Mark Anthony’s quip about what happens in death to the good and bad a man did in life comes to mind with the news that former Assemblyman and Democratic powerbroker Vito Lopez has died. Rare will be the obituary headline over the next day that doesn’t (accurately) have the word “disgraced” in it. But Lopez’s contributions to the stabilization of Bushwick were considerable, if complicated. And those efforts cannot all be dismissed merely because many of them helped Lopez as much as they helped the neighborhood. Self-interest and the public interest aren’t mutually exclusive any more than they are synonymous.
Will those brick-and-mortar remainders outlive the shame of his repulsive behavior toward women? That’s hard to say for certain. In New York, concrete crumbles fast. What is almost certain, however, is that Lopez was convinced of the durability of his legacy.
The only time I interviewed him, in the summer of 2009, Lopez insisted before he talked that two of his aides take me in his yacht of a sedan for a tour of his good works. When we returned an hour later, Lopez made sure I was impressed. It was essential to him that even a low-profile reporter, writing for a tiny outlet, understand just what he had accomplished. He certainly did.
For a great look at this other side of the Lopez story, please read Tobias Salinger’s excellent 2013 story about Lopez’s impact on the borough.