Diaz Family Values

While Rubén Díaz Sr. lobs bombs against gay rights, son Rubén Jr. and lesbian granddaughter Erica run for cover

It was there that Díaz met Lynn, an openly gay man who is now raising a nine-year-old daughter with his partner. The two seemed like an unlikely pair to strike up a friendship, but they bonded during their years on the CCRB, especially, Lynn says, when they "traveled to the Bronx together to attend a vigil after a police officer had choked a kid to death."

(Years later, when the HIV-positive Lynn took umbrage that Díaz would hold an anti-gay marriage rally at the same time as the AIDS Walk, he'd say, "I think of him at that rally, and I try to reconcile it in my mind with the memory of that man who was there at that silent vigil. It's difficult to do.")

Not that Lynn isn't still loyal to Díaz. He worked as his chief counsel in the Senate, and the two men became so close that Lynn took Díaz to see Liza's at the Palace the last time Minnelli was on Broadway.

A supporter of Díaz Sr. holds a sign on the steps of Díaz Jr.’s office, the Bronx County Courthouse.
C.S. Muncy
A supporter of Díaz Sr. holds a sign on the steps of Díaz Jr.’s office, the Bronx County Courthouse.
Erica Díaz waves an American flag across the street from her grandfather, while her partner, Naomi Torres (left), holds a sign.
C.S. Muncy
Erica Díaz waves an American flag across the street from her grandfather, while her partner, Naomi Torres (left), holds a sign.

Lynn was not the first gay person Díaz had ever encountered, of course. "He has two gay brothers, for God's sake," Lynn says, "and then there's Erica." But he is the one to defend Díaz most publicly, though he does so in terms that are alternately wholehearted and measured.

It was while he was on the CCRB that Díaz first started to publicly feud with the gay community. In 1994, he opposed the Gay Games coming to New York. According to the New York Times, Díaz wrote in Spanish-language newspapers "that the Gay Games, to be held in New York in June, would lead to an increase in AIDS cases and to wider acceptance of homosexuality by young people." The CCRB voted unanimously to reject his comments. Still, gay activists were enraged when he did not resign, many believing homosexuals could not get a fair hearing from the board when issues of homophobic police conduct came before it.

Díaz was elected to the City Council in 2001. By 2003, he was openly tussling with gays again, this time when he sued to keep Harvey Milk High School from expanding. Harvey Milk was the nation's first gay-focused high school, designed to be a safe place for queer kids to learn who were tired of being bullied on a daily basis (some at school as well as at home). This was years before the world knew anything of Tyler Clementi, Glee, or the "It Gets Better" campaign.

Díaz was having none of this safe-sanctuary nonsense. By 2006, the Department of Education (who was operating the school alongside in-house social services provided by the nonprofit Hetrick-Martin Institute) agreed to admit heterosexual students as well.

Díaz has been obsessed with making marriage be between "one man and one woman" at least since Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson took on the issue in earnest. But for all of his talk of matrimonial fidelity, Díaz himself is not married to the mother of his three children. Didionilda Díaz (Vega) is the mother of Díaz's three children, all of whom work in city government: former Assemblyman and current Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr.; NYPD Sergeant Damaris Díaz Kiely; and New York City Housing Authority employee Samuel Díaz.

Divorce records are not public, but the New York State Unified Court System shows that Didionilda appeared in court in the Bronx on July 17, 1992, as the plaintiff against defendant Rubén Díaz. The senator is currently on his second marriage, to Leslie Yvette Díaz.

Multiple investigations into the alleged misconduct at two nonprofit businesses, meanwhile, provide some insight into Díaz's overlapping relationship with both his current and his ex-wife, both of whom were on his payroll simultaneously.

Soundview Community in Action is at the center of this strange family intersection: It's a nonprofit whose aim was to bring small-business and computer resources to the Soundview neighborhood, one of the poorest sections of the Bronx.

In reality, multiple Soundview employees alleged, it was the personal patronage piggy bank of the Díaz family. At its height, according to press reports, its $1.3 million annual budget was reportedly funded in large part by state grants obtained by then-Assemblyman Rubén Díaz Jr., while Senior was the CEO (at $65,000 a year), and Didionilda was a consultant ($16,000 a year). Díaz's current wife, Leslie, became the CEO when Senior stepped down to become a state senator.

Soundview was the subject of a two-year investigation by then–Attorney General Spitzer's Office of Public Integrity. The Daily News wrote in 2006 that "Spitzer was given eight sworn affidavits containing specific, detailed allegations of wrongdoing against Díaz by former and current Soundview employees."

The News also reportedly obtained a September 2003 staff memo, in which Soundview Executive Director Edward Padilla wrote: "Please be advised that you are not obligated or expected to perform personal, political or religious duties during your scheduled work hours for any elected official, director or staff associated with Soundview Community in Action.... It is my understanding that Assemblyman Rubén Díaz Jr. and state Sen. Rubén Díaz have given some of you individual assignments that are not related, in any way, with what our contracts with funding sources require.... Their actions, requests, and/or demands are inappropriate and unlawful."

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