A Rising Voice for Democracy in Queens with Ethan Felder

September 13th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest Ethan Felder. Ethan is a community leader and labor lawyer in Forest Hills, Queens.

Tune in to this episode as Ethan shares insights into:

  • the urgent need to address the current climate crisis in New York City and create more secure jobs with better labor protection
  • the importance of contested elections and public financing of campaigns to give grassroots candidates a chance in local politics
  • the importance of unions and essential workers in keeping our economy running and creating a fair and just economy for all

Ethan started his career as a lawyer in the financial sector, where he witnessed mass layoffs of workers following the 2008 economic crisis and became profoundly concerned about the economic insecurity affecting families. This experience led him to start a new journey as a labor lawyer representing Unions in their fight for workers’ rights.

Since then, Ethan has dedicated his career to giving the most vulnerable workers access to justice, including cleaners, transit workers, firefighters, door people, handy people, superintendents, steamfitters, and construction workers. He has also fought for the mental health and rights of essential workers such as nurses, security guards, school safety agents, police, and correction officers, prioritizing support for those who need it most, including women, youth, and immigrants.

Learn more about Ethan Felder:

About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast:

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast podcast on Apple:

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube:

Connect with David Zwerin:

Parking Violations and Road Safety in New York City with Arthur L. Miller

August 30th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest Arthur L. Miller. Arthur is a traffic ticket attorney and an advocate for the trucking industry.

Tune in to this episode as Arthur shares insights into:

  • the need for better messaging around road safety
  • concerns about revenue-driven ticketing
  • regulations and recommended training for different types of transportation
  • the importance of investing in quality insurance coverage
  • suggested improvements to advocacy and communication efforts to promote better pedestrian safety
  • potential nuances surrounding parking violations and the potential for abuse or harassment by individuals issuing the tickets

The law firm of Arthur L. Miller specializes in transportation and traffic issues for the truck and bus industries. Advice and representation is provided to clients and their employees concerning New York City, State and federal agencies that regulate their operations. For traffic tickets and notices of violation, appearances are made, as needed, before courts and agencies throughout the New York City metropolitan area. With an extensive professional network, coverage is provided throughout New York State and in other states.

Regular appearances are made at the New York City Parking Violations Bureau, where the firm handles hundreds of tickets each week, the NYS Traffic Violations Bureau, the NYS DOT and local criminal courts.

Personalized attention is provided to fleet operators large and small. From national distribution firms to owner operators, their ticket problems are handled; most often without the driver having to go to court. Representative clients include truck leasing firms; dairy, beverage and snack distributors; construction and service companies; and bus operators.

Arthur Miller also helps clients and their drivers understand relevant regulations and creates programs to assure compliance and help avoid getting cited for violations.

He previously served as the in-house safety and compliance officer for an interstate environmental services company.

Learn more about Arthur Miller:


About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast podcast:

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube:

Connect with David Zwerin:

Workers Comp Uncovered with Aaron Sanders

August 17th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest Aaron Sanders. Aaron is a Workers’ Compensation attorney, Vice President of the Injured Workers’ Bar Association and Partner at Zea Proukou PLLC (pronounced Zay-uh Pro-co) in Rochester, NY and the Finger Lakes region.

Tune in to this episode as Aaron shares insights into:

  • how to start a workers compensation claim
  • tangible issues with the workers’ compensation claim process
  • common misunderstandings about the workers compensation system
  • existing and proposed regulations in the industry

Aaron Sanders has spent his entire career practicing New York State Workers’ Compensation law and has handled thousands of hearings in front of the Workers’ Compensation Board. His practice is dedicated entirely to representing injured workers and he combines his extensive knowledge of the law with his litigation experience to make sure his clients receive the benefits and payments to which they are entitled.

Aaron has presented at multiple Continuing Legal Education programs, instructing other attorneys on various aspects of the Workers’ Compensation Law. His lectures have focused on a variety of topics, including ways to avoid common delays in the process that prevent injured workers from receiving their payments and medical care in a timely manner.

Aaron is the First Vice President of the Injured Workers’ Bar Association in the state of New York.  He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Workers’ Compensation Alliance and is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the Monroe County Bar Association, the Ontario County Bar Association, the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group.

Learn more about Aaron Sanders:


About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast podcast:

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube:

Connect with David Zwerin:

Health and Wellness with Former NFL Player David Caldwell

July 28th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest David Caldwell. David Caldwell is a Professional Dot Connector, former NFL player, and currently the vice president of the New York City, Long Island chapter of the NFL Alumni Association.

Tune in to this episode as David Caldwell shares insights into:

  • his initiatives in the health and wellness industry in NY and NJ
  • what he does to address healthcare in the community
  • the synergy with attorneys who want to serve their injured clients
  • his latest project, providing support for people to maximize their potential

David Caldwell is a business development consultant who helps businesses increase their profit margins, and better serve their mission. He most often works with people in the healthcare space, and those who service the healthcare space.

Learn more about David Caldwell

Visit his business website:
Connect with David on LinkedIn:
Connect with David on Instagram:

About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube

Read the full transcript:

VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01): Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.

DAVID Z. ( 00:00:38): Good evening. My name is David Swain. You are listening to the first episode of Rising Leaders of New York. I am the senior trial partner here at Hill & Moin LLP. We’re a plaintiff’s personal injury firm focusing particularly on construction Act and premises liability cases. And on this podcast, we’re gonna be having some interesting conversations with some of today and future leaders of New York and New York State who are on the cutting edge of the relevant critical issues that you need to know about in our day to day life in New York City and New York State. Today. I have the distinct pleasure of having on the podcast as my first guest, my friend David Caldwell. David Caldwell is the Vice president of the New York City Long Island Chapter of the NFL Alumni Association. He also was a former NFL player and it’s my pleasure to welcome on the podcast, David Caldwell. How are you doing, David?

DAVID C. ( 00:01:38): I’m doing well. Always good when I can connect with you. So, I’m happy to be here. Didn’t know I was gonna, I’m gonna be the first guest, so excited about that. So, we’ll hopefully we’ll set the bar pretty high.

DAVID Z. ( 00:01:50): I’m very happy to have you, you with us to kick off the podcast. Tell a bit a little bit about yourself. First of all, what is the NFL Alumni Association? What is your role in it?

DAVID C. ( 00:02:02): Yeah. So I’m the Vice president of our New York City chapter, as you mentioned. Um as well as Long Island can’t leave them out. But my particular role, it was very important for me when joining to focus on a particular area that I was very much interested in. That’s a part of my day to day and that’s health care and narrow down to actually health and wellness. So what I do is I focus on providing a lot of the former players, different types of support that focus around health and wellness. Obviously, we all know football is a very brutal sport and it’s one where you have a lot of health and wellness provided to you while you’re playing but then when you’re gone, you don’t necessarily have that same support system. So it’s important for us. Um, when you have guys that are 20 in their twenties playing something and then 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line and so on. Uh, you know, they need a lot of, you know, they, they, they need some of their questions answered and they need, to be able to get the support, that they would, that would probably fit a lot of their needs. I mean, we have different events where we got guys that are limping around in their thirties and their forties and they just don’t feel the need to go see somebody or a little laziness on their part. But what we pretty much come in and do is make sure that we can connect them with anything that they would need, whether it’s a boxing instructor to just kind of get them up and going, whether it’s a chiropractor, a physical therapist, somebody to help them with their mental health, it’s really, just mind, body and soul healing that we try to provide to the former players.

DAVID Z. ( 00:03:35): And how did, well, first of all, tell everybody who did you play for in the NFL? And what was your position? Right.

DAVID C. ( 00:03:41): So I played safety. I can’t talk about the NFL without mentioning William and Mary my college. Uh after that was able to play about 2.5 years with the Colts was with them and then was with the Giants briefly. My home team that was exciting. And then after that went up to Canada, to Hamilton and I loved it up in Canada. Canada was an amazing place to live. The pay was a little bit different, just a little bit. But, after two years in Canada decided to come back down here and, figure out life after football

DAVID Z. ( 00:04:13): and what did you figure out when you came down here?

DAVID C. ( 00:04:14): I figured out that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. No idea what to do. Uh, you know, here I came from, you know, I was in my, what, 21 22 23 making some pretty good money, you know, for a young, 20 year old or a young kid in his twenties. And then I had to figure out a way. But fortunately for me, I always had, you know, a strong support system and a foundation built on academics and things outside of sports. So, and that just comes from my parents. Um, you know, sports was never the number one thing for me. It was always, you know, make sure you get your grades and then if that’s ok, you can play sports. It was always just the extra thing that my parents just allowed me to, you know, compete at and, you know, wanted to take it as far as I could and then use it as a platform to whatever else that I was gonna get involved in. So it’s not that I was nervous, but I just really didn’t know, you know how my skills would transfer or what industry they would transfer to. So it was a little bit of a dilemma, but, you know, we figure it out.

DAVID Z. ( 00:05:15): Was there anything in particular about your upbringing or your time in your NFL that led you to have a, a focus on health and wellness after your playing career was over. Definitely.

DAVID C. ( 00:05:24): So on my mom’s side, I feel like everybody’s a teacher. My grandfather was a principal. My mom, she’s more popular than me in my town. She’s like the teacher of the, of the year every year. That’s what she was when she was teaching seriously, when we go to shop, right? Or whatever supermarket we go to people knew her, not me. So she was that so that established, you know, definitely, an academic foundation. And then my dad on his side, he was the youngest of nine kids. The only one not born on a share cropping farm and the first one to go to college. So college city college in New York did tremendous wonders and provided a lot of opportunities for him. So on one side and it kind of combined. But, you know, I had the academics here, but I also had this belief in myself on the other end, just based on them that, you know, there’s a lot out here that I can do if I apply myself. And, I’m willing to work hard and sacrifice for it. So

DAVID Z. ( 00:06:22): cool. I didn’t know that about you that you, your mom was a teacher of mine as well. So I also, uh come from maybe a little bit of a different but similar background in that passion for education. And that really being a guiding principle to what you want to accomplish in life. The kids

DAVID C. ( 00:06:39): that grow up where one of their parents is a teacher or two of their parents, a teacher, those are the most special kids. They say that the kids with the parents are the teacher. I just made that up. But

DAVID Z. ( 00:06:49): my kid, my kid is lucky then because his mom is a teacher. Here we go see that. You and I know each other a bit for a while. We were doing a weekly and then I think it became a, a biweekly meeting together. I haven’t seen you in a, in a little bit. So tell me what you’ve been up to and what are some of the of the work you’re doing presently, the initiatives you’re working on in the, the health and wellness industry these days, David.

DAVID C. ( 00:07:18): Definitely. So it’s been a lot and in a good way, in a very good way and I guess I’ll, you know, tell everybody what I do first and foremost. So I’m a business development consultant. What does that mean? All right. So I help companies increase, not just their profit margin but how do they increase their profit margin? How do they better serve whatever their mission is to their clients, to their customers? So, most of the time I’m working in the health care space. So I work with surgeons, other specialists. I work with attorneys like yourself. I work with anybody that’s involved in health care from a marketing perspective, commercial perspective at any of these different things to figure out how I can better help you bring a, a better value to whoever it is you’re serving. So that’s what we do. That’s a, that’s kind of not what we do. That’s what I do. So that has led me to a few different things and mainly focusing on health and wellness throughout our communities. And that’s where the NFL alumni combines with what I’m doing in my day to day because the NFL Alumni mission is to help the community, help the kids. So one of the biggest areas that I try to focus on and a lot of us in the alumni is how can we bring better health and wellness overall, overall comprehensive health care to our communities and it’s different in every community. But a lot of times when we look at and we sit down with the mayor and we sit down and like, say, hey, what are the leading causes of death in this area? Why are people dying five years earlier here than five miles down the road or two miles down the road? So we try to customize different programs to work with any of your city agencies, any of your state agencies, county agencies, anybody in your community that we think is seen as what we call them just influencers, you know, so I know we had the group health care influencers. We try to address the influencers because if we can help change the culture and, and to a more healthier culture to where people are more, well, we feel that that can trickle down and spread throughout and it’s a, it’s a big issue, you know, health and without our health, you know, obviously, you know, ee everything kind of goes away. So it’s just uh it’s just something that we’re, we’re very passionate about and that we focus on.

DAVID Z. ( 00:9:44): Yeah, having known you for a while, David, I can say it’s, it’s not an act. David is, is one of the most passionate people. I know out there about just generally keeping uh people, people healthy, which uh I guess some people might think that’s an interesting uh compliment uh talking to the plaintiff’s personal injury attorney. My focus obviously deals with situations where something terrible has happened and someone is not well anymore Uh but we both kind of like the same objective. We, we do want people to live a healthy, happy, good life. And I think there’s a lot to be gained by having good relationships uh and doing good by people out in the world and hopefully keeping them healthy and productive in their day to day job because actions are going to happen. And when they do, uh my hope is they know what legal representation to speak. But also they have all the resources they need, whether it’s from people like you or anybody else who can point them in the right direction to get good medical attention they’re going to need in addition to the legal representation if they have a case. Uh because there are a lot of serious, serious decisions to be made when you have an accident, right,

DAVID C. ( 00:11:02): David 100%. And I think what separates you personally as well as your firm. When I talked about everything with, you know, developing health and wellness programs, that’s something that you’ve actually been on board with. So it’s not like you’re the type of attorney that’s just looking for, you know, focusing on when somebody’s injured. Yes, that’s your expertise of how you can help and provide a certain level of assistance to people so that they can have the support to get back healthy. But what I’ve noticed with you is that it starts a lot earlier, you know, you want people to, you know, trust, there’s a certain level of trust and that’s something that from a business development standpoint when we talk to our clients, whatever it is that they’re saying that they’re doing, they need to establish that trust with their clients, with their patients, with their customers, whatever it may be. And that’s something that has really stood out with you. Where, where at first when I’m telling you, like, yo, you know, we’re gonna do some health and wellness. You know, a lot of people would be like, wait, you know, health and wellness that’s not, you know, the space that I’m in, you know, I just deal with this area. You’re, you’ve always shown that you’ve been completely invested in just creating a healthier communities and I would say that you’re in the health and wellness space just as much as anything that we’re doing.

DAVID Z. ( 00:12:15): Well. I appreciate that. Thank you for all the compliments, David. I tend to agree. I think attorneys, doctors and people such as you are a little bit tangential but are interested in not to be political but kind of in making health and wellness, something that’s a right for all New Yorkers. Uh at least giving them the resources and the education to know where to go and what they should be thinking about medically when they have an accident. That very much into the things I think about which from a legal perspective is when somebody comes into my office and they’ve had a serious accident. What kind of legal knowledge do we need to impart on those people to make sure they’re making the right legal decisions? As they go forward on what may be a very difficult journey or in a new time in their life after they’ve potentially had a very serious accident and they may have a very serious and significant case to be brought against somebody depending on the fact, whether it’s a car accident, or a trip and fall in and outside of a building or whether it’s a, a union carpenter that’s followed on from a scaffold. There’s a lot of decisions to be made and really, they all are pretty tangential to the health and wellness sphere.

DAVID C. ( 00:13:32): No, I agree 100% everything that you just mentioned and a lot of times just, just looking at it from different perspectives and gaining an understanding from different angles. So, we like to think that everybody has the same goals, you know, to get people healthier, but you know, not everybody does, but that’s why you connect with certain people that share the same, the same mission. And just kind of go from there and just try to spread everything that we’re doing throughout our communities

DAVID Z. ( 00:14:00): and not for nothing positive is not a bad thing in life. And I know that you David are one of the most relentlessly positive people I’ve ever met and, , I certainly try to be a positive person too, but I’ll say that, , you know, in, in my business, I work very, very hard for my client, but these cases aren’t always positive all the time. We fight very, very hard for our, our clients, but they’re going through a lot and it’s a, and it’s a tough situation when you’ve already had the accident and a client is just trying to get better and trying to get fair and reasonable compensation, but they’re already suffering. So it’s really a pleasure to be associated with someone like yourself who cares about keeping people healthy. Uh, when they haven’t had that accident yet where where they need , an attorney such as myself. And, , and it’s nice to think about what can be done to generally let people have better lives. Uh, because accidents are going to happen regardless. There’s a lot of bad drivers out there, there’s a lot of bad sidewalks or bad conditions or bad working practices on job sites, things are going to happen inevitably. Uh, but people should know what to do in terms of their medical decision making in their daily lives. And it’s, and I appreciate them having a resource such as you.

DAVID C. ( 00:15:22): No, it’s, it’s i it’s probably one of the most vulnerable feelings that you can have just being injured and then to add on to that if you don’t have somebody that can help guide you through the process that’s not trying to get over on you. Somebody that just puts your, puts you in their shoes or puts you in, you know, I’m gonna treat you as if you know you’re a relative of mine to kind of guide you through the health care, guide you through the legal aspects of it because it can be tough. II I tell people all the time, like my, how I saw health care, the legal side of it, every different part of it is entirely different than when I actually got into it. And I’m still just learning a lot of stuff, you know, so people need to be able to rely on somebody that can help guide them through this because they’re just trying to get back healthy. It’s like it would already be difficult to, you know, figure out the process if you were, you know, 100% healthy. You know, now you gotta add the fact that somebody is not the best versions of themselves and they still have to go through this process. So it’s good to have people that can help guide them.

DAVID Z. ( 00:16:26): Very true. So as we start putting a bow on the 2022 what kind of things are you focusing on in 23? What are you looking to accomplish then? And what should people know about you

DAVID C. ( 00:16:39): So I focus on two different things. So one, the health and wellness programs going to different communities in New York and New Jersey and really just figuring out customized programs that are simple, practical and just work to get not only the city, state, you know, county town agencies, but also just the overall community healthier. It’s a problem. It’s a problem throughout the country and it’s something that can be fixed. But if people don’t have the information and people don’t have the support, it’s just not gonna happen, it’s hard enough to do it when you have the information and support. So that’s definitely the focus working on a lot of the health and wellness with the community leaders. So that way we can spread that throughout the communities. That’s the one side, the other side is ohg I of what we call OG. So it’s an acronym for out here getting it and it just focuses on providing people the same support that we’d be providing for the health and wellness, but now providing it for them to just maximize their potential in whatever area of life that you know they’re in. So we’re releasing our OG dot com platform both kind of serve the same purpose but just address it from different perspectives. So we have the health and wellness programs and then we have OG, which is just focusing on getting people to have the support and to believe in themselves that they can achieve anything and everything. You know, I’m big on that. So I just wanna be able to provide a support that can get people to maximize in every area of their lives. You know, whether it’s family, whether it’s professional, whether it’s personal, all these different aspects, you wanna start a business, let’s do it and connect in the right people. So that way you can build out your network. So that’s what we’re focusing on those two things. Very cool.

DAVID Z. ( 00:18:30): And 

DAVID C. ( 00:18:32): and what about you, what about you, what we got going on your way?

DAVID Z. ( 00:18:35): What have I got going on? Well, right now, right now we’re doing this, we’re doing this for this podcast and otherwise, the mission contains, continues the same. I’m always looking to be introduced to people that may have been involved in a construction accident, in particular. Our firm is one of the top rated firms in terms of helping injured victims who suffer falls or other injuries while they’re working on a construction site. as well as people who suffer any kind of work related injury, who might have a case to sue a third party, that’s not their employer, whether they trip and fall on a sidewalk or have something happen inside a building or any kind of case like that where we can bring a case on someone’s path because someone negligent caused a serious injury. Our commission always contains the same to help those kind of people who are beyond the help that you can provide. They’re not healthy and wealthy anymore. Uh, and they need a good personal injury attorney to make sure they are pointed in the right direction to make the right direction, to make sure, they’re making the right choices on their behalf to have the best possible case, to have the best chance of recovery. Um, and we’re always looking to meet those kind of people as well as, , the people that can introduce us to those kind of people. That’s my mission in life is to help the injured victims of New York. Just like, uh, I enjoy talking to you because it’s your mission in life to, uh, hopefully keep people healthy until they hopefully don’t become an injured victim of New York. But some of them are going to be and I’m here for them

DAVID C. ( 00:20:13): and people are gonna get injured. Like you said, people are gonna have accidents even with, you know, some of us good drivers, you know, we still have, you know, every once in a while we get into something, but it’s, like you said, it makes the entire experience, I’m a lot easier to deal with. Um, depending on who you’re dealing with. So, depending on who you have on your side, you know, as your support system. So it’s, yeah, it’s exciting. We, we, we, we do the same work we do the same work.

DAVID Z. ( 00:20:43): Yeah, other than that, we’re just, working hard here and, looking forward to a good, happy, healthy holiday season. And since we’re, since I got a football player on the line, I’d be remiss to say also I’m grieving at the 49 Ers fan. Uh, the, end of Jimmy Garoppolo season.

DAVID C. ( 00:20:59): I didn’t know you were a 49. I grew up a 49ers fan. I’m not, I’m not anymore. I kind of stopped when I got to, like, I think, like college, I, I didn’t, I, now I just root for players but, I grew up a 49ers fan. Yeah, Steve Young. And then when they won it, what did they win it in 95? No, 94. They won it in 94 94 95 94 95. And then the Cowboys won the next year. But, they had everybody on the team. They had Dion Martin Hank Steve. I was a 49ers fan. But, yeah, we’re gonna get in trouble. We got to talk Giants, right. We gotta talk Giant Giants. But

DAVID Z. ( 00:21:31): because we can make this a whole different podcast, we can start talking football for the next 30 minutes. But, I think we, I think we get a little off topic so you and I can talk football at some other time. But, I would surely,

DAVID C. ( 00:21:45): is it, because this is one of those things that I always think about. Um, well, just popped up, I should say. But over the holiday season, are people, is this a time where, you know, people tend to get in to a little bit more accidents, people being on the road, people rushing to different things. Not that we don’t rush in our regular day to day lives. But, it, it would almost seem to me that, you know, there would be more accidents now than, other times maybe, or maybe I’m off.

DAVID Z. ( 00:22:13): Um, well, I don’t have the, the data on, a very micro level, but in my experience having done this for over a decade now, I, I think there definitely is an increase in almost any kind of type of personal injury case. I think people are rushing more on the road. I think there probably are more drunk drivers on the road. People, stay out late going to more holiday parties and, if we’re God willing going into a year with where COVID is less a concern, more in person, things where people can really let loose and, maybe make some decisions that aren’t the best for them. So I think there’ll be an increase in motor vehicle accidents. I think for the same kind of reasons you could see an increase in people, having accidents just, walking about in their day to day life or in their home or at their job site. Um, and not for nothing. Well, it’s a beautiful but a little bit cold, late fall day here, snow is not too far away and, all the, slippery, icy conditions that come with it are, another thing that New Yorkers need to be careful about as they head into this winter season. So, we’re here for people whenever it happens and accidents do happen around the holiday season and in the winter.

DAVID C. ( 00:23:28): And that’s a good point because I was only focusing on the car accidents. And I feel like a lot of people when they hear about it, they may think that you only take care of car accidents, but really, as, as I’m sure you’ll explain now it’s across the board, you know, it could be anything.

DAVID Z. ( 00:23:45): Sure. I would, I would say that our main focus here at Hill & Moin is to help people who are injured on someone’s premises, whether that’s in front of a building or inside a building or a particular kind of premise that we focus on are construction workers who are injured on the job. Uh, but we certainly know how to hand or handle motor vehicle cases as well as, uh many other kinds of cases where people are horribly and seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence or a violation of the law, motor vehicle, motor vehicle accidents while they, tend to be the news crappers. They’re certainly not the only case we, we know how to handle here

DAVID C. ( 00:24:27): and those, those construction workers, we talk about a brutal sport being football, they, they deal with it, in, in their own way, you know, just as much and, you know, they, I, I can only imagine some of the, the catastrophic injuries but all the way down to some of the smaller injuries that just impact you being able to, you know, go to work and, you know, do your job.

DAVID Z. ( 00:24:47): It’s very true. Uh People hopefully never have to have the kind of uh injuries that we deal with on a lot of our cases here, whether it’s a traumatic brain injury or people requiring a serious spinal injury or uh or broken bones with implantations of uh plates and screws. We really run the gamut and have clients with all sorts of serious injuries here at Helen Mone and we work very hard to make sure they get the fair and reasonable compensation that they deserve. Uh But yeah, they come in all shapes and sizes and they’re not serious. Uh sorry, they do come in all same sizes and they are quite serious. Uh So it’s nice to have someone on the line here who’s uh shares my uh passion that hopefully people can stay well and have a nice and healthy happy holiday season where none of that happens to you

DAVID C. ( 00:25:44): 100% 100%. So I appreciate you having me on, bro. I appreciate, I’m my big bro. I feel like I gotta just talk to you as if I’m talking to you in person. You know, I always call you big, bro because I appreciate what you do. No.

DAVID Z. ( 00:25:57): Same to you. Same to you. I know, I like you call a lot of people a big bro, whether they’re actually older than you or not. It’s, I know that that’s

DAVID C. ( 00:26:07): a good, you know, it’s a good point because it has nothing to do with age. It’s just a more of a respect thing, you know, people that I respect in my life, you know, that’s something that, uh you know, when we get to a point where, you know, I see you as, you know, us being close friends. Uh It’s just a, you know, a term of it’s endearment, you know. So, like I said, I appreciate you.

DAVID Z. ( 00:26:27): I appreciate you, respect to you David Calwell and uh respect for being our first guest this week on the very first episode of rising leaders of New York. My name is David, the senior trial attorney at here at Hill & Moin and we’ll be back next week with another exciting guest with uh an up and coming future leader of New York that you need to know. Have a great evening everybody.

VOICEOVER ( 00:26:51): You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.

Matrimonial Law, Mediation and Marital Assets with Sheera Gefen

July 10th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, we welcome guest Sheera Gefen, Supervising Attorney of the Matrimonial Unit of District Council 37’s Municipal Employees’ Legal Services, and Certified Divorce Mediator.

Tune in as Sheera talks about:

  • How she became a matrimonial lawyer
  • The effects of the pandemic on the custody process
  • The difference between litigation and mediation
  • Marital, intermingled and separate assets
  • Prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements

Sheera Gefen, Esq. graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, with a B.A. in psychology from Barnard College, Columbia University and earned her J.D. from Fordham Law School. She has been a practicing attorney for 14 years and has gained expertise exclusively in matrimonial law for most of her career, working for District Council 37’s Municipal Employees Legal Services. She has extensive experience representing clients in custody, child support, maintenance and equitable distribution matters as well as resolving disputes pertaining to the distribution of governmental and ERISA pensions.

For the past 10 years, Sheera has been an instructor of Business Law at Touro College. Her research on the psychological implications of procedural justice has been presented at various psychology and law conferences including the European Conference on Psychology and Law in Krakow, Poland, the annual meeting of the International Congress of Applied Psychology in San Francisco, CA, and the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society in Washington, D.C.

She often appears as a guest-lecturer at universities, speaking on topics related to the interplay between psychology and law. Sheera is also a Certified Divorce Mediator and a member of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

For more information:

District Council 37’s Municipal Employees’ Legal Services (212) 815-1140

For mediation and/or consultation: (917) 821-9465

About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube

Read the full transcript:

VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01): Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.

DAVID ( 00:00:31): York. Hello, everybody. My name is David and I am the senior trial attorney at the law firm of Hill Moin LLP. We are a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm focusing on construction accident, litigation, as well as premises liability and other types of personal injury matters where our clients are seriously injured due to the fault of somebody else. Aside from that role, I get the great pleasure of hosting this podcast. You’re listening to Rising Leaders of New York, where each episode I get the privilege of speaking with really interesting guests at the forefront of talking about the issues that you as New Yorkers need to know about in this interesting ever changing world we’re living in today. And for today’s podcast, I’m very excited. We have a wonderful guest. We are joined today by Sheera Gefen. She is a outstanding matrimonial attorney and she also works for DC 37 1 of the top unions in New York City. She has a lot of great experience litigating and mediating matrimonial law and I think we’re gonna have a great discussion today. So, Sheera Gefen, thank you so much for joining us today on Rising Leaders of New York.

SHEERA ( 00:01:54): Thank you, David for having me.

DAVID ( 00:01:57): She, can you tell, tell me a little bit about your background. How did you end up being a lawyer? And how did you get into the area of matrimonial law?

SHEERA ( 00:02:07): Sure. So how I became a lawyer might be a little bit different from you know, my, my answer to how I became a matrimonial lawyer. Um You know, I was always interested in the interplay between law and psychology. Um It, it always fascinated me when I graduated law school. I had student loans as many students do and I was recruited to work for a large law firm in New York City. Um I enjoyed the experience to some degree, but I realized that it was also not for me. Um And I was at a wedding one day, a good friend of mine got married in, in Manhattan and I received a literal and figurative elevator pitch from a man who worked at District council 37 who said to me that there’s an opening in the matrimonial unit and that was approximately 20 years ago. And I, I said that’s interesting. I always thought of divorce law as a nice, um, you know, a nice area for just, you know, to sort of, um, it combines my interests in, in psychology and law because as you imagine people that are going through a divorce, do you know they deal with a significant emotional matters, you know, and so that interplay really appealed to me, I ended up applying for, you know, to the position, got the job fell, fell in love with my then mentors, supervisors 20 years later. Now I’m the supervising attorney of the matrimonial unit and that’s how I became a matrimonial attorney.

DAVID ( 00:03:41): Very interesting. You mentioned DC 37 or District council 37. What exactly is that? And and what do you do with the New Unit for them?

SHEERA ( 00:03:53): Yeah. So district council 37 is the largest public union in, in New York we represent, I wanna say about 100 and 25,000 municipal employees. It can arrange from range from school aides to a staff psychologist at Coney Island Hospital, various positions. You know, the people who work for the city department of, of Environmental protection workers that are essential, you know, for the, for the running of the city. And so through a prepaid legal service plan, they get this wonderful benefit. It’s under the auspices of the municipal employees legal services and there are various legal units that provide services to them. So there’s for example, a family law unit, there’s an immigration unit. Uh there’s a housing unit, consumer unit bankruptcy and, and so forth. I run with a co supervisor, Lisa, the two of us run the matrimonial unit comprised of about 15 attorneys, secretaries and legal assistants. And we represent municipal employees in a, in a divorce proceeding from A to Z. We also help with separation agreements and we represent them in post judgment work as well. So for example, if there’s an issue after a divorce that arises, they have us as attorneys.

DAVID ( 00:05:15): and your services are for people, for specifically the members of DC, 37 all the many municipal employees throughout the city that need family services or immigration or housing or in your case, matrimonial services. Correct.

SHEERA ( 00:05:30): Yes, that’s right. And a lot of our, a lot of our clients are, you know, I, I’m gonna say a significant amount are low income and they would not normally be able to afford the an attorney. And so it’s really a fabulous service having been in private practice. And, you know, I, I, you know, I have my foot in that door and in, in many, in, in, in my experiences in the past and I can tell you that it’s a fabulous service and, you know, sometimes we do deal with the clients that are of a higher net worth or that are in a matrimonial case, for example, that might be married to a spouse that have high net worth, incomes and so forth. And so there’s a, there’s a range, but I, in general, we, we, we pride ourselves at DC 37 for being able to provide a service that many people would normally not be able to afford.

DAVID ( 00:06:18): How have you seen that? Either your practice or the union has been affected since the pandemic. How have things changed for in your daily work?

SHEERA ( 00:06:29): You know, it’s interesting, I I also work as a, as a mediator on the side, you know, I I resolve disputes, amicably representing parties in a divorce. And so in both of those worlds, I’ve seen a significant effect that COVID-19 has played on divorces, you know, whether it’s an amicable resolution or a litigious one. It’s a very interesting question and I can kind of think about it in different spheres. So for example, on the custody, parenting side, you can imagine, I, I’ll, I’ll start off by saying that in New York state custody is a major issue when dealing with children under the age of 18, right? It has to be resolved in order for a judge to grant a judgment of divorce, there needs to be some sort of resolution with respect to custody. And the word custody in, in essence, comes with two main meanings, you know, the definition of that word. So you can look at custody from the standpoint of joint legal custody, which means that both parents have equal decision making power in a divorce, right? And then you can also look at it from a sole legal perspective in in a situation where a client has sole legal custody, it means that that person is the sole decision maker when it comes to the major decisions in a child, in a child or in a children’s life. So before the pandemic, the major decisions in a child or children’s life would be something along the lines of religious upbringing. You know, how, how does somebody want to religiously raise their child? Educational decisions? Are, is the is the kid gonna attend a public school or private school? Right? Is the child going to dorm at college or stay at home? Those kind of decisions, medical, you know, God forbid there’s surgery, what surgeon is going to be appointed or used to, to perform this major surgery? Extracurricular activities, like will my kid play football or or will, will she have ballet lessons and so on? Those were the major categories during the pandemic, those categories shifted. So generally prior to the pandemic, regardless of who had custody of the Children the day to day decisions would be determined by the individual parent who has the parenting time with the child, irrespective of whether that individual parent has joint or sole custody. And so whether a kid would eat Rice Krispies or Cheerios for breakfast, or whether a kid would go out to a baseball game, a Sunday or watch a movie at home would be a day to day decision by one parent during the pandemic that became a major decision. You know, there were stay at home orders, there were fears of, of this deadly virus. You know, there were, there were arguments constantly over the past number of years, over the past I guess three years now, we’re in this pandemic, you know, where is it? Ok to bring my kid to a base, an outdoor game or an indoor mall, you know. Um, and so those issues were really focused on and caused a lot of debate. It, it incurred a lot of legal expenses and, and mediation, assisted in, in avoiding some of those costs. Um, so in that sense that, you know, in that custody world, in that parenting time world, it, it really had a major effect.

DAVID ( 00:9:44): Do you find those issues are still at the forefront of a lot of marital disputes or have things shifted back to a little more of how practice used to be before the pandemic? How is it looking.

SHEERA ( 00:9:56): now? Well, it’s calmed down a bit, certainly. because the numbers have gone down. Right. But we still have situations where one parent might be very aggressive in protecting their Children. You know, the one parent might want the child to continue to wear a mask in certain situations where another parent says no way I’m done with this, you know. I have a recent case in mediation that I had to mediate not long ago where the nanny would walk into the door and not wash the hands, you know, mom didn’t care. Dad was furious and wanted the nanny to be fired, you know, so I am still seeing those, those situations come, you know, we’re not, we’re not exact the the virus is still out there. There’s still some fears and depending on where you fall on the spectrum and with regard to the, the, the strictness of your own practice it, I still see it but it’s less, it’s less.

DAVID ( 00:10:51): So, what are what are some of the issues that people should know about in this current world in terms of of pursuing mediation versus litigation? I think you mentioned both of those terms. I’m not sure all of our audience knows the difference. So if they’re too related or they’re interconnected, do you do both? Yeah,

SHEERA ( 00:11:15): so yeah, I can give you a, a brief def my own definition, you know, of, of, of the two terms. So when you, when you hear the word litigation to litigate is to bring a lawsuit. But the connotation certainly in, in my area of practice, when you, when someone uses that term, that person is referring usually to a fight, you know, a fight that’s brought in to a judge’s attention, you know, judicial intervention. So when someone files for divorce against his or her spouse, the request for judicial intervention in, in our, in our world, we, we call it the RJ. I leads to quote unquote litigation, it leads to court appearances and potential motion practice and hearings and perhaps even a trial. It’s not to say that when you litigate that you can’t settle out of court, that you can’t potentially enter into a settlement agreement that amicably resolves, you know, your issues without a judge’s flex of a muscle, right? But mediation is is the term that we use it. It mediation is actually a, a form of alternate dispute resolution. You know, some of your viewers might know of, know of it as ad R and it’s in essence what a mediator does like when I mediate, I take off my lawyer hat and I tell the parties that I’m mediating that. Although I have knowledge and expertise in, let’s say matrimonial law, I am going to now be neutral. I am going to try to work out an an amicable compromise, right? Where both of you are going to hopefully avoid litigation, avoid ha you know, fighting with your individual lawyers to try to resolve your matrimonial dispute and, and, and in a mediation setting, certainly in, in, in, in the matrimonial context, I often tell my clients that if both of you are a little bit unhappy, you know, with the end result, if, if you’re a little bit ticked off with me at the end, right. I probably then did a good job, you know, if one of you is crying in the corner and the other one is popping the champagne cork, jumping up and down that he, you know, that he got a great deal or that she got a fabulous settlement. I probably didn’t do such a great job. But if, if each of you feel like you compromised a bit that there was a give and a take that, that, that I’m, that makes me happy, you know. And, and the idea behind mediation is that you’re avoiding burdensome expenses, you know, you’re, you’re sitting around a table with someone who is neutral who is trying to make it resolved, you know, make your disputes resolved quickly as quickly as possible. Less formal and, you know, divorce is, is so emotionally burdensome to begin with it. It sort of, it, it, it, it lowers that, um, that burden to AAA much a much, you know, AAA, big degree.

DAVID ( 00:14:18): Am I correct that the cases in which you mediate are separate from the cases in which you litigate you, sometimes you’re wearing a mediator hat to resolve other people’s disputes and other times you’re litigating on behalf of clients.

SHEERA ( 00:14:35): Yeah. In fact, there’s an ethical issue that will arise if a mediator would take on a case as a litigator for the same for, for, you know, for the couple or for an individual that, that he or she’s mediating, right? So when I’m a mediator, they’re in essence waiving their right to use me in the future. If the, if the media, if the mediation were, was to fail, right, they would have to hire other individual attorneys to take on their divorce matter and, you know, and, and go at it, head to head in court if needed, right? Um You know, there might be some exceptions out there where some mediators might feel comfortable taking on a case of one of the spouses I’ve actually run into mediators that they’re few and far between, but some, some will be ok with it so long as they disclose the ethical conflict and prepare the right waivers, so to speak. Um, but I personally am not comfortable with that in my mediation practice. You know, they, my, my clients know that if they’re hiring me, I’m going to do my best to get them to sign a separation agreement or a settlement agreement that resolves their dispute in their family matrimonial context. But that if it doesn’t work, I can’t help them anymore.

DAVID ( 00:15:48): in cases where you’re not the mediator. Are you ever able to separately, both litigate and then separately recommend it to your client. Let’s put a hold on litigation and pursue mediation rather than go to trial.

SHEERA ( 00:16:01): Absolutely. Absolutely. And it happens a lot. I mean, I, I, you know, it happens enough where, you know, as an attorney, you’re representing the client, things get, things get very involved. Um, and then suddenly the client might say, you know what I want to put this on hold and let’s try to work this out with a mediator, you know, um at DC 37 I might, you know, my position at DC 37 and we don’t have AAA mediation unit, but I will say that over 90 I wanna say even, you know, I don’t have the actual statistic, but I want to say that over 90% of our cases at DC 37 will settle. And by definition, what that means is that the, the, the parties that are involved in the divorce will enter into a stipulation of settlement. The word stipulation means a binding contract that resolves all their divorce, you know, issues. Um And when you settle, you’re really acting as much as you can in an amicable way to resolve around a table, you know, the issues that the clients are arguing over and, and you’re, you’re taking the judge out of the picture. So it’s not mediation. Exactly. But it is a way of resolving a dispute without, you know, without leaning on a judge to make a decision.

DAVID ( 00:17:17): It’s interesting that, certainly in our practice mediation, I imagine runs very, very differently. But what we do is we’re looking for for cases and almost always the cases that are very serious and require litigation. But, a vast amount of our cases I would venture to say, do successfully resolve it. Mediation, oftentimes they won’t. and then we have to aggressively pursue going to trial. But certainly for us, the phrase that both sides should be mutually unhappy is a phrase that, I’ve heard many good mediators. I know and respect very well. Say so I know you must be doing something very correct here if you’re telling your clients that as well, I’d

SHEERA ( 00:18:00): hope, you know, I’d hope

DAVID ( 00:18:03): and I’m sure mediation is not our, I guess our mutual use of mediation is the only overlap that personal injury has with, with your word of matri of matrimonial law. Are there any aspects of matrimonial practice that involve personal injury or where you have to maybe be consider whether there’s a personal, if there’s a personal injury case, would it affect a matrimonial

SHEERA ( 00:18:28): case? Yeah, that’s a great question. Most definitely, you know, when we first meet a client at intake, we, we have them fill out a questionnaire. Our office at DC 37. That is and also as a mediator, I do the same. And more than the questionnaire, there’s something known as a statement and net worth that often get, will get exchanged in the, you know, during the divorce process and a statement and net worth will list all the assets and liabilities of each individual spouse, right? But they will also list pending lawsuits or contingent interests in the matrimonial case. And so person, a personal injury claim is considered a contingent interest if it’s pending, right? Um If it was already resolved, it could be potentially an, you know, an asset that would have to be listed on a net worth statement as part of discovery. You know, we call that as part of the financial disclosure aspect of, you know, the divorce procedure. So one of the big questions that divorce lawyers and mediators alike have to deal with is what portion if at all of a personal injury award is considered quote unquote marital um versus separate. So for me to just expand

DAVID ( 00:19:51): marital property,

SHEERA ( 00:19:53): good. Yeah. So for me to, that’s what I was gonna expand on. So marital, um marital assets refer to any asset that accrued during the marriage. And specifically, that means from the date of marriage until the time of commencement of a divorce action. So until the time a spouse files for divorce or from the date of marriage until the time that the spouse is entered into and executed a settlement agreement or a separation agreement. That window is considered the marital window for equitable distribution purposes. Meaning we look at that time frame in, in when we assess what assets if any need to be distributed in a divorce, separate property refers to any asset that accrued before the marriage or after the commencement of a divorce or after a commencement of a separation agreement or I’m sorry after the execution of a settlement agreement. And there are other examples of separate properties such as gifts, inheritances and so forth that I won’t go into right now. But personal injury, when you hear that, you know that that phrase immediately, a divorce lawyer is going to say, oh, personal injury, that’s separate property. Anything related to personal injury is generally separate property, I say generally because as you probably know best, anything that relates to pain and suffering, any o award monetary award that um is attributable to pain and suffering is actually separate property, meaning it is not subject to be divided in a divorce that stays separate, right? Um However, if a spouse has a loss of consortium claim, which you probably could explain better than I can, right? Um which relates to a personal injury matter or if a spouse, let’s say has a lost wages claim, you know, or you know, has gets money from a personal injury action as part of a settlement or as part of a judge’s determination. Do you know if if, if, if a client gets lost wages, that if those lost wages accrued during that window that I referred to earlier during the, you know, the date of the, from the time of the marriage to the time of a commencement of a divorce action or the execution of an agreement that’s subject to be divided in a divorce. Um And so we have to look closely and we often actually consult with people like you and your firm to determine what part of the injury award is, is gonna be designated as marital versus separate. Um There, there’s also something else interesting to mention, which is that, you know, people don’t always realize that even though a particular asset may be considered quote unquote separate and untouchable by the other spouse in a divorce, there’s always a chance that that asset can be what’s called intermingled or transmuted and then it can lose its separate property identity and become what’s called marital. So just as a quick example, if let’s say you have a couple and they’re not getting along and they’re living in their home and I don’t know, the wife gets into an accident and, hires your firm and gets a, a million dollar settlement. You know, you guys do a great job. I know a great, great work. I know that from my own clients that have used your services. So, if they get a million dollar settlement and they say, oh, this is my money, this is gonna, this is gonna be, and I’m, I’m contemplating a divorce and I want to keep this separate. If they use that million dollars to renovate their kitchen, you know, among other things, let’s hope that the kitchen doesn’t cost a million dollars to renovate. But if they take some of that money and they pour it into their marital house, you know, their marital residence that they purchased during the marriage, that could potentially be lost. I say potentially because it, it, there’s a lot of nuances that need to be analyzed and really determining whether or not it will maintain its its status. But when you intermingle thing, you know, personal injury awards into a joint asset or into a marital asset, like if you take that million dollars and you put it into a joint bank account that’s giving that, that’s basically showing, demonstrating that you might have intention that that award is really to be shared by both you and your spouse. And so there, there, I, I think that if you ever had a client come to your office and, and they were he or she was contemplating a divorce, they might wanna, that person might want to consult with a divorce attorney to make sure to protect that asset so that it would be untouched in a divorce.

DAVID ( 00:24:32): That’s, it’s very, very interesting. And certainly most of our claims do have multiple of those types of claims that you mentioned. I was, I was very much wondering if you were gonna mention loss of consortium that immediately as you were describing that if it’s a separate property, I figured that that has to be a marital property losses consortium claim. But the interesting thing is for most plaintiffs, if, if you take a verdict, um you win your case on liability on damages, there could very well then be a breakdown that is going to specify exactly where each amount of the money is going to, whether it’s the loss of consortium claim for the spouse, the lost wages and then what for the pain and future suffering or maybe the future medical cost? Um and it could be very easy to break it all down, but it’s very interesting to also consider that even if a property is separate, there could be a way to mess that up afterwards. So yeah, sounds like it would be very well off to, to speak with you if they have a, a personal injury case and are either contemplating or maybe finishing up a, a divorce at the same time.

SHEERA ( 00:25:43): Yeah, I mean, I I can also mention that um you know, I’ve done prenuptial agreements as well as post nuptial agreements. So prenuptial before the marriage and postnuptial after people have gotten married, um both in a mediation setting and, and just as a consultant attorney that was hired to, to help out on, on a case and, those agreements have a lot of value to individuals who want to protect their assets. And in particular, I think it’s quite common when someone is about to, let’s say, you know, someone is, let’s say someone is due to get an inheritance. Unfortunately, you know, someone is soon going to pass and, and, and a person knows that they’re, they’re gonna, they’re gonna get a, a big chunk of change or in a personal injury situation where someone knows that they’re going to get a significant award and they want to protect it. One way of ensuring to do so is to hire an attorney who specializes in, in divorce and, and family law, to draft a postnuptial agreement if they were married, for example, to basically say that even if we intermingle this asset, even if I deposit a million dollars into my joint account, I, that, that, that value is still going to be protected. So that’s a way to also, you know, sort of think about protecting clients in those situations.

DAVID ( 00:27:9): That’s very interesting. And I imagine that would be a good opener, maybe potentially for, for spouses to consider pursuing such an arrangement, which I imagine a postnuptial agreement perhaps sometimes more often than not, is something one spouse is more interested in than the other. Because if they could work it all out, why did they do a prenuptial agreement?

SHEERA ( 00:27:32): Right. You know, I it’s funny, I have mixed feelings from a personal standpoint, you know, versus a professional standpoint about prenups and post ups, you know, as a professional, you know, who practices this in this area. I will always say that a prenup and a post up is, it could be the way to go from a personal standpoint. It’s difficult to raise that when you’re in a romantic relationship with someone that you trust. Right. I mean, I, I personally don’t have a prenuptial, excuse me. I personally don’t have a prenuptial agreement, you know. Um, because I, I believe in, in love and trust, you know, very often it’s the shoemaker, you know, whose kids don’t have the shoes or whatever that expression is, you know, the lawyer might be shooting herself in the foot, but I’m blessed with a happy marriage and I trust my husband and God forbid if it did end up in divorce. And, you know, iii I can’t imagine us wanting to, you know, kick the other to the curb. Right. Um, but these, these postnuptial and prenuptial agreements by definition, an agreement is a voluntary contract and so you need both parties to voluntarily want to do it and, and it’s not an easy thing to, to, to bring up, you know, certainly, if, if, if, if you’re happily married, it’s not easy and then if you’re not happily married, it’s also not easy, you know. So it’s a challenge it’s a challenge to even sometimes get tho those agreements drafted or signed. It’s not for everybody.

DAVID ( 00:28:56): Very interesting. I, I have so many more questions, about that, about that topic and, I imagine it would be very interesting, I guess hearing how, clients often get to your office to pursue these ups and post up agreements. But I’m afraid we’re about to hit all the time we have for today. Uh, so she, is there any way that any number or, contact information you would like to get out if people want to, get in contact with you or District Council 37?

SHEERA ( 00:29:26): Sure. I mean, I, I can give you, two numbers. One is, if you happen to be a municipal employee who’s eligible for, the, benefit, at DC 37 the number to call is (212) 815-1140. If you’re interested in mediation or consultation, you can call (917) 821-9465.

DAVID ( 00:29:53): Very, very good. Sheera Gefen. It was such a great pleasure having you on. Thank you so much for coming in and telling us, about what you do and many, many interesting developments I learned a lot today, about, the interplay of personal injury and marital law. We, we’re all just practicing the law every day and getting a little better. So this was really, really, interesting and illuminating for me. So thank you so much for, for joining me and talking to our guest today.

SHEERA ( 00:30:21): It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. David.

DAVID ( 00:30:23): Thank you so much, everybody for joining me for another episode of Rising leaders of New York. Once again, my name is David Zwerin, the senior trial attorney at Hill Moin, plaintiffs personal injury firm focusing on construction accidents and premises liability cases. Uh, if you have a, a case where you’re seriously injured in a construction accident or on premises, we hope to hear from you and, if you happen to be involved in a matrimonial, you should certainly give a call too until then. My name is David Zwerin and I hope you join us for another episode of Rising Leaders of New York. Take care everybody.

VOICEOVER ( 00:31:05): You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.

Navigating the Complexities of US Immigration with Neil A. Weinrib

July 10th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, we welcome guest Neil A. Weinrib, Managing Director at Neil A. Weinrib & Associates, Immigration and General Practice.

Tune in as Neil talks about:

  • navigating the complex US immigration system
  • the desirability of the US as a destination for Foreign Nationals
  • changes in immigration policy under the Trump and Biden Administrations
  • the range of immigration cases his firm handles
  • social services and immigration reform

After establishing himself as an immigration expert while working for a large immigration and general practice firm, Neil decided to start his own immigration practice in 1980, which has significantly expanded over the years. Neil A. Weinrib & Associates (NawLaw) is a premier boutique law firm consisting of more than 25 attorneys, legal assistants, and support staff – and is still growing. Neil is the principal and managing attorney of NawLaw and is heavily involved in all aspects of the firm. He is relentlessly dedicated to the firm’s clients and assisting them in achieving their U.S. immigration goals.

Neil frequently lectures on immigration topics for organizations around the country and has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer Magazine based on peer recommendations. He has lectured on immigration to organizations such as SCORE NY (U.S. Small Business Administration), community groups, and educational institutions including the Manhattan School of Music, NY Film Academy, and the NYU School of Continuing Education. He has also conducted continuing legal education seminars, both locally and nationally. Neil has also lectured to human resources executives at various companies as well as the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Neil has appeared on national radio and webinars.

Learn more about Neil A. Wienrib:

Visit his website:

Connect with Neil on LinkedIn:



About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube

Read the full transcript:

VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01): Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.

DAVID ( 00:00:39): York. Hello, everybody. My name is David S. Zwerin and I’m the senior trial attorney at Hill and Moines L LP. We are a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm focusing specifically on premises liability and construction acts and cases for seriously injured victims. But I also get the pleasure of hosting this podcast which is rising leaders of New York where every episode I get to talk to important people on the cutting edge that you and New Yorkers need to know about in the world of law and other topics. And this week we have an amazing guest, Neil Weinrib of the losses of Neil Weinrib and Associates. Neil is a very experienced immigration attorney and immigration is an area that tends to be very relevant and highly connected to plaintiffs personal injury law firm and has spent his career selfishly advocating for the rights of foreign nationals and people here with various immigration concerns. Uh going through a, a, a system that’s very tricky and hard to navigate. I’m sure now more than ever and what’s happened over the last 56 years, look forward to having a great conversation with Neil today. So Neil, welcome to the show.

NEIL ( 00:01:58): Thank you, David. Happy to be here/

DAVID ( 00:02:02): Neil. Can you tell everybody a little bit about yourself? How did you end up becoming an immigration lawyer and starting your firm?

NEIL ( 00:02:9): Sure, great question. It all started many years ago when I was in college with a trip to Israel as a, a foreign study program. And I realized that there was so much going on outside of, of Pennsylvania and the US especially being in Israel in the Middle East back in the seventies. It was a very dynamic time and, but it gave me the exposure to, to meet people of various cultures and backgrounds. And I was, I found it fascinating and I said, you know, I like this a lot. I really want to do something that’s global and international. And so when I came back to school at Penn State University, I was like, this is so insular. I’ve, I’ve got to arrange to eventually get out of here and do something more worldly. I then, took a master’s in International Law and International Affairs at the Fletcher School of Tufts University. The goal at that time I was gonna get a phd and become a college professor. And, at that time, the teaching market started getting very crowded. Um, and then I said, well, not a great market for phd S. What should I do? I said, well, maybe I’ll go to law school and my father is a lawyer. Why not? You know? So I, from there, I went on to law school, which I didn’t really love. And I was like, what am I doing here? It was only after I got out of law school and started practicing law that I, I said this isn’t bad and, but I really want to get into an international practice. So I joined a firm after a year of, of doing general practice, I joined a firm that was doing immigration and, and, and various practice areas and, and that’s when I found my calling. I said, well, now I’m working with foreign individuals at that. At the time. I, I got out of law school. There were very few opportunities for lawyers going into international law. There were only a handful of firms that were involved in international law and most of their graduates were coming out of Harvard and Yale at that time. And so consequently, immigration law was very appealing to me. I realized and learned that I was helping foreign nationals achieve the American dream even back in the eighties.

DAVID ( 00:04:29): What was it about international law that you found so appealing? You know,

NEIL ( 00:04:32): Well, basically, just the, the fact of, of, of the entire global picture dealing with, with foreign law systems versus the American legal system you know, in things that were affecting foreign nationals in various countries. And how the US legal system was derived from the British system and, and you know, issues dealing with war crimes and things like that. It’s just very interesting to me. But then on the immigration side, you know, I got to meet people who had legitimate issues at that time. Iran was going through a revolution. Jews were leaving or trying to leave the former Soviet Union, it was a very tumultuous time for us. Immigration back in the eighties, it was a huge influx of people from Iran, Russia and many other countries, Romania, the eastern former eastern bloc countries, people were trying to get to the US from Romania, Hungary Poland, et cetera. And not to mention China because then China started going through their issue, Tiananmen Square much later in 1989. So the eighties were a very tumultuous time in US immigration. And so I, I was entering a field that was just going through a lot of radical changes and and the foreign nationals were desperate to be in the US. America was going through you know, a growth period even though there was some signs of recession. But as bad as I’ve often said, as bad as bad it is as it is around the world, it’s much better in the US. America is always the land of opportunity and America has been a magnet even today. It’s the same, the same thing. Despite everything we read in the newspaper and all the tumult and issues, America is still an attractive place for foreign nationals from everywhere. It continues to be a magnet.

DAVID ( 00:06:29): Have you seen the immigration system evolve over the last few years, particularly since since 26 16 or the beginning of 2017, you know

NEIL ( 00:06:39): it’s been somewhat slow to evolve. Um because in many aspects, our immigration quota system was formed in 1976 1977. So the numerical allocations that allow foreign nationals in have been in place for 40 years, which is obviously outdated. That’s why there are restrictions on people coming in, particularly from India and China. They wait much longer time. For example, if a US citizen applies for a brother or sister, they’re gonna wait 14 years to come into the US. Unmarried Children are gonna wait 8 to 10 years because the system is is somewhat antiquated. I often say it’s like driving an old car. It, it works but it moves very slowly and that’s our American immigration system, it’s due for Nova. So then you throw into the mix the political situation going on in Central America including Venezuela and various of Guatemala, various other countries, Brazil even now. Haiti, I mean, there’s so much unrest going on in the world. Ukraine, of course. Uh and, and many other countries that America is still a magnet despite all of the difficulties to get in. So despite everything that goes on here, it’s still a much better place and a land of opportunity for foreign nationals, especially in European countries where growth is, is limited and, and in Asia too, because of established institutions and barriers, America still offers tremendous opportunity for foreign nationals. It really does, it’s no different than it was before.

DAVID ( 00:08:17): What are, what are, what are all the things you do for foreign nationals like for those who aren’t terribly familiar with immigration law, what are some of the issues you handle what a client come to you for? How do you help them?

NEIL ( 00:08:28): Great question. But we handle the entire spectrum of us, immigration including asylum for people from Ukraine, Russia, China. Um and, and, and other countries that are people who are facing persecution, Central America, et cetera. Plus we handle people who are marrying American citizens, relative petitions, people petitioning for spouses, Children, et cetera, parents. We also handle employment related visas, people who are trying to come to the US to live and work here. And that would include the entire spectrum from people coming as temporary workers that were seasonal workers work in hotels and farms to people who are principal dancers for the New York City Ballet. We handle the entire spectrum of extraordinary ability, professionals, dancers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, writers, et cetera, musicians. So we our firm is, is big enough, we have the bandwidth to handle the entire spectrum of us. Immigration and it’s the demand is in every sector from what we see

DAVID ( 00:9:42): now. And we talked a little bit about this before. The podcast. Immigration is something that comes up a lot in personal injury. You know, not everybody who gets injured in a personal injury action is, is a citizen or is here with documentation. What are some of the issues like you run into? Do you ever like run into people who are foreign nationals? They’re here, they lack some degree of documentation and they have concerns about. Should I bring a a personal injury suit? And what would that mean for my immigration status? Sure.

NEIL ( 00:10:18): You know, many foreign nationals especially if they’re from, if their English is not great or if their status is uncertain, maybe may be severely injured but hesitant to bring an action because they don’t know how it will play out. They have no definitive immigration status. I mean, we have people who are in the US for many years without status. So sometimes they can be injured in, in somewhat afraid or reticent to bring an action. What they, what they often learn is that they are eligible for Medicaid in New York. New York has very liberal Medicaid requirements so they shouldn’t be afraid to get necessary emergent emergency medical treatment. And that’s why New York, for example, such a magnet to foreign nationals, including New Jersey and the New England States. Whereas other states, especially down south are much stingier in terms of Medicaid requirements, much shortened time periods to, to receive assistance. But foreign nationals I, I believe are increasingly recognizing that their rights are expanding. And so we’re seeing less I would say reticence. And, but still they, many of them are involved in construction accidents, car accidents, pedestrian, sidewalk, you name it, medical malpractice, et cetera. I mean, many of them are victimized. And when they often contact us with various types of claims, we, we can send them to the right expert like Helen Moy, if our clients are injured, we, we know where to send them to specialists. They’ll often ask me, can I recommend a specialist in a particular area such as personal injury? And so we’re, we’re often the, the starting point for a lot of foreign nationals who don’t know where to go, go or where to turn

DAVID ( 00:12:10): And I’m sure you counsel your clients about this too. I imagine most of them are scared. Like you said, if you, if you go to the hospital, if, if they, if you go to Coney Island Hospital, are they going to be asking a client? What’s your immigration status here? And if they say undocumented or they gonna be calling ins?

NEIL ( 00:12:26): Unfortunately not. We’ve never seen that happen. New York has been a very safe venue for foreign nationals there. I’ve never heard of anything like that happening. Fortunately,

DAVID ( 00:12:37): nor have I a bit of a rhetorical question.

NEIL ( 00:12:39): Well, you know, it’s, but it’s a, it’s a legit question because for example, it was a time when, if people were arrested by the, by the police, let’s say in various locales including NASA Suffolk County, Westchester Yonkers, the police might report them to immigration, customs enforcement or ice. And so people often got into trouble because of even minor criminal incidents involving perhaps DW I driving while intoxicated assault battery, things like that. And, and therefore people were often found themselves in, in a very difficult situation. But we’re seeing now the police authorities are not actively cooperating with immigration and customs enforcement. So it’s very rare that that happens now, but there was a time when it was a real, a real threat New York. And that has been very welcome to foreign nationals as we know from people coming from the southern border. New York City is hosting a huge number of foreign nationals which is training social services at this point and they’re entitled to many social services including food stamps and various forms of, of, of financial assistance.

DAVID ( 00:13:55): A lot of, a lot of things, a concern I seem to hear from immigrants is that aside from that concern about, oh, can I get medical treatment? Who will pay for it? And will I get in trouble doing it? I’m often hearing the concerns about, oh, the, the, the defense attorney report me will be the insurance carrier reported. So certainly in, in my venue, I know people are always concerned and those concerns are not found. That’s just simply not how personal injury cases go. Just because somebody lacks documentation doesn’t mean they’re not, they don’t have rights the state of New York and they should bring a claim and they shouldn’t be afraid of that. An adversary is going to retribute just because they lack papers. Well,

NEIL ( 00:14:43): definitely. Well, let me say this. There’s been a big sea change since the Trump administration where any, anybody who fell out of status or had no legal status was subject to deportation or removal. Biden came in and they, they changed that policy. So now immigration is only chasing after people who commit serious criminal actions, criminal, you know, acts basically. So in other words, the foreign nationals should be less afraid now than ever to, report an accident or an injury or something like that. Whereas in the past, they might have been fearful of being reported to immigration, customs enforcement or ice. Now, they don’t really have to worry because, immigration enforcement is now prioritizing criminals, people committing serious criminal acts versus really, minor acts. So it’s a much better environment now for foreign nationals, they can, they can pretty much rest assured that they’re not in danger.

DAVID ( 00:15:40): That that’s certainly good to hear from, from my perspective, from what I do, I’m curious, in, in your, practice, where do you go to, to, to litigate or, or handle these immigration matters and how is the court system functioning to process what I’m sure must be just an immense amount of immigration matters in the past 56 years.

NEIL ( 00:16:04): Yeah. Definitely, people who are, let’s say stopped at the border are often, referred for, deportation removal proceedings. They may be issued notices to appear without date and they’re required to keep in touch with immigration as to their address for future hearings. But what’s happened is that the entire system is so overloaded and clogged that people are waiting years to be called for their hearings. Trump, the Trump administration adopted. Interestingly a policy whereby they were prioritizing people who were newly arrested, they were getting priority over people who were waiting years to have their asylum claim heard. Whereas new arrivals were put on an accelerated calendar, that’s now changed. And again, because of the change in administrations, the Biden administration has been much more pro immigrant to a degree, of course, at the southern border. They’re trying to toughen up and pass very restrictive rules and regulations to appease the American public because of the huge influx of foreign nationals. Since COVID, the combination of COVID and political events occurring in Central America that were tumultuous. So it’s it’s a perfect storm that’s created and generated so much us immigration including Ukraine, Russia, a lot of we have Russian nationals coming in through Mexican border because they’re desperate to get out of Russia for fear of being forced into military service, for example. So we’re seeing a huge stream coming especially from the southern border, some coming from the northern border, from Canada, but predominantly from the southern border.

DAVID ( 00:17:55): And I guess it, it’s very based on the situation of the person seeking asylum or citizen or a or a work visa, whatever it is. But it sounds like the system is still very backlogged. So I wonder what do you think can be done to change it? People, obviously, politicians have been talking about immigration reform for decades. Do you think that’s the thing that’s actually ever going to happen? We would make it

NEIL ( 00:18:17): happen. Sure. There was the, I I would say in the last 10 years, we’re so the there were opportunities for, for reform during the Bush administration, for example, he was a proponent for immigration reform and then it got knocked down at the very, very end. Although the president, former president was very involved in immigration reform, the Obama administration was actually somewhat anti immigration. They would, they actually deported more people than Trump did in the first few years of the Obama administration. Biden saw an election proposing immigration reform and positive change and that quickly I would say dampened because of the what happened during COVID with the huge influx of people coming in from Central America and Mexico, et cetera. And and, and so what things have really changed? We don’t have the border wall but the enforcement activities is still very strong, but people are still trying to come to the US. The US is still a major magnet for foreign nationals.

DAVID ( 00:19:27): Do you think anything is going to be changing in the years ahead? And so what’s going to lead to actual immigration reform after, you know, so many administrations that say they will and doesn’t have I

NEIL ( 00:19:38): a great question. I don’t see anything happening in the next two years during the final years of the Biden administration. I think it would take a democratic overhaul of both houses to result in any immigration reform. It’s unfortunate that during Obama’s first two years, he had a democratic majority in the Senate and the House, but no immigration reform went through. It was a unique window and opportunity.

DAVID ( 00:20:06): Why was it? Why didn’t they pass it in the 09 and oh and 10. What’s that? Why do, why do you think it stalled out in 2009 and 2010?

NEIL ( 00:20:14): We, I really don’t know. It just didn’t have any gravitational pull for some reason. I think, you know why II, I guess the economy banking crisis was like month and center. I think that’s why in, in 2008 9, we were dealing with financial issues that were, you know, outranking immigration. That’s probably why it didn’t happen. So now we have to wait and see what happens in the next next presidential election and to see if democrats retake the house, I think if, if that is the case, that would be a prime opportunity for reform and change.

DAVID ( 00:20:55): Very interesting. Well, thank you so much for joining me here today, Neil. I thought this was amazing and lightening conversation. I certainly learned a lot and help all our listeners did too for the, for our listeners, if they want to get in touch with you, Neil. How might they do? So?

NEIL ( 00:21:13): Definitely, they can give us a call. Our number is (212) 964-9282. And our email is info at nawlaw dot com. We’re happy to, to meet people. We’re very proud of the fact that we, we provide honest and successful immigration services. There’s a lot of fraud that goes on in, in our immigration, immigration legal community. A lot of our clients or people who come to us have experienced problems with, with lawyers who take their money and run. We have a track, we don’t advertise generally. We have a track record based on client referral, lo lawyer referral and we have a, a large influx of people who know that they can depend on us for honest and effective immigration services and we span the entire spectrum. Thank you for everything. Let me add, we have a terrific staff of, of very experienced lawyers and paralegals who are Multilingual including Spanish Russian and various other languages.

DAVID ( 00:22:20): No, absolutely, Neil. I know Neil to be a tremendous immigration attorney. Our office knows him well and thank you for everything you do for for foreign nationals who who need you to protect their rights and and for educating us as well as our clients on the tricky immigration issues they may face while they got personal injury matters. You provide an amazing service and it’s been great talking to you today.

NEIL ( 00:22:44): Thank you, David. I should also add that. We, we successfully took a case to the US Supreme Court and won one of the few immigration law firms that have had that accomplishment. You know, we’re very proud of that.

DAVID ( 00:22:56): They should be. Well, thank you so much for joining me, Neil. My name is David. And again, I’m the senior trial here at Hill and Moines L LP. Our focus is on serious premises, liability and construction accident cases. You can reach us at (212) 668-6000. Otherwise, I hope you reach us by tuning in to this episode and all the others posted and I look forward to speaking to you at the next episode and I’ll be joined by another great guest who is a rising leader of New York. Thank you everybody.

VOICEOVER ( 00:23:31): You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.

Unions and Employee Organizing with Chris Baluzy

July 7th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, we welcome guest Chris Baluzy, a Partner at Cary Kane, practicing in the areas of Labor, Employment, and Employee Benefits Law.

Tune in to this episode as Chris shares insights into:

  • Unions, what they are and how they work
  • What he does to help unions in his role
  • How arbitration works in the labor field
  • Big companies setting up unions
  • Common issues executives need to know about unions
  • Benefit of companies to have a union

Christopher S. Baluzy is a Partner at Cary Kane, practicing in the areas of Labor, Employment, and Employee Benefits Law. On behalf of labor unions he arbitrates disputes, negotiates collective bargaining agreements and litigates in New York and federal courts. Mr. Baluzy represents Taft-Hartley employee benefit funds in collection work to ensure that employers properly make contributions to the funds.

Mr. Baluzy received a B.A. in Philosophy from the College of Arts & Science at New York University in 2006. He received a J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law in 2011 where he was Executive Articles Editor for the City University of New York Law Review.

Before joining the firm, Mr. Baluzy was an associate at the labor law firm of Pitta & Giblin as a law clerk at the labor law firm of O’Dwyer & Bernstien.

Mr. Baluzy is a member of the Bar of the State of New York. He is also a member of the New York County Lawyers Association as well as the Lawyer Alumni Mentoring Program at the College of Arts & Science, New York University.

Learn more about Chris Baluzy

Visit his website:

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn:

About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube

Read the full transcript:

VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01): Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.

DAVID ( 00:00:38): Hello everybody. Thank you for joining me. David Zwerin here on this episode of Rising Leaders of New York. Um This is my opportunity where every episode I get to speak with people who are on the cutting edge of important issues, often legal that New Yorkers need to know about. And today I have a very exciting guest um joined by my old friend Christopher Baluzy. He is a partner at the law firm of Cary Kane. They practice in the areas of labor, employment, employment benefit unions on behalf of labor unions. He arbitrates disputes, he negotiates collective bargaining agreement and is a litigator in the state and federal courts of New York. Chris is a tremendously knowledgeable person in dealing with fighting for the rights of employees and members of unions and the extremely knowledgeable attorney. And I look forward to having a great conversation with him today. So Christopher Baluzy, thank you so much for joining me today.

CHRIS ( 00:01:45): Thanks so much, Dave. Very happy to be here. Thank you so much for those kind words.

DAVID ( 00:01:50): No problem. So you and II, I guess, can you and I have known each other for a little while but, , um, tell the, tell the people a little bit about yourself. Uh, how did you end up being a lawyer? How did you end up getting into, this particular area of law?

CHRIS ( 00:02:07): Yeah. So, um, my journey, first of all to, I guess law school start there, um, started, in college, um, kind of a cliche, I thought, ok, I’ll, I wanted, I really wanted to be a, a physician or a doctor. Uh, but I hated the, the lab portion of the, curriculum, um, for that. So, um, I switched to, um, wanting to do a different, a different, profession that was a law, you know, like I said, it’s cliche doctor or lawyer. Um, and, um, so I studied, in college, liberal arts, um, and then worked, at a big law firm as a paralegal, in, in litigation. Um, and those hours were very long, even as a paralegal because we were there as long as the attorneys were, were in the building basically. Um, and I said to myself, I’m going to be, you know, working this much and, and like, in an office like this for so long, I want to make sure I do something that I really enjoy doing. So it’s not so painful. Um, and at that time I thought it was going to be civil rights, um, anti discrimination law. And I went to, cuny law school, at that time when it was in Flushing, um, enrolled there, studied uh discrimination, um, title seven, anti discrimination, I should say, uh civil rights uh section 1983 cases really enjoyed it. Um And when I graduated, um I wanted to stay on the side of, of course, helping people. Uh that was the main motivation. Um, and I started working for a Union side law firm, uh called o’dwyer Bernstein on a uh project on a litigation that they were working on. They’re representing a, an airline union. Um, and, um, but I knew that that litigation may end and they wouldn’t need me. So, it did eventually end. And, um, I then went to work for another Union side law firm for a couple of years, um, and practiced in the, um, you know, representing unions, but also employee benefit funds for collections of monies that were owed to the, those funds which wasn’t very fun. Um, the union stuff that was, was much more interesting. Um, and, um, then I came here to Cary Kane. Um, and I’ve been here since January of 2015. Uh, so, gosh, eight years. Yeah. And, yeah, go ahead.

DAVID ( 00:05:04): So, Chris, you mentioned, you’ve been doing union side work for a little while, for, for those people who might not have a lot of experience dealing with, union litigation or uh negotiations or maybe even don’t have so much, have a lot of familiar with what a union is. Uh, give us a little idea like what exactly is a union? What does it look like? How is it formed? And uh why do, why do they need lawyers?

CHRIS ( 00:05:32): Sure. Exactly. Thank you. So, um, what is a union, a union um, represents workers um with respect to the wages, hours, working conditions of the employees of a, of an employer. Um, that is at its core, what a union does, a union doesn’t need to be, already preexisting to, to represent workers, the workers can form their own union. And the law defines that, not so strictly so that a group of workers uh can do that um in the nat under the National Labor Relations Act. Um So it’s a very powerful tool to um get better wages, benefits, working conditions. And so, like I said, that’s what the union does. It represents the employees, the union negotiates contracts on behalf of the employees with, of course, with the input of the workers, it’s not just the union doing it on its own. Uh It processes grievances, you know, resolves disputes. Uh Make sure, makes, ensures that there’s sound labor relations at the plant or at the facility, the store, whatever it is. Um And sometimes it’ll have to arbitrate disputes, come to a final and binding determination. Um But that’s arbitration. It’s not core litigation. Uh But still, it’s kind of like that, you know, it’s a, it’s a uh a formal process. Um And the union also can provide benefits to the workers through benefit funds that it um has input on uh health insurance pension. Um Sometimes legal funds where the union will help pay for legal services for workers, like for real estate or wills that sort of thing. So the union, the core issue, the core, the core, the essence of it being is to help the workers. Um and, and that’s its goal and um it’s very, uh it’s a very noble purpose.

DAVID ( 00:07:35): And what exactly, what types of uh of services does your firm offer? You mentioned like a lot of things union needs. What exactly does your firm do and what do you specialize in?

CHRIS ( 00:07:44): Right. So the union, so what we do is we represent unions as the institution. And so let’s start there. So we represent the union in contract negotiations to advise on, you know, what, what they should propose um what language, uh how language should read because after all, it is a contract that’s gonna to be read by lawyers. So we wanna make sure the language is, uh looks right. Um We help with, you know, stra strategizing about certain things, whether it’s union, elections, union, um grievances. Um We help the union process, election petitions with the NLRB.

DAVID ( 00:08:21): So if they want what, the NLRB, by the way, I’m familiar with, but many people probably don’t know what that is.

CHRIS ( 00:08:27): That’s fine. Yes. Uh The, the NLRB, uh it’s a federal government agency. Uh It stands for National Labor Relations Board and they have jurisdiction over uh primarily by over unions and employers um with respect to um all forms of conservative activity um strikes, elections um or elections to get rid of unions. Uh It runs the gamut. Um And so we represent unions uh with that agency uh and also for unfair labor practice practices. So, if an employer violates the National Labor Relations Act, uh we file that unfair labor practice charge and we also have sometimes defend a union uh in response to an unfair labor practice charge filed by a worker, usually claiming that the union didn’t fairly represent that worker. Um So that is, that’s, that’s so somewhat of a big portion of what we do. And we also represent the affiliated benefit fund. So we represent, uh we counsel to the trustees on those funds to make sure that the funds are, you know, doing what it should be doing um in, in administering benefits, giving out uh benefits, paying benefits, um collecting monies that are due to the fund. Um And that’s another part and we also sometimes represent individuals. So not just unions, we represent individuals for uh wage an hour cases or severance agreement negotiations. Um And let’s see, sometimes discrimination cases. Um So, so that’s another part of what we do, but a vast majority is representing unions and their funds. Uh And, and let me just say one more thing, Dan, I’m sorry, we only represent unions, we don’t represent management. Um We are entirely worker focused and union focused, right?

DAVID ( 00:10:28): So that was kind of getting to my original uh question when you talk about being a union side of lawyer on the other side, that management or the employer side of lawyers, right? And that, and that’s who you usually are if not adversarial within, trying to ensure that your sides uh rights are fairly represented in any disagreement or litigation or negotiation with management.

CHRIS ( 00:10:52): That’s right. And what makes what we do somewhat unique, you know, compared to uh a real, I guess litigation uh attorney like you are, is this the, this our representation is in the context of a relationship between our, the clients, between the union and the employer. And so what that means is we are going to see each other again, I, is the union side attorney. I’m gonna see that management side attorney again and it doesn’t make sense, you know, sometimes you got to, but it usually doesn’t make sense to try and kill each other, you know, on a, on a, on a specific issue because like I said, I’m gonna see this guy or this woman, you know, in the other, another week from now on a different matter. Um, and it’s a small world. So, um, it, it, it’s not the sort of situation where, like I said, you’re trying to kill each other where like on a,  a slip and fall case or, or tort case, um, you’re trying to, you know, kill each other and, get the best for your client, of course, but you might not see, you know, you’re not gonna see that attorney, you know, ever again and neither will your clients. That’s the other thing. Um, our clients are, are the respective management of the employer and the union representatives at the union. And so they’re constantly talking to each other, um, on various issues, you know, whatever it is and it’s always, and it’s gonna be about the, the terms and conditions of employment of the employees and administering a contract. So they’re always, you know, in constant contact. Um, so, um, it really requires a deft uh human touch, I think, to be,  a union side attorney and an employer side too.

DAVID ( 00:12:50): No, that’s a, you bring up a very interesting point and thank you for, I guess you, you referenced me what we, what we do here doing, the personal injury litigation. I don’t know that I would agree that I’m never going to see my adversaries again though. I think a lot of the same adversaries for a long time. Um, but whenever you see them, and they’re often, you often and basically almost always uh attorneys that work for insurance carriers. So you’ll always see them in a different capacity on behalf of a different brand new client with a completely different accident. Exactly. Right. But we have ongoing often in relationships. Sometimes we get a brand new attorney but it is a very different thing. I imagine when it’s not always litigation here, this is what we do. We take cases and we aggressively litigate to get the absolute best possible result we can for every individual client with their unique accident. And while I may see that attorney again, and we always want to strike that balance of being professional while fighting extremely hard and getting great results for our client, we’re never going to have that exact same situation and my client isn’t going to need to do ongoing business with an attorney for nationwide or, or, or, or any insurance company you might add. So I imagine that is interesting. You have to probably strike a very interesting balance when you’re not only litigating against the same pace that face has been doing transactional work over the years with

CHRIS ( 00:14:23): them. Yes. Exactly. Yeah, you, you summarize it quite well. Um, you are, you may be dealing with, you know, an attorney or, or management on multiple issues and on one you have to be very aggressive on the other. You, you know, depending on what leverage you have or what the, the nature of your claim or the controversy and others, you, you know, you, you can’t be that way. Um So it, it, you know, it, it, it’s, it changes, it’s very dynamic. Um um So, uh and, and I think that, that the reason for that is that it helps to maintain, you know, a good relationship between the parties, um which is so important so that the workers, you know, can thrive because it’s not good for anyone. If they’re, uh if there isn’t, you know, good labor relations between um union and management, um whether that’s, you know, on the union level or with the funds, like, you know, you want to make sure that the employers, you know, may have, may be great with the union, you know. Yeah, everyone’s getting paid. No one has any grievances, no, no accidents. Uh Everyone, you know, is, is getting the overtime that they should or whatever. But like, for example, if the employer is not paying the, the, the funds, the, the contributions, excuse me, it owes to benefit funds. That’s a problem for the union. Um So they gotta, you know, resolve that and the, and the funds will do that. Um And it’s all, you know, kind of interconnected. It’s an ecosystem. Um And uh our firm uh has its, uh its finger on, on each part of that

DAVID ( 00:16:02): and when issues do arise, how are, are they often resolved? Do you have cases that you’re taking to trials in front of juries or are you arbitrating? How does it work in this field?

CHRIS ( 00:16:15): Very rarely? Am I in court? Very rarely? Uh You are probably in court way, way, way more than I am. Um You, I’m sure you have me beat very badly.

DAVID ( 00:16:26): Um And not a competition. But thank you. That is true.

CHRIS ( 00:16:30): So, um for us, uh matters are, are resolved in arbitration and,

DAVID ( 00:16:37): and by the I, yeah, I assume a lot of our listeners, uh those who maybe are, find us on our websites or LinkedIn. A lot of people probably know what is arbitration, but for those who don’t, what is it?

CHRIS ( 00:16:48): Arbitration is private dispute resolution where you’re in a conference room, not a courtroom and there’s an arbitrator that’s judge and jury deciding your case. Uh for our cases, it’s, it’s a single arbitrator and the arbitrator is neutral. And he or she is there to decide whether the union’s grievance has merit and what the relief is and it’s 99% of the time. It’s the union that has a grievance. It’s really never ever the, the employer that does. Um And it’s a formal process, each side is represented by an attorney. There’s witnesses, there’s opening statements, there’s closing statements was cross examination of witnesses. Um, evidence is, is introduced, the rules are a little relaxed as far as hearsay goes and, and sometimes relevance of evidence. Um But it’s, it’s, it’s a real, you know, important process for the orderly resolution of disputes between union and employer. And it’s very important that arbitration is, and, and when I deal with it, um because that’s the quid pro quo, that’s the deal uh for not striking.  That’s how you resolve the dispute with arbitration, not with uh with the economic weapons of a strike or a lockout strike being when the union walks out that takes the workers out and they don’t work lockout being where the employer says I’m not gonna let the workers work and I’m going to, you know, cause them some economic harm by not paying them and locking them out. Um So the deal is ok. Well, we’ll arbitrate it. We’ll get a final and binding resolution from an arbitrator and there’s usually no appeal. Um There are grounds to overturn or the legal term is vacate an arbitration award, but it’s a very high bar. And um I’ve never seen a contract that allows for its own internal appeal mechanism. It’s final. And that’s a lot of what we do. Um, and we represent the workers in those hearings. We represent the, the union, of course. Um, and, um, and each side has to live with the decision good or bad.

DAVID ( 00:18:55): And are curiously, are, are these, arbitrations still, done mostly in person or the virtual, or how’s that working in this, new, much more virtual world?

CHRIS ( 00:19:08): We’re living in a lot of it is remote. What we have been doing is um like, I guess a hybrid approach where each side may be with its own at its like on a single screen. So like me, the union representative, the grievance would be in one room, the arbitrator would be on his or her own screen and then the employer would either be separated on its own screens, plural or in a single room and they’d be, you know, all together. Um I haven’t done an in person hearing. The last in person hearing I did was last January and the employer insisted on that because of the amount of documentation in the case, even though, I mean, it really wasn’t that much but um he, he really wanted it to be done in person. Um And so it was um and uh you know, sometimes it’s better to, to be in person when it’s a termination case, meaning someone’s been fired. And so the arbitrators ruling on whether that person and what whether the employer was right in firing that person. because this is in a sense, life and death, either I’m gonna be put back to work or I’m gonna be unemployed and I have to find a new job, which could be a very scary thing. And, um, the worker may feel more comfortable just seeing all the faces in person and, you know, you could see where people’s hands are, what they’re looking at where, you know, uh when you’re on Zoom, it’s, it’s a little bit harder. Um And there’s a little bit more of a trust issue and, you know, for me, that’s kind of easy like I’m used to it, but for work workers aren’t, I mean, we, you know, I, we, we do this all the time but the worker, this may be the first time ever. And so, you know, transparency is very, very important. Um So that’s what I found and let me just say one more thing about arbitration, unlike litigation, there’s really no discovery, discovery being like exchange of facts before the hearing. So you kind of know what each side is gonna say. So that you, you avoid these, uh quote unquote Perry Mason moments, um sometimes are Perry Mason moments in an arbitration because you don’t have that. Um There’s no depositions, there’s no real document requests or interrogatories. Um It’s, it’s, uh I’ve been heard, I’ve heard it described as rough justice. It’s justice, but it’s not, uh it doesn’t have all the trimmings of a real court litigation. Um But, you know, that’s how arbitration is, at least in the labor field. Sometimes you get more for private employment disputes. Uh But for what we do, no.

DAVID ( 00:21:42): How do you prepare a client for cross examination that an arbitration when you may be confronted with documents or issues? You didn’t know about how.

CHRIS ( 00:21:52): It could be hard, it flying at the uh the seat of your pants. Um And you, you are, you know, doing the kind of the, not the prep but the, the, the analysis in real time like OK, is this relevant? Is this, you know, off base is, you know, is this good for us, bad for us? And usually the clients will know already like what they’re gonna be asked about, especially if it’s like, you know, a fact dispute like where were you on state? What were you doing or where were you on the plant? Who are you talking to? Um whatever. Sometimes though there are curveballs. Um I had a case once where it was a uh discipline case and the employer attempted to introduce some blog posts. Um And I forget the re why they were in, attempted to be introduced, but I objected strenuously like this is totally I relevant. What does this have to do with whether this person engaged in, in the misconduct that the employer said he or she engaged in? And the, the, the arbitrator fortunately ruled in our favor and, and, disallowed, that evidence and which was a big win because arbitrators usually will say, well, I’ll let it in but give it the weight, you know, it deserves or the weight that I deemed it to be given. But here it was just a flat out. No. Uh, so that was, that was good. So, um, it’s, it can be difficult. In other words, it’s, it’s really hard to, to do that prep. Um And uh you know, sometimes it feels like not possible and we just got to go in and do the case and, and put on a better case than, than the uh the employer.

DAVID ( 00:23:32): I think you also earlier uh mentioned, your firm does some work with collective bargaining, right? That’s correct. Do you actually work in drafting the collective bargaining agreements?

CHRIS ( 00:23:45): Yes, we do. So that’s a big part of what we do is contract negotiations. And um what we do is we’re, you know, sitting uh across so to say from the employer. And by the way, those are also now a lot uh or done on zoom a lot of times instead of being uh you know, all together. Um But, you know, you’re sitting across the table and you’re listening to the proposals and you’re drafting the language that shows the intent of the parties. What do we mean when we say this at the table? What does that really look like. Now, that’s really important, you know, to get the language right? Because, you know, I may not be here someday, right? But that language may live on and neither will my counterpart. And so we gotta make sure it’s right to live on, you know, after we’re gone. Um And that, that reflects what the party is intended because if it doesn’t reflect what the parties intend, then you have problems, then you have disputes, you have arbitrations, you have disagreements and that we try to avoid at all costs. Um So that’s what I’m there for and also to advise on, you know, the legality of them, whether it’s under state law, like state, you know, sick leave, you know, which is prevalent here in New York, COVID sick leave, uh hours of work overtime, um workers compensation sometimes FMLA leaves um and the subjects of bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act. Um You know, what’s mandatory subject of bargaining? What’s permissive? When can the union say no to something? When, when can the employers say no to something? Um And advising on strikes and, and other uh concern activity, uh like hand billing, uh uh putting up a rat, a banner. Um It runs the gamut, you know, from the actual hard lawyer work of, you know, contract drafting to um advising on concerted activity. I think you may want to do uh in support of its demands.

DAVID ( 00:25:53): And Chris what are some of the issues you’re seeing uh these days with labor organization or collective bargaining or some of the things you mentioned, if you were like, had the opportunity to, to meet a union executive that you haven’t met, what would you be saying? Like, what are some of the issues they need to know about?

CHRIS ( 00:26:13): Right. So, um that’s an important question. I think the first thing I would say is a lot of the organizing seems to be going on at the ground level. You have the workers kind of organizing themselves where a national union is not coming in to organize. You have, for example, Amazon Labor union, that’s, that’s a union where the workers organize themselves basically. Um You have that at Trader Joe’s, um I think at a store in Massachusetts and, and in the Midwest, it might be Minneapolis, um Starbucks, those workers each organize, you know, the respective stores and I think they’re uh they affiliated with Sciu, but still, that’s, that’s ground level. That’s grassroots, same thing with Kickstarter, the first tech union or the first union at a big tech company. Um Those workers again organize themselves with like, so it seemed to me somewhat minimal input from um OPEIU which stands for the Office of Professional Employees International Union. Um And they’ve had remarkable success. Um a few years ago, you, you telling me Trader Joe’s to unionize Starbucks, I find that hard to believe. Um but Starbucks caught on like wildfire Amazon, they organized successfully the, the Staten Island Warehouse um Kickstarter, you know, uh they, they successfully organized that and reached the contract in June of 2022. Um So it’s really been uh tremendous and so um for those union leaders, I would say, you know, try and in some way, leverage that where you’re giving maybe more latitude to those workers and letting them run with it. But still, you know, being involved in and providing the support of the national or, or international with union representatives and legal support because, you know, those the, the independent unions, they don’t have any dues money coming in, they don’t have money to pay professionals to help. So it, it is important, I think still to, to affiliate and have that um that source of knowledge and, and other uh benefits that come with being, you know, part of a larger organization, a larger structure. Um So that’s one thing. Um And um I would say the other thing uh would be to keep pushing on. Um and this, you know, isn’t something that I’m so involved with, but just generally keep pushing at the state and federal level and also city with legislation that protects and helps workers. Um We have the COVID sick leave in New York State. Um We have legislation in New York State that uh now allows farm workers to unionize and that’s a big deal because uh farm workers are not allowed to unionize under federal law. Um, it’s only a steel law issue, so we have New York, California and I think Washington State, um, that allow that. Um, so that’s really great and that’s, you know, something unions push for, um, and, you know, higher minimum wages better, you know, workplace protections to raise the floor so that when unions demand sort of thing, those sort of things, wages better benefits, the floor is already, you know, lifted that high so that those demands aren’t. Um So, um, I guess seen as overreaching, you know, that they’re seen as reasonable. Um, so those are the, those are the big, big things and of course protection of pension benefits, um, and, and other benefits that, that the workers get, um, you know, make sure that those contributions are coming in and you get more contributing employers into those funds to keep those funds solvent.

DAVID ( 00:30:14): Um I’m not sure if I asked you this at the beginning, Chris, we talked a lot about all the things that unions should be aware of, like if they’re going to form and start making all these decisions, but, you know, lots of employees in this country don’t, aren’t involved in, in any of union. What is, what exactly is the benefit of union? Why would you be telling employees or or executives to be, to be doing these things and to be working with lawyers, you to create a good union to have a good collective bargaining agreement. Why, why is it necessary?

CHRIS ( 00:30:47): A union protects the workers, whether you are a cashier at Walmart or uh an attorney uh for some private company. Um, everything in between, um, all, all sorts of, of job titles and classifications and types of work, different industries. The union is there to help, to help you and to, and to preserve the, the, the wages hours, working conditions that you have and to make and to also make them better. Um, without a union without a contract, anything can be just taken away as long as it’s not illegal to do. Um And because most of us are at will employees, the, the employer can do anything it wants except for a legal or discriminatory reason. Um, you know, taking benefits away reducing your wages, uh firing you suspending you. Um, it’s all the discretion of management, all their sole discretion. The only way the, to have a check on that power besides just, you know, laws and regulations is to have a union with a union contract that puts in writing what management can and cannot do. And, um, it’s a tremendous force because of the reaction you get from companies when they hear the word union, it’s a four letter word. Um, they call in the cavalry to, to stop it at all costs. And that alone shows this must be good for the workers if they don’t want it that bad, uh with captive audience meetings, one on one meetings. Um, them constantly saying how a union can’t help. They can’t promise you anything. Why would you pay dues? Why would the company care what you do with your money? They, when would a company ever care what you do with their money except when a union is involved? Right. So, um, it’s, it’s a tremendously, uh good uh force in the world um and has lifted many people into the middle class and beyond and raised their station in life and gave them protections that they otherwise wouldn’t have. So, um that’s, that’s the upshot.

DAVID ( 00:33:06): So I was very excited to have you uh on, on the show Chris, because so much about what you do is, uh you know, a different aspect of kind of the work we do over here at Helen W fighting for the rights of injured workers. Uh You know, a lot of what you’re doing is trying to make sure that people can work and have a good, healthy, safe, fair, equitable working arrangement uh over the course of their career. And, you know, it sounds like there’s a lot of litigation, but also a lot of transaction negotiation to constantly making sure they have someone like you and your firm fighting hard for the rights so they can go to work. Um And I feel very passionate and happy that people like you exist. And uh you know, it’s my job, to my job to step in when they do get injured and can’t go to work anymore to make sure that their rights are protected and that if they, then hopefully they eventually can go back to work and if they end, they, they have people like you that have, a good job waiting for them with good benefits and if they can, hopefully they’re getting fair and reasonable compensation for the rest of their life. If they can’t exactly return to the good union that you help negotiate for them.

CHRIS ( 00:34:26): Exactly. Very well put. Yes. Yes, 100%. Um Right. So you pick up where we leave off in a wedding. Um We are here to represent the collective interests of all of the workers plural and attorneys like you are there to, to vindicate their individual rights. And um it’s, it’s uh very important, very important.

DAVID ( 00:34:54): Chris, if any of our listeners wanted to get a hold of you or your law firm, how would they do so?

CHRIS ( 00:34:59): Yes. You can call us at (212) 868-6300. That’s one way. And you can also email me at uh C like uh Charlie Balu, my last name B like boy, A Luzyy like Yankee at Cary Kane dot com. Carykane dot com.

DAVID ( 00:35:24): Chris Baluzy. Thanks so much for joining us here today. It was really a great, great pleasure getting to speak with you and, hear about all the great work that you do to protect the rights of workers when they’re not injured. We know that they’d be fighting for the rights. Uh, hopefully they get to have but if they don’t, then, we’re here to, to pick up the flag when they aren’t entitled to those, benefits at all. And, right, we really appreciate the, the work you do, on behalf of, of workers out there. For those of you watching, if you want to get in touch with me, my name is David Zwerin and I’m the Senior Trial Attorney at Hill Moin. And our focus is on construction accidents or premises liability cases where, where workers such as the ones that, Chris might represent, happen to have one of those serious injuries that someone may be at fault for whether it’s a violation of law or someone’s negligence. Um If you have any questions that, you’re entitled to significant compensation, whether you’re in a union or not, you can reach us at (212) 668-6000 or at Uh, Until then and, or until the next episode. My name is David of Hill Moin, and, my pleasure to speak with you about, these pressing legal issues and great guests like Christopher Baluzy and I look forward to the next episode. We’ll have another great guest with us on another episode of Rising Leaders of New York. Thank you.

CHRIS ( 00:36:52): Thank you so much, Dave.

VOICEOVER ( 00:36:56): You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.

An Unexpected Journey: From Corporate Law to Special Education Advocacy with Rebecca Sassouni, Esq.

July 5th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest Rebecca Sassouni, Esq., Mediator, Attorney for Students Of Counsel, Wisselman Harounian Family Law.

Tune in to this episode as Rebecca shares insights into:

  • education challenges as a result of the pandemic
  • advocating for special needs children, including how to challenge a school’s classification decision
  • the influence of ai and technology on student representation
  • the challenges of maintaining zero tolerance policies
  • importance of knowing how to protect children’s rights

Rebecca Sassouni understands the nexus of relationships among children, families, schools and emerging law. Her practice consists of advising, consulting and representing students of all ages in public and private school settings, at meetings, at mediation and hearings to navigate this complex web.

She brings a compassionate, practical, economical and consensus-minded approach to serve her clients’ goals. Rebecca coaches her clients to grow and advocate for themselves after her representation concludes. Long committed to community families and children and to pro bono and public service, Sassouni is available to address civic groups, schools, Bar Associations and SEPTAs.

Learn more about Rebecca Sassouni: 

Visit her website:

Connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn:

About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube

Read the full transcript:

VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01):  Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.

DAVID ( 00:00:38):  Hello, everybody. My name is David. I am the senior trial attorney at Hill & Moin LLP. We’re a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm, uh focusing particularly on seriously injured victims of construction accidents and premises liability cases. Um But I also get the distinct pleasure of being the host of this podcast which is Rising Leaders of New York where each so I get to speak with and have interesting conversations with some of the leaders who are really on the cutting edge of issues that we as New Yorkers need to know about today. I’m joined by a wonderful guest, Rebecca Esquire. Uh She is an education lawyer handles, uh a lot of issues dealing with kids, uh who are having issues at school often intertwined with issues with the parents uh in the school such as uh suspensions, violations of code of conduct. Uh I know there have been all of us, of us who have parents, which are not all of our listeners are, but for those of us who do have parents, you know that the last few years uh during the pandemic and emerging out of it have brought a lot of challenges for uh the education of, of young people. And I look forward to having a very interesting conversation and learning about uh what Rebecca has been doing the last few years and what she thinks are some of the things you need to know about. So, uh with that in mind, Rebecca, thank you so much for joining me here today on rising leaders of New York.

REBECCA ( 00:02:04):  I’m so flattered to be here. Thank you David and thank you to HIll & Moin for this wonderful opportunity. I’ve known Cheryl Moyne and your practice for quite a while. And I’m, I’m really flattered to be in your company.

DAVID ( 00:02:16):  Thank you. Oh, it’s my pleasure, Rebecca. Uh tell us a little about yourself. How did you become a lawyer? And how did you get into this field of uh education law?

REBECCA ( 00:02:27):  So, I became a lawyer um nearly 30 years ago I graduated and um really, I went into the corporate realm to be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know about the practice area that I’m now specializing in. Um, I graduated from hostile law and went to a corporate law firm. Um, I retired from the practice of law for a period of time to raise my own family. Uh, I was fortunate that I was able to do so, but I returned to the practice a number of years ago, um, maybe about seven or eight years ago as a parent who had raised four Children and including a student with special education needs of my own, I came to understand the nexus of law that has to um comes to bear. Uh whether through the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 504 Act. Um the I DEA and interestingly, my work as a student back at Hofstra in the disability law clinic actually came to bear. But back when I was at Hofstra, I was studying contracts and got a Contracts Prize. Who knew

DAVID ( 00:03:30):  what a what is it that, that brought you back to the field of law after you see being a lawyer? Like what, what was it that happened in your life that made you decide to, to go back and start this career?

REBECCA ( 00:03:44):  Well, I mean, I’ve, I’ve been blessed that I, um as I said, I raised a family. Um I became a somewhat of a resource to many of the people around me in our community where I reside and I was in effect um an advocate for many people around me, even while I wasn’t practicing um, and when I went through the journey of having to classify my own child and then also the, the, um, I guess the, the experience of having my child declassified, which was a huge mistake and it’s a, it’s a, a trap that a lot of families fall for. Um, and, and

DAVID ( 00:04:24):  declassified.

REBECCA ( 00:04:26):  Exactly. So often what happens? I’m glad for the question is families will have learned that their child has disabilities, will then get their child classified under the law under I DEA the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And then we find out from any given school district that their child is all better is meeting their goals and is doing so well. In fact that they don’t need to be classified anymore and often naive families and I was rather naive myself will say, oh gee how wonderful my child is meeting their goals and no longer needs to be classified. Big mistake because what goes with that is loss of services, loss of the educational supports and accommodations that the child needs. Because I went through that arc myself first, the arc of learning that my child needed to be classified, which is a difficult one for a parent. Some parents are not ready to hear that their child has a learning disability or other disabilities. And then I went through the arc of learning that wait, my child lost all their services and needed them. Um is how I realized that I could be of service to others. Um and to hold their hand through the process of getting their child’s classified, um, often, uh, so I attend families um needs when they go to CS E the Committee on special education to 504 meetings. The again that relevant statute of law trying to get their Children classified, I help them get the accommodations that their Children need. I also attend um meetings with families when their Children are suspended. Often we see and this is a statistical um certainty that students are suspended because of violations of code of conduct. But sometimes there’s a nexus between a disability and why they violate codes of conduct. And that’s again, uh an area that I specialize in, I’m

DAVID ( 00:06:35):  curious and as, as a parent myself, um if, if a parent is faced with that kind of conversation, they had Children with uh some sort of special needs, maybe they have an IEP and a school was to tell the parent, oh, your students doing great. Uh We wanted to classify them. What can the parents do? Is there a recourse to say? I don’t know about that. I don’t think that’s a great idea. How do you get involved when a school advances that argument? And it’s not in the best interest of the child.

REBECCA ( 00:07:11):  It’s a great question. And as lawyers, we know that it’s very important to create a record and to maintain that record fastidiously. So wherever possible families and anyone listening to this podcast needs to know to be very cooperative with their school districts, but also to maintain very copious records of how their child is doing, whether their goals are actually being met. And then, um where there is not consensus on that issue of whether the goals are actually being met and whether the progress is being made to realize that they have recourse, they can bring in their own team, their own mental health providers, their own um physical therapist, occupational therapist, neuropsychologists, attorneys to the team table, whether at 504 or CS E, if the need arises to appeal from a decision of the CS E or 504. Well, then there are appeals to be had at impartial hearing. But my view on this is that wherever possible, we try to go for consensus at the CS E or the 504 table because again, as attorneys, we know it’s always harder to appeal from a bad decision. Um So we try to get in at the first crack at the apple.

DAVID ( 00:08:35):  That makes sense. So I’m I’m curious, um how do you reach this kind of consensus? And why would a school have different sort of goals than perhaps the parent? Like, what kind of goals are they saying are being met? But a parent sees something different, it says they’re not being met. Why would they, why would there be a disparate outcome like that?

REBECCA ( 00:9:01):  Well, to be fair. All students um in public schools are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, but to answer your question, the definition of appropriate is not necessarily um unlimited. Um So where the disputes typically arise are not only on the threshold issue of whether or not a student has a disability but rather on what’s inadequate and uh appropriate amount of service uh and an accommodation. And so the disputes are typically on that and of course, uh as in general, a family might want more and a school district might want less. And it’s a really, it’s an, it’s an allocation of public resources at the end of the day. And, you know, my answer is in generalities, but of also contemplating a public school setting. Frequently, I have clients also who approach who are private school parents. And there, of course, you have really a contract analysis because, you know, you have people who are electing to enroll their Children in a private school setting and um who still wish to avail themselves of the um the supports of an IEP or a 504 plan. And then unfortunately, um but very commonly, you’ll have situations where a, a student has for a period of time, been enrolled in a public school. And again, having created a record where the denial of the free and appropriate public education has accumulated for a certain number of years and it’s demonstrable that they are not receiving the free and appropriate public education. Well, at that point, the matter might go to hearing and whether or not it actually makes it to a conclusion as a matter of law or by settlement, often there too, there will be a, uh, uh, a private setting for tuition and for tuition reimbursement to a private school. So that happens pretty often.

DAVID ( 00:11:07):  when a parent hears that, uh, the school wants to classify their Children or some or they have some sort of concern. Uh And you mentioned that eventually these things can go to a hearing. How does that actually play out if someone were to contact you? How do you go about requesting the hearing or appearing at the hearing? Is it virtual is in person? How does it work?

REBECCA ( 00:11:29):  So, um all of this is governed by um the New York State Education law and the gov and governed by the laws of the commissioner of education in New York State and just like any other administrative hearing, it’s, um, it’s guided by, um, you know, appropriate notice giving and, um, and there are timelines in place. And so it really is important that if a family listening to this is actually feeling that they’re on the verge of needing to go to hearing or to have a dispute, um, that they create the record that they reach out to an attorney and that, um, that they preserve all their rights.

DAVID ( 00:12:08):  What are some of the issues that I guess you, in your practice, you’re seeing that have been different in the last few years. Obviously, the pandemic really changed a lot of things. There was a, I’ve noticed, uh, you know, a big change in how schools operate, how kids behave since they’re going back to school. I’m curious what, what you see are, are some of the issues that have really cropped up in the last three years.

REBECCA ( 00:12:32):  So, I mean, broadly, I only receive referrals on matters that involve youngsters, right? People who are involved in whether it’s all the way up to high school education, those are minors or sometimes even college and graduate students. Um but typically my clients are minors and but even at the graduate level, I would say that when someone is involved in a school related dispute, I am representing someone who is involved in a family nexus. So and what as you said in your introduction, the nexus between families and schools um in particular with the COVID pandemic, but also with the politicization of education in the last number of years has become particularly fraught and divided. Um very specifically, we’re seeing AAA high number of uh mental health concerns in students, whether it’s school refusal issues, mental health issues. Um often um I have a lot of intake now on not just mental health and emotional disturbance, which is actually a classifiable um a condition under the law for special education purposes. Um in some instances but also gender dysmorphia um concerns about gender identity, how that plays out on bullying issues and civil rights concerns. So, uh for all the bullying issues that we’ve always been concerned about and cyberbullying issues and the dignity for all students act. These types of issues play out in schools pretty frequently. And um the clients that I see are the ones whose parents have the good fortune and the resources to reach out to seek legal help. Of course, you know, more broadly, there’s these issues are endemic, but I represent one student and one family at a time.

DAVID ( 00:14:33):  Now, are the, is the student actually your client if he’s he or she is under 17 or is that on behalf of the family? Um And I’m wondering what ends up happening? Are there ever issues where if your, your client is the youngster that there are problems that may arise, I guess and also dealing with the family, perhaps some of these issues stem from a bad family background. Um How do these things play out in making sure you’re best representing and getting the best outcomes for the student, which is really what matters at the end of the day.

REBECCA ( 00:15:07):  So, I mean, it’s a great question and it’s actually the reason why um earlier this year, I moved my practice over to BF counsel to a family law firm. Um You know, as you would imagine, my practice is a niche practice. I’m only representing students. And as I said, they typically come to me via their, their parents, that’s who has the means to retain an attorney. But at the same time, my, my actual object and my client is, is the, is typically the minor. Uh and that’s who I’m trying to seek uh help for and I’m counseling. So, um it is, it is sort of a triangulated approach. I’m not going to advance the interests of a youngster unless I have the consent of the parents. And there are often differences of opinion as you would imagine whether it’s on vaccination or unmasking during the pandemic or on um what goals they’re seeking for their child. Uh And what classification in a 504 or an IEP setting um or in a suspension matter of what, what they will stipulate to uh in a settlement. Um So I do a lot of, I’m going to say hand holding a lot of counseling, a lot of making sure that we’re all on the same page. Um because certainly I don’t want to advance the interest of just one member of the family uh to the exclusion of another.

DAVID ( 00:16:34):  And what, what ends up happening if the student and the parents just have diametrically opposed viewpoints of a matter? Do you have to find a way to reconcile it and what happens if they can’t be?

REBECCA ( 00:16:47):  Well, I, I I’m I’m a very good shuttle diplomat. So, um what I uh typically do in, in my conference room space is spend time with the student, then spend time with the parents um encourage um I guess what I would call caucus. Um and you know, reaching consensus as the family unit um and then advancing together. Um and, and always reassuring the clients that there’s, and as I’m sure you do in your practice, there’s no settlement to achieve, to be achieved, no outcome to be achieved without the full consent of all the parties.

DAVID ( 00:17:30):  Um Initially, I’m curious to have your opinion about is what are some of the major code of conduct violations you’re seeing in the last years that uh are cropping up. I’m wondering in this new age where, you know, we’re hearing a lot about uh ta I and how much A I will change the name? Is that something that is, is that students are getting their hands on? Is that causing problems for students or teachers? Uh What are some of the, of the big issues that technology is having in influencing uh your representation of Children?

REBECCA ( 00:18:9):  It’s a great question and um you know, I hate to say that there’s the run of the mill sort of situations and fact patterns, but, you know, plagiarism in general is of course a huge code of conduct violation category um particularly in the upper grades when we’re talking about the high school years going on into college and into graduate programs. Um And of course, uh the stakes are very high for those students as they get older. Because by that point in time, by high school, the students are looking to mostly advance to college frequently, they don’t want blemishes on their academic record. Um that will preclude them from going to college. And by the college and the graduate years, they’re already paying tuition or their families are paying tuition and then considering um advancing to their careers and again, do not want to lose credits tuition or have blemishes on their academic um credentials. Um And as you point out there is, um, now just such easy opportunities with this chat GP T but even before with turn it in dot com and these other ways to cheat and then for, for professors to catch the cheating and the plagiarism, um, cheating is rampant. Um And so what, what I see is that, um, families are well served and students are well served well a not to cheat. Um, but b to try to get counsel immediately and to try to ST uh try, try to stipulate and try to negotiate because what’s going on, um in general is a zero tolerance policy whether at um colleges or at high schools. Um and below. Um because really each of these instances where schools find out about the cheating is an opportunity not only to punish the one child who’s caught, but to send notice to all the others to cease Right. So they want to make examples of the students who are caught. Um And so if there’s ever an opportunity to try to negotiate and, and to show um not to deny that they have actually maybe made a mistake, but rather to just try to negotiate and apologize and explain that it was a mistake because in general, um there’s a zero tolerance policy and if I could just add, there’s also a zero tolerance policy very often on a whole host of other codes of conduct violations that are very frequent fact patterns whether on um what would be characterized as sort of hate speech or bullying in school contexts, um, harassment type situations. And then of course, you know, we haven’t talked about it but, you know, there’s, there’s a, there’s a bringing, um, being found with um, weapons at school and often what I’ll find is that a family will say, but my child is not dangerous. All it was was a Swiss army knife. My child is not the next school shooter. And of course, the families who I represent, I believe them and I defend their Children. Um because that’s also a very common fact pattern. The one child who accidentally brought something to school who really is not a, you know, the child who’s the next school shooter necessarily. But that being said it’s a violation of a code of conduct. It’s a very common observe uh occurrence and there are zero tolerance policies in effect everywhere. Because again, some of these situations are quite sadly endemic in the society in which we now live.

DAVID ( 00:22:01):  How do you get around these various violations? Bringing a weapon onto school or a child being caught cheating if they are zero tolerance, if, if schools are out to uh ensure that uh a certain outcome is reached and they have no tolerance. Where do you come into get a, a resolution here? How does that happen?

REBECCA ( 00:22:26):  It’s another great question. And I go back to what I, what I mentioned before, each situation and each child and each fact pattern at the end of the day is different because the, the representation is per situation. So part of the analysis is, well, what actually happens? Part of it is also, well, who is the child? Is the student themselves? Um a person with disabilities, are they themselves in a protected class? If so, is that part of the analysis? Are they protected in some way by law? Um If not, well, you try to negotiate, but at the end of the day, those zero tolerance policies are a tough hurdle. Um And you know, as I said, at the beginning of the podcast, when I went to law school, it never occurred to me that the area in which I now practice is an area of law or that families and students would need lawyers. But the fact of the matter is they frequently do.

DAVID ( 00:23:34):  very interesting and I guess with, with that in mind, are there any other, uh, major issues you want to talk about any new developments of the law as we start to come out of, uh, the pandemic that you think people should be aware of as we move forward?

REBECCA ( 00:23:54):  I think the main, um, trends that I’m observing is that, um, after the pandemic, um, there has been a great deal of bridge building that needs to take place between various schools, whether private or public or colleges or elementary and everything in between and their um their parent bodies and families. And that’s mainly because people were home for a long period of time with their Children and some people were better equipped for that than others. So, um there were, there were higher instances of neglect, so we have more cases of, of Children being caught up in the CPS network. There were also higher instances of families looking over their child’s shoulder learning with their Children, but maybe not liking what it was that their Children were being taught. Um And so it’s going to take a period of time for families and uh students, I suppose to um be in a place of trust with their schools. But, you know, those are again, sort of the broader endemic um situations that I think will take time to rectify. From my perspective. My practice hasn’t really changed. I am representing one student at a time. Um and the referrals really haven’t really changed either. It’s either a student with disabilities or a student who, you know, needs a private placement, um, or a student who has been suspended. And from my perspective, I just do my level best to advise each family one at a time.

DAVID ( 00:25:38):  Well, Rebecca Sassouni, I really want to thank you for joining us today. I can tell you as a parent myself of, to, uh, young boys in elementary school, I learned a lot and uh I’m very glad to know that uh God forbid any of these issues ever crop up in the future. I have a little better idea of what to do, what not to do and who to call if uh we need to uh make sure their rights need to be preserved. Uh But hopefully, I don’t ever have to call you and I don’t have these issues, but I’m really glad to know that parents like me, uh will know how to call you. And with that in mind, if someone does want to call you, how would they do that?

REBECCA ( 00:26:14):  Thank you, David. And I appreciate what you said very much. It’s almost like you read my mind. I always say to people, I’m the kind of attorney, I hope you never need. Um But sometimes people do. So, um the way to reach me is through my firm, I’m of Council at Whistle Harun and our practice is located in Carl Place. But of course, we do virtual appearances as well. My phone number at the office is 516773 8300 and the email address is Rebecca

DAVID ( 00:26:54):  Excellent. Thank you so much, Rebecca for joining me today and thank you everybody for uh joining me here today. Uh Again, my name is David. I am the senior trial attorney at Hill and if you want to reach me or our law firm, you can reach us at 212668 6000. My email is or you can find us on the web at Until next time when I’m joined by another rising leader of New York, my name is David. Have a nice day, everyone. Bye bye.

VOICEOVER ( 00:37:42):  You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.

Commuters, Voting Access, and Supporting First Responders with NY State Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti

July 5th, 2023 by

In this episode of the Rising Leaders of New York podcast, welcome guest New York State Assemblywoman Gina Silitti, representing the 16th District on the North Shore of Long Island.

Tune in to this episode as Gina shares insights into:

  • the impact of last summer’s train schedule changes on commuters in her district
  • ways to revitalize the commuting experience, including train schedules and relieving overcrowding
  • expanding access to voting for working people and city commuters
  • Fire Department Bills and Crisis Counseling for Police

Born and raised on Long Island, Gina Sillitti has a proven record of public service and will use her government experience to deliver results for the people of the 16th Assembly District. Gina is a first-time elected official, having won her first election in November 2020.

Gina’s nearly two-decade career in public service included working at the Nassau County Legislature, where Gina learned the value of constituent services. For her, it was never about partisan politics. It was about working hard and getting results for the people she served.

During that time, Gina worked to secure millions for local fire departments, helped thousands of constituents with issues from repairing potholes to navigating their personal tragedies, worked to get much-needed infrastructure projects delivered for the district and helped bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in community development block grants to improve local schools.

In 2010, Gina was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Community Services in the Town of North Hempstead. In this role, she worked with a wide variety of constituency groups, including forming the first Asian-American Festival Committee to promote the growing cultural diversity in our town. She was promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff and the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Town where she served as liaison to officials at every level to ensure projects, grant requests and legislation received the proper attention. Gina was the point person on all special projects for the Town Supervisor involving the public, including as Chair of North Hempstead’s 9/11 Memorial Committee, a group consisting of members of the FDNY and NYPD, victims’ families, local volunteer fire departments that responded to Ground Zero, veterans and local architects.

In 2015, Gina was recruited to serve as Director of Human Resources and Compliance at the Nassau County Board of Elections. There, she implemented new policies and procedures to modernize the office and save taxpayer dollars.

Gina utilizes her years of government experience to deliver for her district. As a member of the New York State Assembly, Gina works to make living on Long Island more affordable. She understands the importance of increasing state aid for our schools, our town and our villages so they can rely less on property taxes.

Learn more about Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti

Visit her website:



Phone: 516-482-6966


About the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast

The Rising Leaders of New York Podcast is centered around conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City, discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers.

Subscribe to the Rising Leaders of New York Podcast Video Series on Youtube

Read the full transcript:

VOICEOVER ( 00:00:01):  Welcome to Rising Leaders of New York with your host David S. Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. They present to you conversations with today’s and future leaders of New York City discussing the challenges and issues relevant to New Yorkers. You can find this show at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcast and more. Now, here are the hosts of Rising Leaders of New York.

DAVID ( 00:00:38):  Hello everybody. My name is David Zwerin. I’m an attorney at the law firm of Hill and Moin. Our primary focus is representing seriously injured victims of accidents on uh premises such as uh buildings or construction sites and our uh firm uh helps to assist those serious injured victims get fair and adequate compensation. But I’m also the host of the podcast you are listening to which is rising leaders of New York where every episode I have the opportunity to put on a different hat and get to know and discuss some of the important topics uh that are before us. New Yorkers uh brought to us by some of the really exciting um cutting edge and rising leaders of New York and today. I certainly have one of those on tap for you. I’m very pleased to be joined by assembly woman, Gina Sillitti of the 16th district out of Nassau County, uh assembly woman. I’ll just throw it right over to you. Thank you so much for joining us today on rising leaders of New York.

GINA ( 00:01:41):  Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much, David. I, you know, before we came on the air, I was telling you, it’s my very first podcast. So I’m very excited to be talking with you and talking about some of the issues that’s, you know, affecting Nassau County and Long Island and get right into it.

DAVID ( 00:01:54):  Well, well, I’m very flattered that this is your first podcast. Uh You’re on, we’re pleased to have you and uh hope it’s not your last podcast and hope it’s not the only time you’re here for us.

GINA ( 00:02:04):  Me too.

DAVID ( 00:02:06):  So, um I know that one thing you’ve really been dealing with a lot this year is the major change that occurred with the Long Island railroad when the Grand Central Station opened up. What exactly did that do for people commuting out of your area to Great Neck in Manhattan on the Port Washington Line.

GINA ( 00:02:26):  Yeah. So, you know, first things first up, you know, the area that I represent. Port Washington, Manhasset, Great Neck. I also have a little bit of Roslyn, um, North New High Park Harrack. Uh So the Port Washington Line is uh known for probably being the crown jewel of the Long Island railroad. Uh I represent a commuter town. Uh A lot of folks moved here from the city for the fast and easy commute to Manhattan and uh you know, the suburban life with, you know, uh city work life. And um so last summer uh with the anticipated opening of Grand Central Madison, uh the Long Island railroad MG A put out a draft train schedule and let me tell you, David, it went down like a ton of bricks. It was, they eliminated all express service. It was, you know, they wanted to increase ridership in Queens, which I totally appreciate, but it was at the expense of the constituents I represent. And uh we learned very quickly that this was, you know, something that they didn’t want. But I felt that the Long Island Railroad not just anecdotally on social media or, you know, for me, the politician, um they need to hear directly from folks. So one of the things that I did was I created a survey and it sounds kind of simple, but, you know, I had a, you know, a palm card was at the train stations every morning and I was literally listening to people, uh you know, hearing their thoughts, but also not everybody knew this was happening. And so every morning in the month of July, I was out there talking to residents about the changes in the schedule and what it would mean for them. And, you know, unsurprisingly, uh, thousands of people responded to my survey. Um, there was multiple hearings, um, that was organized by the Long Island Railroad to hear, you know, public comment. It actually started as it was just gonna be one. Uh, but the response was so overwhelming, they actually hosted multiple meetings to hear directly from folks and of course, the majority of the people were on the poor Washington line, but Washington has a Great Mac and uh they just had told their personal stories about what the changes and the elimination of Express would mean to them. Um And, you know, obviously, uh you know, our home values are tied, uh you know, in part to the great schools, but of course, the, the commuting line. But additionally, it is, it is the lifeblood of our community is our trains. Uh our, we love our trains so much. We built our downtowns around them and, and people took this very personally and I was happy to say that the railroad heard their concerns and made changes.

DAVID ( 00:05:16):  what kind of changes to the IR make in response. They, they,

GINA ( 00:05:19):  they, they heard loud and clear that people wanted express trains to Penn Station. Uh and they brought back in some uh wasn’t all but some so fast forward to February. Um the train schedules are going into effect after, you know, multiple delays and, and one of the things that, you know, we had said from the very, very beginning is that if you see problems, fix it quickly, if you see overcrowding, fix it quickly, don’t wait and linger. Just listen to the riders. Pay attention and make changes as quickly as possible. Well, the first week was a nightmare for folks. Um, and, you know, I don’t know if I’m glutton for punishment, but I went, I went to the trains, uh, that first week to listen to people. Um And again, I wanted to do another survey just because of the success from last year. And I didn’t want it to just be social media. I didn’t want it to just be new reports, wanted it to be on the ground. People telling me exactly how they feel and let me tell you, they told me exactly how they felt about, about the new train schedules. It was overcrowding too much space in between, um in between times. It was just a whole host of things or just things didn’t line up the way they used to and missing connections. And so the they have some more work to do. Uh you know, that’s the bottom line, David. Uh We did the survey. We had another overwhelming response and the overwhelming response is get back to the drawing board and we need to fix this. Uh We sent our results over to the Long Island railroad um several weeks ago. Uh Although the uh the survey is ongoing, I have not taken it down because people are still commenting and we still send them over. Um, and they said they’re reviewing it and so we’re staying on top of it. Um, you know, I want the residents to know that, uh, it’s not, you know, it’s not over. We’re paying attention or I’m certainly paying attention and, uh, this is a big deal for folks. It’s, it’s their lives. Um, it’s, and it may seem trivial. Um you know, it’s just a train ride but it’s, it, it’s our connection. It’s our connection to the city. It’s our, it’s our homes. It’s our way of life. It’s really the whole, it’s the whole package here. Um When you represent a commuter town, our lives revolve around the trains.

DAVID ( 00:07:46):  So you definitely don’t have to convince me. I’m a, I’m a former Long Island resident. I used to live uh in a small town called Malvern. And I said one of the main reasons I, I lived there for a period of time was because of its accessibility to train. And I knew going in that it didn’t have the greatest line. But if somebody had told me that uh the line would be gutted or they would just run one or two lines or one or two trains out of it the entire weekday. So I wouldn’t have moved there at all because for those of us who have or have, have in the past, lived out on Long Island and have a job in the city, as you said, that’s the life blood. It’s not just a train ride. It’s your life of being overcrowded or having to have a 2030 40 minutes each way that really adds up and decreases your quality of life.

GINA ( 00:08:41):  It does. And you know what else too, David. It’s the lifeblood of New York City too. Um, you know, their economy is, we’re all connected, we’re all tied together, right? And so the economy is directly related. I mean, we’ve seen this, um, billions of dollars have been lost by, by people working from home. And so you want my constituents to be coming back into the city, right? You want them to get on the trains, you want them to spend money on lunch and dinner and, you know, all these different things and be back in office buildings. But when you make, you know, the commuting experience so difficult, you know, people think twice be like, well, just continue to work from home. I need to go into the city and deal with this nonsense. So, you know, there’s this balance, right? And so when I know the governor wants everyone to come back in the city, I know, um, you know, the MT A and the Long Island railroad, they want their ridership back. So, you know, we have to make it, um, you know, so that people want to and that they’re able to and that it’s you know, is commuting a pleasant experience. Does it have to be all sunshine and rainbows? No, but it can’t be the way it is now and, um, and it has to be better and they deserve it. Um, uh, you know, for the amount of money that they pay for, you know, the tickets and everything else, it’s just, this is our job, right. This is the job is to bring, uh, you know, you’re the Long Island railroad. Uh, you know, get people from point A to B but not just about bringing people from point H point B to bring it um with, you know, a pleasant commuting experience and not for nothing. Grand Central is lovely. Oh, my gosh. I, I don’t know if you’ve been there. Um I took the train last month. I, you know, was something nearby. Um It’s beautiful, it was beautiful train ride, it’s beautiful station. Um, but ridership is still, you know, uh going to Penn and we’re seeing that it’s, you know, they’ve, you know, it’s hard to change habits, right? And you’re going to Penn and that’s where you’ve always gone and that’s where you’re going to continue to go. And a lot of the office buildings are there, you know, in that area of Midtown. Uh So, uh so we have some work to do, you know, Long Island Railroad has some work to do. Um, and we’re paying attention and we’re staying on top of them.

DAVID ( 00:10:49):  what kind of balance do you think can be struck? Because as someone who’s lived in both Nassau County and Queens, I think it’s very important that the long road is servicing both areas. And it’s really critical that the people in Nassau County aren’t feeling dismissed and that it’s all just about Queens. But as someone in Queens who likes the idea of maybe more, uh, more train stopping at forest hills or Kew Gardens or Woodside to give an extra option to people like myself who want to have an easier commute out of central Queens into the city. How do you service both of them?

GINA ( 00:11:25):  Yeah. No, I mean, excellent question. It’s it and it’s not us versus them, right? Uh So few that, I mean, obviously more trains, you know, bottom line is there is more, we need more trains. The issue that we’re having on our end east of Great Neck is um there’s a few things we have single track. So, you know, that sort of limits the amount of trains that we push out. And then also um part of the Grand Central project decade a decade ago was expansion of the Port Washington railroad line and uh that, you know, for a host of reasons years ago, didn’t get done. Um That project is sort of back on the table. Discussions are ongoing about how to expand the track so we can park more trains and push more out, right? So we’re limited of the amount of trains that we can push out. But at the same time, David, we don’t need to stop at every single and that was the problem when the original last year, uh, uh, schedules came out, they stopped at every single stop in Queens. Um, we don’t have to do that. Right. You know, you can stop maybe at Bayside or, you know, you know, something or other where, you know, people can get on, but we don’t have to stop at every single one. Now. Is there locals? There’s always locals, there is locals in the previous schedule where folks from Queens can hop on and, and get into the city. Um This is our in Nassau County. It’s our only way. Right? We don’t, uh, you know, Long Island railroad. It, it’s either that or driving cars and we don’t want more cars on the road. Right. So, you know, our options are, are, are somewhat limited, but I think that we can do and I keep saying we, but I, I use we in a general term. Long Island railroad. Um, some simple scheduling changes I think would make for, um, a better commute. Um, right now in some of the prime time spots between, you know, the 7 to 8 and the 8 to 9, there’s not enough. Right? And so you, what you’re seeing is people crowded on these one or two trains to get them into the city before nine o’clock. So now there’s like a, you know, a train, um, one that leaves, uh, later in the eight o’clock hour. It’s, I think like 8 30 if that train and that gets in after nine. So a lot of people don’t take it, they’re all cramming on the 7 54. I think it is out of Fort Washington. Perhaps, if that later train was maybe 15 minutes earlier and it got in before nine o’clock, then you can separate, you know, that, you know, those 7 54 people, which by the way, that should even be earlier, there’s these huge gaps, these huge unnecessary gaps in my opinion, unnecessary. And my constituents also agree. It’s like a 7, 14, 7, 15 time, then this big gap till the end of the seven o’clock hour. And then that’s the last one that gets you in before nine game and, and it’s packed, it’s packed like you wouldn’t believe they got parents dropping their kids off at school. Everybody running to the train, you got a train coming in, train going out. It’s, it’s, it’s madness. Um, you know, little tweaks here and there. Um, and then there’s also the early folks, the people that have to get in by eight o’clock, you got the finance uh folks that work on Wall Street and then you got a lot of uh people who work in schools, they need to be in by eight o’clock and there isn’t a train Um, right now, uh, that will get them in to get them at their desk by eight o’clock. They have to do something in the six o’clock hour. This was unheard of before. Um, so again, it goes back to quality of life, it goes back to timing of schedules. Um, the amount of trains we’re obviously working on, but I think there could be some scheduling tweaks, some low hanging fruit that we hope that the Long Island railroad, the MT A will look at to, to get at the heart of what’s going on here. They did add more train cars which was very helpful uh to kind of relieve some of the stress um of the overcrowding, but it’s still crowded. Uh We’re still seeing pictures, they still send me tagging me, you know, on Twitter and social media. Um you know, take a look at this train, same as before nothing changed. Um So that’s what I hope they’ll, you know, are considering and uh we’ll listen to the folks again like they did last year and um and make, make these necessary changes.

DAVID ( 00:15:55):  Um Another topic I wanted to talk to you about assembly woman is um voter accessibility or a registration. I know that you’ve either been a very vocal in cosponsoring or working with uh some of your colleagues on a lot of bills that I think are under consideration in the current session to uh maybe to make voting more accessible or more fair. Uh, one of the ones I believe you worked on or maybe were supporting with the electronic Registration Information Center. Uh, can you tell us a little bit about that bill?

GINA ( 00:16:33):  Oh, yeah, sure. So, you know, just a step back quickly is I have a background, um, in elections. I worked at the board of elections. So I kind of know, um, you know how the cookies are made, so to speak and sort of how the process works. And uh you know, we’re, by the way, you know, for folks listening, we’re very lucky here in Nassau County, we have an excellent board of elections. Everything is bipartisan and that’s, I think an important thing for folks to know is that anything that comes in, whether it’s a voter registration form, whether it’s an absentee ballot application, no matter what it is, there’s two sets of eyes on everything. Uh Democrat checks it, a Republican checks it and nothing goes out or in without those two things happening. And both sides are um take this job very seriously. And um you know, working towards that goal of a fair uh and accessible election. And my thing from always is that we should make voting easier, not harder. Um It is our right as American citizens, it is our duty um to pay attention to what our elected officials are doing and support them when they’re doing good and kick them out when they’re not right. And and, you know, we’ve seen that over the years that increase in voter participation is a good thing. Um We’ve had early voting that started in 2019. Uh There was a little bit of resistance at first but you know what, not everybody can vote on election day. You never know what’s gonna happen. I remember one year there was a train that was late in and there was an accident and all these people were on their way home and never got a chance to vote because they got in after nine o’clock, they didn’t think about getting an absentee ballot application. They’re like, I’m gonna be home later, but you have early voting now, people can go 10 days before election day and pick a time that’s convenient for them and there’s guaranteed a location that is close to them. Um, but going back to this electronic, um, sort of national database, you know, one of the things that we’ve heard over and over is, um, you know, the roles, how are the voter rolls are the voter rolls? Right? How can we make the voter roles more accurate? And, and by the way, there’s so many steps and processes along the way that do make sure that these, the voter rolls are correct. But one of the things that is, it’s this, um, electronic, um, registration, uh national where basically you can see, um, so say you moved to, you know, another state and reregistered and you would now be in this, you know, let’s say Delaware, Delaware database. Um, you know, we can check, you can check monthly, you can check, you know, the board of elections can check and, you know, kind of compare rules and make sure that, you know, the data doesn’t overlap and that there is accuracies and all these different things. You know, what we try to do in New York, uh in Nassau County and you may have gotten it in the mail. I’m not sure how they do it in the city, but you’ll get like a card and it’s kind of a nondescript card. Uh, it’s white and red letters, white, red and black and it’s from the Nassau County Board of Elections and it says, um, or city board of elections or whatever. And it says this is who you are, this is where you live. This is where you, uh, where your polling location is, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Um, and this is, we call it like a, a voter check, right? A voter check card. Um, if you get something in the mail that is not you or you get something at your house that is not you. That means that there is something that’s incorrect, you know, on the other end, maybe somebody moved and you’re like, oh yeah, that was a person who used to live in my house. So you can just send that back to the board of elections and be like this person moved. But with this other system, we can have a better, we can follow, right, the voter better and see that, you know, that they did register someplace else or they passed away in another state or whatever the case may be. Um, there are these checks and balances that happen um throughout New York, um with, you know, uh department of Health records when somebody passes away and all these different things, this is just another layer, right, another layer to make sure that the voter rolls are accurate. So, unfortunately, over the last few years that we’ve seen people are, you know, some, some are losing faith, um or have lost faith in the election process. Um Whether, you know, it’s somebody telling them that they, that they should lose faith or they just don’t understand how it works. These are just additional tools that saying, listen, we, we want to make sure everything’s perfect and this is just another way to do that. Uh So that’s one of the things that we’re pushing along. Um One thing that I actually have personally, of mine is, um, it actually came from a constituent. Uh It came from a Republican poll worker. I’m a Democrat Republican poll worker. She brought it to me as her idea. Um When you go to the uh voting booth, sometimes you’re seeing that gigantic ballot for the first time. Um I was number 21 on the end of the ballot, which is insane. So you had, you know, the governor was number one and Gina Sollittidi, she was number number 21 on your ballot and you had all these people in between. And so people go and they see it for the first time and I’m like, what the heck is this thing? And it’s this giant ballot with all these names that they don’t know. So one of the things that I would like to see is an opportunity for people to view their ballot ahead of the election. Um When you go and you go into the voter database and you type in your name for New York State Board of elections, you check your name, your birth date and your voter record will come up. It’ll have your name, it’ll have where you’re voting and all these different things. I want to create this next level and this next level will be uh a digital view. You know, obviously you can’t print it um digital view of your ballot. So you have an informed voter that can look and say, oh all these different candidates. Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, look at this judge or, you know, whatever the case may be or I didn’t know this election was happening. I know that person and they, you know, maybe they can research that person and uh you know, find out a little bit more about them and uh and then when they go in on election day, they’re, you know, their choice is clear. They, they’ve seen the ballot before and uh and there’s no confusion and they can go in and out and have a pleasant voting experience. All these little things that we can do to uh you know, make voting easier, making it less stressful we should be doing. And so that’s, you know, those are the kinds of things that I’m focused on.

DAVID ( 00:23:00):  What is the reaction in Albany to some of these ideas on both sides of the aisle? Is there a willingness to make voting more accessible? What is the legislature interested in doing? And where do you expect resistance? Oh,

GINA ( 00:23:13):  yeah, sure. Well, there’s some, well, you know, good and bad uh Albany intro uh in, in the assembly, we can introduce up to 10,000 bills a year, which is an, an incr an incredible amount of legislation and we only pass as, you know, a few 100 every session. Uh So there are a lot of election bills that unfortunately, you know, don’t always go ever anywhere. Um There is some pushback, you know, from the other side. Um but there has been, you know, uh change, you know, can be difficult, but I remember there was a lot of pushback with early voting and now it’s incredibly popular and it’s all working out and everybody likes it. Um I don’t, I, you know, maybe it was last week or the week before it was the end of session. And we were talking about some, you know, some election bills and one of them was, um, no excuse, absentee voting and it was a constitutional amendment that unfortunately failed in 2021. Part of the reason that it failed was that it was, there was a multimillion dollar dismiss information campaign, um, uh, by a conservative mega donors, um, saying that, you know, there was fraud and, you know, all these different things and uh with a low turnout election, uh it unfortunately failed uh no excuse, absentee voting. Um the constitutional amendment. Um you know, I worked at the board of elections. So, like I said, I’ve seen these forms before and I’m sure you have too and your viewers have as well. It’s a form, there’s different categories that you need to fill out and the top category section one, why are you gonna be away? You’re sick, you’re on vacation, you’re out of town for work, all these different things. And then the second section is your name then third and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you sign it. Um Basically what the change would have done was eliminated. Just the top section. You still would have to fill out a form. It still would have had to been reviewed by a Democrat and a Republican. It still would have gone through the same exact process. You just wouldn’t have to put an excuse, but you know, it, fear is a motivating factor, right? And so people were scared and, you know, we just had come off the 2020 election where there was a lot of talk of abuse and fraud that obviously is not true. Um So that people were sensitive to it and unfortunately, it failed. But, you know, access to voting and making voting easier for working people for, you know, people who commute into the city, the Wall Street folks, it shouldn’t be a dirty word. We should, you know, we should be making voting easier and accessible and if somebody wants to be able to vote by mail, um they should be able to, and we shouldn’t be giving them a hard time to do it. So those are the kind of things that, uh you know, I’m, you know, we’re working on in Albany and yes, we are getting pushback. Um But at the end of the day, I think, you know, part of it is politics and objects and, you know, when you actually sit down with folks and explain it to them, they see. Oh, well, that’s fine. That’s not a big deal. That seems fairly simple enough. And, and, and, and it is, and it is.

DAVID ( 00:26:25):  Do you find people’s perspectives are changing on some of these bills regarding making voting easier or voting accessibilities? We get farther and farther away from the 2020 election or things just hardening, especially as uh we get closer to our next federal election, which may have the same two candidates on the ballot. And,

GINA ( 00:26:45):  um, it’s cyclical, David. I think, I think that as you, you know, right now, I don’t think folks are really paying attention much. Um, but I think when we get closer to the election, uh, time will get closer to November. You’ll, you’ll probably hear, you know, about things, but I haven’t heard from my, you know, my constituents and nobody’s called me and said, why are you doing this? Um Also conversely, um, you know, I haven’t had a groundswell of, you know, regular constituents call me. But certainly people have been like, oh, I heard about this sounds like a good idea and, you know, things like that. Um Some advocacy groups obviously, um you know, people who are advocating for, you know, better accessibility and better, you know, ease of voting are, are supportive of a lot of the measures that, that we’re doing. Um But there’s so many bills um that could be, you know, so great for making, you know, voting easier and more accessible. Um You know, and hopefully they can get, um, you know, the attention maybe next year perhaps. Uh and uh folks can learn more about them, but I’m pretty proud of some of them myself.

DAVID ( 00:27:48):  What are some of the other uh interesting bills that uh you’re working on or co sponsoring that you think might be coming up for a discussion or passage this.

GINA ( 00:27:57):  year. Well, so not so much this year, you know, session is, is pretty much wind down. Uh I am going up to Albany today though. Uh We have some, you know, clean up work that we need to do. We literally just ran out of hours in a day. You know, when you hear the term, there’s not enough hours in the day. Well, literally the New York State Assembly didn’t have enough hours in the day. And so we’re going back uh and we’re gonna be in session the next couple of days just, you know, nothing crazy. Just, you know, some clean up uh you know, uh of bills. Uh So I’m gonna be working on some things over the summer. Um You know, I, you know, in addition to representing a commuter district, I also, you know, it’s Long Island, we have a lot of um you know, police and firemen. Uh So I do have a couple of bills uh that I’m working on with them. Uh having to do with um uh uh recruitment and retention. You know, one of the things with, we’re all volunteer on, on Long Island and a lot of suburbs throughout New York State. Uh We don’t have paid fire. We rely on the, you know, the, the, the service of our neighbors uh to take care of us. And um but there, there is a recruitment issue, there is a retention issue. It’s, you know, it’s not the same as it was. Um, also over by me, it’s expensive to live here. Right. And so you have, you know, kids that, you know, will enter the fire department in high school and, uh, you know, maybe they’ll do some stuff over the summer in college. But when it comes, you know, time to move back home, they, they may move back home and continue at the firehouse or they move someplace else. Um, that’s, you know, more affordable for, you know, unfortunately for a young person just starting out. Uh, so one of the bills that, that I was looking at is, um, we have a lot of men and women in the fire service that also happen to work for government agency, whether it’s the town, the state, the county. And so what we thought was what if they got some credit for the credit of the work that they do could go towards, uh, their service, their retirement service. So, one of the bills that I have that’s in the hopper is if you do five years of volunteer service and one of the volunteer fire departments, EMT et cetera. Um, then you get one service credit up to three, so 15 years, three credits, um, that, you know, that somebody retiring early, you know, all these different things. Um, you know, we’re trying to give folks, um, you know, additional incentives to want to join, um, and stay, uh, not just join, but stay. And, uh, so that’s one of the, you know, fire department bills that I’m working on. Um, also to that end, having to do with, um, service, uh, is a military buyback. Uh, currently, uh, uh, we, if you have, I believe it’s three years, um, you get one year of credit, three years of the military, one year of credit. Um, we want, uh, also brought by our, uh, NASA police folks to increase it to four years. Um And uh so four years of service and you get, uh and you get credit. Um So another tool um to for people who have uh been served our country and now they can um you know, use that credit towards uh their retirement in the, in the police force. Uh and then the third bill that I’m that I’m working on with our, with our first responders and, and well, this is specifically to the police, um is um uh it’s having to do with um crisis counseling. Um I don’t know if you’re familiar with um the Joseph P Dwyer, peer to peer counseling. Um It is in our military. Uh There was a young man from Long Island uh from Mount Sinai guy named Joseph, uh Dwyer, Joey Dwyer. I actually lived in Mount Sinai and I knew him. Um and he uh came back from Iraq had severe P PTSD. Um He died and so there was um a program started peer to peer counseling. Where you can talk to another peer, somebody who has gone through the same experiences as you uh and that you can get the help that you need. Um So we’re looking to do something um very similar with our police force and it requires legislation and I’m working with our Nassau County um PB A uh on this bill. This is something that they are um very passionate about and I look forward to working on it with them over the summer and just getting the nitty gritty details of it and hopefully bring some attention to it and come January, we can have a swell of support and we can have these conversations because we want our police officers, our first responders to deal with any kind of issues that they see. I mean, we saw in recent years, you know, more and more police officers committing suicide. Um We need to get them the help that they need not only for themselves. So they, and they could also be better, you know, better public servants, right? Um So, uh this is a piece of legislation obviously that I’m working on and hopefully we can, you know, we can see some uh light next year on, on these. Um but, you know, it’s a lot of these bills um you know, come from the public, um you know, some, you know, come from your brain, but for the most part, it’s, it’s people, it’s people that I meet on the streets that give me ideas. It’s, you know, like I said, that, that woman, that poll worker, um I had a mobile office hour. Uh you know, I take kind of the show, my show on the road, so to speak and she came to sit with me and that was her idea. So you never know where, you know, legislation can come from. But a lot of times it just comes from, you know, the people that I meet every day and it’s like, you know, I have this idea for a bill. What do you think? I’m like, I don’t know, let’s, let’s take a look at it and see if we can figure it out. And that’s a pretty cool part of my job.

DAVID ( 00:34:10):  That’s very interesting. And I guess you never know, uh, which bill is going to break through with the right amount of support at the right time and be one of those few 100 that make the cut. Not if you’re in, I guess if you’re in those nine or 10,000 that, that don’t, there’s always next year.

GINA ( 00:34:24):  Yeah. And, and that’s the thing. It’s like, how do you figure out how to make your bill stand out? You know, I’m in my third year, right? So my first year was kind of like the COVID year 2021. It was all remote and then last year kind of getting your feet wet, figuring things out. You’re finally back in person and then of course he had the election. So that’s kind of looms over. Um, so then this year I felt like I was really kind of hitting the ground running. So, uh, so we’re gonna work over the summer and kind of figure out what we can do, um, to make our bill stand out and kind of get, you know, the ground swell of support um, from folks and be like, hey, this is something that Long Island wants, you know, and it’s not just me, right? It’s not just me pushing. It’s uh because at the end of the day, it’s not about me. It’s about, it’s about the residents and it’s about my constituents. So how can we get this over the finish line for them?

DAVID ( 00:35:14):  Oh, they all, they all sound amazing, particularly uh uh your support for the Dwyer project is an attorney who deals with a lot of people who have traumatic brain injury, uh post traumatic stress disorder. Um I’ve seen it very real and, and my clients, the amount of stress, particularly when they’ve gone through a life changing catastrophic event that just never leaves them how crippling it can be. And having that kind of support for people who are going through that kind of trauma is really very important and something uh that our first responders that police officers badly need and, and certainly deserve and it’s really important work. Thank

GINA ( 00:35:52):  you.

DAVID ( 00:35:53):  Um So with that assembly member, Gina. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of rising leaders of New York. If your constituents or anybody throughout the, the great state of New York wants to get a hold of you. How would they do that?

GINA ( 00:36:07): Oh my gosh, of course. Well, yes, time flies when you’re having fun. Oh, my gosh. Um, so yeah, I, you know, I’m, I’m online, I’m on social media but if you just want to shoot me an email or give me a call, um, my telephone number, uh here in NASA is 516482 6966. And uh my email address is I’m super successful. Like I said, you can find me online, shoot me an email or just Google my name and I pop up everywhere.

DAVID ( 00:36:43):  It is definitely true. I did not have any trouble finding any media about you. That’s a good thing about being an open book. It makes for a nice frank open conversation. As for me, my name is David. Uh I am the senior trial attorney here at Hill and you wanna reach me to say anything about this podcast or any of my podcasts or if you are seriously injured uh at someone’s premises on the construction site or a motor vehicle accident, anything like that, you can reach me and the attorneys here at, at 212668 6000. My email is DZ as in zebra, W er in at hill dot com or you can reach us at the web at Uh until next week, everybody, my name is David and I will be joined then by another rising leader of New York. Goodbye. Everybody.

VOICEOVER ( 00:37:42):  You’ve been listening to rising leaders of New York hosted by David Zwerin of Hill & Moin LLP. You can catch prior episodes at and on Youtube, LinkedIn, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more. Thank you for your positive reviews, comments and sharing this show with others.