Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Corey Johnson Prepares Lie Sandwich; Makes CD 3 Eat It

City Council Watch
August 27, 2013

At last night's District 3 candidate forum, Corey Johnson took issue with being labeled the candidate of "political insiders" by his opponent Yetta Kurland.  "Does anyone here really think Jerry Nadler is a political insider?" asked Johnson, referencing one of his prominent endorsers.  "Jerry Nadler is a progressive Democrat."

If Johnson believes that a Manhattan ten-term congressman isn't a political insider, then he is most likely stupid or cynical.  He doesn't strike me as stupid, so let's go with cynical, or maybe just cunning.

Throughout the debate, which mostly covered development-related issues, when Johnson wasn't lying, he was tendentiously parsing half-truths.  While I will concede that he was probably not lying when he said that his mother was a lunch lady, that he is gay, and that he has in fact received the political endorsements that he says he has received.  Virtually everything else, based upon my close scrutiny of his record, is in doubt.

For instance, when asked by Kurland why, if he is in fact proud of his work for real estate company GFI Development, he had asked the Gay Center to remove his bio from their website, Corey Johnson answered that the bio contained "incorrect information."  He then, in a non sequitur, claimed that the item had come from this blog, which he accused of "saying false things" about him.

Here is the offending bio, from the archived version of the Gay Center website:
Corey Johnson is currently employed by GFI Development Company as Director of Government Relations and Community Affairs, where he has worked with the New York City Council, Mayor's office and a variety of New York City Agencies. He has overseen the re-zoning of a large mixed-use project and managed the GFI's efforts to revitalize neighborhoods surrounding their developments. Prior to his work at GFI, Mr. Johnson directed and shaped political and communications strategy on a variety of mayoral, gubernatorial and presidential campaigns in New York. He has served on the media-strategy team of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and worked in the finance department of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Johnson has been quoted in The New York Times, New York Daily News, The Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle. He has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NPR, Sirius-XM Satellite Radio and NY 1 to offer political commentary and insight. Mr. Johnson is also the Vice-Chair of Manhattan Community Board 4, where he co-chairs the Chelsea Land-Use Committee and serves on the Business, Licenses and Permits Committee. He is the Political Director for Towleroad.com, which is the highest-trafficked gay and lesbian blog on the Web.

Everything in this blurb corresponds with what Johnson acknowledges to be true about his work history.  The only consistent explanation for why he called the Gay Center and asked them to remove the item is that he was trying to cover up his association with GFI.

Regarding this blog, incidentally, I challenge the Johnson campaign or anyone else to identify any false claims I have made about him.

Next, Johnson accused Kurland of lying about his current association with GFI, insisting that his employer, the Sydell Group, is not an offshoot of GFI, nor is it connected with the company in any way.  Corey Johnson identified the Sydell Group as the manager of two hotels outside of New York, and insisted emphatically that it is not connected to GFI.

Here is a little item from the New York Times from March 10 of this year:
The Local Stop column in some editions on Feb. 24 about NoMad, the area north of Madison Square, referred imprecisely to the development of the Ace Hotel in the area. The Ace, which opened in 2009, was developed by GFI Development, then a partnership between Sydell Partners L.L.C. and Allen Gross of GFI; it was not developed only by Sydell Partners L.L.C., which has since become the Sydell Group.

This blurb was a correction to an earlier article, and was thus presumably rigorously checked and re-checked.  So unless the Times fact checkers are complete incompetents, GFI Development and the Sydell Group are, contrary to Corey Johnson's denial, closely related.

Here is an article from The Real Deal describing the fallout between the head of the Sydell Group and his partner, the head of GFI.  There is no question in the mind of the writer that the two companies operated in a tight partnership, with joint ownership and management of assets.

Here is a press release from the Sydell Group itself, describing its close partnership with GFI.

So we are left with two options if we want to preserve the idea that Corey Johnson is telling the truth about the Sydell Group: either he is very stupid, or everyone else in the world is wrong.  But if we reject the supposition that he must be telling the truth, then everything becomes clear.  That's the problem with extremely convincing liars: the way they say things sounds so sensible that we want it to accord with reality, even when it doesn't.

Corey Johnson took hairsplitting to the level of the angstrom when the conversation turned to the question of 470 Vanderbilt, a GFI development in Brooklyn.  At an earlier community forum, Johnson took credit for having forced the developer to increase the level of affordable housing to be built from 20% to 26%.  He then congratulated himself for having even provided for affordable two-bedroom apartments to be built, all for the benefit of the families of Brooklyn.

Leaving aside the fact that the Council Member involved in the negotiations on the other side of the table from Johnson, Tish James, said flat out that she has no recollection of Corey Johnson's role in securing the higher percentage, no housing of any sort was built at all at 470 Vanderbilt.  There is an office building at the site, and a parking lot where the housing was supposed to be.

Last night Johnson insisted that he had never said that the housing was built, only that he had negotiated a restriction in the event that housing were to be built.  Forgive me if I fail to follow Corey Johnson into his Thomistic musings on the nature of the unbuilt, but the lot is commercially zoned, so his imaginary restrictions have been violated in any case.  Don't take my word for any of this, listen to the man himself talk about his fantasy building, and then decide if he was talking about restrictions or about actual housing.

Corey Johnson is a handsome, charismatic guy, and it sounds like he has worked hard on the community board.  He speaks clearly, has a nice voice, and unlike Yetta Kurland, he doesn't get visibly nervous.  The debate last night was kind of like Kennedy-Nixon: Johnson won if you watched it on television, but everyone who listened to it on the radio said it was hands-down Kurland's victory.

The only problem with Corey Johnson is that he lies.  He figures he can lie his way into office, and by then it won't matter.  But the problem with lies, even if they never catch up to you (cf. Bill Clinton), is that lying is a terrible habit, habit forms character, and character is destiny.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Medical professionals: Corey Johnson did nothing to save St. Vincent's Hospital

From the Desks of Eileen Dunn, RN and David Kaufman, MD

July 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

For more than 30 years, we worked as a doctor and a nurse at St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center here in the Village, caring for patients and serving the people of our community. The hospital and the staff delivered compassionate, high quality care to the community and to people from all over New York City.

Sadly, in 2010, we learned the hospital would be sold to make way for luxury condominiums. This caused quite a controversy in our community.

But some of us came together in this time of need, and created the Coalition for a New Village Hospital. We worked around clock, day in and day out, and organized over 8,000 community members and almost 50 community-based organizations.

There were protests, hearings, and investigations. Many people spoke out against closing the hospital. The two of us certainly did. We organized, we spoke out, we went to court, we fought hard. While we were too late to stop the closure of St. Vincent's, we made sure our community knew what was going on and we got the Department of Health to admit that by law a hospital was required at the site of St. Vincent's.

Their solution was to insult us and threaten our welfare by giving us a 2 bed hospital, instead of a real hospital. But the fight continues to restore a full service hospital and real emergency room.

During this critical time in our community's history, we remember who was there at our sides, fighting to keep the hospital open for our community. And we remember who didn't show up to the fight.

So recently, it came as a surprise to see a glossy political brochure from a young candidate and real estate executive named Corey Johnson claiming that he "fought Mayor Bloomberg and developers to keep St. Vincent's open."

If Mr. Johnson fought against St. Vincent's closing, he did so in his own mind. He never showed up to help us. He never spoke out. In fact, when we needed Corey Johnson's help, he sat on his hands.

In addition to his position as a real estate executive for GFI Development Corporation, Mr. Johnson was chairman of Community Board 4. We asked Community Board 4 to pass a resolution calling to keep the hospital open. But Mr. Johnson wouldn't even take that small step, even when other Community Board Chairs did. Real Estate developer Corey Johnson left us high and dry.

As far as "fighting Mayor Bloomberg," Mr. Johnson endorsed Mr. Bloomberg for his controversial third term, and has received campaign cash from Bloomberg's aides. If that's Mr. Johnson's idea of fighting, we wonder what surrender looks like.

Corey Johnson may be a nice young man, but his glossy campaign mailer is not telling the truth and neither is he. When we needed his help to save St. Vincent's, Corey Johnson did not lift a finger.

David Kaufman, MD
Eileen Dunn, RN

Corey Johnson's image crafted with intent to conceal

At first, we thought this Villager story was just another puff-piece for the Quinn-Duane (and sometimes Stringer) political machine. After all, this is from the tabloid that makes its name with free advertising (or fawning) for Quinn and her progeny.

But this article was different than the Villager's usual biased reporting. Maybe Editor Lincoln Anderson was on vacation. Maybe he forgot to eviscerate the article. Who knows? It got through.

The thread running through the piece is that whatever Corey Johnson does, it is intended to conceal, deceive and create an image that is 180 degrees from the real person.

Johnson is not a tenant advocate even if he stood at a press conference in front of the Chelsea Hotel. The endorsement from TenantsPAC is questionable given Mike McKee's long-time connection to Quinn and Duane, and his tendency to mask tenant issues with gay issues. A tenant advocate comes from years of hard work, not from press conferences or even from being on a community board.

Johnson has not created any affordable housing. Community Boards do not create housing; developers do. At most, he -- and Community Board 4 -- rubber-stamped luxury towers with a minimal number of units claimed to be affordable, but in reality, are not. Those units, many of which are handed over to cronies of Quinn, enable large luxury towers that create much more displacement in the community. 421(a) tax abatements or Inclusionary Zoning, the usual methods where politicians claim they have created affordable housing, are known among real tenant advocates as neighborhood killers.

Johnson says he created 10,000 units of affordable housing, a blatant lie.

Indeed, Johnson worked for the developer GFI as Director of Governmental Affairs. No amount of denial from Tom Duane or Jerry Nadler can erase this fact. Johnson tried to wipe this information from a number of web sites, but he was busted by City Council Watch and the information came out.

In that position, Johnson worked to displace tenants at the Breslin Hotel (now the Ace Hotel) at 29th Street and Broadway. And when he was done with that, he held his birthday party at the new hotel and wore a tiara in celebration as he danced the night away. The SRO tenants he helped to displace had no tiaras.

And Johnson is still working for the same developer. They have a new name, but it's the same group and  they are still running the same hotel.

Johnson's alleged opposition to the closing of St. Vincent's Hospital and the expansion of Chelsea Market were too little, and too late. He did not oppose the closing of the hospital. While he might have testified on the subsequent ULURP regarding luxury condos on the site, that was after the hospital was lost.

So too, with Chelsea Market, he made a statement a few minutes before Community Board 4 voted on the matter. The deal was already done. With Board 4, the rationale is that "we must approve it because it will happen anyway."

Nothing Corey Johnson did had any meaningful impact in stopping or mitigating either project.

Like Christine Quinn, Johnson refuses to disclose his public schedule. And like Tom Duane in 1991, his announcement of his HIV status was designed for maximum political benefit.

And yes, Corey Johnson helped to found Gays For Bloomberg back in 2009.

You can read the article after the jump, or here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Quinn's (and Corey Johnson's) base has many loose screws

We saw this video on http://christinequinn.com. We know what makes Christine Quinn and Corey Johnson alike, i.e., term limits, support for Bloomberg, working for landlords and developers (and we really don't know if there are any differences).

Host John Schuimo thought Joan was a prankster. But she said she was sincere.

Like Quinn, it appears Johnson is a bully, that he and his campaign will do anything and lie about everything to push his agenda of over-development and luxury housing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gay Center Cheerful: "Corey Asked Us to Do It"

City Council Watch
July 26, 2013

There was never any intention to turn this blog into a constant revelation of the misdeeds of CD 3 candidate Corey Johnson's campaign.  But as Nixon showed us, when you try to cover things up, you usually make things worse for yourself.  So don't blame us when it is Corey Johnson cutting off the Hydra heads of his own corruption.

Last month, City Council Watch began looking into Corey Johnson's actual work history, which was not given in any detail in his campaign material.  We found a fairly extensive resume on the website of the LGBT Center, where Johnson had participated on a panel in 2011.  The bio discussed Johnson's work for real estate developer GFI. 

We called the Johnson campaign and asked a few questions about GFI.  When we returned to the Gay Center website, we found that Corey Johnson's bio had been removed entirely, though there was a cached version available.  See here and here for comparison's sake.

The Gay Center is a non-profit that receives City funds in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, and by law is forbidden to do any political work on behalf of an electoral campaign.  We wondered about how the scrubbing of Johnson's bio was authorized, so we called Mary Steyer, the Director of Communication for the Center and asked her about it.

Mary Steyer, who could not be more helpful, looked into the matter and called us back.  "I investigated the issue and have an answer," she announced cheerfully.  "Corey Johnson called the webmaster and asked him to remove the bio." 

Mary Steyer was puzzled when we suggested that helping a prominent candidate for office bury information about himself might not be in the mission statement of a major non-profit organization, and didn't see what the issue was.  "He said the info was outdated, and it didn't strike us as odd."

 (Let me point out that the Gay Center, on 13th Street, is in the 3rd Council District, where Corey Johnson is running.  The Center receives major allocations from Corey Johnson's advocate Speaker Christine Quinn.  It was until recently headed by Mario Palumbo, Jr., a Johnson contributor and partner at Millennium Partners, a highly-connected real estate development firm.  The Gay Center is a large and politically-connected non-profit group in the middle of the West Village.  I imagine someone on the staff there must have an idea about what constitutes best practices when it comes to dealing with political campaigns.)

On the other hand, as we have said before, we aren't campaign law experts.  Maybe one of you is.

Monday, July 29, 2013

59 Year-Old Resident of Elliot Chelsea Houses Physically Attacked by City Council Candidate Corey Johnson and Campaign Manager

The following is a press release from the Chelsea Midtown Democratic Club, and reproduced as it was received.

July 29, 2013

The head of the Chelsea Midtown Democratic Club reported today that on Friday evening Thomas Johnson, a 59 year-old resident of the Elliot Chelsea housing projects, who was helping distribute a fact sheet for the club, was physically attacked by City Council candidate Corey Johnson and his campaign manager while another staffer for the campaign waited outside.

On July 26th, 2013, Gene Glaberman, President of the Chelsea Midtown Democrats (CMD) and former board member of the Penn South Co-op, and Velma Murphy Hill, Executive Vice President of the CMD, former assistant to the President of the United Federation of Teachers, civil rights activist and labor leader, wrote a response to a letter distributed the prior week by Mr. Johnson’s supporters. The July 26th letter was a fact check on the previously circulated letter and reposted newspaper articles addressing Corey Johnson's work as a real estate executive, his ties to Mayor Bloomberg and his absence in the fight for St. Vincent’s Hospital.  Attached is a copy of the letter. [See CMD Johnson Facts 1, and CMD Johnson Facts 2]

On Friday, July 27th, at about 2:00 PM, Thomas Johnson, a fifty-nine year old living in the Elliott Chelsea Houses, a development of the New York City Housing Authority, agreed to help distribute the letter in the Penn South co-op. At about 4:00 PM Thomas called to indicate that he had been accosted by a man who told him that he could not distribute the material he was given. The man was menacing and threatened to take and destroy the flyers.

"Thomas Johnson was very shaken up,"  said Velma Hill. "I told him to come back to my apartment so we could talk. I called our president, Eugene Glaberman, who informed me that Corey Johnson has called him earlier that day. He said that Corey was unhinged and abusive--crying and shouting that the letter was filled with lies. He said he thought Gene was his friend but now he would never talk to him again.

"Gene and I tried to comfort Thomas and told him not to return to the co-op and finish the distribution until later when someone would accompany him."  Thomas decided he would go home to the Elliott Chelsea Housing development. At the time, he had no idea that the man who had accosted him in Penn South was the campaign manager of City Council Candidate Corey Johnson.

"At about 8:30 that same evening, I received yet another distraught call from Thomas, who informed me that he had been followed into the NYCHA development by three men, including the one that had threatened him earlier." 

Thomas Johnson didn’t know at the time that the other two men were City Council Candidate Corey Johnson and another campaign worker. "He told me the men confronted him on the 3rd floor of the building, menacing and shouting at him.  They threw him against the wall and Corey Johnson punched him in the chest. He then told Thomas that they were going to call the police and get him arrested, and that the police would believe them and not Thomas. I was shocked to hear this but before I could ask more, Thomas said that the police had arrived and the phone went dead. Gene and I immediately rushed to the Senior Citizen’s building on 27th Drive between 9th and 10th avenues and saw Thomas being interviewed by Sergeant Bufanto and officer Dove of the 10th Precinct."

"Thomas said that the police made him face the wall with his face, hands and arms up against the building because they had been told that he had a weapon. He did not have a weapon and no weapon was found. Corey Johnson and two other men were on the opposite side of the street. Thomas was visibly shaken and we assured him that no harm would come to him. He identified Corey Johnson as the attacker who punched him in the chest. He also identified one of the other men as the man who accosted him in the Penn South Co-op. We later found out that the man who was so menacing in Penn South was Corey Johnson’s campaign manager, Robert John Jordan."

"This incident has left all of us shaken," said Eugene Glaberman, President of the Chelsea Midtown Democrats. "Thomas and our club have every right to distribute political information, just as Corey Johnson does, without fear of physical or verbal attack.  It is shocking that a candidate for elected office would conduct himself this way. No one should be attacking seniors in our community, and these young men, including Corey Johnson, have shown they do not have the temperament necessary for elected office. Violence is never an option, even when you disagree with someone, and freedom of speech and expression must be something our elected leaders protect, not physically threaten."

Velma Hill
Eugene Glaberman

Is Corey Johnson being a bully?

Council race gets "rough"
New York Post
July 29, 2013

The battle for Christine Quinn's City Council seat allegedly turned physical in a Chelsea stairwell — with a candidate going toe to toe with one of his biggest critics for plastering a wall with negative fliers about the campaign.

Thomas Johnson, 59, filed a police report saying candidate Corey Johnson shoved him Friday in the Chelsea-Elliot Houses.

"He grabbed the material off my shoulder and took a picture of me," the critic said, adding that he was punched — though his own lawyer denied that.

A source on Corey Johnson's campaign said when Johnson confronted the man, he refused to identify himself and threatened the candidate.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Corey Johnson's Continuing Deceptions

by City Council Watch

CD 3 candidate Corey Johnson misrepresents his role in developing affordable housing in Brooklyn, repeatedly taking credit for a project that not only has no affordable housing: it has no housing at all.

Last month, City Council Watch broke the story of Corey Johnson's work for real estate developer GFI, which he had scrubbed from his record.  In response, Johnson has changed his campaign website, adding some information about his work history and his present employment:

[...serving] at GFI Development Company on community outreach on two hotel projects in Manhattan and an affordable housing related project in Brooklyn. Corey currently works part-time in LGBT marketing at the Sydell Group.

The "affordable housing related project" Johnson refers to is 470 Vanderbilt Avenue, in Fort Greene.  The building, a former tire factory which was at one point supposed to house tech companies, stood in disuse before GFI bought it in 2008 with plans to rehab the building as mixed-use residential and commercial space, ideally capturing a major City agency as a long-term tenant.

As part of the deal to allow GFI to build out the structure and sign the Human Resources Agency to a 20-year lease, the company agreed to build a 350-unit residential building on the site of the building's parking lot.  The company, after negotiations with local Council Member Letitia James, agreed to include 90 affordable units, more than the usual 20% allowance in such projects.

Corey Johnson worked for the GFI development team at 470 Vanderbilt, and at a West Village community forum on June 19, he made a strong case for the good work he and GFI did in increasing the stock of affordable housing in Brooklyn.  Video was taken of his speech, and we have transcribed his comments:

One more thing, to be fully transparent:  the same company that built that hotel on 29th and Broadway, they were going to do a residential building in Fort Greene in Brooklyn, on a former manufacturing lot.  They asked me to come in and work with the local community board in Fort Greene, and the local Council Member, to make sure there was an affordable housing component to that building.  When we started off, before I came in, they were going to do 20% affordable housing.  When the rezoning was over, I got them up to 26% affordable housing, and maximized the number of two-bedrooms, for people in the community that needed affordable housing.

Sounds great!  Between this impassioned and detailed description of all the affordable two-bedroom apartments Corey Johnson fought to build, and his discussion of the project on his website, who can deny that Corey Johnson and GFI are a force for good?  As he says, he single-handedly pushed GFI to increase the amount of affordable housing they were going to build.

The only problem is that none of the housing was ever built470 Vanderbilt is an office building.  Nobody lives there, and nobody can live there, because the entire lot, including the part where the residential units were to be built, was zoned as commercial real estate by GFI in 2011, while Johnson was still employed by the company.

Corey Johnson hedged the impact of his work on 470 Vanderbilt when, on his campaign website, he speaks of an "affordable housing related project."  But when he spoke at the community forum he  lost control of what he was saying: he takes full credit for plans that were never realized.  The two-bedrooms that he is bragging about having built "for people in the community" do not exist.

We spoke to Council Member James about what happened to the affordable housing component of the 470 Vanderbilt project.  She commented about the problem of getting developers to commit to actually building what they promise to build, and noted that this problem is endemic to the land use process in New York City generally.

Regarding 470 Vanderbilt, CM James said, "I pushed very hard to get affordable housing established in that project. Corey was part of the development team, and he may have negotiated behind the scenes.  I don't know the extent of his work on the project.  However, unfortunately, the lot is still a parking lot."

So, according to the council member with whom Corey Johnson claims to have worked to build more affordable housing, his involvement was vague at best, and James has no specific recollection of his participation.

We thought that Corey Johnson was slightly deceptive when he tried to deflect attention from his professional association with a real estate developer, but many candidates for office massage their bios, and it isn't necessarily a major sin.  However, we now see Johnson making public speeches where he overstates and distorts his role in land use negotiations, and furthermore, brags passionately about fantasy residential developments that were never built, as though people are actually living in them!

Corey Johnson builds castles in air and is irate when his good faith is challenged.  We have heard a lot of grandiose megalomaniacal politicians talk wildly about their achievements, but they usually take credit for things that actually exist. Johnson appears to be an utter fabulist, an egoist with scant regard for reality, pointing at a barren lot and waving at all the happy people he has housed there.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Corey Johnson: Biggest Loser

Seems that the political web site City and State is running a poll on this week's Biggest Loser. Among the candidates is our good buddy Corey Johnson:
Corey Johnson – Usually a candidate’s job is front and center on their résumé when they’re running for office, but in Johnson’s case his employment was suspiciously absent from his campaign website. That’s probably because the openly gay City Council candidate worked from 2008 to 2010 as director of government and community affairs for GFI Development, a Wall Street-based real estate firm that has made more than $30,000 in donations to candidates who oppose gay marriage. GFI was also sued by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for engaging in illegal lending discrimination—not exactly the best type of company to be associated with when you’re running as a progressive in Manhattan. After the blog City Council Watch exposed Johnson’s connection to GFI and The Post followed up, GFI finally popped up in Johnson’s bio this week. Unfortunately for Johnson, the news stories about his hidden past will be even harder to scrub from the Internet than his work history.
You can go to City and State and vote for Corey Johnson as this week's biggest loser.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Complaint: NYC Pol Corey Johnson Not Registered as a Lobbyist

The Petrelis Files
Wednesday, June 26, 2013

After rooting around the Office of the City Clerk of New York City's web page for its Lobbying Bureau and finding no email addresses or info regarding how to file a complaint requesting an investigation, I phoned 1-212-NEW-YORK and eventually was connected to a live person in the Clerk's office.

I was given the name of the Chief Investigator, Mr. Walter Carcione, and his direct dial number, and in a call he shared his addy with me and the following complaint was sent this morning.

(New Yawkers oughtta be squawking about the dearth of details for citizens looking to make complaints regarding lobbyists at their City Clerk's web site. The Clerk wants to hear from folks about the lobbyists wielding power with City government, right?)

A tip o' the hat to Adam Lombardi at the Queens Politics news site for sparking my interest to file this complaint with Carcione, with whom I'm follow up with tomorrow. Updates will appear as they happen.

Text of my complaint:

I wish to file a complaint against Mr. Corey Johnson, who served as Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations for the GFI Development Company starting in July 2008 according to Crain's New York site:

Corey Johnson, former political director for Mark Green’s 2006 attorney general campaign, began this week as government relations director for G.F.I. Development, a Wall Street-based real estate firm.

Further, reporter Seth Barron of the City Council Watch site wrote earlier this month that Johnson may have left his lobbyist position at the GFI Development Company in 2011.

At the Queens Politics news site, Adam Lombardi reported yesterday that despite being GFI Development's lobbyist for a number of years, Johnson has not registered with the City Clerk as a lobbyist.

I have searched the City Clerk's database for registered lobbyists and Corey Johnson's name isn't listed. 

For your information, please be aware that Johnson is currently a candidate for the 3rd District seat on the City Council.

In my view, Johnson was legally required to register as a lobbyist for the years in which he was employed as the Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations at the GFI Development Company, and there is no evidence at the City Clerk's site that he was properly registered.

Therefore, I request that you investigate my complaint and determine if Johnson violated City lobbying laws.

Afternoon Headline Ramble

Project Q Atlanta

Gay Democrat hid “gay foe” job. Until asked directly, openly gay New York City Council candidate Corey Johnson conveniently didn't list a two-year job for a real estate company that fought marriage equality and was cited for unfair housing. Johnson portrays himself as a trailblazer for gay rights and equal housing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Petrelis Files: Gay Johnson worked for Anti-Gay firm

The Petrelis Files
NY Post: Gay Pol Johnson Worked for Anti-Gay Marriage Firm
June 25, 2013

(Corey Johnson with Lady Gaga at the National Equality March in 2009. Credit:Towleroad.)

Color me way over Democratic Party gays working their way up the political ladder and maintaining the status quo,with only lip service paid to challenging or actually changing political norms.

The NY Post's reporter M.L. Nestel shared this news on Monday:

The gay community-board chairman running for City Council this year tried to hide his past work for corporate clients that have opposed marriage equality, The Post has learned. Corey Johnson, 31, who is in the race for Council Speaker Christine Quinn's seat, proudly portrays himself as a trailblazer for gay rights [...]

But from 2008 to 2010, he served as director of government and community affairs at Wall Street-based real-estate firm GFI Development Co. -- a fact that was left off his site. GFI and some of its brass have spent more than $30,000 backing candidates who oppose gay marriage [...]

Johnson also says he's a champion of affordable housing [...] "I did work for them, but I no longer work for them currently," Johnson said about GFI.

Much, if not all, of this info seems to have originated from reporting blogger Seth Barron posted on June 13 at his City Council Watch site, reporting which included many links to source documents. Barron shed much light on this firm and their anti-tenant activities, and Johnson's work for the firm:

GFI Development buys old buildings and turns them into hotels, condominiums and the like.  Corey Johnson's job was to facilitate the political side of things, as we see in this June 2009 article detailing his advocacy on behalf of a GFI development before Community Board 2 in Brooklyn. 

In 2008, around when they hired Corey to be their front man in New York City, GFI Development bought the old Breslin Hotel, on 29th Street, which was an SRO.  Their efforts to evict or buy out the existing tenants led to a series of court battles, but eventually the Breslin gave way to the trendy Ace Hotel.  Corey Johnson had his birthday party there when it opened in 2010, and was so delighted that he even wore a tiara, according to this record of the evening.

At the time of the Ace Hotel's opening, Corey Johnson, top lobbyist and community affairs director for GFI Development, was also Vice-Chair of Community Board 4 and Co-Chair of the CB4 Land Use Committee.  Is this a conflict of interest?  Well, it is true that the Ace Hotel at 29th and Broadway is two blocks east of CB4's eastern boundary, so maybe not, technically.

I'm glad to see Barron's City Council Watch and the NY Post are keeping tabs on Johnson, and expect to see more sunshining of the candidate as the race for the District 3 City Council seat progresses to the fall primary. Oh, and the NY Post should have properly credited Seth Barron for his investigative reporting.

Is Quinn Backing A Hypocrite For Her Council Seat?

Queens Politics
June 25, 2013

Birds of a feather...

Alleged Quinn-backed candidate's record of deception and hypocrisy revealed.

Rumor has it Corey Johnson is Quinn's pick for her Council seat, and while her endorsement could be in the making, that hasn't stopped a bevy of Quinn's allies circling the wagons around Johnson's campaign for her council seat. But that's not the main issue. Eyebrows are being raised as what seems to have been overlooked in the media is Corey Johnson's record of deception, hypocrisy, and outright lies.

Luckily, the community cannot be bought off with cheap campaign rhetoric. So here's the scoop.

The word hypocrite applies to a person who pretends to be something he is not. Corey Johnson seems to fit the bill. On Corey's campaign website you'll notice an entire section glorifying his role in creating affordable housing, but this could not be further from the truth.

In fact Corey worked for a billion dollar real estate company, GFI Capital, which has made a habit of evicting poor and middle class workers and replacing SRO's with luxury hotels and condos. His former employer has even been sued by the Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division for discrimination.

According to the New York Times, "GFI, which says on its Web site that it originates more than $1 billion a year in mortgages, admitted that an analysis by the federal government showed that it charged higher rates and fees to black and Hispanic borrowers than to white borrowers."

The case inevitably led to a 3.5 million dollar settlement by the company for mortgage bias. And yet, somehow after 3 years with GFI, with the title Director of Government Affairs (by the way, not a registered lobbyist), Corey Johnson still tries to pass himself off as a champion of affordable housing.

Parties affected in this case have been ongoing since 2005. In the meantime Quinn, who has been voraciously seeking the Mayoralty, could be secretly waiting to endorse him (again, Corey's existing endorsements aren't the only clue), but before that day comes,  critical questions remain unanswered regarding the validity of Corey's claims on his campaign platform.

After all, you can't be a "champion of affordable housing" when you worked for a company that evicts poor and middle class tenants from their homes and discriminates people based on color.

Christine Quinn, you'll never be able to say you didn't know.

City Council candidate Corey Johnson worked for Anti-Gay-Marriage company

New York Post
By M.L. Nestel
June 24, 2013

The gay community-board chairman running for City Council this year tried to hide his past work for corporate clients that have opposed marriage equality, The Post has learned.

Corey Johnson, 31, who is in the race for Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s seat, proudly portrays himself as a trailblazer for gay rights.

In 2000, the future Community Board 4 chairman bravely came out as a gay while he was captain of his Massachusetts high-school football team. “Corey first came to national attention in 2000 when he became a trailblazer for LGBT youth,” his campaign Web site reads.

But from 2008 to 2010, he served as director of government and community affairs at Wall Street-based real-estate firm GFI Development Co. ­ a fact that was left off his site.

GFI and some of its brass have spent more than $30,000 backing candidates who oppose gay marriage, such as Judge Noach Dear, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and Democratic mayoral candidate Erick Salgado.

Johnson also says he’s a champion of affordable housing. Last week, at a candidate forum, Johnson said he increased affordable housing for one of GFI’s buildings located at 470 Vanderbilt Ave. in Fort Greene.

But GFI, which develops luxury hotels, including the Ace and NoMad, was accused of being a discriminatory mortgage lender, prompting US Attorney Preet Bharara in April 2012 to file suit against it.

“I did work for them, but I no longer work for them currently,” Johnson said about GFI. His work for the firm was added to the campaign site Saturday, after The Post asked Johnson about it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NYC Council Race: Yetta Kurland vs. Derivatives Man

See full post at Daily Kos

"... so no one was surprised with Corey Johnson, a hollow candidate if there ever was one, entered the race with Christine Quinn's blessing. Reading his resume you might be impressed with his public track record of activism. One thing stands out though: no mention of how he earns a living."

"To recap, not only is Kurland a fantastic candidate worthy of our support, but she's running against the recession era caricature of pure, unadulterated evil: a real estate lobbyist in Manhattan working for the leader in the 'exotic derivatives' industry. A starker choice could not be made."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Corey Johnson's Secret Life

by City Council Watch

The race to succeed Christine Quinn in the 3rd Council District, covering the west side of Manhattan roughly from Canal Street to Central Park, is shaping up to be a battle between 2009 Council contender Yetta Kurland and Community Board 4 Chair Corey Johnson.

Yetta Kurland has a civil rights law practice and, until recently, her own radio talk show.  She incurred the undying enmity of CM Quinn in 2009 when she ran against her in the primary and, to the Speaker’s embarrassment, won more than 30% of the vote.  Coupled with Kurland’s vociferous opposition to the Quinn-approved closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, Christine Quinn initiated a vendetta against Kurland, waging a virtual “Anybody but Yetta” campaign that has worked for the benefit of her rival, Corey Johnson, “the youngest” chair of a community board.  Quinn’s influence has won Johnson the support of the local clubs, local political endorsements and some labor backing.

Johnson boasts a long resume of accomplishment.  To wit:

Corey is also a Director on the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, a Member of the Hudson Yards Community Advisory Committee, a Member of the Moynihan Station Community Advisory Committee, a Member of the Javits Center Community Advisory Committee, a Member of the Hudson River Park Strategic Planning Task Force, a Member of the Friends of the Hudson River Park Trusts Neighborhood Improvement District Steering Committee, a Board Member of Save Chelsea, a Member of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, a Member of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, a Member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, and a Member of the 100/200 West 15th Street Block Association.

What is odd about this extensive list of activities is the absence of any positions that offer remuneration, i.e. money.  Nowhere on his campaign material, nor in his interviews, nor upon repeated questioning to his campaign manager will the Corey 2013 machine explain the most primary question we all have about anyone we meet: What does he do for a living?

This is not an idle question.  Poke around on candidate websites for a little while and you will have no trouble figuring out how these people make money.  In fact, the subject is usually foregrounded, because in New York City politics it is important to have some kind of explanation for how you pay the rent, before other people reach their own conclusions.

So the wall of community service cited above becomes a screen: an act of misdirection that we are demanded to accept.  The guy is hiding something.

What it turns out he is covering up and scrubbing from his Internet presence is his work as Director of Governmental Relations and Community Affairs for GFI Development Company, beginning in July 2008.  GFI Development is the real estate development branch of GFI Group, which according to the company website “has been at the forefront of credit derivative brokerage services, leadership that we are now leveraging to help establish an active, liquid Exotic Credit Derivative market.”

Exotic credit derivatives, for those among us with short memories, are those quaint financial instruments that enable banks to make massive bets on the failure of loans, without having to actually own any of the underlying debt.  Credit derivatives caused a minor kerfuffle in the markets in late 2008.  GFI Group “handled as much as 40 percent of the credit-derivatives trades between the world's banks in 2007,” according to Bloomberg.

Well, Corey Johnson had nothing to do with any of that, of course…he worked for the real estate development arm of GFI.   And real estate development firms are wholesome, salubrious entities.  Which must be why after I asked Johnson’s campaign manger about his work there, his speaker bio at the Gay Center website was scrubbed.  (Compare here andhere.)  And his LinkedIn profile was closed.

GFI Development buys old buildings and turns them into hotels, condominiums and the like.  Corey Johnson’s job was to facilitate the political side of things, as we see in this June 2009 article detailing his advocacy on behalf of a GFI development before Community Board 2 in Brooklyn.

In 2008, around when they hired Corey to be their front man in New York City, GFI Development bought the old Breslin Hotel, on 29th Street, which was an SRO.  Their efforts to evict or buy out the existing tenants led to a series of court battles, but eventually the Breslin gave way to the trendy Ace Hotel.  Corey Johnson had his birthday party there when it opened in 2010, and was so delighted that he even wore a tiara, according to this record of the evening.

At the time of the Ace Hotel’s opening, Corey Johnson, top lobbyist and community affairs director for GFI Development, was also Vice-Chair of Community Board 4 and Co-Chair of the CB4 Land Use Committee.  Is this a conflict of interest?  Well, it is true that the Ace Hotel at 29th and Broadway is two blocks east of CB4’s eastern boundary, so maybe not, technically.  But it clearly isn’t something Corey Johnson is proud of, or else he would mention it at least once, wouldn’t he?

Nor, it is fair to say, is Corey proud of his “community affairs” role in the cleansing of the tenants of the Breslin hotel.  Charges of mismanagement of the hotel once GFI bought it abound.  Water turned off, heat turned off, neglect of upkeep: all the usual things that happen when a developer wants to gut a property and redo it for a better class of tenant.  We know he isn’t proud of it because he doesn’t talk about it.  Nor will he specify when he left the company, which seems to have happened in 2011 at some point.

It is easy to let politicians say whatever pretty things they want to about themselves and their good works.  Corey Johnson cleans up well, but that doesn't mean he isn't dirty.