First generation Dominican-American, Corey Ortega has made tremendous change as a community advocate and organizer in West Harlem. Corey’s passion for his work comes from his background of being a child of immigrants and a lifelong resident of the West Harlem neighborhood. His upbringing and early community work gave him insight on the struggles of residents and ignited his interest in making positive change in his neighborhood through the participation of community members.
Corey’s first contact with addressing community needs came as an undergraduate student working in his family-owned day care center, Give Be Grow LLC. In 2002, Corey created Give Be Grow with his mother, a retired New York City Public School history and special needs teacher. The experience gave Corey a first-hand understanding the unique set of challenges to childcare providers and children of the shelter system. It is work he cherished and has continued. In July 2012, Corey was elected to the Executive Board of the UFT Child Care Providers and was elected Manhattan Borough Chair. Since that time, he has been deeply involved in labor issues affecting childcare providers.
In 2006, Corey earned a Bachelor of Science from St. John’s University’s Peter J. Tobin College of Business. After graduation, Corey joined P.A.’L.A.N.T.E. Harlem, a tenants’ rights organization. As a founding member of P.A.’L.A.N.T.E. Harlem, Corey worked as a tenant advocate for Harlem residents living in rent stabilized and federally subsidized buildings. During his time with P.A.’L.A.N.T.E., the group organized thousands of tenants in New York City and improved their living conditions. In 2008, Corey made his first foray into politics, joining New York State Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright’s office as a Special Assistant. In the position, he addressed housing, labor and quality of life issues for the 70th Assembly District.
His growing experience in public service and politics led Corey to start the West Harlem Progressive Democratic Club with former West Harlem Democratic District Leader Jamaal Nelson. In his role as the President and co-founder, he worked on Congressional campaigns, was a member of the County Democratic Committee, and served as a Judicial Delegate of the New York Democratic Party. In 2013, Corey was the Borough Director for Talking Transition, which pioneered a new model of civic engagement during the transition to a new administration. Following the 2013 mayoral election in New York City, tens of thousands of New Yorkers came together online, in the streets, and in a central pop-up “think tent” to inform the priorities of newly elected and appointed officials citywide. His continued dedication motivated him to run for Vice President of the New York State Young Democrats for the Downstate region. Since 2014, Corey has encouraged youth involvement in the Democratic Party, hosted recruitment and strategic political events, and continued efforts to grow the state party. He has created opportunities and events catered to the broad diversity of New York and the party, including high school students, college students, young workers, professionals and families.
In 2015, Corey was the Field Associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He was responsible for the new and growing VetTogethers initiative, which encourages community building through member-led monthly events. Presently Corey is the Director of Civic & Government Affairs for the NYC Veterans Alliance, where he leads and develops the Alliance's Civic Leadership initiatives and builds relationships with elected officials to advance the Alliance's programs and policy initiatives.