Southern Brooklyn

Dirty Old Men Have Sleazy Sense of Power

Former Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman and current Assemblyman Vito Lopez, in happier times. Photo by Aaron Short

“Politics are a labyrinth without a clue.” – John Adams

BETWEEN THE LINESMore than a year ago, Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned after he admitted taking part in virtual trysts with other women over the course of several years. The stupidity of that incident — and numerous others that preceded it — has apparently not penetrated the minds of shameless politicians as to what constitutes inappropriate conduct.

For decades, from casting to corporate couches, men in positions of power have taken advantage of women in the workplace. Decades after feminism inspired equal rights for women and brought such matters to light, you’d think the sleazy, obnoxious “boys will be boys” mindset would have fizzled out, but the creepy practice still permeates our culture.

For what it’s worth, let’s call groping, womanizing and related acts the “Dirty Old Man Syndrome,” though age, clearly, has no bearing on the matter.

Have some politicians been popping too much Viagra or do these gropers think they are invulnerable to scrutiny and can just get away with it? Last year it was Weiner. A few years ago Eliot Spitzer had liaisons with several high-priced call girls, which ended his 15-month tenure as governor of the State of New York.

In the latest Dirty Old Man Syndrome episode, several former female staffers for Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez have accused him of sexual harassment. Within days of the scandal going public, and pressure from fellow Democrats, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislator was stripped of his committee chairmanship, barred from employing young people, and censured after an Assembly committee determined that he had sexually harassed two female employees this summer. Lopez has resigned his post as Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman, but has refused to give up his Assembly seat.

Lopez denies he ever sexually harassed anyone in the face of two investigations being conducted to determine if he did, indeed, break the law. The city’s lone Republican prosecutor, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, is leading one probe. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes would customarily lead the inquiry, but, due to his close ties to Lopez, had to step aside and appoint a replacement. The case is simultaneously being reviewed by the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

More than a week ago, the New York Post published portions of a press release from the office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — another politician with a large sphere of influence — which charged the Brooklyn boss with creating “a hostile workplace that included physical and verbal abuse.” It also outlined such brazen behavior as “multiple incidents of physical contact” and placing his hand “as far up between her legs” as he could.

It has been reported that, several months ago, Silver endorsed payments of more than $100,000 — of taxpayer funds — to settle the two sexual harassment cases against Lopez. However, Silver has admitted that authorizing the payment was a mistake and was turned down when he asked Lopez to resign from the Assembly.

Last week, The New York Times reported that five other women interviewed described “an atmosphere of sexual pressure and crude language, with frequent unwanted advances by him and others,” as well as fears of reprisals if they complained. They also said Lopez told some women to wear short skirts and go braless at the office.

Lopez was first elected to the Assembly in 1984 and became the most powerful political force in the borough after he succeeded his disgraced predecessor, Clarence Norman, as the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss in 2005. That post comes with tremendous influence and gives him power in judicial nomination and filling vacant political seats.

Perhaps, this turn of events will produce changes for a party that once ruled Kings County. After the recent election results to replace Carl Kruger, it’s obvious the once-powerful Democratic Party, which had at least a seven-to-one voter advantage, has lots of work to do to regain its potency.

Frank Seddio, a former judge and assemblyman, who is reported to be the front runner to succeed Lopez as Brooklyn’s Democratic Party leader, would have to reform an organization badly in need of reforming. With a party that has a distinct voter advantage, lip service and hollow pledges are no longer tolerable. We’ve heard it before, but when push came to shove, little, if anything ever got reformed. When politicians vow to “clean house,” nothing should be swept under the rug the way it usually is.

More than 200 years after John Adams recited the words above, it’s obvious some politicians still don’t have a clue when it comes to ethical conduct — and some never will. A few elected officials may even believe that their position entitles them to remain above the very rules and laws they legislate.

However, those in power — whether in government, business or the private sector — have a larger responsibility to uphold the laws than the rest of us and, despite their lofty status, any behavior that violates the law can never be tolerated.

You just have to wonder how Vito Lopez would react if a female family member of his was treated in the same manner that he treated his employees.

You might think that, in this second decade of the 21st century, everyone would be respectful and alert to the boundaries that constitute sexual harassment. But, obviously, there are those who still live by an archaic, misguided 20th century “macho” set of standards.

The gist of our moral code is: Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Anyone, regardless of rank or level of power, who doesn’t get it, does not deserve to hold elected office.

Vito Lopez, who has quickly gone from political boss to political pariah, must resign before he jeopardizes any opportunity for the Brooklyn Democratic Party to regain its former dominance.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Comment policy


  1. That dude needs to see a dentist….. Sorry if this sounds like a Troll-a-comment

    But really, that’s unhealthy…… Teeth are really close to the brain. 

  2. Sheldon Silver AUTHORIZED payments to the two Violated women and NOW as its BLOWN WIDE OPEN in the PRESS is backpeddaling and Asking for Vito’s resignation ??????How if a civilian paid someone for their silence it would be a CRIMINAL CHARGE!!! Even WORSE an Italian trying to silence a Witness !!!!!!!!Blatantly  we have two tier legal system!!!!

  3. Politically, I’m the last one to defend Weiner and Spitzer, not sure which one I  disliked more), but as far as I know, their DOMS (dirty old man syndrome) behavior was outside the office. 

            I know many will disagree, but to me, there’s a definite distinction between pulling this crap in the office, where you’re influencing salaries, promotions, and the work environment, and out of work, where maybe you just took too much viagra and E and have to work it off. One wonders how moral you expect politicians (or anyone) to be. Spitzer went to a hooker? I wonder why that disqualifies him from office. Do we really want to elect only  candidates that live with their mother, in order to ensure “morality”?

           Let me also point out that the women have gotten into the act now. Look no further than Homeland Security and the latest scandal there.  I think it’s sad that the aim of feminism now seems to be to borrow the WORST of  men’s behavior! Look at the increasing number of female teachers having sex with male students. NSF, you may have to expand your editorial in the future!

          Getting back to the traditional DOMS, it may surprise people, but DOMS really didn’t sit well with me in the workplace. It used to piss me off to no end to see higher-ups use that power  to get women, harass women, use women. I don’t know if I was highly moral or highly jealous, but I was pissed off. I felt like they were promoting the wrong people if this is the type of guy being promoted. 

           Back in the late 70’s, this other employee and I actually wrote a letter to human resources at a job once, detailing a higher-up’s abuse of office by employing DOMS. We requested anonymity, and of course HR first went right to this officer and told him who wrote what. Then HR’s solution was “perhaps you  two can sit down with Dave (the officer)  and resolve your differences”. Yeah. That was the problem, our differences with Dave.

         Our solution was to get another job shortly after. At least things ain’t THAT bad anymore, I hope.

  4. The degree of difference
    between Lopez and what Weiner and Lopez did is marginal at best, since each was a
    breach of integrity expected from elected officials. I can easily forgive Weiner
    and Lopez for their transgressions, but not the subsequent denials and lies
    about their extracurricular activities.

    Remember, the cover-up
    is usually worse than the offense.

    Nevertheless, by
    harassing his employees, the charges against Lopez are far worse, and, if verified,
    he should be sentenced for his violations. His victims should also sue for as
    much as they can get.

  5. I think lopez’s transgression is significantly worse than spritzer and weiner, just the way I see it. As far as lying, that’s another issue but yeah you’re right.

  6. Looking at this troll makes my skin crawl, how could any of those women have ever even accepted his advances without crawling up into a disgusted ball I dont know.

  7. Lowlife Brooklyn Democrats being themselves. The fact that dozens of boys were raped by a pedophile who had the current governor on his payroll says everything.

    Perverts and degenerates all. Isn’t pedophilia and rape a prerequisite for living in South Brooklyn? Sodom and Gomorrah would blush and what goes on in Sheepshead Bay.  

  8. Things could be worse.

    As Leiby Kletzky asked Levin Aaron in the long car ride upstate, when he felt he was being ignored:

    Leiby: “What am I…chopped liver?”

    Levi: “Not yet.”


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