2016 Annual Report

New York City Law Department
Year in Review 2016

New York City Law Department
100 Church Street, New York, NY 10007

Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel

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

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 2017.

Legal Divisions

Administrative Law

Division Chief: Sheryl Neufeld  |  Deputy Chief: Michelle Goldberg-Cahn

  • Tenant Protection: Secured more affordable housing for all New York City rent stabilized tenants by successfully defending a zero-percent rent increase order issued by the Rent Guidelines Board.
  • Landmarks Preservation: Preserved one of the City’s oldest buildings, a property known as the Manee-Seguine Homestead in Staten Island constructed in 1680, by prevailing in an affirmative case compelling the owners to maintain the landmarked property in good repair or pay a substantial monetary judgment.
  • Crane Safety: Ensured construction safety for all New Yorkers by winning dismissal of a challenge to regulatory requirements for cranes to be taken down when wind-speeds are forecasted to reach 35 miles per hour.
  • Public Safety: Promoted public safety in successful defense of constitutional challenge to Penal Law provisions regarding a ban on the use of gravity knives. After trial and demonstration, the Court concluded that the gravity knife law provides clear standards for law enforcement.
  • Taxis: Encouraged more choices in the ever-evolving transportation for hire industry by winning dismissal of numerous cases in federal and state court challenging app-based car services.

Affirmative Litigation

Division Chief: Gail Rubin  |  Deputy Chief: Eric Proshansky

  • Illegal Cigarettes: Conducted two-week federal bench trial against UPS for shipping untaxed cigarettes in violation of federal and state law and an Assurance of Discontinuance between UPS and the State, resulting in an award of $247 million in damages and penalties, with $81 million going to the City.
  • Rent Supplement Program: Reached agreement among the City, State, and the Legal Aid Society to improve efforts to prevent homelessness, by raising subsidy levels under the Family Eviction Protection Supplement (“FEPS”) program and implementing a supplement plan for survivors of domestic violence.
  • Cable TV Franchise: Sued Verizon for breaching its cable franchise agreement for FiOS by failing to “pass” every residential building by 2014 and to make cable TV service available to any subscriber within the agreement’s time frame for providing service.
  • Insurance Payouts: Reached the one billion dollar mark in savings to taxpayers on defense and liability costs, in tort suits arising out of private contractor work for the City, by obtaining reversals of thousands of wrongful insurance coverage denials, and bringing more than 300 suits against insurers to compel them to comply with policy obligations.
  • Foreign Exchange Trading: Settled with Bank of New York Mellon for $30 million after six years of litigation by City pension funds over allegations that the Bank misrepresented, and failed to disclose, that when it traded foreign exchange pursuant to Standing Instructions, on behalf of the City Funds, it gave the Funds the worst rate of the day, instead of the promised best rate of the day.


Division Chief: Richard Dearing | Deputy Chiefs: Devin Slack & Claude Platton

  • Supreme Court Amicus Briefs: Submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court (a) defending President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including his expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and (b) challenging Texas’s restrictive abortion legislation that would have forced women to travel long distances to obtain safe and legal abortion services.
  • Accessible Taxis: Fortified the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s effort to make New York City’s yellow taxi fleet more wheelchair-accessible, by securing an appellate decision upholding the Commission’s accessibility rules.
  • Charter School Oversight: Protected local oversight over New York City’s charter schools by obtaining an appellate decision confirming the Department of Education’s discretion to not renew the charters for under-performing schools.
  • Timely Notice of Claims: Reinforced NYC Health + Hospitals’ right to timely notice of potential medical malpractice claims, by securing an appellate decision confirming that medical records must evince negligence to provide such notice.

Commercial & Real Estate Litigation

Division Chief: Nancy Brodie  |  Deputy Chiefs: Richard Schulsohn & Robert Funkhouser

  • Development Project Litigation Victory: Ensured that developers could not proceed with a major community recreation facility project in the Bronx without first securing the necessary amount of financing, by winning dismissal of lawsuit.
  • Negotiation of Payment for Critical Project Completion: Enabled completion of a waste water pumping station, by securing a payment in excess of $5.5 million from the surety.
  • Dismissal of Pre-School Provider’s Claim: Upheld the Department of Education’s termination of a contract with a provider of pre-school services for children with disabilities, after an audit found various financial and operational deficiencies, by winning dismissal of the provider’s claim.
  • Favorable Wastewater Plant Settlement: After years of litigation, saved millions of dollars for the City by settling a major construction delay damage claim on a water treatment plant for less than 20% of the amount claimed.
  • Important Standard Construction Contract Revision: Working with the Contracts & Real Estate Division, improved key standard construction contract provisions relating to compensation for delays incurred by construction contractors on city projects.

Contracts & Real Estate

Division Chief: Amrita Prabhakar Barth |  Deputy Chief: Isabel Galis-Menendez

  • Legal Advice: Provided counseling services to City agencies and officials on transactional matters.
  • Contract Work Totaling Billions: Evaluated and approved City agreements, leases, business documents, and contracts totaling about $10 billion annually.
  • City Agency Assistance: Structured, negotiated, and drafted complex agreements entered into by City agencies.
  • Complex Business Transactions: Handled business and land use restrictions and considerations that do not apply to the private sector, and can make the work even more complex – e.g. the need to award, within certain limits, contracts to the lowest bidder, in order to protect the public interest.
  • Additional Duties: Worked on matters involving regulations and statutes applicable to municipal contracts and real property transactions, as well as administration, budget, and public policy concerns, and general commercial law.

Economic Development

Division Chief: James McSpiritt  |  Deputy Chief: Betty Woo

  • JFK Airport Hotel: Restoration of landmarked TWA Flight Center as hotel lobby with restaurants and event space, and construction of two additions for hotel rooms.
  • Bushwick Inlet Park: Finalized deal to acquire the 11-acre “Citi Storage” site, the last parcel needed for this newly created waterfront park.
  • Child Savings Program: Implementation of savings program designed to encourage New York City children to obtain post-secondary education.
  • Telecommunications: Advised on mergers of cable companies – Cablevision Systems and Altice N.V.;  Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications.

Environmental Law

Division Chief: Susan Amron  |  Deputy Chief: Hilary Meltzer

  • Climate Resiliency: Provided advice about land use and environmental issues in connection with four proposed resiliency/flood protection projects, and assisted in successful appeal of FEMA’s initial flood insurance rate maps. and persuaded FEMA to work with the City, both on new regulatory maps for flood insurance purposes, and also new maps of future flooding conditions, to be used for planning.
  • Land Use: Successfully defended the City in litigation over several major City projects. These included a challenge to the environmental review of the Seaside Park and Community Arts Center in Coney Island, a 5,099 seat amphitheater, and of the redevelopment of Brooklyn Public Library; as well as a claim that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1 development violated the Brooklyn Heights scenic view district zoning.
  • Watershed Protection: Led negotiations with representatives of communities in the watershed of the City’s drinking water supply, environmental advocacy organizations, and State and federal regulatory agencies, about the City’s program to protect its drinking water supply, including modifications to the regulations the City administers and enforces in the watershed.

Family Court

Division Chief: Angela Albertus  |  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 to diversion programs and crime victims assessed for services with local service providers.
  • Special Victims Unit: Strengthened coordination with the multi-disciplinary teams at the Brooklyn and Bronx Child Advocacy Centers; worked to reduce trauma to child victims of sexual abuse by adding an on-site ACC in those locations.
  • Interstate Child Support: Continued to obtain paternity and child support orders and handle modification/enforcement of existing child support orders on behalf of NYC residents and out-of-state families.; seeking to ensure that children and families receive financial support.
  • Community Outreach: Enhanced implementation of community outreach initiative to work with schools, community members, and the police, to reduce juvenile crime and recidivism, to better understand the communities we serve, and to inform the public about what our office does.
  • Training: Enhanced the Division's comprehensive training program, adding new courses on a wide range of topics.

General Litigation

Division Chief: Thomas Crane  |  Deputy Chiefs: Marilyn Richter & Jonathan Pines

  • Hart Island Gravesites: Enabled family members and their guests to visit the gravesites of NYC’s unidentified deceased on Hart Island by settling related litigation and providing a monthly ferry service.
  • Public Assistance Settlement: Enhanced the City’s handling of its various public assistance programs, and addressed ADA claims by settling a large HRA case and agreeing to adopt a number of procedures and practices addressing the plaintiffs’ concerns.
  • Brooklyn Central Booking: Settled a case by plaintiffs, who alleged that Brooklyn Central Booking had to meet constitutional confinement conditions. A federal judge recently granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion in all respects.
  • Psych Confinements: Sought to improve Kings County Hospital Center’s Psych Unit Confinements. The City entered into a settlement agreement and a consent decree. DOJ has since issued a compliance report, finding KCHC to have achieved compliance.  Should KCHC maintain this in 2016, the consent decree will end.

Labor & Employment Law

Division Chief: Eric Eichenholtz  |  Deputy Chiefs: Paul Marks & Andrea O’Connor

  • Advising New York: Represented the City in litigation arising out of the City’s role as the employer of more than a quarter of a million workers.
  • Wide Range of Cases: Appeared in State and federal courts and before administrative agencies; handled a wide range of employment issues in both individual and class actions.
  • Assorted Claims: Worked on claims concerning the First Amendment free speech rights of municipal employees; claims of discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the State and City Human Rights Laws; allegations of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act; claims under the Equal Pay Act; and claims brought by both individual City employees and unions, based on collective bargaining agreements and the Civil Service Law.

Legal Counsel

Division Chief: Stephen Louis  |  Deputy Chief: Martha Mann Alfaro

  • Counseling Unit: Advised the Mayor, other elected officials, and City agencies on issues concerning virtually every area of municipal law.
  • Crafting Legislation: Provided the legal advice, and crafted the legislative changes necessary to shape and implement policy initiatives. Drafted State and local legislation proposed by the Mayor and City agencies, and assisted in the drafting of administrative rules.
  • Official Resource: Fielded questions from City Hall and City agencies on issues of overriding importance to the City, as well as those regarding day-to-day administration.
  • Task Forces: Represented the Law Department on interagency task forces considering policy initiatives, and worked closely with the Mayor’s Offices of Intergovernmental Affairs to assist in the passage or defeat of legislation.
  • Grants & Compliance Specialized unit within Legal Counsel provided ongoing advice and counseling to ensure lawful claiming and expenditure of federal and State financial aid, and assisted in the development, implementation, and enforcement of internal compliance protocols. The Unit also represents the City before federal and State oversight entities, and in connection with audits.

Municipal Finance

Division Chief: Albert Rodriguez  |   Deputy Chief: Michael Moore

  • Bond Transactions: Promoted City capital projects and other initiatives by providing legal services on 57 discrete City bond transactions worth about $15 billion.
  • Bond Refinancing: Refinanced 5 of the 57 bond transactions, saving about $588 million of present value debt service over the City’s Four Year Financial Plan.
  • Tax Lien Program: Provided legal guidance to amend tax lien program to facilitate transfers of lien assets back to the City.

Special Federal Litigation

Division Chief: Patricia Miller  |  Deputy Chiefs: Frances Sands, Peter Farrell, & Elizabeth Dollin

  • City Representation: Defended the City and its officials in civil rights cases brought in federal court, in which police, district attorney, or correction officer misconduct is claimed. The cases on which division attorneys work grow out of contact between citizens and law enforcement officers in three distinct contexts: police operations; criminal prosecutions; and detention of arrestees in the City’s detention facilities.
  • Intricate Cases: Handled matters in which the claims are frequently intricate, calling into play the fundamental problems faced by law enforcement officers in the field, and society’s perception of how those problems ought to be addressed.
  • Constitutional Application: Adhered to the Constitution of the United States and its vastly complex area of federal law specific to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the post-Civil War statute which authorizes suit for violation of constitutional rights.
  • Damage Actions and Class Actions: Defended against individual damages actions and class actions seeking institutional reform.
  • Heavy Volumes: Faced a substantial volume of cases in this complex, ever-changing area of law. The federal courts in which the Division attorneys exclusively practice maintain stringent standards and enforce strict deadlines.

Tax & Bankruptcy Litigation

Division Chief: Rita D. Dumain  |  Deputy Chiefs: Vincent D’Orazio & Rochelle Cohen

  • Important Tax Win: In a case of first impression, the New York City Tax Tribunal upheld the Department of Finance in applying the step transaction doctrine, which provides that a series of separate but related transactions may be treated as a single transaction if all steps are linked, thereby preserving $4 million in real property transfer tax paid to the Department of Finance.    
  • Assistance in Creating National Monument: Worked to effectuate the transfer of Christopher Park to the United States of America, to allow for the dedication of the Stonewall National Monument to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising, and on June 24, 2016, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring the site a national monument. 
  • Bankruptcy Proceeding Resulting in Preservation of Senior and Child Care Services: Participated in litigation in Bankruptcy Court, and reached a settlement that allows the Conseleya Street Block Association, a not-for-profit corporation providing senior and child care services in Brooklyn for over 40 years under contracts with the City of New York, to acquire site where these services are provided from owner who had declared bankruptcy and had attempted to evict Conseleya.


Division Chief: Fay Leoussis  |  Deputy Chiefs: Ellen Lombardi, Jenny Montana O’Connor, Nina Jody, Lavanya Pisupati, & Nancy Savasta

  • Early Intervention Representation Group: Formed this group just this year. The Early Intervention Unit has achieved notable success by performing review of 750 requests for representation made by City employees, averting default motions, and conducting related employee interviews which enabled early and reasonable settlement of meritorious cases. 
  • Special Police Group: Knocked out 87 cases through motion practice, and conducted thorough investigations that led to 10 discontinuances. The Unit’s continued focus and expertise in police civil rights cases contributed to a substantial 26 percent reduction in new case filings in FY 2016 by creating a disincentive against the filing of unmeritorious suits.  
  • Special Litigation Unit: Achieved an 88 percent win rate on summary judgments made, and favorably resolved 51 cases by settlement in FY 2016, thereby enabling an enhanced focus on the Unit’s remaining complex and catastrophic cases.

Workers' Compensation

Division Chief: John Sweeney  |  Deputy Chief: Mindy Roller

  • Revenue Achievements: Recovered revenue of $9.5 million this year, accomplished through third-party lines, arbitration, and reimbursement through the State Second Injury Fund.
  • Electronic claims system:  Initiated an upgrade to our current system, which will result in web-based access. Tracking and reporting of claims information will be simplified and streamlined.

Support Division & Units


Division Chief: Malachy Higgins  |  Deputy Chief: Kenneth Majerus

  • Encumbrance Control Unit: Recorded nearly 13,800 expense records for budget purposes, which were later uploaded to LawManager, representing nearly $34M in spending.  These activities represent an 18% increase over FY15.  More than 5,600 matters received expense related data, viewable by the assigned attorney(s), a 43% increase over the previous year.
  • Fiscal Unit:  Processed nearly $75.6M in vouchered payments for the Department to thousands of vendors, a 17% increase over the previous year.
  • Payroll/Timekeeping: Processed almost 1,700 time records every week for bi-weekly payrolls.  Audited and distributed nearly 1,600 paychecks every two weeks.
  • Personnel: Hired 251 paid and 69 unpaid employees, including over 120 staff for the Tort Division’s initiative to restructure its handling of their caseload in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

E-Discovery Group

Director: Ken Becker  |  Deputy Director: Sandra Metallo-Barragan
  • E-Discovery Services: Provided guidance, information, and technical services to assist in all aspects of the discovery of electronic evidence in litigation and in response to FOIL requests and governmental investigations. 
  • Empowering Attorneys: Enabled the City’s litigators to meet their e-discovery obligations in more than 200 cases.

Information Technology

Chief Information Officer: Joseph Merces  |  Deputy Chief/Director of Network Services: Keith Williams
  • HelpDesk, New Printers: Handled over 20,000 support calls and implemented Citywide Xerox PrintSmart Program.
  • Offices: Upgraded all agency office connectivity, providing a significant improvement in application speed to CityNet.
  • New Agency Offices: Worked to install network gear, computers, and printers, in bringing new agency offices online.
  • Automation Software: Automated additional Family Court processes through Instaknow software; also upgraded frequently used office-wide software applications.
  • Security: Investigated and resolved a multitude of cybersecurity issues; conducted computer forensics investigations.

Law Library

Chief Librarian: Tracy Paler

  • Research: Expanded Library services to include social media profiles in conjunction with litigant and witness profiles, as well as providing in-depth research for divisions and agencies, including compiling legislative histories and researching complex legal issues.
  • Information Resources: Provided training on emerging online legal research tools for staff in all boroughs, as well as taking part in the professional services initiative. Continued to provide access to crucial online legal resources.

Legal Recruitment

Director: Stuart Smith  |  Deputy Director: Lillian Evans

  • Hosted 49 Summer Honors law student interns, who gained hands-on legal experience in a variety of divisions.
  • Hired 62 law school graduates from 22 law schools to work in 8 divisions.
  • Recruited 90 experienced attorneys, including 48 for our expanded Tort Division.  The Tort attorneys will work in newly created vertical units, where they will handle all aspects of cases from inception to resolution.

Litigation Support

Division Chief: John Hupper | Litigation Support Directors: Beth Nedow & Patty DeLisa

  • Practice Management - Matter Management System Upgrade: In addition to deploying new servers, the practice management group reviewed and upgraded application code, over 1,000 production reports, SQL jobs, and interfaces, to be compliant with SQL2012 standards.
  • On-Site, Agency-Based Discovery Staff: Continued to provide on-site permanent support staff, who conduct searches in response to discovery requests at DOT and Parks. Continued to provide support to DEP to facilitate discovery requests, and to DOE to conduct searches in response to discovery requests.  Assumed training and management of temporary staff placed on site at DOT. 
  • Information Governance:  Advised on a wide variety of topics, many relating to electronic records.


Division Chief: Jonathan Pinn  |  Deputy Chief: Omer Soykan

  • Communications & Docketing and Central Services: Handled and processed over 600,000 pieces of mail.
  • Document & Data Processing: Handled over 6,500 requests for data entry, typing, proofing, and language services while Duplication & Finishing responded to nearly 10,000 requests, resulting in over 7 million pages, and produced over 7,000 copies of CD and DVD ROMs.
  • Process & Couriers: Responded to over 28,000 requests to serve, file, deliver, and pick-up; over 4,000 of these came via the eForms system.
  • Electronic Information Group: Reviewed nearly 80,000 e-mails; processed just shy of 7,000 tort answers.
  • HotDocs Support & Development: Enabled the creation of over 200,000 legal documents, and 1,300 people attended classes offered and/or facilitated by Training Unit.

Press Office & Internal Communications

Public Affairs Director/Press Secy: Nicholas PaolucciInternal Comms/Special Projects Director: Kate O’Brien Ahlers

  • Press: Provided key updates to reporters on legal issues; worked with City Hall to promote Mayoral initiatives.
  • Communications: Enhanced office communications through publications, special projects, and/or pitches, and internal news updates.

Professional Development

Director: June Witterschein Deputy Director: John Campbell

  • Continuing Legal Education (CLE):  Doubled the number of attorneys Citywide who took our online courses.
  • Coaching Collaborative:  Developed and delivered new programming for the Collaborative, to enable members to serve their divisions better.
  • City Agencies:  Counseled client agencies seeking to create their own in-house professional development programs for their legal staff.