colleagues in government, Community Board 4 and representatives of charter bus companies that operate in Chelsea and West Midtown.

Traffic violence is preventable. A sustained focus must be kept on developing creative solutions. We must work vigilantly until traffic-related deaths are brought to zero.


Council Member Corey Johnson represents District 3 in the New York City Council, which includes the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Flatiron, Times Square, the Garment District and part of the Upper West Side.


The Villager: Renew Mayoral Control of City’s Public Schools

June 15, 2017

By Corey Johnson
June 15, 2017

It’s another legislative session in Albany, and once again State Senate Republicans are holding a key New York City issue hostage in order to extract concessions: mayoral control of New York City’s schools.

Let’s put aside the obvious question of why legislators who represent districts hundreds of miles away from here have the authority to determine how New York City runs its schools. We must then ask whether or not mayoral control has been a success. The answer is yes, and it’s outrageous that it’s being held up for political horse-trading.

Before mayoral control, New York City schools were run by a myriad of school boards and a seven-member Board of Education, appointed by six different entities. This labyrinth resulted in no accountability, no direct lines of authority and no centralized decision-making. It was unclear who was responsible for the failing education system. Therefore, no one was responsible.

Mayoral control allows for a singular vision for our school system with stability, efficiency and clear accountability. The buck stops with the mayor.

Fifteen years into mayoral control, it is abundantly clear that it has paid dividends. During Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term, the city’s graduation rate increased from 50.8 percent to 66 percent. Mayor Bill de Blasio has further built on that progress. New York City’s four-year graduation rate hit 72.6 percent last school year, the highest rate in city history and a 2-point increase over the year before. Before mayoral control, 22 percent of kids dropped out of high school. Last year, New York City’s dropout rate hit an all-time low: 8.5 percent.

Academic performance continues to improve under mayoral control. Last year, there was an 8 percent increase over the year before in students taking and passing at least one Advanced Placement exam. Participation in the A.P. exam among black students increased by more than 14 percent, and it rose 10 percent for Hispanic students. In 2016, the share of the city’s students who passed the state English exam jumped by nearly 8 points to 38 percent, matching the state average for the first time. While test scores are by no means the best measure to evaluate our schools, the positive trend they reflect can’t be ignored.

Mayoral control fosters innovation. In 2014, the mayor’s Pre-K for All program increased access to early-childhood education to nearly 70,000 children. This year, the mayor announced he will now build on that work by setting on a path to offer a free, full-day, high-quality education for every 3-year-old.

Clearly, this should be a no-brainer. But, true to form, the Republicans are not motivated by the merits. They are holding mayoral control hostage in exchange for giveaways to charter schools and tax credits for private and parochial schools.

Luckily, we have outstanding Democrats representing us in Albany, including Senators Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron and Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried, Deborah Glick and Linda Rosenthal. It is our job to support them and to send a strong message to the Senate Republicans: Stop playing politics with our children’s futures.


Statement On Guilty Plea of NYC Landlord Steven Croman

June 6, 2017

“I want to commend Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and his team for their successful pursuit of Steven Croman, one of the most notorious, unscrupulous, abusive landlords in New York City. Nearly every week, my office receives calls from this man’s tenants throughout my district. Many of them are elderly, disabled and living on fixed incomes. Steven Croman targeted them with illegal tactics, and now he will pay the price. I hope landlords across New York City hear Attorney General Schneiderman’s message loud and clear: if you violate the law and harass your tenants, you will face justice.”



Delivering the Commencement Address at my former high school, Masconomet Regional

June 5, 2017

I was honored to deliver the commencement address at the 2017 graduation ceremony of my high school, Masconomet Regional High School. In addition to my own experiences as a high school student, I spoke about being of service, being compassionate, that facts matter, resisting and being a generation that helps lead in changing our country for the better.


The Salem News: Masco Grads Gold to Take Time and Reflect

June 2, 2017

June 2, 2017

BOXFORD – Masconomet Regional High School graduates were told to take time to appreciate the moment, as well as to be honest with themselves.

Before the Class of 2017 made their way onto the stage to accept their high school diplomas, they were offered advice from classmates as well as others with more life experience.

“The world that I entered is far different than the one you face today,” said Corey Johnson, a New York City councilman who graduated from Masconomet in 2000.

The newly minted high school graduates sitting in front of him were barely born when Johnson graduated from high school, but he left them with some important, powerful messages about life.

“If you are open an honest with yourself, you will find a beautiful world willing to embrace you,” he said.

Receiving an embrace was the first thing Johnson was given when he nervously told his guidance counselor that he’s gay while attending Masco. Johnson detailed how he kept it a secret from age 12, and how the weight of his secret caused him to alienate himself from his friends and fail classes.

But starting with his mother, and eventually expanding to his entire football team and school, Johnson came out. He expected insults and negativity, but he didn’t receive any of that.

“I finally felt like a full human being,” he said, adding that at the time, he was the only openly gay student at Masco.

Johnson also drove home the point that “facts must matter,” and that the young have often been the ones to lead the country’s most important social movements – Civil Rights, women’s suffrage and others.

“We have to look to the generations that are coming and ask them what is the next movement,” he said.

From Jacob Klingensmith, class vice president, graduates were told to remember to live in the moment. He described how early in his high school career, he wanted nothing more than to graduate. But now, he realized that instead of looking ahead, it’s important to appreciate the present.

“The ingredients for happiness are all around us,” he said.