When Corey Johnson was elected as chairman of Manhattan’s Community Board 4 in 2011, he became the youngest community board chair anywhere in the city. Now Johnson is one of the many fresh faces in the New York City Council, representing what for years was outgoing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s district.
“I have a beard, and I never shave because if I ever shave, I look too young,” Johnson said. “When I shave, I look like I’m younger than 31.”
But while he is also one of the body’s youngest members, Johnson has had a long road to get to this point.
His first brush with fame happened when, as the captain of his high school football team, he came out as gay, and the story was featured on the front of The New York Times, in Sports Illustrated and in a segment with Anderson Cooper.
“I came out because I wanted to have a sense of freedom. And then it organically turned into a big media story,” Johnson said. “It exploded into something that neither me nor my family expected. But it’s what gave me my entree in activism and politics.”
After high school Johnson moved to New York City, and for the last 12 years he has lived in Chelsea. He joined the local community board over eight years ago, where his dedication and experience paved the way for him to become board chair when he was only 28.
“You don’t spend eight years on the community board because it’s sexy,” he said. “You’re on the community board because you care about the community.”
As part of an influx of progressives elected across the city, Johnson is excited about the possibility of expanding paid sick leave and the living wage law, and providing universal pre-kindergarten. And while the state has legalized same-sex marriage, he also wants to provide better support for homeless LGBT youths and to combat HIV and AIDS.
“I’m the only HIV-positive member in the Council,” he said. “HIV and AIDS has not gone away. We have to continue to support people living with HIV and invest in prevention efforts.”
Neighborhoods represented: West Village, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Flatiron, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton and Columbus Circle
Policy focus: Affordable housing, small business, environment, parks
Date of Birth: April 28, 1982
Birthplace: Beverly, Mass.
Education: No college
Previous occupation: Sydell Group, LGBT marketing; GLAAD director of programs