Speaker Johnson

Ever since we have known him, two things have struck us about Corey Johnson: You should never underestimate his political ability, and he works extremely hard.

Those qualities — his political acumen and ambition, plus his relentless pursuit of his goals — explain why he is the City Council’s new speaker.

Frankly, Johnson’s being the Council’s leader represents a breath of fresh air and offers, potentially, a lot of hope for a better city more attuned to the needs of the people.

We have just had 12 years of Council speakers who worked extremely closely — many would say, too closely — with mayors. Christine Quinn was speaker for eight years with Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Most notably, after having said she would not support extending term limits, she turned around and, doing Bloomberg’s bidding, got the Council to extend them legislatively. Voters didn’t forget and it hurt her in her run for mayor four years ago. Meanwhile, her successor, Melissa Mark-Viverito, was handpicked by Mayor Bill de Blasio and was his staunchest ally at City Hall.

Johnson has stated he will be his own man and that the Council — which he vowed he won’t run “with an iron fist” — will be independent.

One clear example is congestion pricing. Johnson said he supports the idea, though he isn’t sure exactly what form it would take. De Blasio, on the other hand, says he has never liked the concept. Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo has gotten onboard the traffic-easing scheme, stating, “Congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come.” For Manhattan, it’s long overdue.

Also on transportation, Johnson says the city should help fund the subways. The mayor adamantly says, No. But, as Johnson correctly states, this is a problem that is impacting millions of New Yorkers — plus, he doesn’t have a feud with Cuomo clouding his judgment on this critical issue.

On the small business crisis, Johnson says the Small Business Jobs Survival Act could be a solution, but that other initiatives and legislation might also work. He says the S.B.J.S.A. is not necessarily “the silver bullet.” Previous mayors and Council speakers have done their best to keep this long-pending bill on the shelf. Everyone knows it has had support in the Council, though. If Johnson is truly an independent voice for small businesses, we’ll see some results for mom-and-pop shops.

Also very important, Johnson has pledged, to his credit, not to take his eye off the needs of his own Village / Chelsea / Hell’s Kitchen district — even while it’s clear that he will be running for another office in four years when he is term-limited. People felt Quinn, in her mayoral ambitions, lost touch with the needs of her own constituents.

Our sister paper, Gay City News, recently reported that Johnson, in his drive to be speaker, even courted the votes of two known Council homophobes. That probably wasn’t the narrative Johnson wanted out there, but it was certainly fair game to report. But it shows he is strategic and knows what means he must take to achieve his larger agenda. Politics isn’t always pretty.

Over all, we are very encouraged by Johnson, our own homegrown councilmember, becoming speaker. And we think it augers well for the city’s future. Congratulations, Corey, and good luck!

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