Activist community

Utica community leader and activist Patrick Johnson dies at 60

Patrick Johnson, a community leader and activist who made it his mission to fight racism as well as gun violence in the Cornhill neighborhood, died Saturday morning at age 60, according to Freddie Hamilton, who worked with him on several of its community programs.

Johnson was best known for founding the basketball mentorship program Hoops and Dreams in 2002, and serving since 2013 as the first program director and community liaison officer for Save Our Streets, a program working with people at risk of gun violence or gang involvement under the auspices of the district attorney’s office of Oneida County.

“He’s done a tremendous job in the community,” Hamilton said Saturday night. “He worked very hard to stop gun violence, to transform young people.”

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In a Facebook post Saturday, Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said he would order all flags to be lowered to half-mast in the coming week.

“Patrick was not only a pillar of our city, he was the strong bridge that dutifully worked to unite it every day,” he wrote.

As part of the Hoops and Dreams program, Johnson hosts basketball tournaments twice a year, with the last one taking place this year at the Veterans Outreach Center in Utica, Hamilton said. Through Save Our Streets and the Street Team – a community policing program that spun off from the Hoops and Dreams program – Johnson has worked regularly with young people as well as law enforcement. If there was an incident involving gun violence, he would be there, Hamilton said.

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“He wanted to see young people have a better life,” she said. “Cornhill in Utica – it’s one of the poorest areas in Utica – so he wanted at-risk youth to have better opportunities.”

Patrick Johnson was from Utica, worked locally

Johnson was born and lived most of his life in Utica. According his websitebegan his work as a consultant on race relations and gun violence in 2001. He has conducted well-known race relations workshops at the Utica Public Library, Mohawk Valley Community College, local churches, and other places, and always had a “full house”. said Hamilton.

Johnson previously worked as a life skills counselor at the Independent Living Resource Center in Utica from 1996 to 2003, then served as director of the YWCA Mohawk Valley Racial Justice Department from 2003 to 2009, according to his website. Since 2009, he has worked at MVCC enrolling formerly incarcerated students and served as the college’s community civility liaison. He also founded the New Life Institute in 2005 and the following year launched Hoops and Dreams’ “Stop the Violence” campaign.

From left to right, Roosevelt Patterson, Freddie Hamilton and Patrick Johnson are members of the Utica Street Crew.  The team is a community policing effort that operates primarily in the Cornhill neighborhood of Utica.

One of his last projects with Hamilton and other community leaders in 2017 was founding the non-profit organization rebuild the village, with the aim of establishing a community center in Cornhill. About a year ago they opened a location on the corner of Brinckerhoff Avenue and James Street. Hamilton said they hoped to name the center after him.

“All his work will continue,” she said. “It’s just that it’s such a loss to our community.”

A candlelight vigil was to be held in Johnson’s honor at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kemble Park in Utica.

H. Rose Schneider covers public safety, breaking news and trends for the Observer-Dispatch in Utica. Email Rose at [email protected].