Thanksgiving is approaching and Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Williamsburg) still has a lot to be thankful for. Let’s recap the fortnight in Lopezland:
The Assemblyman’s doctors have been treating his cancer aggressively and he is as playfully pugnacious as ever, gleefully mocking reporters at a recent public hearing, for example. And he was re-elected with a Brezhnev-style 90 percent of the vote.
And the city restored $12.5 million in contracts to his favorite nonprofit, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, according to the New York Post, after weeks of delays pending several government investigations — just in time for the holidays!
Gov.-elect (but still Attorney General) Andrew Cuomo said that the Ridgewood Bushwick audit remains under review, but that didn’t bother the Bloomberg administration, which said it released the money out of “fear that vital services would not be met.” Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson discussed housing policy and next year’s legislative agenda with Lopez on Nov. 5, Politico reported.
But a number of allegations and ongoing investigations into Ridgewood Bushwick’s finances remain on the horizon.
The Daily News reported on Nov. 14 that the architect who designed the deck at Lopez and his girlfriend Angela Battaglia’s Long Island summer home in 1999 was rewarded with the job designing Ridgewood Bushwick’s most prominent housing developments over the past decade.
And the next day, the News tried to link Lopez to two church closings and several consolidations in Brooklyn.
In the story, a priest blamed Lopez for influencing Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to close St. Michael St. Edwards Church in Fort Greene and Our Lady of Montserrat in Bedford Stuyvesant — a charge that Lopez denied and a spokesman for DiMarzio called “categorically untrue.”
The back story here is that Lopez and DiMarzio worked together on a bill that would shield churches from old suits against pedophile priests. And Lopez has feuded with several local pastors over their opposition to his beloved Broadway Triangle rezoning, which will benefit the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. DiMarzio campaigned for Lopez in a “robocall” to voters last year.
The pastors in the Daily News story charged that the decision to close their churches was payback for their outspoken position against the Broadway Triangle and in support of Lopez’s political rivals.
But another pastor, Father John Powis, told the New York Times that he did not believe the lawmaker was behind the most recent church closings.
Lopez after all has a lot on his plate these days — and we’re not including the roasted turkey that he’ll be serving up and eating with more than 500 seniors at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center next Thursday.