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The freshman! Back from retirement, Vito Lopez is born again

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Assemblyman Vito Lopez is back from his “retirement” with the legislation-writing energy of lawmakers half his age!

The “freshman” Lopez (D–Williamsburg) has introduced several bills since his one-day retirement from public life on Dec. 31 — a paperwork loophole that enables the 26-year Assemblyman to collect his pension, while also receiving a salary for the term that began on Jan. 1.

“We’re working very hard,” said Lopez’s chief of staff, Deb Feinberg. “It’s not easy to be a legislator and deal with all the various things in play.”

Indeed, while the other first-year lawmakers were wandering around the State Capitol in a daze for the first two weeks of the year, Lopez and his staff introduced roughly 20 bills and co-sponsored dozens more (that’s a lot of bills, people), including:

• He and Assembly Speaker Silver introduced a bill that linked capping suburban property taxes with a series of rent regulations that would prevent tenants from being priced out of their homes.

• After Gov. Cuomo pressured Silver to split the two bills, Lopez pressed on, like any good newcomer, and struck a compromise with Republican leaders to extend an expired tax break, known as 421a, for new housing development projects.

• He put forward a comprehensive rent-regulation package that would adjust the maximum amount of allowable rent that a landlord can charge and preserve the existing rental price of a unit if a tenant moves away.

• He drafted a bill that would punish landlords for cutting off building services to loft tenants who applied for Loft Law protections from the city.

Lopez’s frenzy of activity is not limited to mere legislative work. In the past three weeks, Lopez spoke at a tenants’ rights rally in Manhattan, a rally in support of locked out workers at Flatbush Gardens, joined an initiative forcing landlords to pay for dilapidated buildings, held an eight-hour Housing Committee hearing regarding his rent regulation bill, and led several community meetings in his district, including the Southside Task Force.

All this as he wages his battle with cancer.

Lopez’s peers are impressed with the boundless energy of the back-from-retirement pol.

“He has always been the strongest advocate for affordable housing and tenant protection laws in the state legislature,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), a man just about half Lopez’s age.

For his part, Lopez offered only the humility and bipartisan spirit that comes from having to find one’s way as a newcomer to a legislature in which he’s served for 30 years.

“The Republicans want property-tax breaks, and we want that, too — but tied to rent regulations,” Lopez told the New York Times. “I believe the overwhelming number of people in our conference would support that.”

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Reader Feedback

voter from park slope says:
Expiring rent regulations are perhaps the most important issue facing NYC this year, and Lopez should be commended for fighting for their renewal. If these protections lapse, which is exactly what the Republicans in the Senate and their real estate backers want, then hundreds of thousands of tenants will face eviction. Why not focus on that issue, and the Brooklyn tenants from all corners of the borough that are struggling to stay in their homes through this economic recession?

Instead, the Brooklyn Paper recycles a two month old story, and quotes copy from a two week old NY Times article. Norm Oder was right, your paper lacks substance. Perhaps it is true what people say about this paper, that since these articles often get recycled to the NY Post, the content here needs to conform to their rabidly conservative readership. NYC tenants deserve better.
Jan. 27, 2011, 6:31 am
ms nomers from greenpoint says:
Extending the tax breaks for new developments means the rich condo owners will continue to live off hardworking New Yorkers, who will have to pony up to cover for their richer, gentrifying neighbors. Once again the existing community gets screwed. Thanks, Vito.
Jan. 27, 2011, 8:41 am
voter from park slope says:
Actually, the tax break would be justified by the creation of affordable housing. Hard working New Yorkers need affordable housing, and Lopez fights harder than any other elected official to make sure it gets built.

But I will say, as someone that works on issues related to homelessness, I'd rather at least debate the merits of 421-a tax credits than try to explain why recycling the same story and engaging in ad hominem attacks again and again against someone that has spent his entire life working to help create and protect affordable housing cheapens the public discourse.
Jan. 27, 2011, 10:36 am
the accountant from the acturarial department says:
The Brooklyn Paper may be on to something here. If an assembly member retires and then takes office anew on the first of the year, they should be a "freshman" and stripped of all seniority in the legislature.
Jan. 27, 2011, 1:37 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
no one wants to be forced out of their homes, maybe the city should evict tennants who live in florida with homestead exemtions and claim florida residence and make those new york apartments available to people who really need them and (not people with two homes) live in the city full time.
Jan. 27, 2011, 1:40 pm
ms nomer from greenpoint says:
How much affordable housing did we get from the rezoning? Yeah. Thought so.
Jan. 27, 2011, 4:28 pm
ms nomer from greenpoint says:
How much affordable housing did we get from the rezoning, while all these tax credits have been handed out like Halloween candy? Yeah. Thought so.
Jan. 27, 2011, 4:29 pm
voter from park slope says:
Right now about four hundred, but when it's all said and done, probably a few thousand units of affordable housing. As far as I know no other waterfront re-zoning in NYC or the country as a whole comes even close. Without Lopez, the re-zoning probably would have still gone through, with the same tall buildings, but much less housing, off site or in the form of temporary section 8 vouchers. He fought and won on the waterfront.
Jan. 27, 2011, 6:13 pm
Anywho says:
Big f-ing deal.
Jan. 27, 2011, 7:56 pm
ms nomer says:
Hefty tax credits for tens of thousands of gentrifiers doesn't begin to make up for that little affordable housing. On the waterfront, affordability was voluntary but all the developers got the tax credits. Local nonprofits are overwhelmed by residents who are being priced or harassed out of their apartments and have nowhere else to go. Many developers who went for the voluntary affordable housing either haven't built it yet, or opted to build elsewhere, which doesn't help our neighbors stay in their homes. This is a Pyrrhic victory at best.
Jan. 28, 2011, 10:42 am
voter from park slope says:
You seem to be confused, to get the tax credit, you have to build affordable units. Lopez secured that requirement to include the Williamsburg waterfront in Albany during the re-zoning negotiations in NYC. The tax credit isn't mandatory, but in applying for it you agree to build affordable units.

As for displacement, no elected official fights against it more than he does. Really. I understand that gentrification and displacement is still going on, I work against it every day, but you seem to be making the perfect the enemy of the good.
Jan. 28, 2011, 11:53 am

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