Johnny C. Rivera
Serving the East Harlem Community
Leadership That Is Delivering Results To Our Community
Johnny C. Rivera was born at Metropolitan Hospital Center and raised in NYCHA Wagner Houses. Mr. Rivera’s commitment to community service began when he was a teenager participating in the Youth Action YouthBuild. From that experience, he learned that “in spite of being poor, we have a duty and responsibility to serve our community and be part of the solution.”
Early in his advocacy, Johnny organized a successful protest, demanding that local elected officials stop blocking state funds to renovate an abandoned building to be used for affordable housing. The protest was a rousing success: The funds were released, and the building was renovated, providing much-needed housing. This accomplishment won Johnny the New Yorker Award from the Citizen’s Committee of New York City at the age of 16 years old.
Johnny Rivera partnered with philanthropist Eugene Lang to create the celebrated “I Have a Dream” Program/Foundation, which provided graduates of elementary school PS 121 with assured college tuition and enrichment programming. Johnny developed the intervention model used to prevent high school dropouts and increase access to a college education that is used throughout the nation and abroad. In her celebrated book, titled Within Our Reach, Elizabeth Schorr writes, “It became the mission of trouble-shooter Rivera to carry the message (stay in school and go to college) in his frequent encounters with the youngsters.”
As president of the Coalition to Protect Our Children, Johnny Rivera led protests to raise awareness and to pressure New Era Corporation to stop manufacturing caps bearing the colors and symbols of known gangs — the Bloods, the Crips, and the Latin Kings. The protest was a success, and the company stopped nationwide the production of these hats.
Mr. Rivera joined Harlem RBI as Director of Community and Government Affairs in order to strengthen the organization’s relationship with elected and civic leaders and ensure support for an $88 million capital project to build DREAM Charter School. This project resulted in the creation of Harlem RBI's new headquarters, 89 units of 100% affordable housing, and the renovation of a public park, located on the corner 104th Street and Second Avenue. To facilitate this task, Johnny established a community advisory board consisting primarily of tenants from NYCHA’s Washington Houses and other community stakeholders.
Mr. Rivera joined the Mount Sinai Health System's Department of Community and Government Affairs as the senior director of programs, where his goal is to increase access to health care services and decrease health disparities in the East Harlem Community. In Johnny's effort to bring community leaders closer to the medical center, Johny established the monthly community roundtable luncheon.
Prior to joining Mount Sinai, Mr. Johnny Rivera was Congressman Charles B. Rangel’s representative in East Harlem, where he was the director of operations for four years. In his autobiography, Congressman Rangel specifically mentions Johnny: “Holding down and keeping me up in El Barrio/East Harlem is Johnny Rivera, who shares his experience with me and is a great Community Adviser.”
Johnny Rivera was elected to the school board and served as its president. In that capacity, Johnny lobbied City Hall for funds to restore the auditorium of PS 57, and as a result, $1.3 million dollars were earmarked for the renovation.
Johnny Rivera has also been the chairman of the Land-Use Committee for Community Board #11; served on advisory committees for the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, City Health Works, and Adult/Youth Diabetes Prevention with Mount Sinai Medical School; and served on the boards of directors for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Youth Action YouthBuild, the East Harlem Block School Nurseries, the Falu Foundation, Peace on the Street, Sinergia, and the Lott Residency for Senior Citizens.
Mr. Rivera graduated with Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Hunter College and earned credits toward a Master’s Degree in Public Administration at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
He has been married for 21 years and has a 20-year-old son attending SUNY New Paltz.
On September 10, 2015, Johnny was elected as the Democratic District Leader for the 68th Assembly District in East Harlem.