Vito Lopez, Former Kings County Democratic Party Chair, Dead At 74


Vito Lopez, the former Kings County Democratic Party Chairman and longtime Bushwick/Williamsburg Assemblyman, whose career ended amid multiple sexual harassment charges, died yesterday evening at around 10 p.m.

Lopez, 74, had been battling leukemia for several years years, and died after being rushed to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan.

“Vito Lopez was my friend for over 30 years and I am saddened by his death,” said Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio. “His legacy is the work he did for the poorest residents of Bushwick and Ridgewood, where thousands of people live in affordable housing on lots that were once burned out and garbage-filled. He was the foremost champion of affordable housing before it became the cause that it is today.

“As he faces the judgment on the value of his life, my hope is that all the good work that he did will outweigh the unfortunate way in which his career ended,” Seddio added.

Lopez was born June 5, 1941, in Bensonhurst of an Italian-American family, although he took the surname Lopez from his grandfather, who was a native of Spain. A graduate of James Madison High School, he went on to get a BS in Business Administration from Long Island University and a Masters Of Social Work from Yeshiva University.

In 1973 Lopez founded Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC), a non-profit organization to provide services to senior citizens in Bushwick, Ridgewood, Queens, and surrounding neighborhoods.

The non-profit succeeded in getting numerous government contracts and was responsible for creating numerous affordable housing units, various social services and and jobs. Ultimately, this too became controversial after reports found that he steered $430,000 in state grants to the organization while serving in the assembly.

Lopez served in the Assembly from 1985 to 2013, when he was all but forced to resign ahead of a vote of the chamber to expel him after the state ethics commission had released a report that showed he had routinely sexually harassed young staffers in his office. He was fined $330,000, but denied any wrongdoing.

Kings County Democratic Party leaders picked Lopez to chair the party in 2006, replacing Clarence Norman following his felony conviction. He announced he would step down in 2012.

As of this post, funeral arrangements are pending.