By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick) survived a sex scandal, the loss of his job as Brooklyn Democratic county leader, the loss of his chairmanship of the Housing Committee, the loss of most of his privileges in Albany, and growing discontent about his autocratic methods of running the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
Still popular in his largely Latino district, he won re-election handily last fall and continued to speak out on issues such as affordable housing.
But even though these problems didn’t bring him down, his health could be another story. Lopez now says he has pneumonia and his health is "deteriorating."
In a one-paragraph statement on Tuesday, the 71-year-old Lopez says it's the second pneumonia diagnosis in nine months. He says he's "extremely fatigued" with limited mobility.
Lopez announced in 2010 that he had esophageal cancer. He also said he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1993.
Long before the sex harassment allegations, Lopez was criticized in connection with his nonprofit charity, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. Henry Stern, former NYC parks commission, reported in his column of Sept. 22, 2010, that according to a report by the city Department of Investigation, several of the organization’s board members had “practically no knowledge of the organization and its finances.”
Two others, according to the report quoted by Stern, were not fluent in English, but always voted “yes” whenever a vote was taken. Lopez was never connected with any crimes in relation to the organization he founded.
Around the same time, a political club known as the New Kings Democrats was founded on a specific anti-Lopez platform. They criticized his appointment of almost a dozen at-large state committee members, saying these members were chosen as “rubber stamps.” Most committee members are elected by neighborhood.
The group succeeded in electing an anti-Lopez district leader, Lincoln Restler, in Brownstone Brooklyn. Restler was defeated two years later, but the ice had been broken
In the end, it was sex, or the allegation of such, that took Lopez down a peg. The state Joint Committee on Ethics in Albany found Lopez guilty of sexually harassing young female staffers, although Lopez denied the charges.
Prominent Democrats, such as U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and eventually Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, called on Lopez to quit. However, Lopez refused to do so, even after he lost his Housing Committee chairmanship and his leadership post of the Kings County Democratic Party.
When the new county Democratic chair, veteran politician and jurist Frank Seddio, was elected, some suspected he was in league with Lopez. Those suspicions, however, went away quickly after Seddio implemented some reform measures that had long been sought by the anti-Lopez forces, such as doing away with the at-large delegates.