The main address of New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s multi-faceted social service agency is the focal point of a network of senior centers and affordable housing.
The collection of walk-ups, senior apartments and care facilities run by Ridgewood-Bushwick may help determine whether Lopez wins a seat in the City Council this fall. The organization he started in a single building on Stanhope Street in 1973 has grown into a vast operation difficult to track on paper — but easy to discern at the ballot box, ever since he won his first Assembly race in 1984.
Juana Zapata asked to help her daughter’s kindergarten teacher at P.S. 274 on Bushwick Avenue, but her overture went unanswered.
“She had all these kids to teach by herself and nobody to help her,” Zapata said. “It’s two blocks from my house. Why not take the help?”
People in the office ignored her when she stopped in to check on her daughter’s progress. The teacher didn’t return her phone calls. The principal was too busy to talk with her. Handouts about afterschool and weekend programs were sent home after the deadlines had passed. When her daughter was in first grade, the teacher started paperwork to classify her daughter as in need of special education services. Zapata was taken aback.
Gentrification that has spilled over from industrial East Williamsburg to residential northeast Bushwick is spreading inexorably southward—thanks to a little help from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Jesse Duarte returned home last month after she dropped off her three children at school to find that the lock to her Jefferson St. apartment in Bushwick had been changed. All her belongings, including the family dog, Totis, were locked inside. She had no way to get to them. All because the landlord said Duarte owed him $21.
Battered by a devastating sex-harassment investigation and bruised by the loss of a powerful state Assembly chairmanship, Vito Lopez is attempting to rappel the rungs of public service — running for City Council in a contentious three-way primary.