Vito Lopez, disgraced assemblyman, dead

Vito Lopez, disgraced assemblyman, dead
Associated Press / Mike Groll

Vito Lopez, former Williamsburg assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic boss, died on Monday night. He was 74.

Lopez was a powerful party honcho known for bringing home the bacon for his district, but fell from grace when a state ethics panel stripped him of Assembly seniority in 2012 after it found him guilty of sexually harassing his young female interns — including groping and trying to kiss them, telling them to “dress sexy” in the office, and asking one of the women give him a manicure.

The harassment scandal turned Lopez from a 14-term incumbent and Brooklyn kingmaker to a political pariah in a matter of weeks, with even his closest allies disassociating themselves from him in the fall of 2012, though he did not resign until May of 2013.

Lopez made a last-ditch effort at public office in late 2013, but upstart Antonio Reynoso — who had previously worked for former Lopez chief of staff Diana Reyna — roundly defeated the disgraced assemblyman.

The state settled a lawsuit with the two interns earlier this year, costing taxpayers $545,000.

Even during his heyday, Lopez was divisive. He authored the controversial loft law, which protected residents in illegally converted warehouse buildings but which critics said would accelerate gentrification in Williamsburg.

The long-time pol also crafted a bill to help the city crack down on illegal hotels — a problem that still plagues the city.

Perhaps most notably, the powerful Democratic boss built a fiefdom atop his Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and subsidiary organizations.

The organization received $1 million in taxpayer’s cash in 2010, when this paper uncovered that Lopez had been renting space for his political club at a steep discount from the organization for a decade — and collecting thousands of dollars in unexplained consulting fees.

Lopez had battled cancer for years, and announced in 2010 that his esophageal cancer had returned. The disgraced pol spent much of his twilight years out of the public eye, making few publicized appearances — though he returned to the headlines this year after the attorney general Eric Schneiderman took him to court to recover $330,000 in fines he owed the legislature over the sexual harassment incident.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at rbrow[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–9309. Follow her at twitter.com/rbbrown.
Reach deputy editor Max Jaeger at mjaeg[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.