Lopez resigns, will still seek council seat

The victim! Vito rails against media and his ‘enemies’ at public meeting
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

Embattled Williamsburg and Bushwick Assemblyman Vito Lopez has resigned from the Assembly, but he still plans on running for the City Council later this year.

Lopez (D–Williamsburg), who has been wracked by a sexual harassment scandal, resigned effective 9 am on Monday after submitting a terse, one-sentence letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Shilver (D–Manhatan).

A report from the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics outlines in cringe-worthy detail a litany of accusations from young, female staffers which are turning off even Lopez’s most reliable supporters.

Lopez protege Councilman Steve Levin stuck a fork in his relationship with his former protege, saying that the report “shocked and saddened” him.

“The findings detail behavior that is disturbing, indefensible and constitutes a breach of the public trust,” said Levin. “Due to the circumstances, I think it is the best thing for everyone concerned that he voluntarily step down.”

Levin also condemned Lopez’s plan to run for the council.

“I will not be supporting Vito Lopez’s candidacy for City Council and I don’t think his running is the right thing to do,” Levin said.

Williamsburg District Leader Chris Olechowski, who was also previously backed by Lopez, said he wants to get the message to the former borough Dem boss that he is persona non grata.

“He should understand by now that this city doesn’t want him in politics,” said Olechowski. “He wouldn’t be helping anyone here by running for city council. He’s going to be an awkward embarrassment to anyone he works with.”

Brooklyn Heights district leader Jo Anne Simon agreed, saying that the 71-year-old is a danger to women.

“No one should support him for election to the city council or any other office,” she said.

Not everyone is demonizing Lopez though.

Simon Weiser, a member of Community Board 1 and an organizer in the Williamsburg Hasidic community, said Lopez should be judged on his decades-long record of helping Brooklyn communities.

“For such a politician with rich accomplishments to his life, creating housing and educating the poor, to see him go down like this, it bothers me,” said Weiser.

Weiser and Olechowski both said that, despite all the scandal, Lopez still has a good chance of winning the city council election.

“He’s got a strong constituent base who have committed themselves to him for many years,” said Olechowski. “It’s unfortunate that those people are still willing to campaign for him.”

Lopez is running against Antonio Reynoso, former chief of staff of the term-limited incumbent, Diana Reyna (D–Williamsburg).

On Friday, Silver submitted a resolution asking the Assembly Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance to review the report and consider punishments ranging from sanctions to expulsion, which may have pushed Lopez to resign.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.