Peter Vallone goes after Vito Lopez’s ‘power base’

Vito Lopez
Assemblyman Vito Lopez, currently running for City Council. Lopez resigned from the Assembly after a 68-page report detailed sexual abuse allegations against him.

While plenty of city politicians have recommended Vito Lopez stop his campaign for City Council, most recent among them being Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one City Councilmember has decided it’s time to take action.

Queens Councilman Peter Vallone is calling for city and state lawmakers to cut funding to the Lopez-controlled Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, “unless Vito’s cronies step away from that organization and we get a pledge from Vito not to run.”

Lopez recently resigned from the Assembly in disgrace, after the ethics committee produced a 68-page report detailing sexual harassment allegations made against him by his female staffers. They ranged from staffers contracting pink-eye after being instructed to apply eye drops to Lopez’s infected eyes, to a female staffer being scratched “by one of Lopez’s jagged fingernails” when he tried to push his hand up her inner thigh.

“A lot of people are saying that Lopez should not run, but no one is discussing the power base that he has in that district that allows him to run and be a viable candidate,” Vallone explained.

In the most recent campaign finance filing period, $1,700 of Lopez’s contributions came from employees of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.

Vallone also noted that the housing division of the organization is run by Lopez’s girlfriend, and it has consistently been peppered with his hand-picked friends and political allies.

A New York Times report last year noted that the Council’s offices close every Election Day so that employees can vote for Lopez and his chosen candidates.

“This Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council has for a long time been controlled by Vito and his cronies, and they need to go,” Vallone said. “Once they’re gone, once there’s a pledge for Vito not to run, then I think people can discuss whether to fund that group or not.” 

“But until then, nobody in government should do anything to help him run and abuse other women.”

Councilmember Erik Dilan, who had several member items for RBSCC in last year’s budget, declined to comment for this story.

Another steady supporter of RBSCC with member items for the organization in last year’s budget, Councilmember Domenic Recchia, did not respond to a request for comment.

Councilmember Stephen Levin, who once worked for Lopez and also had several member items for the organization in last year’s budget, put out a statement this weekend saying he believes Lopez should “voluntarily step down.”

But Levin said today that he would not support a plan to cut or withhold funding from RBSCC to put pressure on Lopez to drop out of the race.

“The truth is they provide good services,” Levin said, noting the work the organization does with youth programs, homelessness prevention, and seniors. “And so I don’t think that it’s appropriate to allow politics to dictate what programs get funded in that way.”

Vallone conceded that “the organization apparently does some good work.” 

“But so did some other organizations that were controlled by slimy elected officials,” Vallone said. “As with most villains, you have to go after the power source.”

Vallone wants to show voters that Lopez would be impotent on the Council, only harming his districts as legislators refuse to work with him.

“[RBSCC] unfortunately makes him a viable candidate,” Vallone said. “I’ve been wondering for a while why this organization, why Vito’s power base, has been unmentioned and untouched.”

Lopez’s competitor in the City Council race, Antonio Reynoso, noted to Politicker that while Lopez’s political allies outside of Ridgewood Bushwick may be falling away, he still maintains influence in that neighborhood.

Even after the ethics report outlining the abuse allegations female staffers made against Lopez, community members are apparently still standing behind him.

“Who knows if it was just someone making up lies?” one resident told Politicker.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” said another Ridgewood Bushwick resident of the sexual abuse allegations. “I don’t care what anyone says.”

The ethics report details, among others, an incident with a female staffer who Lopez coerced into massaging his hand. When the staffer began to cry, Lopez responded by saying, “I like that you’re holding my hand.” The young woman cried harder. The whole exchange occurred immediately after the staffer told Lopez she was raped in college and he responded by asking her if she “felt guilty.” He got her to massage his hand after telling her he “really believe[d] in her work” but wanted her to show more “intensity” and be more “adventurous.”

Ultimately, Vallone said he does not want a colleague who could potentially do with female staffers in the Council what the report said Lopez did with women who worked for him in the Assembly.

“He clearly does not understand that what he did was wrong, and he’ll do it again if you give him power,” Vallone warned.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.