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By George Capsis

Oh wow, it was only just a short while ago I read with despair that Corey Johnson was dropping out of the race for mayor because of an extended bout of depression, and then, bang, on February 18th I read in the Times that he is thinking very seriously about running for comptroller. Wow—great.

That he suffered from crippling depression was news to me because he is known for his irrepressible ebullience. When in a parade and the camera is on him, he throws himself into a few dance steps, and even a backflip, while beaming joyously.

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast joins elected officials to dedicate the new 34 St-Hudson Yards station on Sun., September 13, 2015, which extends the 7 line to the West Side. City Councilman Corey Johnson.
Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

As the Speaker of the New York City Council I would catch him lecturing with careful and compelling speech and think, “Yes, yes, he will make a good mayor.” And I’d also think it was inevitable—no question—that Corey Johnson was going to be our next mayor. But now as comptroller, he will just be counting the money.

Of course, he will do more; he will have opinions about how that money is being spent, and he will express those opinions just the way the current comptroller, Scott Stringer, has been offering opinions for months and months, knowing he would run for mayor.

But let me tell you of my first encounter with Corey (it is one of my best stories). He was running for city council for the first time and, unannounced, he rang my doorbell to introduce himself and his mission, which was to have WestView back him in his run for the council. When I explained that we did not back candidates but he was welcome to submit articles, he proceeded to tell me about himself—and what a story.

He grew up in a small suburban town just outside of Boston and played on the high school football team. In the very last game just before graduation, when they were playing their archenemy that had won a series of games against them and this was the very last game to get even, Corey’s team won!

Shouting for joy in an explosion of exhilaration the players made their way to the dressing room. Corey jumped up on a bench and shouted for silence. “Guys, guys, I want to say something.” He got silence and then, still smiling, he spoke: “Guys, guys, this may be the last time I see you all. All of you are going to college but my family is poor so I will not. All I will be is a memory, but that memory right now is not complete. Guys, I am gay.”

The next day the doorbell rang again and my wife Maggie went to the door and discovered two very little ladies dressed completely in black. “I am Corey’s mother,” said one. “And I am Corey’s aunt,” said the other. We escorted them to the garden couch where they pleaded that Corey had nothing and no opportunities and would we back him (Corey laughs when I remind him of this visit).

Corey has also offered that he has used drugs and is HIV positive.

I don’t know enough about depression to comment on his step-down from a sure shot at being our mayor, but I hope that some degree of depression will not affect Corey’s ability to do a good job as comptroller.

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