Vito Lopez

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Vito J. Lopez
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 53rd district
In office
January 1985 – May 20, 2013
Preceded by Victor Robles
Succeeded by Maritza Davila
Personal details
Born (1941-06-05) June 5, 1941 (age 73)[1]
Brooklyn[2]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Joan Lopez (divorced)[3]

Angela Battaglia (girlfriend)[4]

Children Gina Marie Lopez Summa, Stacey Anne Lopez Breves[5]
Alma mater Yeshiva University (MSW)
Long Island University (BS, Business Administration)[1] James Madison High School
Profession Social Worker, Non-profit Program Manager, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic
Website Assembly Website

Vito Joseph Lopez (born 1941) is an American politician, former member of the New York State Assembly, and the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Kings County. Lopez was forced to step down as chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party after it was revealed that he settled a lawsuit by two of his female staffers who alleged that Lopez sexually harassed them.[6] On May 17, 2013, Lopez resigned effective at the end of the present session June 20, 2013.[7] He decided to resign on May 20, rather than in June.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn,[3] of an Italian-American family; his last name Lopez derives from his grandfather, who is a native of Spain. Vito Lopez graduated from Brooklyn's James Madison High School, and received a BS in Business Administration from Long Island University (1964), and a Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University (1970),[1] where he was trained in the community organizing program.[9]

Lopez and his former wife, Joan, have two grown children.

Lopez was diagnosed with leukemia in 1993,[3] and in 2010 was treated for a recurrence of cancer.[10]

Early career[edit]

Lopez began his career with the New York City Department of Social Services, at the Stanhope Street Senior Center in Bushwick, Brooklyn.[3][11] Recognizing that the Bushwick section of Brooklyn received little attention from City Hall and senior citizen programs there reeeived even less in terms of program support, Lopez began organizing senior citizens there. His first attracted citywide attention by organizing in November 1981 an assembly of 100 senior citizens at Brooklyn's Borough Hall to protest what they saw as the "serious neglect" shown to them in programs for decent housing, nursing homes and medical facilities.[12] Lopez began researching the programs for senior citizens available from local, state and federal funding sources in order to supplement the relatively meager services offered at the Stanhope Street Senior Center. This led his to conceive the idea of creating a not-for-profit that would enter into government contracts to provide services for senior citizens, which he planned would focus on Bushwick and the neighboring Italian-American community of Ridgewood.[13]

In 1973 Lopez founded Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC), a non-profit organization to provide services to senior citizens in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Ridgewood, Queens, and surrounding neighborhoods. The first contract it won was to manage the Stanhope Street Senior Center.[14] The Council aggressively pursued government funds and promoted itself as the primary contact for citizens looking for government assistance, even assistance not within the purview of the Council's contracts.[15] Over time as the Council increased in size and importance, Lopez skillfully used it to generate loyalty among constituents for which it provided services and to employ locals to create an administrative staff.[16] These two groups allowed Lopez to gain his political positions beginning with his Assembly seat in 1984. While he resigned as Executive Director of the Counsil on winning the seat, he remained closely associated with it and used his political clout on its behalf.[16] At the height of his political influence the Council "served as a de facto political machine for him and his allies ..."[17]

According to the Daily News, by 2010 as Assemblyman Lopez had steered $430,000 in state grants to Ridgewood Bushwick Citizens Council.[18] At that time the Council had $100 million in state and city contracts to build affordable homes, provide meals to seniors and run after-school programs. The Daily News found that for the period 2007-2010 firms doing businesses with the Council (and their subcontractors) contributed $51,000 to election campaigns of Lopez or to the Kings County Democratic Committee of which Lopez was chairman.[18]

Political career[edit]

Lopez was a member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 53rd District (which primarily comprises the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick and Williamsburg). First elected in 1984, he began his fourteenth term as an Assembly member in January 2011.

Since 2006 Lopez has served as the Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party, having replaced former chairman Clarence Norman Jr. On August 28, 2012 Lopez announced that he would not seek re-election as Brooklyn Democratic leader due to allegations that he sexual harassed two of his staffers.

Political stances[edit]

Lopez was among the sponsors of a bill to expand the original 1982 Loft Law, "...which gave rights to illegal tenants and made their lofts subject to rent stabilization."[19] The 2009 Loft Law Amendment, which went into effect June 2010, expanded these protections to lofts in manufacturing areas of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Long Island City.[19][20]

While Lopez has previously sponsored similar legislation, he has not supported a 2009 bill, the Child Victims Act,[21] sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey. This bill would open a one year window to allow older victims of prior childhood sexual abuse the ability to file civil actions against their abusers.

He has sponsored a competing bill that provides no window, but would change current law to allow lawsuits against public institutions without requiring a 90 day notice of claim. The New York Times reported on June 9, 2009 that in an effort to reach a compromise with Lopez's bill, Markey amended her bill to specifically include all public institutions through the waiver of the current 90 day notice of claim requirement, and also limited the window to victims aged 53 or younger.[22]

During an October 13, 2006 meeting with the Lambda Independent Democrats, a political club of gay Democrats in New York City, Lopez publicly declared his support for extending the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples for the first time in his political career. He also intimated that he would help to enact legislation that would recognize same-sex marriages, which the highest court in New York State had refused to recognize earlier that year.[23]

Investigations[edit]

According to multiple media account in September 2010, Lopez and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council are the subject of several investigations, led by the US Attorney in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, and the New York City Department of Investigations.[24][25]

Censure[edit]

On August 24, 2012, The New York State Assembly Standing Committee On Ethics and Guidance concluded an investigation, made in response to allegations brought forth by two young female staffers, and unanimously found that Vito Lopez had violated The Assembly’s Sexual Harassment/ Retaliation policy.

Based on recommendations from the committee Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver removed him as chair of the Committee on Housing, stripped him of all seniority, reduced his staff allotment, and forbid him from employing any interns or persons under the age of 21. He also censured and admonished him on behalf of the Assembly.[26] He was reelected in November 2012 despite token opposition, but was stripped of his Democratic chairmanship and had his pay cut.[27] In mid-May 2013 the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics issued a report which described in detail the behavior alleged by multiple women, which prompted prominent Democrats, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Silver, to call for his immediate resignation. In response Lopez, citing a report by special prosecutor Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. that he would not bring criminal charges, announced on May 17, 2013, he would resign from the Assembly at the end of his term in June 2013 and in the fall run for a seat on the New York City Council (currently occupied by a term-limited erstwhile aide). The announcement brought further calls from his immediate resignation, including by Assembly Minority leader Brian M. Kolb, and the vow by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, a Democrat running for Mayor, that she would work to prevent his election.[17] That afternoon Speaker Silver released a draft resolution to expel Lopez from the Assembly that he said would be voted on when the Assembly returns on May 20, 2013.[28]

Resignation[edit]

Vito Lopez resigned in May 2013 after a legislative ethics panel censured him. On June 11, 2013, Lopez was fined $330,000 who was accused of groping, intimidating and manipulating young female staffers in a 2012 scandal.[29]

2013 New York City Council election[edit]

Lopez ran in the 2013 New York City Council elections to succeed Diana Reyna in the 34th district. He lost the Democratic primary to Antonio Reynoso.[30] Lopez won 37% of the vote, Reynoso 49%.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Assembly Member Vito J. Lopez - Biography, Project Vote Smart, retrieved 2010-09-27 
  2. ^ Vito J. Lopez - Biography, New York State Assembly 
  3. ^ a b c d Barnes, Julian E. (2000-02-27), The Two Faces of Bushwick; A Troubled Brooklyn Neighborhood Is Mending. But Its Leaders Are Feuding Over the Size of the Gains and What to Do Next., New York Times 
  4. ^ Goldstein, Joseph; Vincent, Isabel; Klein, Melissa (2010-09-26), Vito Lopez's gal pal a baroness of Brooklyn housing, New York Post, retrieved 2010-09-27 
  5. ^ WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Stacey Lopez, Sean Breves, New York Times, 2003-08-03 
  6. ^ "Lopez Won’t Seek Re-election As Brooklyn Dem Chair". Capital Tonight (YNN). August 28, 2012.  Accessed May 17, 2013
  7. ^ "Vito Lopez announces resignation from New York Assembly". WABC TV. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Post: Vito Lopez To Resign From Assembly By Monday Morning". NY1. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Marwell, Nicole P., Bargaining for Brooklyn: Community Organizations in the Entrepreneurial City (University of Chicago Press: 2007), p. 102 ("Marwell").
  10. ^ Seifman, David (2010-09-28), Vito boiling as city freezes $12M deals, New York Post 
  11. ^ Life-long Community Organizer Remembers the Start of It All, Bushwick Observer, February 2002, p. 4 
  12. ^ Johson, Rudy (November 28, 1971). "' Forgotten' Senior Citizens Uniting To Improve Services in Brooklyn". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Marwell, p. 103.
  14. ^ Marwell, p. 102.
  15. ^ Marwell, p. 105.
  16. ^ a b Marwell, p. 109.
  17. ^ a b Kaplan, Thomas and Jesse McKinley (May 17, 2013). "Faulted for Sex Harassment, Legislator Will Quit Albany". New York Times.  Accessed May 17, 2013
  18. ^ a b Gearty, Robert (September 29, 2010). "Developers, architects, accountants and security firms cash in after writing checks to Vito Lopez". New York Daily News.  Accessed May 18, 2013
  19. ^ a b Buckley, Cara (2010-07-25), That Cheap, Roomy Loft Can Now Be a Legal One, Too, New York Times 
  20. ^ Expansion of the Loft Law, New York City Loft Board 
  21. ^ "Bills". Assembly.state.ny.us. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  22. ^ New York Times, June 4, 2009
  23. ^ "newyorkblade.com". newyorkblade.com. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  24. ^ Robbins, Tom (2010-09-23), Vito Lopez Can't Catch a Break: Three Investigations for a Man Battling the Big C, Village Voice 
  25. ^ Mr. Untouchable: Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez has city probers buffaloed, New York Daily News, September 17, 2010 [1]
  26. ^ Silver, Sheldon (August 24, 2012). "Letter From Assembly Speaker Silver Censuring Assemblyman Lopez". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2012. 
  27. ^ Hakim, Danny. "A Return to Albany After a Scandal". New York Times. Retrieved Jan 14, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Silver Releases Lopez Resolution". Capital Tonight (YNN). May 17, 2013.  Accessed May 17, 2013
  29. ^ "Vito Lopez fined $330,000 in sex harassment case". WABC TV. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  30. ^ Campanile, Carl; Goldenberg, Sally. New York Post http://nypost.com/2013/09/10/reynoso-declares-council-victory/ |url= missing title (help). 
  31. ^ Disgraced Assemblyman Loses Bid for Council Seat

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Victor Robles
New York State Assembly, 53rd District
1985–present
Incumbent