Bronx nonprofit terminates founder accused of sexual assault and harassment

Bronx Parent Housing Network CEO and founder Victor Rivera is accused of sexually assaulting and harassing 10 women.
Photo by Jason Cohen

The founder of a Bronx nonprofit accused in a New York Times exposé of sexually assaulting and harassing 10 women has been ousted from his office.

Victor Rivera, who overcame drug addiction, homelessness and incarceration to found the Bronx Parent Housing Network 20 years ago, wept when he told his life story to the Bronx Times last year. He first smoked marijuana at 5, at 10 years old he was selling weed and cocaine, and eventually dropped out of school at 14.

But today, no one is shedding a tear for him as the bombshell New York Times report left him labeled a sexual predator — an allegation Rivera denied to the publication. The Feb. 7 report claimed that he preyed on women that lived in shelters, and on employees as well.

“I have always treated the women I work with at BPHN with dignity and respect,” Rivera said in a statement to The New York Times. “These allegations are unfair, baseless and without merit.”

The New York Times were informed that on one occasion, Rivera demanded an employee have sex with him. When she refused he said, “No one says no to Daddy,” and fired her on the spot. Many of the women filed complaints, but they went nowhere as Rivera was the one who heard them.

What makes matters worse is the nonprofit that has received $274 million from the city since 2017 and an additional $10 million in COVID-19 funds.

The Bronx Parent Housing Network wasted no time and gave Rivera the boot Monday. The board has named attorney Ululy Rafael Martinez as its new president.

“Mr. Martinez and the board condemn, unequivocally, this abhorrent and abusive conduct, and BPHN is committed to conducting a complete and thorough inquiry and will fully cooperate with the proper authorities investigating these allegations to ensure that BPHN can continue to provide safe shelter for all,” the board said in a statement.

“Mr. Martinez and the board support all those who came forward to tell their stories. BPHN recognizes how difficult this must be and is committed to serve as a resource for their healing, not an obstacle. BPHN is unwavering in its mission to help people get back on their feet and is steadfast in providing life-saving services to the residents of New York City.”

The investigation also found that Rivera had hired his family members, steered contracts to close associates, and intertwined his nonprofit organization with his other for-profit companies.

State Senator Alessandra Biaggi said she was disgusted with Rivera’s alleged actions.

“The people and organizations who provide shelter to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for our neighbors, and ensuring their safety,” Biaggi said. “The horrendous allegations reported against BPHN chief executive, Victor Rivera, are in direct violation of that duty and mission, and put Bronx residents in immediate danger.

“I stand in solidarity with the survivors who have shared their experiences and extend my deepest gratitude for their bravery. We have an obligation to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, and ensure that powerful men do not get away with such egregious behavior,” she added.

The Bronx Parent Housing Network is also in trouble with the city.

On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an investigation has begun into the nonprofit’s financials and sexual assault allegations against Rivera.

The mayor said the city has asked BPHN to hire an independent investigator to examine the multiple sexual misconduct allegations and has directed that any complaint to any city agency alleging sexual misconduct from any nonprofit contractor must be referred to an independent investigatory agency, not the nonprofit’s own board.

“Victor Rivera must understand that no, he is not untouchable,” the mayor said on Twitter.

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