Norman's Successor Facing Own Scandal

New York Post
by Jim Hinch
November 25, 2005

Just one month after replacing scandal-plagued pol Clarence Norman as Brooklyn Democratic Party boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez appears headed for his own tub of legal hot water. Three activists have filed a complaint with the Brooklyn DA, alleging Lopez used a fake address on his voter-registration form and doesn't live in his Brooklyn district.

Instead, say the activists, Lopez for years has shacked up in a Queens condo owned by his girlfriend, Planning Commissioner Angela Battaglia, who also happens to be executive director of a housing nonprofit Lopez founded.

A spokesman confirmed that the district attorney had received the complaint, dated Oct. 24, but declined to say if an investigation has begun.

Falsifying a voter-registration address is a felony. When told of the complaint, Lopez's chief of staff, Allison Hirsh, said, "I have no comment," and hung up the phone. Battaglia did not return a phone call to her commission office. "Vito Lopez is not above the law," said Joseph Garber, one of three signatories on the complaint.

Garber, an activist in Lopez's district who has worked against Lopez-backed judicial candidates, said the pol's alleged fake address has been an open secret among insiders for years.

Garber said he and other disgusted activists decided to air the dirty laundry when Lopez ascended to Norman's throne atop the Kings County Democratic Party in October with vows to clean the organization up.

"Now Lopez is going to be the choirmaster. He'll do just like Clarence Norman, if not worse," said Arthur Steier, another signatory.

Since becoming party leader, Lopez has been throwing his weight around, recently vowing to be a kingmaker in the race for City Council speaker.

Property records show that the address where Lopez is registered to vote, 64 Conselyea St. in Williamsburg, is owned by a woman named Tillie Tarantino.

Tarantino is executive director of the Swinging 60s Senior Center in Greenpoint, which is funded by a Lopez-backed nonprofit. Reached by The Post at the senior center, Tarantino was asked if Lopez lives at the Conselyea Street house. "No comment," she said, and hung up.