Black Community Pushes Back Against Johnson As Speaker


The City’s black political community is up in verbal arms at what they consider being the mainstream Democratic Party’s “booty call” when they need votes, and then getting shunned out of top leadership positions when they open up.

Queens Congressman Joe Crowley

That is the refrain echoing in the streets of black Brooklyn neighborhoods after Queens Democratic Party boss Joe Crowley let it be known through sources that he has cobbled enough city council votes between Queens and the Bronx to elect white Manhattan Council Member Cory Johnson as the next Speaker of the City Council.

“Cory Johnson is a college drop out and a former drug addict. If he were a black man with that record, he wouldn’t even be considered for speaker,” said one political operative source, who has worked on numerous campaigns of black officials in Brooklyn, citywide and nationally. “There’s a bit of white privilege going on here and it’s very upsetting to the black community.”

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

The source noted there were four black candidates, all of whom have graduated from college and have stellar records as public servants, and on paper would make a better speaker than Johnson. This includes one of the frontrunners, City Council Member Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), who is working on his doctorate, and has shown an ability to work across the aisle as a centrist, the source said.

“This is a sign of the national community, because here we have Joe Crowley sitting as Queens County Chair and wants to elevate on a national level [House Speaker] and he can’t see what blacks have done for the Democratic Party as recently as in Alabama and Virginia. The black community has been carrying the Democratic Party. When will it be elevated, especially here in New York City? Instead, you pick a college drop out and former drug addict from Manhattan – back in Chelsea again – nowhere near the black community and where working-class New Yorkers live,” said the source.

Public Advocate Letitia James

But Public Advocate Letitia James, the city’s top elected black official, said Johnson would make a great speaker.

“While it is disappointing that we are not increasing diversity in our leadership, I am confident that Corey Johnson will open avenues of opportunity for every community in our City. Corey has a proven track record of fighting for reform in the criminal justice system, protecting tenants’ rights, and supporting victims of domestic violence. I look forward to working with him to ensure the voice of every New Yorker in our city is represented,” said James, who presides over council meetings and can introduce legislation in her role as public advocate, but has no vote.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio

Another source said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens), contrary to published reports, has not made up his mind on who he would support for speaker.

Crowley also is not on speaking terms with Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio, and has let it be known he considers Jeffries the main political powerbroker in Brooklyn.

But one longtime Brooklyn political player and district leader, said it would be misguided to think that Seddio and Jeffries are at odds.

“Frank [Seddio] is very close with Hakeem. He is one of his constituents and lives in the middle of his district,” said the source.

Four years ago, Seddio was crucial in getting Melissa Mark-Viverito named speaker and he enjoys a good relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is a Brooklynite.

The source also said that while Johnson may be the frontrunner, anything can still happen until the City Council votes on Jan. 3.

Seddio refused comment. Neither de Blasio or Jeffries’ press office returned emails or phone calls on the issue at post time.