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.”