2018 Annual Report
New York City Law Department
Year In Review 2018
Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel
New York City Law Department, 100 Church Street, New York, NY 10007
Georgia Pestana - First Assistant Corporation Counsel
Muriel Goode-Trufant - Managing Attorney
Steven Stein Cushman - Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Commercial Law
Richard Dearing - Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel & Chief of Appeals
Thomas Giovanni - Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Government Policy and Chief of Staff
Stephen Louis - Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel & Chief of Legal Counsel
Stuart Smith - Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel of Legal Recruitment & Development
Sosimo Fabian - Equal Employment Opportunity Officer
Candice Cho - Deputy Chief of Staff
For more information, visit our website: www.nyc.gov/law
With offices in all five boroughs and Kingston, New York, the New York City Law Department handles over 70,000 active or ongoing legal matters each year. In addition to litigating cases, attorneys draft and review local and State legislation; approve leases, contracts and financial instruments for the sale of municipal bonds; negotiate and structure business transactions; and provide legal counsel to City officials on a wide range of issues, such as immigration, education, judicial election reform and environmental policy. Listed below are some major issues and matters handled by the various Law Department divisions in 2018.
Administrative Law & Regulatory Litigation
Division Chief: Sheryl Neufeld | Deputy Chief: Michelle Goldberg-Cahn
- Affordable Housing: Prevailed in a challenge to rezoning of the former Pfizer factory in Brooklyn, enabling the development of more affordable housing.
- Rent Freeze for Seniors: Resolved class action providing seniors and disabled opportunities to avail themselves of the City’s rent freeze program if prevented from doing so due to their disabilities.
- Release of Property: Refined City’s procedures for the return of property vouchered during criminal proceedings, facilitating the process for individuals to retrieve their property.
- Adult Use: Handling quality of life enforcement efforts by defending the City’s zoning restrictions on adult-use establishments throughout the City.
- Illegal Short-Term Hotel Rentals: Continue to defend a challenge to newly enacted law concerning disclosures by online platforms that offer short-term rentals in order to enhance the City’s enforcement against the illegal hotel use of permanent housing.
- Lead Issues: Work with City agencies to litigate and counsel on various issues relating to the hazards from lead in housing.
Gail Rubin | Deputy Chief:
Eric Proshansky & Tonya Jenerette
- Illegal Cigarettes: Settled with FedEx on eve of trial over untaxed cigarette shipments, with City receiving $8.5 million and ensuring compliance; continued enforcement against large-scale cigarette trafficker, collecting $7.5 million held in a Swiss bank.
- Census Citizenship Question: Successfully challenged (as part of a coalition) the Commerce Secretary’s decision to question citizenship on the 2020 Census, protecting the City against an undercount of immigrant groups whose members would be deterred from participating.
- Sanctuary Cities: Successfully challenged the federal government’s imposition of immigration-related enforcement conditions on federal grantees, validating the City’s public health and safety laws and policies protecting confidential info of all residents, including immigrants.
Richard Dearing | Deputy Chief:
Devin Slack & Claude Platton
- Daycare Vaccination Rule: Secured unanimous ruling from the New York Court of Appeals upholding a City rule requiring children attending regulated daycare to receive a flu vaccine.
- Foam Products Ban: Successfully defended a City’s ban on single-use foam food containers and similar products against a restaurant industry challenge.
- Car Wash Worker Protections: Successfully defended a City law adopting protections for vulnerable car wash workers against an industry challenge.
- Amicus Briefs: Filed more than a dozen amicus briefs, in courts ranging from the U.S. Supreme Court to district courts, in support of public-sector union fees, local engagement with immigrant residents, access to reproductive health care, net neutrality and other issues.
Commercial & Real Estate Litigation
Nancy Brodie | Deputy Chiefs
: Richard Schulsohn & Robert Funkhouser
- Dismissal of Pension Action: Upheld the separate nature of a government entity from the private companies with which the government has contracts; defeated a federal appeal of the dismissal of a Pension Fund’s claims, which sought to impose more than $115-million liability on the DOE arising out of private companies’ withdrawal from a Pension Fund.
- Upheld Construction Contract Notice and Remedy Provisions: Protected the City’s contract rights concerning notice of delay damages and alternative dispute resolution by obtaining partial summary judgment in a $40-million case arising from Hurricane Sandy damage.
- Favorably Resolved Construction Claims: Protected the public “fisc” by completing a favorable settlement in a suit involving 38 parties and claims exceeding $600 million; these arose from extensive delays in completing construction of the Bronx County Hall of Justice.
- Dismissal of Challenge of Termination of Docking Permit: Upheld the City’s right to terminate docking permit of a private tour boat operator based on safety and rules violations; defeated a preliminary injunction and won dismissal of a federal case by a tour boat company seeking $30 million in damages for terminating its docking rights.
- Successfully Opposed Damage for Delay Legislation: Protected the City’s interests in construction contract disputes by providing counseling that contributed to Governor’s veto of proposed delay damage legislation.
- Defeated Contractor’s Challenge of Default: Vindicated the Department of Transportation’s determination to default a contractor for failing to comply with a construction project schedule by obtaining dismissal of the contractor’s Article 78 petition.
Contracts & Real Estate
Amrita Prabhakar Barth | Deputy Chief
: Isabel Galis-Menendez
- On-Call Emergency Contracts: Counseled the On-Call Emergency Contract Task Force on the procurement of 45 on-call emergency contracts designed to provide services that will respond to large-scale declared emergencies.
- New York Public Library Capital Projects: Worked to help create a streamlined and more efficient process for City approval of NYPL capital improvements, supported by $100 million in City Capital Funding, including the a renovation of the mid-Manhattan Library.
- Commercial Waste Zones: Worked with City and office colleagues to implement a system of zoned collection for commercial waste; commercial waste zones reduce truck traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.
- IDNYC : Counsel City Hall and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in discussions on the addition of a chip to the IDNYC that would facilitate banking services for IDNYC holders.
- Project Labor Agreements: Continue to provide counsel to City Hall in preparation for re-negotiation of the Citywide Project Labor Agreements.
James McSpiritt | Deputy Chief:
- Battery Maritime Building: Executed a new developer lease for redevelopment of this historic building for hotel, restaurant and public space.
- East Harlem 125th Street Corridor: Closed on another phase of this multi-phased redevelopment project, advancing development of a 19-story building with 300 affordable units. NYCHA: Helped NYCHA realize the preservation of affordable housing, including use of HUD Section 8 programs to fund renovations and allow for private investment and rehabilitation of existing public housing apartments.
- Hunts Point Market: Finalized amendments to the Fish Market lease, allowing for online seafood sales, and the Meat Market lease, addressing capital repairs for continued operations.
Hilary Meltzer | Deputy Chief:
- Cost Recovery Lawsuit Against Fossil Fuel Companies: Sued the five largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies seeking damages for the billions of dollars the City must spend on measures to protect against sea level rise and other impacts of climate change.
- Supporting Affordable Housing and Shelter Goals: Defended several challenges to rezoning actions and homeless shelters advanced to increase the supply of affordable housing and reduce the number of homeless New Yorkers.
- Brooklyn Bridge Park: Successfully defended against multiple lawsuits challenging elements of the park plan that allow Brooklyn Bridge Park to be financially self-sustaining.
- Ban on Foam Products: Also successfully defended the City’s ban on single-use foam items such as cups, plates, trays, clamshell containers and packing materials which, after years of litigation, took effect in January 2019.
- Superfund: Advised City agencies and worked with federal government on investigations and remediation of four federal NYC Superfund sites, with the goals of preserving the City’s remaining industrial waterways, and protecting public health.
| Deputy Chief:
Jennifer Gilroy Ruiz
- Juvenile Delinquency Prosecution: Continued balancing juveniles’ needs and best interests with protecting the community to promote juvenile rehabilitation with diversion of low-level offenders and assistance to crime victims. Enhanced prosecution of serious felony cases by centralizing the Division’s Major Case Unit and strengthened the dispositional practice.
- Raise the Age Implementation: Implemented the groundbreaking RTA Phase One, incorporating 16-year-old youths into the juvenile justice practice and working closely with all stakeholders. Appeared in the Youth Part of the Adult Court in all five counties to ensure a smooth transition. Effectuated changes through a doubling of Division staff and enhanced our specialized units as well as training and disposition capacities. Collaborated to launch a centralized court part that hears cases seven days a week and when the Family Court is closed.
- Interstate Child Support: Continued establishing orders of parentage and child support, and pursued modification and enforcement of existing child support orders on behalf of City residents and out-of-state families. Decentralized case processing on outgoing matters to Brooklyn and Queens, enabling local parents to be seen outside of Manhattan.
- Community Outreach: Created a strategic team to enhance and broaden community outreach and diversion initiatives. Developed educational presentations based on national juvenile justice trends, adolescent development and juvenile justice outcomes for partner agencies and community organizations to empowering communities.
Thomas Crane | Deputy Chiefs:
Marilyn Richter & Jonathan Pines
- Student Bullying (including Cyberbullying): Entered into a settlement agreeing to train staff to prevent bullying, facilitate reporting of complaints and expedite investigation and resolution of complaints.
- Facial Recognition Technology: Successfully defended PD’s non-disclosure under FOIL of certain information concerning this investigation technique.
- Inmate Due Process: Settled a class action by re-incarcerated former inmates who had been required to serve punitive segregation for illegal conduct during prior incarcerations.
- Polling Site Accessibility: Continue to monitor compliance with a settlement requiring that polling sites be handicapped accessible.
Labor & Employment Law
Eric Eichenholtz | Deputy Chiefs:
Paul Marks & Andrea O’Connor
- #MeToo Movement & NYC: Worked to review sexual harassment case tracking and training.
- Best Practices: Liaised with client agencies Citywide to ensure best practices throughout our municipal government.
- Employment Law Institute: Held the first of its kind “Employment Law Institute” to help in-house attorneys in every agency learn about the latest trending issues in labor & employment law.
Stephen Louis | Deputy Chief:
Martha Mann Alfaro
- State Legislation for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises: Worked with City colleagues to pass state legislation strengthening the City’s M/WBE program.
- Charter Revision Commission: Worked with the 2018 Charter Revision Commission to develop three referendum questions (focused on campaign finance and civic engagement) that voters approved in November 2018.
- School Speed Zones: Liaised with the City Council to reinstate speed cameras around schools rapidly after Albany allowed the program to lapse in July 2018.
- Design Build: Tagteamed with City colleagues to gain new authority to contract more efficiently and enable the City to: 1) repair the Brooklyn/ Queens Expressway, 2) build jails to replace Rikers Island and 3) complete important New York City Housing Authority repairs.
- Commercial Waste Zones: Worked with two agencies to draft legislation overhauling the trade waste industry.
- For-Hire Vehicles: Helped draft local legislation and Taxi & Limosuine Commission rules imposing new requirements for livery and other vehicles operating for hire. Later worked with Administrative Law defending a suit challenging some requirements.
Albert Rodriguez | Deputy Chief:
- Bond Transactions: Provided legal services on 42 discrete City bond transactions totaling approximately $17.7 billion to fund City capital projects.
- Bond Refinancing: Refunded bonds (in approximately eight of the 42 bond transactions) previously issued, resulting in savings of about $841.75 million over the City’s Four-Year Financial Plan.
- Property Assessed Clean Energy Retrofits Program: Worked with other City agencies to establish the PACE program, a financing vehicle that offers commercial building owners up to 100-percent funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The owners would repay the funding through quarterly property assessments incorporated in the property’s City property tax bill.
Special Federal Litigation
Patricia Miller | Deputy Chiefs:
Frances Sands, Peter Farrell, & Elizabeth Dollin
- Trial Success: Continued Special Fed’s Trial Initiative success; tried 43 cases in the calendar year, with win a rate of 83% (if including a $1 verdict).
- Gender Diversity: Promoted gender diversity in our ranks -- of the 43 trials (tried in pairs with one supervisor in the courtroom), women included 46 or 52% of the trial attorneys; women supervised 35 or 81% of the trials; and one woman oversees the trial process.
- New Filings Down: Continued maintaining a drop in new filings (down about 60 percent) since the launching of the Trial Initiative, combining more aggressive litigation and settlement approaches.
- DOC Settlement: Negotiated a very favorable settlement in Washington v. Department of Correction in which DOC refined notice, re: the basis for prisoner transfers to other facilities, thereby offering more transparency.
Tax & Bankruptcy Litigation
Rita D. Dumain | Deputy Chiefs:
Vincent D’Orazio & Rochelle Cohen
- Tax Win: Won large case in which the City properly imposed general corporation tax on gain realized by non-domiciliary on sale of an interest in a partnership located in the City.
- Eminent Domain Used for New Park: Acquired title by eminent domain to property in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens section of Brooklyn, which the community had transformed following the demolition of an unsafe building left vacant for over 20 years. The acquisition ensures that it will flourish as a community garden.
- Tax Assessment: Won a case via a unanimous First Department decision upholding the City’s policy of separately identifying and assessing tenant-owned private back-up generators. Such installations are uniquely different in terms of function and size.
- Willets Point Redevelopment Plan: Won rulings in the Eastern and Southern District bankruptcy courts to lift a stay with respect to multiple debtors. The enabled the City to evict a holdover subtenant and embark on a City redevelopment plan.
Fay Leoussis | Deputy Chiefs:
Jenny Montana O’Connor, Nancy Savasta, Lavanya Pisupati, David Santoro & Andrew Potak
- Motion Practice Accomplishments: Achieved another successful year for Tort motion practice in FY 2018. With over 7,000 new cases commenced, it’s critical that dispositive motions to dismiss are pursued. Approximately 1,725 affirmative dispositive motions were made and, of those decided, the Division secured a 70-percent win rate.
- Medicare Reporting: Continued a “platinum standard of practice” via the Medicare Compliance and Recovery Unit regarding Medicare reporting and reimbursement. MCRU has collected more than $2.3 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2018, for a grand total of $15.8 million since 2011. This included no judgments entered against the City for non-payment of Medicare settlements.
- Deposition increase success: Increased the number of depositions in Brooklyn and The Bronx by 23 percent from FY 2017 to FY 2018 following the adding Tort’s new Vertical Units.
John Sweeney | Deputy Chief:
- Revenue Achievements: Recovered revenue of almost $9.8 million this year, accomplished through third-party lines, arbitration and reimbursement through the State Second Injury Fund.
- Electronic claims system: Continued development of upgrade to our current system which will result in web-based access. Tracking and reporting of claims information will be simplified and streamlined.
- Agency outreach: Organized a series of meetings and training sessions with our client agencies in order to maintain compliance with the filing requirements of the Workers’ Compensation Board.
Support Division & Units
Division Chief: Kenneth Majerus| Deputy Chief: Jennie Nagle
- Encumbrance Control Unit: Recorded over 25,200 expense records for budget purposes, which were later uploaded to LawManager, representing nearly $43 million in spending. Represents a 30-percent increase over FY17.
- Fiscal Unit: Processed nearly $90.7 million in vouchered payments to thousands of vendors, a 1-percent increase over the previous year.
- New Space Build-Out: Completed construction and pre-move-in work on three new office sites, partly in support of the Tort Verticalization initiative, and representing an increase in office space of 90,800 square feet.
- Renovation: Ushered through a refresh for Manhattan Family Court into permanent space for the Raise the Age initiative, roughly 24,000 square feet.
- Technology: Launched the roll-out of new VoIP (Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol) Phones to three new borough offices.
- Temporary Leased Space: Installed Family Court Executive Administration staff into temporary office space at 22 Reade St.
Ken Becker | Deputy Director:
- E-Discovery Services: Provided guidance, information and tech services to assist in all aspects of electronic evidence discovery in litigation and in response to Freedom of Information Law requests and governmental investigations.
- Empowering Attorneys: Enabled the City’s litigators to meet their e-discovery obligations in more than 200 cases.
Chief Information Officer:
Joseph Merces | Deputy Chief:
- HelpDesk, New Computers: Answered more than 22,000 support calls. Assisted security with reimaging compromised computers. Deployed computers at all new sites. Provided computer maintenance and support to 2,500-plus computers.
- Offices: Upgraded slower data circuits to the agency current speed, improving end-user experience. Improved access to application and resources on CityNet.
- Remote Connectivity: Migrated Citrix environment on to high-availability platform. Prepared existing Netscalers to be migrated in to DoITT virtual environment. Upgrading Citrix to the latest version and introducing new capabilities, improving security, performance, etc.
- Automation, Software: Automated Family Court and Tort processes through Instaknow software; also upgraded frequently used officewide software applications.
- Infrastructure: Completed prestaging new network hardware for agencywide refresh. The new Cisco platform will improve overall performance, improve security and monitor identifying suspicious activities.
- Security: Implemented several key security initiatives this year.
- a. Put into effect Varonis data-centric security solution for Threat Detection and Response, Compliance and Data Protection.
- b. Added Vulnerability Management Program in phase one Law security and Cyber Command configured vulnerability scanner. Phase two will allow IT efficiently remediate vulnerabilities across all agency own assets.
- c. Implemented Identity & Privilege Access Management solutions recommended by Cyber Command. Privileged Access Management (PAM) refers to a class of solutions that will help secure, control, manage and monitor privileged access to critical assets.
- d. Configured agency domain controllers to deliver security logs to Cyber Command for data analysis.
- e. Assisted agency divisions with cloud-based applications accreditation processes; acted as liaison between Law and Cyber Command.
: Jonathan Pinn | Deputy Chief:
- Communications & Docketing and Central Services: Handled and processed 5 percent more mail than prior year – at well over 5,000 buckets of mail.
- Document & Data Processing: Handled over 6,000 requests for data entry, typing, proofing and language services, and began facilitating video editing services.
- Duplication & Finishing: Responded to over 9,000 requests resulting in over 7.7 million pages and produced over 5,500 copies of CD and DVD ROMs.
- Process & Couriers: Responded to 26,000 requests to serve, file, deliver and pick-up.
- Electronic Information Group: Processed over 111,000 Electronic Case File e-mails; administered just shy of 7,000 Tort answers.
- Training Unit: Held 270 training sessions; 1,850-plus staff attended classes offered and facilitated by the Training Unit, which represents a 25-percent increase from last year.
- Research: Continued utilizing various research means for clients and divisions; explored emerging options and compiled info on complicated legal cases.
- Social Media Investigation: Also continued leveraging social media to research matters involving the Law Department.
- Information Repository: Offered key online legal resources and hard-to-find print texts.
- Classes: Offered training on new legal research tools and investigations for staff in all five boroughs.
Stuart Smith | Deputy Director:
- Summer Honors Attorneys: Invited 57 law interns for Summer Honors Program; students gained key, interactive legal training in divisions officewide.
- New Lawyers: Hired 75 law school graduates from 24 law schools; recruited to work in four divisions.
- Raise the Age Additions: Recruited 113 experienced attorneys; this includes 35 for our expanding Family Court Division.
Litigation Support & Information Management
John Hupper | Deputy Chief:
Beth Nedow | Director:
- Practice Management: Deployed new servers and completing a system upgrade of the iManage document management system. Enhanced the matter management system for Raise the Age implementation. Generated over 1,000 production reports on regular schedules and over 600 civil lawsuit checks for various City, State and Federal prosecutor and/or investigative offices.
- Agency-Based Discovery: Continued providing on-site support by conducting searches in response to DOT and Parks discovery requests. Also continued providing support to DEP to facilitate discovery requests and to DOE to conduct searches in response to discovery requests. Continued training and management of temporary staff placed onsite at DOT.
- Information Governance: Advised on a wide variety of topics, including e-mail retention policies, paper-to-digital and e-signatures.
Press Office & Internal Communications
Public Affairs Director & Press Secretary:
Nicholas Paolucci | Internal Communications /Special Projects Director:
Kate O’Brien Ahlers
- Media & Public Affairs: Provided news and breaking updates to reporters on deadline; liaised with the Mayor’s Office on initiatives.
- Internal Communications & Projects: Promoted office connectivity through publications, internal news updates, and special projects and/or pitches.
June Witterschein | Deputy Director:
- Lateral Onboarding: Improved lateral attorney onboarding through extensive orientation trainings, programs, division-specific check-in processes and panel discussions.
- CLE Growth: Developed interactive courses in the new CLE category (Diversity, Inclusion and Elimination of Bias) on “Transgender 101,” Preventing Sexual Harassment and Disability Awareness.
- Internal Training: Worked closely with divisions to launch or augment their internal training processes.