BY PAUL SCHINDLER | With a full 26 characters to spare, veteran Bronx City Councilmember Jimmy Vacca took to Twitter with something of a major status update: “After talking w/ my friends & family I've decided to come out publicly as a gay man. Now back to the Golden Girls!,” read the January 22 mid-afternoon tweet from @JamesVacca13.
Vacca becomes the seventh out LGBT member on the 51-seat Council.
The Democratic legislator was first elected to represent the Bronx’s District 13 in 2005, having grown up in the borough’s Pelham Bay neighborhood and graduating from Christopher Columbus High School and the State University of New York, and then earning a master’s degree in urban studies from Queens College. Vacca serves as chair of the Council’s Technology Committee.
District 13 in the northeast Bronx includes Pelham Bay, City Island, Throggs Neck, Allerton, and Morris Park, and is adjacent to District 15, which since early 2014 has been represented by Ritchie Torres, the borough’s first out gay elected official. Torres, prior to his election, had worked for Vacca, with primary responsibilities for his housing services and policy initiatives. Torres now chairs the Council’s Public Housing Committee.
Vacca, who is 60, began his career fighting to save the Northeast Bronx Senior Citizens Center from being moved out of its longtime home in St. Benedict’s Church. From his success in that effort, he became president of the center, now the largest such facility serving the borough, for 30 years.
In 1980, Vacca became the district manager of Community Board 10 in the Bronx, where he served for 26 years until he took his current City Council seat. During his time there and on the Council, Vacca acquired a reputation for his work on quality of life issues and against overdevelopment in the district.
Vacca’s announcement on Twitter won immediate praise from his colleagues and others in government.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, also on Twitter, wrote, “I’m honored to know you and stand with you.”
Councilmember Rosie Mendez, an out lesbian, who has represented Lower Manhattan since 2006, tweeted, “Proud 2call u my brother. Pls remember that our visibility makes it easier4every young person 2 live #outandproud.”
Out gay Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who has served Jackson Heights since 2006, wrote, “Congratulations to @JamesVacca13 for coming out as an openly gay man. Your courage deserves our respect and the highest admiration possible.”
Later the entire LGBT Caucus, including, as well, Torres, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens, West Sider Corey Johnson, and Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn, issued a statement saying it “is incredibly proud of our colleague, Jimmy Vacca. Throughout his career, Jimmy has always been a strong champion of LGBT rights, and by coming out he is giving inspiration and strength to untold numbers of people. Coming out is never easy –– even in 2016 –- and we greatly admire Jimmy for his courage.”
Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx borough president, tweeted, “This is an incredible moment for a very dear friend. Congratulations Councilman!”
And Public Advocate Letitia James wrote, “And the Truth shall set you free. Love is love.”
Elvin García, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s out gay borough director for the Bronx, also joined in congratulating Vacca, writing, “Congratulations to an amazing public servant & dear friend Councilman @JamesVacca13 on coming out & living his truth.”