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The work of politics has a reputation for being carried out behind closed doors. Yesterday, this was could not have been further from the truth as New York Speaker Corey Johnson walked his Hell’s Kitchen “beat” with the city’s top brass to confront public safety issues.

Thanks to Stephanie Jones for contacting our “Where’s Corey” hotline last night. “I saw Corey Johnson leading a big group of people around HK on my way home from work. I’m not positive, but I think I recognized Commissioner Steve Banks and Chief Harrison from NYPD,” she said — and she was right (and has the photo to prove it)!

Corey Johnson starting his neighborhood walk at W45th and 9th Avenue. Photo: Stephanie Jones.

Johnson brought together a high-powered group of local officials to review public safety issues in Hell’s Kitchen. Those on the tour included Steve Banks, Commissioner for Department of Homeless Services, NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison and Dr Dave Chokshi, Commissioner of Department of Health.

Joe Restuccia, leader of Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Coalition and Executive Director of Clinton Housing Development Company, reported the highlights from the walk to the Manhattan Community Board 4 Full Board meeting last night.

  • Commissioner Banks “acknowledged the error in concentrating so many people with mental illness and chemical addiction in our neighborhood at once.”
  • It is expected that within the next week there will be New York State approval to start the move back of homeless people in the area from hotels to congregate shelters.
  • Once that is approved, it will take approximately 10 weeks to move all the clients.
  • Banks confirmed that, irrespective of vaccination status, people will be returned to the shelters.
  • The group spoke to many individuals and store owners. Reports included food being snatched off the tables of restaurants and one hotel manager saying “I’m paying homeless people to stay away from my building.”
  • The group stopped at W39th St and 9th Avenue where “there was a crowd of, I would say 12 very high or very drunk aggressive individuals, and they actually started to yell at the police.”
  • There has been a major drug bust on W40th and 8th Avenue by undercover cops.

Restuccia finished his report by saying: “I think we may be turning a corner. It’s one of the weirdest circumstances I’ve ever been involved in, where after crying out to DHS and everybody else to help us for over a year — Steve Banks is there on a corner to take a walk and talk.”

A spokesperson for Speaker Johnson told us: “Corey went on a walk through Hell’s Kitchen with city officials and local civic leaders. The trip was to allow residents and business owners to connect with city officials and discuss some of the issues they are dealing with. It included officials from Department  of Homeless Services, the NYC Health Dept, NYPD, and Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.”

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29 Comments

  1. It was great see Corey out walking the streets of HK, he met with restaurant owners like myself, listened to our issues, and within two days later I’m seeing results and promises kept! AMAZING Job COREY

    1. Tommy is correct. Days after the visit, the changes promised materialized. Let’s keep it up.

  2. I won’t applaud Corey Johnson for finally doing the job he was elected, and paid, to do……a full year too late and ONLY after mounting public pressure. But I’m glad it’s finally (maybe? I’m a skeptic) getting done.

  3. Agree with HK Resident. Astounding that CJ waited a full year to do his job and represent Hell’s Kitchen. He comes around three weeks before an election when he should have been here a long time ago. Don’t vote for the continuation of the political class failing Hell’s Kitchen.

  4. I applaud Corey & his staff. I can NOT say the same for the NYPD and Homeless Services Dept. They both and others have been contact almost on a daily bases re the sneaking into HK those from shelters. The terrible drug situation only got worst. The police have done very little and for over a year drag racing and engine revving has gone on nightly since April 2020. NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE! I suggest that when anyone sees/hears a problem Please call 911 – all calls are registered and recorded. It may take a few mins, but it must be reported. Keep calling 911, Police (Midtown North & South) and The Dept of Homeless Services. THANKS Better Days must be ahead.

  5. Too little too late Corey. This neighborhood was decimated by the decision to put dangerous individuals into the hotels…a decision Corey did nothing to try and stop. He wasn’t even physically here all this time.
    The only reason we are seeing him now is that he is running for Comptroller and he knows that the bad press from the lousy job he has done here hurts his chances.
    I have never voted for him before because he always struck me as a phony…the kind of person who is in politics only for his own personal gain.
    And to the current and future mayors: Clean up Midtown…fast! Until our neighborhood is safe and clean, the tourists and office workers won’t come back. And they are the economic engine of this city.

  6. It’s really depressing to see Corey et al come to the neighborhood a year into all the problems we’ve faced … it’s like we only matter during the election season. Think of all the businesses that closed and people who moved away because of our ongoing crisis — they might still be here if these officials took care earlier.

  7. Too little too late. We moved to Long Island last year when it became clear the city didn’t care about taxpayers and families, and it was the best decision we ever made. Almost every young family we know has either left or is in the process of leaving, and dozens of my colleagues who moved to NYC from Asia are moving back, and will never return. This neighborhood will take 20 years to come back (if ever). I feel sorry for the people who are left behind and still believe in empty promises.

    1. Please don’t feel sorry for me. I lived here 35 years. Some of us can take Hell’s Kitchen, some can’t.

    2. No need to feel sorry for us. Those of us who stayed and didn’t give up did so for a reason. Farewell.

  8. Great to read that Corey is back and doing his job, too little too late though. Where was he when we people in HK reached out for over a year now? Thanks to your hyper community article, the pressure was on. I was always a great supporter of him but he dropped the ball at a crucial time, when we needed him most.

  9. I am happy to read all of this. But I have to echo the sentiments of the other people on this thread. If Corey hadn’t waited until LAST week to finally see first hand what many of us have been emailing him about for the past year, maybe this promised relief might have prevented many of the attacks and property damage done to this neighborhood. Yes, “better late than never,” but he was late — WAY late.

  10. Typical politician. Too little, late. I’m very disappointed in Corey Johnson’s lack involvement in this community. Why did it have to get to this point where it’s unsafe for children, seniors and citizens to walk on the street. There have been multiple cries for help from the community that went unheard. Speaker Johnson should be ashamed and has some nerve to run for another position. For the past year my children have been harassed on 9th Ave, yelled at, felt unsafe and have seen vile acts that cant be erased from their memory. Please don’t vote for him.
    We need strong leaders in place. Not ones that will take a year off to forward their personal growth and health matters while collecting salary. This caused more mental health issues for the residents of the community. Whatever issues he had to deal with during his leave, he could have appointed someone or step down of he couldn’t serve our community.

  11. I’ve been working alongside local elected officials – including Corey Johnson and the members of his staff, NYPD, DHS, DOT and dozens of community officials for over a year on the issues that are plaguing our neighborhood. The process has been arduous and painful. I’ve heard from thousands of residents day in and day out about public safety issues and challenges that befall their small businesses and have tried to take every single one of these cries to those that are in a position to assist. We have made great strides forward and then often times we fall back. But one thing is clear to me. Every single person who we have elected to assist us is TRYING. There is so much that goes on behind closed doors that is all in the spirit of moving forward and protecting every single resident of Hell’s Kitchen – those that are housed or not. Have mistakes been made by the City and State? Yes. Has Hell’s Kitchen lived up to its name this past year? In many instances, yes. Have we all cried, screamed, shouted, begged for help? YES. But we are getting a response and we are making strides forward. Our officials are TRYING and we must all stay the course. As a homeowner and a small business owner who lost everything financially during the pandemic I understand the fears that go deeper than just public safety – these fears are rooted in a loss of identity from loved ones lives, businesses, homes that have disappeared. We’re all grappling in the dark, trying to regain what was taken and being in a situation where we don’t feel PHYSICALLY safe makes this almost impossible. But as someone who talks to Corey, Gale, Brad, Marisa, NYPD, DHS on a daily basis I can promise you that every single person is working tirelessly to fight for our city. Like many of you there have been moments when I lost hope, but it’s all that we have right now and I know that those who we have elected on the local level are committed to our health, safety and that of our fellow New Yorkers. Thank you to everyone who has thrown themselves into this effort – Erik, Robert, Tommy, Beth, Dave, Matt, Suzy, Shane, Jason, Aleta, Adrienne, Travis, Dominick, Paul, Danny, Leslie, Delores, Katie, Catie, Bernadette, PHIL!, the list goes on and on. I know that each and every one of these people are committed to transparency from the conversations that are being held daily and look forward to when our community can come together and celebrate how we have come out from this Hellish year stronger together.

    1. Really? You feel like Corey has been doing everything he can for Hell’s Kitchen? REALLY?! He vanished for months. He’s finally popping up in Hell’s Kitchen.. because he wants our vote. He sent a CARDBOARD cut out of himself to an event in Hell’s K. Feel free to defend him because I would love to know what he has been doing. Apparently he doesn’t even live in the neighborhood anymore. I used to admire him. During this past year I’ve lost all respect for him.

  12. So many families had no choice but leave the neighborhood because it’s unsafe for families. Basic safety for the neighborhood is held with little priority. We need someone who can fix this mess.

    1. Agreed. We need to stress to income mayoral candidates that safety in the city is a priority. I was disappointed last night that in the debate so many candidates seemed to shy away from that point.

  13. Please educate us on what ‘strides’ made? My Citizen app lights up like a Christmas tree on an hourly basis.
    And where can residents of Hells Kitchen be informed of what these efforts are.

    1. I’m putting out a newsletter in the next 48 hours listing the specific details of what has happened in the last few weeks. If you’d like to receive it please email me at hollyannedirector@gmail.com and I will of course share the contents with Phil.

  14. Too little too late, Corey. Also, your new commercial is ridiculous. Being gay doesn’t qualify you to be comptroller. I hope people are smart enough to send the old trash to the dump. It’s time for some fresh eyes in this city.

  15. I echo the sentiments that this came really late (although glad action is taking place at all) and appears there is an ulterior political motive to finally make an appearance.

    I appreciate your response and candor, Holly-Anne.

    “We’re all grappling in the dark, trying to regain what was taken and being in a situation where we don’t feel PHYSICALLY safe makes this almost impossible. But as someone who talks to Corey, Gale, Brad, Marisa, NYPD, DHS on a daily basis I can promise you that every single person is working tirelessly to fight for our city. Like many of you there have been moments when I lost hope, but it’s all that we have right now and I know that those who we have elected on the local level are committed to our health, safety and that of our fellow New Yorkers.”

    Curious what your role is given your connection with our elected officials. Wondering if you all realized we are in the dark and have all been struggling, why it took this long to be transparent.

    It has the appearance that Corey et al were hiding and had no response. If mistakes were made, own up to it and make amends. At least work at it. That why they were elected in the first place. Be transparent.

    It just feels worse that supposedly the elected officials knew how we felt, yet chose to stay quiet on the sidelines purportedly working in the background. Perhaps I’ve been jaded living in NYC all my life (close to 52 years).

    1. Hey there Luke- I’m just a regular old citizen not paid by any campaign or organization whatsoever, just someone who was very very concerned and started acting as an advocate almost full time last May. I run a newsletter that I was publishing bi-weekly for nine months that has over 1900 subscribers in the neighborhood that anyone can sign up for- my email address is listed above. I’ve been completely transparent with any and all information that I’ve received on this newsletter on social media and in over 100 press clips on TV and written press. I’m happy to speak with you directly and connect you with anyone else that you’d like to speak to. I feel your pain and I represent only myself and other residents who hope to bring our neighborhood back to its prime.

  16. Holly Anne and I have been pounding the pavement since last summer going from business to business, store to store, checking that they had working cameras, asking what can be done to help them do business, putting pressure on shelter providers who are NOT giving services they are paid to deliver to residents and checking back to see what happened this week. As she stated we’ve been in close contact with elected officials Gale Brewer, Brad Hoylman, all the precincts consistently. Corey’s on the street involvement should have taken place earlier. HOWEVER, (in caps) the goal is to 1) get hotels back to being hotels filled with money spending tourists 2) get residents of the hotel/shelters into a facility where they get the care and services they deserve 3) rid our streets of drug dealers 4) assist our small businesses so they can have a robust come back which means safety for patrons and pedestrians alike. Then and only then will we be able to grab that fleeting sliver of a chance and possibly experience an economic recovery involving tourism this fall. Tourists won’t come to NYC if there is no affordable hotel. They won’t eat in our restaurants before or after theatre if they are harassed or harmed. Producers will not foot the bill for a show if no one buys tickets. So let’s face those facts. I’m focused on bringing a fall economic upswing to fruition. Was Corey absent? Yes. Could he have done better? Yes. Could his staff been more effective with safety and homeless shelter issues? Yes. But our house is on fire right now. Let’s put it out and investigate the cause later. Corey Johnson is still getting a paycheck to be our representative. I expect as a taxpayer to see action from him and his office in a truly meaningful way. We are seeing the pressure result in action. So let’s keep it up. I’m not giving up without a fight. You?

    1. Marissa, I agree with everything you wrote. And I applaud people like you and HollyAnne, who have worked tirelessly without the reward of a government paycheck and pension. And you’re right, we should work with Corey while he’s our rep. But, what you don’t mention here is his run for Comptroller and the fact that he was SHAMED into action. I have personally reached out to his office numerous times throughout the past year and have gotten nothing but crickets. I’ve attended every block association meeting for a year. He attended his first this year last week. Personally, I wish we had petitioned for his removal so we could have someone in his office who cares about this part of the district when there isn’t an election in a few weeks. But this is the hand we’re dealt. You’re right. The house is on fire. But let’s not reward Corey for finally doing his job after a year of silence by voting for him to be our next comptroller. I’m perfectly happy actively and openly campaigning against him. He dropped the ball and a lot of people and businesses have suffered because of his negligence. You and HollyAnne worked your asses off for nothing. Corey did nothing and pulled in a handsome salary. He needs to go.

  17. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the relentless work of Joe Restuccia on these issues as well. I meant to list him above. We speak frequently. I’ve been working with him on neighborhood issues with other neighborhood leaders for probably 20 years.

  18. Can’t wait to see the condition of these homeless hotels after the current residents move out. Who foots the bill for the cleanup?

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