Janitor says Vito Lopez’s charity fired him for backing his rival

Janitor says Vito Lopez’s charity fired him for backing his rival
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

A former employee at a nonprofit agency backed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez claims the Bushwick group fired him for backing one of Lopez’s rivals in last year’s election.

Bushwick resident Cyril Joseph, 66, said he was fired last October from his $10-per hour custodian job at a building managed by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.

Joseph said that his manager told him that he was being fired for poor job performance. But Joseph said he never received any prior complaints from his superiors or the building’s manager.

“This is just politics,” he said, as he went public with his grievance on Monday night at a Democratic Party meeting in Brooklyn Heights, where Lopez was re-elected as the county leader.

Two days before he was fired, Joseph had attended a meeting held by the New Kings Democrats, an insurgent, anti-Lopez clubhouse. At that meeting, Joseph urged the club to endorse Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D–Bushwick) for city council against Lopez-backed challenger, Maritza Davila.

That caught the attention of Joseph’s employers — who also employed Davila as a community organizer.

Lopez, Joseph claimed, sent spies to New Kings meetings to report on its activities. And Joseph believes that it was Angela Battaglia, Ridgewood Bushwick’s $234,000-per-year housing director and Lopez’s longtime girlfriend, who pushed for his firing.

It wasn’t the first time Joseph has been actively involved in neighborhood politics — or the last.

Joseph helped found the New Kings Democrats three years ago, lending his parliamentarian advice he honed as a member of Community Board 4.

Two years ago, he ran for a county committee seat with 50 New Kings members and attended the party’s biennial county meeting aligned with the reform group — as he did again Monday night.

But he also attended political rallies led by Lopez and events organized by Ridgewood Bushwick, preferring to participate with as many groups as he could.

These days, Joseph spends much of his time tending a community garden on Linden Street and Broadway, and attending political meetings. He doesn’t want his old job back.

“Why should I fight [Ridgewood Bushwick] for a sanitation job?” said Joseph.

Lopez declined to discuss the matter on Monday night.