The last month has been no picnic for Vito Lopez, far left, as various agencies and the tabloids have let loose on the Assemblyman and his founding social-service organization, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. — Photo by Aaron Short
It has been just over a month since Assemblyman Vito Lopez and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC) found themselves in the middle of a New York-tabloid frenzy. Since this time, the papers have revealed that three government investigations — two of them led by the Manhattan and Brooklyn US Attorneys offices — have been combing RBSCC’s finances for fraudulent activity.
Tuesday, Sept. 28
Vito Lopez’s staff announces in a release that he is taking a leave of absence from his office to battle a recurrent form of cancer for nine days, beginning Oct. 7. The type of cancer and its seriousness is not announced, but spokeswoman Debbie Feinberg did say that Lopez will receive radiation therapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
City Hall News reports that rival District Leader Chris Owens is circulating a letter asking Lopez to step down from his post as Democratic Party Chairman, one day after the newspaper speculates what a post-Vito Democratic Party would look like.
The Daily News reports a long list of developers, architects, and financial firms who have won contracts for work with RBSCC and have also given campaign contributions to Lopez.
Wednesday, Sept 29
The Brooklyn Paper reports that Bay Ridge District Leader Kevin Peter Carroll voted to re-elect Lopez the party chairman, despite campaigning as a political reformer.
Thursday, Sept. 30
The Daily News and the New York Post report that Governor Paterson has frozen all existing and pending contracts to RBSCC in a memo circulated to state commissioners earlier in the week.
Author Nicole Marwell publishes an op-ed in the Brooklyn Paper based on her book, Bargaining for Brooklyn, regarding how RBSCC exchanges resources for votes and how Lopez in turn brings resources back to the nonprofit and its allies in Bushwick.
The Daily News releases an editorial calling the state freeze an "overdue move."
Friday, Oct. 1
The Post updates its story with text from the directive and a quote from a Paterson spokesman.
State Senator Marty Dilan tells the Brooklyn Paper that the government’s halt would put the nonprofit in a "precarious position."
Saturday, Oct. 2
The Post adds its own editorial praising Paterson for halting state contracts but chiding Bloomberg for not going far enough.
Sunday, Oct. 3
The Post leads the morning with a bombshell story about El Regreso’s recovering addicts campaigning for Vito Lopez during primary day in exchange for member items money and other payments.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is reviewing RBSCC’s audit, meets with Hasidic leaders in South Williamsburg Sunday afternoon — and Vito crashes the campaign stop.
Unfortunately for Cuomo, the press noticed.
Within minutes, posts on Politico, PolitickerNY (the Observer), and The Daily Politics (Daily News blog) featured photographs of the "uncomfortable" encounter, interviews with bystanders, and even photos of Lopez’s car parked in a B44 bus stop.
Monday, Oct. 4
Both the Daily News and the New York Post put Lopez on the cover of their papers – the Post for a story about RBSCC rehabilitating dilapidated lots with HUD money in a sweetheart deal and the News for a story strongly questioning Lopez’s Brooklyn residency.
The dual covers prompts Capital New York to call Lopez "sexy" and rename him "V-Lo."
Also, full reports from the Cuomo-Lopez encounter are posted Monday morning in a dozen news outlets including the Daily News (headine: Oh No It’s Vito — Duck!), the New York Post, the New York Times city room blog, WNYC’s blog, and the Brooklyn Paper.
WNYC also has an interview with Mayor Bloomberg, praising RBSCC for providing real services to seniors.
District Leader winner Lincoln Restler, who was excluded from one of Lopez’s Hasidic meetings, scores an interview with the New York Times.
Tuesday, Oct. 5
The Daily News notes that other political leaders shrug off Lopez spending most of his time at his girlfriend Angela Battaglia’s Ridgewood apartment and that Angela and Vito have adorable his and hers Assembly license plates.
The Post editorializes about the HUD-RBSCC deal and a proposal that State Attorney General candidate Dan Donovan has to prevent legislators from meddling in nonprofit activity.
Wednesday, Oct. 6
The Brooklyn Paper has a story from poll workers in Bushwick alleging election fraud.
The Daily News continues its Lopez residency story noting that questions surfaced about his Brooklyn address in 2005.
Thursday, Oct. 7
Lopez begins his cancer treatments at Sloan Kettering, where he will receive radiation therapy for four days and will be put in isolation for five.
The Brooklyn Paper reports its restaurant recommendations for federal investigators visiting Williamsburg now that Vito’s favorite restaurant, Cono’s, closed.
Friday, Oct. 8
No news is good news, right?
Saturday, Oct. 9
The Post reports that the city and state are moving forward with $135 million in new homecare contracts to RBSCC, but $12.5 million in other contracts are still delayed.
Sunday, Oct. 10
The Brooklyn Paper reports that the judge hearing the Broadway Triangle lawsuit will likely suspend the case because of the recent investigations, while also noting that election fraud has been alleged in the past.
The Post reports that the US Attorney’s civil rights division (Eastern District) is looking at the Broadway Triangle plan too.
The Daily News tries to hit Lopez hard with three pieces in its Sunday edition. The strongest reports on RBSCC staffers who were elected as judicial convention delegates, an interview with the nonprofit’s do-nothing treasurer of the board, and a bizarre piece trying to link Lopez to the arson-caused girl’s death at 55 Harrison Place.
Monday, Oct. 11
The papers focus on Carl Paladino’s anti-gay speech for a few days — but you’re better off reading this Q and A between Capital New York‘s Josh Benson and WNYC’s Azi Paybarah to get the back story.
Tuesday, Oct. 12
The New York Observer picks up the Broadway Triangle story.
Wednesday, Oct. 13
The Brooklyn Paper reports the connections between Lopez’s political clubhouse and its owner, a subsidiary of RBSCC.
Thursday, Oct. 14
The Times confirms that a Manhattan judge has indeed halted the Broadway Triangle lawsuit late Wednesday night.
Friday, Oct. 15
The Post and the Brooklyn Paper report that rival contractors are upset that the city is continuing homecare contracts to RBSCC despite the ongoing investigations.
Lopez is expected to finish his medical isolation.
Saturday, Oct. 16
The Daily News sent a FOIL request and found that the Department of Youth and Community Development had issues with competitive bidding in a 2008 audit.
Sunday, Oct. 17
The Post anticipates an end-of-days Hasidic turf war scenario in South Williamsburg now that Lopez and RBSCC appear to be distracted with city, state, and federal investigations.