Corey Johnson installed as new City Council speaker

The New York City Council has a new speaker. Corey Johnson was a kid from Massachusetts who grew up to be one of the city's most powerful politicians.

"I came here on a wing and on a prayer and on a dream and with two bags at the age of 19 years old," Johnson said Wednesday. "Knowing two people. Not knowing where I was going to live."

And now 16 years after Johnson arrived in this city in that unglamorous fashion, its council voted to bestow upon him the title and responsibilities of what is likely the second-most-powerful political position in the city — City Council speaker.

Johnson, 38 and HIV-positive, grew up in public housing in Massachusetts, raised by a single mom. He is New York City's first openly gay male council speaker.

"When I came out at 16 years old, I was suicidal, despondent and didn't want to live," he said.

Only one of the City Council's 51 members voted against Johnson.

"It's time for a black speaker," Councilwoman Inez Baron said. "I proudly cast my vote for myself—Inez Baron."

Johnson's mom drove down from Massachusetts ahead of the impending snow storm to watch the City Council vote in her son as its next speaker.

"She taught me the importance of service to others. And she taught me that fierce women get things done," Johnson said. "You are my best friend. You are my rock. And I wouldn't be here without you."

Johnson, who said he has never owned a car, said his primary goals over the next four years were to improve the MTA he rides every day, fight hunger, preserve and maintain the council's independence, and make the city more affordable.

"I want New York to still be a place where you can still be 19 years old and come here and still survive," Johnson said.