Today’s news:

Vito’s ‘Money Honeys’ get big salaries — subsidized by you

The Brooklyn Paper

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Brooklyn’s powerful Democratic party leader, steered more than three-quarters of a million dollars to both his campaign treasurer and his girlfriend, who work at the nonprofit he founded.

The treasurer, Christiana Fisher, is also the executive director of Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a Bushwick-based social services organization that Lopez founded. Last year, she nearly tripled her salary, earning $659,591 compared with $234,234, almost six times the amount of her peer executive nonprofit leaders in Brooklyn.

The nonprofit’s Housing Director Angela Battaglia, who is not only Lopez’s longtime girlfriend, but a City Planning Commissioner, got a hefty 73-percent raise from last year, earning $329,910 compared with $190,609 in the previous year, according to the organization’s tax filings.

Battaglia pulls in $54,150 as a planning commissioner, a job that lets her vote on significant rezoning plans that often affect Ridgewood Bushwick.

Both Battaglia and Fisher have held crucial roles in managing this campaign and its finances. Fisher managed the transfer of tens of thousands of dollars from Lopez’s Assembly re-election account to his campaign account for another 2010 race, for district leader. Battaglia has served as the candidate’s surrogate, reminding constituents at street fairs in Bushwick and Williamsburg to vote for Lopez, when he is unable to attend himself.

Both have long histories with Lopez, and Lopez has rewarded them and their family for their loyalty — elevating Pam Fisher, Christiana’s sister, and Jack Battaglia, Angela’s brother, to the bench in 2009 and 2001 respectively.

Calls made to Ridgewood Bushwick were not returned. And in a recent New York Post article, Lopez declined to comment about the salaries, noting that the organization “does an outstanding job servicing the residents of north Brooklyn.”

But several of Lopez’s political opponents have questioned the salaries. District Leader-elect Chris Owens called them “unethical, wrong and misleading the public.”

“Jesus Christ, that’s obscene!” said Owens, who has worked widely in the nonprofit sector. “An agency that can afford to pay an administrator $659,000 is almost on the verge of not being a not-for-profit. This is a rip-off of the public.”

By comparison, the executive director of Fifth Avenue Committee, a Park Slope-based housing nonprofit, earned $120,000, and the group’s housing director earned $81,167, in 2008. And the co-directors of Make the Road New York, a Bushwick-based economic justice nonprofit, earned $93,656 and $100,438, respectively.

But Fisher only reported working 17.5 hours per week at her job. The New York Post found that many of the nonprofit’s board members had little or no say in how the two executives were compensated — signing paperwork without a vote or even a discussion of salary.

An interview with one board of director member revealed that she could not recall how the salaries were approved, explaining that it was not discussed in meetings which occur once per quarter.

But the nonprofit’s tax forms indicate that the board did approve the salaries.

“Either the board member is mistaken or the process happened in such a way that at least one board member didn’t even know it was going on, or it didn’t happen or this process didn’t happen,” said Thad Calabrese, a professor at City University of New York.

Instead, it is Lopez (D-Williamsburg) who maintains close ties to both women and to the nonprofit, his base of political power in the region for more than a quarter century.

It is in this field that Ridgewood Bushwick’s social services mission and Lopez’s political goals most nakedly overlap.

Ridgewood Bushwick employs 553 individuals in addition to another 1,699 home care employees, a large number, but similar to several other housing nonprofit organizations in Brooklyn.

The organization manages and maintains a web of senior centers, housing complexes, and youth recreation centers, some of which are emblazoned with Lopez’s name as a reminder of where the funding for its development came from.

Many of these sites also conveniently double as polling locations, giving its elderly residents the privilege of not having to leave the building to re-elect Lopez.

Lopez himself has funneled $380,000 in member items to the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and its affiliated associations since 2009, including $60,000 for the Brooklyn Unidos upstate conference and $30,000 for transporting and feeding seniors at a summer picnic.

In 2009, Ridgewood Bushwick received $17,851,873 in government subsidies, over $4 million more than the $13,782,890 it received in grants the prior year.

On primary and general election days, the nonprofit’s workers are given a day off from work to get voters to the polls.

Last month, Lopez bragged to Daily News columnist Errol Louis that he would deploy 384 members of Brooklyn Unidos on Primary Day to help him beat his opponent for district leader, Esteban Duran, after two failed attempts to bump him off the ballot.

For his district leader campaign, Lopez raised $74,531, nearly all of it from his $1.19-million Assembly campaign warchest — a massive amount for a district leader race. But Lopez has the cash; he’s running unopposed for the Assembly.

Political opponents, such as Matt Cowherd, who founded the New Kings Democrats political club three years ago with the purpose of challenging Lopez’s leadership in Brooklyn, believe that Lopez’s intertwining of politics with social works has lead to corruption and abuse of power.

“Elected officials should work to secure city and state resources solely to benefit the community they represent, not to enrich themselves or their political cronies or to surreptitiously fund their political campaigns,” said Cowherd.

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Reader Feedback

Pablo Rivera from Bushwick says:
This type of comment doesn't help the cause of exposing Vito and his abuse of power.
Sept. 16, 2010, 8:44 am
Wendy from Greenpoint says:
And? Its not like he's going anywhere or will actually have to pay for these indiscretions. NY loves their corrupt politicos!
I mean- he just got voted in again! Rangel just got voted in again. No one seems to care. This isn't new information for those of us who read about politics. Lopez has always been skimming the top and robbing the tax payers.
Sept. 16, 2010, 9:46 am
Publius from Bklyn Heights says:
Is there ANY oversight mechanism that can investigate these disclosures?

Let the sun shine in and let leeches who suck the blood of public taxpayers pay a serious price. From their pocketbooks and with jail time.

I call for an investigation into the entire lot!

Nice work on this expose.
Sept. 16, 2010, 9:53 am
Any mouse from Any where says:
If voters really knew about this stuff, and cared about it, they would have voted the bums out. Since they didn't, what does that say about the voters?
Sept. 16, 2010, 11:28 am
Carlos Gonzalez from Bushwick says:
Finally, the truth comes out that everyone in the community knew but was afraid to confront. I hope Andrew Como investigates Vito and his cronies!
Sept. 16, 2010, 11:31 am
Hopper from Los S-S says:
This is great investigative work, and, depressingly, not surprising. Anything that Vito's involved in automatically smells fishy.
The way influence & power are bought & paid for is right in front of everyone.
Please investigate.
Sept. 16, 2010, 11:42 am
Christopher from Bushwick says:
Vito is a crook
I use to work for RBSCC and they let me go cause according to them they had no money to pay us mind you i was making less then 25,000 a year working 40 hour work week. while these crooks were making over 600,000 a year. they need to investigate Maritza Davila also she gets paid big bucks for being vitos hoe.
Sept. 16, 2010, 1:28 pm
anywho says:
Nice smile Angela! How much did it cost?
Sept. 16, 2010, 2:25 pm
Sky from Billyburg says:
Investigative? The reporter read the NY Post story. Great job!
Sept. 16, 2010, 2:31 pm
Mike from Park Slope says:
"Last year, she nearly tripled her salary, earning $659,591 compared with $234,234, almost six times the amount of her peer executive nonprofit leaders in Brooklyn."

The NY Post version of this article from today's paper states that this first amount represents her salary for two years, not one. How many more errors will come to light after the dust settles?

The above article is filled with half truths and if I were Fisher, I would have my lawyer sue the NY Post and this paper, both owned by Rupert Murdoch by the way, for libel and defamation. She isn't a public official or a public personality, so the high standard set by NY Times v. Sullivan doesn't apply. All she would have to prove is that your paper was negligent in it's reporting, and it's clear that it was.

I know that RBSCC does good work, and for your paper to attack Fisher who has led that agency for over twenty years is just an example of how far you will go to push your agenda.

Executive Directors for large social services organizations like the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (William Rapfogel) and CAMBA (Joanne M. Oplustil) make this amount. RBSCC is one of the largest social services agencies in NYC, and has thousands of people on staff, it isn't some forty person neighborhood clinic.

This article is a poorly researched hit piece and another example of how your paper is willing to spread the lies of the NY Post and to distort the truth to do Rupert Murdoch's dirty work.
Sept. 16, 2010, 2:33 pm
anywho says:
Oh I forgot, Chris Fisher is also Vito ex-lover before he hooked up with Angela. Mind you that he never legally divorced his wife. His estranged wife still resides in a house that he owns on Ocean Parkway where his daughters were raised. That is no bs, it is a fact - jack!
Sept. 16, 2010, 2:41 pm
JGS from Bushwick says:
@ Mike from Park Slope - RBSCC is not some city-wide, state-wide, or national organization, It's a neighborhood organization, hence the name, Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (focuses on the neighborhoods of Ridgewood, and Bushwick, in case it gets too complicated for you). No Executive Director from a neighborhood non-profit that primarily relies on government funding has any business making well over 1/2 a million dollars a year while working less than 40 hours a week!

What's really sad is that none of this surprises me. It's not like some huge secret was revealed. The entire neighborhood knows that all of them are a bunch of snakes! Maybe they can cut $100,000 out of Ms. Fisher's salary to get a working website, or hire a couple of community members to do get some important work done!
Sept. 16, 2010, 5:20 pm
Mike from Park Slope says:
JSG-

But the point of my prior post is that she doesn't make that much, and that this article, and the one that this article is basically lifted from in the NY Post only suggest that. If you read closely, which might be too complicated for you, you see that the NY Post article states that.

RBSCC is not city wide, but it is one of the largest social services agencies in NYC. This is because it not only provides services to seniors, but to everyone that is low income. It also provides services well outside of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Ridgewood, Queens.

As someone that is familiar with RBSCC, I know that aside from their anti eviction work that represents tenants throughout all of North Brooklyn, they also have a HomeBase program that has offices in Brownsville.

Aside from that, they develop and manage affordable housing, run a high school, about a dozens senior centers, a nursing home, a home health care agency. Fisher is the director of an agency that employs thousands of people. They are probably twice as large as CAMBA, or St. Nicholas, another agency in North Brooklyn.

So JGS, you're wrong. And the entire neighborhood supports them and has benefited from the hard work that they do day in and day out.
Sept. 16, 2010, 5:40 pm
Jose from Bushwick says:
I'd rather stay poor than look like Vito...ugh!
Sept. 16, 2010, 5:45 pm
LOVING IT!!!!! from BUSHWICK says:
Wow its about !!!!! I'm loving ever minute of it, Its about time its out in the open. they should all rot in jail. starting from 1. Vito 2. Chris 3. Angela 4. Pam. its about time someone is investigating those crooks !! it had to take someone to crook for it to come out in the open unreal!
Sept. 16, 2010, 7:44 pm
:) from bushwick says:
ohhhhhhhhhh no they didnt!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sept. 16, 2010, 8:08 pm
WTerrace from Windsor Terrace says:
Umm, no Mike from Park Slope. The Post article says the obscene salary figures are for a 12-month period spanning 2008 and 2009. Because their fiscal year spans July 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009. So your assertion that it's for 2 years are totally incorrect. Besides those are the numbers reported in the organization's tax filings. So before getting all bent out of shape, check your facts.
Sept. 16, 2010, 8:28 pm
realbushwick from Bushwick says:
I would like to just point out that Diana Reyna is the one leaking this information along with DOI. Im very confused though, Reyna shouldn’t be that bitter about Ridgewood Bushwick though. Her parents, Bienvenido and Maria, live in a house managed by Ridgewood Bushwick. Diana herself claims to live with her sister at 54 Garden Street– part of the Rheingold development constructed by Ridgewood Bushwick. Her half-sister has an apartment there. Her cousin Karina has a house managed by Ridgewood Bushwick. And Diana Reyna has a couple of cousins in the development also. She is trying to destroy the organization that she benefits from by leaking these DOI reports because she wants to take Vito Lopez down. But as the Sapienza article claims in bushwickbk.com one thing has nothing to do with the other.
Sept. 16, 2010, 8:42 pm
Nast says:
realbushwick:

I will remind you again and again...YOU MUST TAKE YOUR MEDS IF YOU EVER HOPE TO GET BETTER. I promise you the voices in your head will stop telling you to do bad things.

Forrest Gump: "Stupid is as stupid does." (this applies to you too)
Sept. 16, 2010, 8:57 pm
Mr. Rat from Sewer says:
Good work Aaron!

Hey, what's Vito doing down here?
Sept. 17, 2010, 1:20 am
LK from Wburg says:
Mike from Park Slope you are an ignorant FOOL. This lady needs to go to jail QUICK. As a guy that toils 60 hour weeks for 16% of what this C***T, I have no sympathy for the likes of her. I can only imagine the ridiculousness that is the salary distribution in this organization. People think Wall Street is bad!! FIRE, JAIL and SHUT THIS ORGANIZATION DOWN
Sept. 17, 2010, 4:03 pm
LK from Wburg says:
Mike from Park Slope you are an ignorant FOOL. This lady needs to go to jail QUICK. As a guy that toils 60 hour weeks for 16% of what this C***T makes, I have no sympathy for the likes of her. I can only imagine the ridiculousness that is the salary distribution in this organization. People think Wall Street is bad!! FIRE, JAIL and SHUT THIS ORGANIZATION DOWN
Sept. 17, 2010, 4:04 pm
Sammy from Greenpoint says:
since she was working only 17.5 hours per week, her actual salary is more than 1.4 million if she were to work a full schedule. this is highway robbery.

everyone familiar with city and state govt knows well that RBSCC receives money only when Vito yells and screams at Commissioners to deliver it. he gives 90% of his discretionary funding to RBSCC each year.
Sept. 18, 2010, 11:25 pm
TJ from Red Hook says:
hey mike from park slope, she does make that much!! just go look at the organization's 990 tax form. she made over 600k in base compensation in 2009 and 234k in 2008. simple as that
Sept. 19, 2010, 3:39 pm
Concern from Brooklyn says:
How about the Director of Hope garden who passed away, how much money did she make? She also was involve making enough fraud money to give her family a style of life they wanted. To leave her house paid in less then the years due, leave enough money to her husband and childing, including grandchildren, and then have the balls to let everyone know that A.G left them set, and to mistreat A.G mother, sister and other family members. They need to be investigates, no the sister who is trustworthy, honest and who sways stood away as much as possible. OIG investgate them now, don't let the get away with it, they all worked for AG at one time or another NOT THE SISTER.
Sept. 21, 2010, 9:47 pm
bert from bushwick says:
I purchased a home thru RBSCC that is riddled with problems the main one being a broken, defective sewer, that constantly backs up. RSBCC have been informed for the last 6yrs. making promises and stating that the City gave money to replace the sewers. Yet we still wait. We were threatened that if we go to the media RBSCC would not help us. Yet the homes are under warranty, with monies supposed to be held in a bond to fix any repairs. 6 yrs. later we still wait. RBSCC claims to have money in the bank to replace the sewers yes, nothing. All I want to know when will we get our broken, defective, corroded sewers replaced.
Sept. 28, 2010, 10:38 am

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