18 times • NOVEMBER 12, 2015 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT www.qns.com CM Eric Ulrich’s plan for city Veterans Services agency becoming a reality BY ROBERT POZARYCKI firstname.lastname@example.org @robbpoz New York City will establish a government agency dedicated entirely to veterans issues through an agreement arranged between the mayor and City Council. Councilman Eric Ulrich and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito jointly announced on Nov. 4 that the City Council would soon vote on and pass a bill creating the city Department of Veterans Services, which will focus specifically on the needs of New Yorkers who served in the armed forces. Ulrich, who chairs the Council Committee on Veterans, sponsored the legislation. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Loree Sutton, the city’s Veterans Affairs commissioner, threw their support to the legislation. The mayor oversees an Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA), but the new department will be able to expand the city’s ability to serve local veterans, according to Ulrich and Mark-Viverito. “This agency will be a one-stop shop for the city’s large and diverse veterans community,” Ulrich and Mark- Viverito said in their joint statement released Wednesday night. “We believe that by elevating MOVA to the department level, the city will be in a better position to deliver more resources and services to veterans throughout the five boroughs.” “We share the Council’s goal of helping our veterans and their families access the services and support they need and deserve in their return to civilian life,” de Blasio and Sutton added in their own joint statement. “This is why we pledged to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year, committed to expanding job opportunities for our veteran community and increased funding for veteran services this year.” More than 225,000 veterans who served the nation from World War II to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan reside in New York City. Many of them, Ulrich and Mark- Viverito noted, face a variety of social and economic challenges, from rising homelessness to securing well-paying jobs or even simply transitioning back to civilian life after serving in combat. “Far too many of them feel helpless or ignored,” they said. “We fundamentally believe we have a moral obligation to help those New Yorkers. This agency is going to listen to the veterans community and be more responsive to their needs, and we’re proud to have their backs.” The bill creating the Department of Veterans Services, Intro. No. 314-2014, is currently in the Council’s Committee on Veterans, which Ulrich chairs. The Council passed the bill on Tuesday, Nov. 10 — the day before Veterans Day. Forty-five of the Council’s 51 members have co-sponsored the legislation, including Queens Council members Costa Constantinides, Elizabeth Crowley, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Peter Koo, Karen Koslowitz, Rory Lancman, I. Daneek Miller, Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Paul Vallone, Jimmy Van Bramer and Ruben Wills. Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office New York City will soon have a Department of Veterans Services through an agreement reached between the City Council and the de Blasio administration. Former lawmaker Vito Lopez dies of cancer at age 74 by ROBERT POZARYCKI email@example.com @RidgewoodTimes Former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a one-time giant in Ridgewood and Bushwick politics whose prolonged political career ended in scandal, died on Nov. 9 at the age of 74. The Associated Press reported Lopez succumbed while undergoing treatment at the Memorial Sloan- Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, according to his attorney Gerald Lefcourt. Lopez had been battling leukemia for many years. A native of Bensonhurst, Lopez was the product of an Italian-American family, but later took the surname of his Spanish grandfather. He graduated from James Madison High School before receiving a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University and a master’s degree in social work from Yeshiva University. Lopez began his career of public service in founding the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC) in 1973, which quickly became the area’s largest social services program. Along with providing various services to seniors and children, the council also spearheaded a huge affordable housing campaign, purchasing and renovating buildings throughout the neighborhood and then making them available to area residents. Lopez’s work with the council propelled him into politics in 1984, when he was elected to an Assembly seat representing much of Bushwick as well as neighboring areas of Williamsburg. He would become chair of the Assembly Housing Committee, and used that clout to direct millions in state funding to the RBSCC for its affordable housing initiative. Eventually, Lopez would ascend to the leadership of the Kings County Democratic Party in 2006, where he played the role of kingmaker in many elections across Brooklyn. He would leave the post six years later. But Lopez’s final years in public office would be mired in scandal. His relationship with the RBSCC came under fire in 2010, when the city Department of Investigation reported on a phone-billing scam involving one of the organization’s employees. The probe led to other investigations, which revealed that two of RBSCC’s highest-ranking members received lucrative six-figure salaries and benefits. In 2012, reports surfaced that Lopez repeatedly made inappropriate comments and contact with several female staffers, two of whom filed a sexual harassment lawsuit. The accusations were confirmed in an extensive Joint Commission on Public Ethics report, but Lopez was never charged with a crime. The state eventually settled the lawsuit with Lopez’s staffers. The scandals led to Lopez being stripped of his Assembly seniority and charged with a fine of $330,000. Following the release of the JCOPE report, Lopez — who denied the allegations — announced his resignation in May 2013, but also his intention to run for the 34th City Council District seat then held by the term-limited Diana Reyna, which covers parts of Ridgewood and Bushwick. He would lose the Democratic primary to current City Councilman Antonio Reynoso. “Vito Lopez was my friend for over 30 years and I am saddened by his death,” Kings County Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio said in a statement posted on the website Kings County Politics. “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.” Funeral arrangements have not been announced yet. RIDGEDWOOD TIMES/File photo Then-Assemblyman Vito Lopez addressing a crowd in 2011 in Bushwick.
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