Andy disses Vito! Cuomo’s new Housing czar is no fan of Lopez

The Brooklyn Paper
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Gov. Cuomo slapped Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez, picking a longtime rival of the powerful Assemblyman to run the state’s housing agency.

Cuomo nominated Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant) last week to run an agency in charge of affordable housing — Lopez’s passion — in an effort to antagonize him.

He also believes that the cancer-stricken Lopez’s career as a housing advocate and lawmaker, in its fifth decade, is winding down, sources familiar with the appointment said.

Once he takes over the agency next month, Towns will control the funding spigot for affordable housing projects — including Lopez’s political base, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, which received four contracts worth $811,000 last year.

Lopez (D–Bushwick) has exerted tremendous influence over the state’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal over the years — he orchestrated the appointment of a former staffer, Deborah Van Amerongen, as its commissioner in 2007.

Publicly, everyone is playing nice — but Cuomo is known to be wary of Lopez. As attorney general, Cuomo led the audits into the Lopez-founded Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, investigations that briefly caused the state to freeze funding to the nonprofit.

Lopez has called allies in Albany to complain about Cuomo’s appointment of Towns, said one source, and Towns recently told one public official that he “hated” Vito and was willing to work with insurgent political clubs who opposed him.

The bad blood stems from more than a decade of political brinkmanship between the Towns family and Lopez’s clique.

Lopez recruited and ran former Councilman, now state senator, Martin Dilan against Towns in an Assembly primary 1998 and 2000 — even though Dilan was once Towns’s campaign manager.

And about three years ago, Lopez demanded that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer fire its lobbyist, Karen Boykin-Towns, Towns’s wife, because the company did not set aside the property of its former headquarters for affordable housing.

Enraged, Towns confronted Lopez in Albany demanding an apology, according to several sources.

“They argued, they confronted each other in the hallways, and Towns said, ‘What’s up with that and my wife? You crossed a boundary. How dare you?’” said a source.

Towns later said that Lopez’s demand was “an attack on the corporation,” not on his wife. Boykin-Towns was later promoted.

Debra Feinberg, a Lopez spokeswoman, said that chatter over the appointment of Towns does not change the essential fact that “Assemblyman Vito Lopez has been an outspoken voice in Albany in advocating for restorations and increases in allocations for affordable housing programs in the budget. He looks forward to working closely with Assemblyman Towns … and hopes that by working together, well-established and vital programs continue to be able to be funded throughout the state of New York.”

It’s almost as if Towns put out the same statement.

“Assemblyman [Lopez] and I have a history of being very successful when we work together,” said Towns. “There have been times when we have differed on opinions.”

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018: Widely updated, including a better reference to a former Lopez staffer.
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Reasonable discourse

Katie from Park Slope says:
This article should be called, Cuomo disses NY State’s tenants and homeowners. During a year when rent regulations will be renewed, appointing Towns to this position is a big mistake. Darryl Towns has no housing experience. None.

Recently, his father Rep. Ed Towns was being investigated for taking a preferential mortgage from the CEO of Countrywide Angelo Mozilo, and now his son is the head of the NY State Mortgage agency!

As the article notes, HCR is a new agency created out of both DHCR and the Housing Finance Agency. However, instead of appointing someone of the caliber of Priscilla Almodovar, Deborah Van Amerongen (who never workerd for RBSCC), Shaun Donovan or Rafael Cestero, all of whom had extensive housing or finance experience, Cuomo has picked someone who has no experience at all.

This appointment reminds me of Russell Harding being appointed to the NYC Housing Development Corp. Harding had no housing or finance experience, but he had political connections. The same is true of Towns, but who is he connected to? As a result, the City didn't get an effective advocate or administrator, it got someone that thought they could take advantage of their position. Harding did and went to jail. How long will it take for Towns to do the same?
Feb. 20, 2011, 7:36 am
anywho says:
Katie, phuck you!
Feb. 20, 2011, 9:19 am
Dave from Park Slope says:
When the citizens get a choice between Darryl Towns and Vito Lopez, there are no winners.

The real Albany clean-up ain't happening under Andrew Cuomo.
Feb. 20, 2011, 9:43 am
Feb. 20, 2011, 9:51 am
Dave from Cobble Hill says:
Governor Cuomo appointed a political person with no housing experience to control housing programs. So much for Cuomo being able to find the "housing czar" he promised that would make New York the housing policy leader in the country. This is not meant to disrespect Mr. Towns. However, I think Cuomo wants something from Mr. Towns and his father as he goes forward with his political career. There are so many really qualified people to run the agencies. Mr. Cuomo really dropped the ball here.
Feb. 20, 2011, 8:26 pm
Paul from Bushwick says:
How about Fred Dicker to head an agency? No one more loyal to the governor than him.
Feb. 20, 2011, 8:37 pm
Joe from Breezy Point says:
Political hacks fighting over patronage, lobbying fee's and pork projects.

I'm glad everyones a reformer
Feb. 20, 2011, 11:18 pm
George from Slope says:
I sincerely wish that Congressman Towns tries to run for district leader so that he can continue to be embarrassed by Mr. Lopez and his allies. But Vito you have nothing to fear, the most powerful clubs in Brooklyn are in Bushwick (your own club) and in Canarsie (the Thomas Jefferson Club)--whom, by the way, aren't too happy with Mr. Towns after he fired a couple of TJ Club members from his office.
Feb. 28, 2011, 4:46 pm

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