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ECBA’s Work Prompts Plan to Make Cooper Union Free Again

The Cooper Union has just announced a plan designed to return to free tuition. This plan was the result of a lawsuit filed by ECBA on behalf of the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), which challenged the school’s decision to charge tuition for the first time in its history.

CSCU is a coalition of current and prospective students, alumni, and faculty.  The case argued that the school’s decision to charge tuition violated the terms of the trust established by Peter Cooper.  As a result of the CSCU lawsuit, the Attorney General of the State of New York launched a confidential investigation into Cooper Union. The settlement reached between CSCU, the school, and the Attorney General imposed an independent financial monitor; established a Board committee made up of alumni, students, and faculty to develop a plan for the return to free tuition; required the school’s leadership to make a good faith effort to return to free; and expanded the presence of alumni, students, and faculty on the Board of Trustees. The recent plan announced by the school is the result of this settlement agreement.

Read more about the plan to return to free here and here.

CSCU was represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Zoe Salzman.

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16 Years After First ECBA Class Action, Mayor and City Council Agree to Close Rikers Island

Sixteen years after ECBA filed its first class action alleging a pattern and practice of  brutality and poor training, discipline, and investigations of corrections officers at Rikers Island, Mayor De Blasio and the City Council have agreed to shut down Rikers Island once and for all.  In 2001, ECBA filed the original lawsuit, Ingles v. Toro, with co-counsel Legal Aid Society and Sullivan & Cromwell. The case settled in 2003, but the settlement failed to reduce use of force by corrections officers on Rikers Island. As a result, in 2011, ECBA filed a new class action, Nunez v. City of New York, with co-counsel Legal Aid Society and Ropes & Gray, again alleging a pattern and practice of brutality and cover-ups by corrections officers at Rikers Island. Nunez, and a parallel Department of Justice lawsuit, settled in 2015, resulting in thousands of new cameras, a federal monitor, and other sweeping reforms at Rikers. The case also brought to light the fundamental inhumanity and unfairness of the entire institution.

ECBA lawyers involved in the Rikers cases include Jonathan Abady, Ilann M. Maazel, Katherine Rosenfeld, Debra Greenberger, Zoe Salzman, and Vasudha Talla.

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ECBA Resolves Broadway Triangle Housing Discrimination Case with Landmark Settlement

A landmark settlement agreement was filed with the Court today resolving a lawsuit brought by ECBA’s client the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, a diverse group of more than 40 nonprofits, residents, and fair housing advocates.  The Coalition filed suit 8 years ago, alleging that the City’s rezoning and development plans for the Broadway Triangle area of Brooklyn were discriminatory and perpetuated segregation.

The settlement agreement provides for the development of over 375 permanently affordable apartments that will be developed in a way designed to further fair housing without discrimination.  The agreement also provides that the City will pay between $2.4 and $4.8 million to fund fair housing workshops, counseling and educational materials, as well as legal representation for people with housing discrimination complaints in the Broadway Triangle neighborhood, which lies at the intersection of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“After years of effort, today’s settlement means the city will properly respond to the real needs of our diverse communities in North Brooklyn,” said Juan Ramos of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition. “There is a long history of housing discrimination in this area, and affordable housing in the Broadway Triangle is more important than ever given the rapid gentrification and displacement of families who have lived here for generations.”

“The affordable housing development plan, combined with fair housing services in this settlement agreement, provides a strong template for other neighborhoods across the country to use when challenging racially discriminatory housing redevelopment plans,” said ECBA’s Diane L. Houk.

The Coalition is represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Zoe Salzman, together with the New York Civil Liberties Union and  Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A.

Click here to read the press release.

Click here to read the settlement agreement.

Click here to read the New York Times story on the settlement.

Click here to read the New York Law Journal story on the settlement.

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ECBA Partner Zoe Salzman Quoted on Proliferation of Sexual Harassment Cases

ECBA partner Zoe Salzman was quoted in a New York Post article on the proliferation of sexual harassment cases across different industries in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The article explains how: “Women are incredibly afraid to come forward,” said attorney Zoe Salzman, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “If it’s true of Hollywood actresses like Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie, it has to be even more true for women who don’t have the financial and personal resources that actresses have. The restaurant industry, like a lot of industries, is marked by that same power dynamic.”

Still, Salzman sees a silver lining in the Weinstein downfall: “This case is inspiring so many women, even women who are in low-income jobs [will hopefully] feel that they too can stand up and speak out,” she said. “They know now that what is happening is illegal.”

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ECBA Attorneys Published in The New York Times, “Another Venue for Sexual Harassment Claims”

Zoe Salzman, Elizabeth Saylor, and Alanna Kaufman‘s Letter to the Editor, “Another Venue for Sexual Harassment Claims,” was published in The New York Times  on October 31, 2017. In the letter, the attorneys advise victims of workplace sexual harassment to speak out and bring their case to the  New York City Commission on Human Rights.  To read The New York Times  article, click here. Salzman, Saylor, and Kaufman specialize in the representation of victims of sexual harassment.

 

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ECBA Files New Sexual Harassment Case in New York City Commission on Human Rights

ECBA filed a sexual harassment complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights today on behalf of a woman named Veronica McILraith against her employer, the legal recruiting firm Wegman Partners LLC, as well as the firm’s CEO Colby Wegman and Chairman of Partner Recruiting, Scott Legg.

According to the complaint, Ms. McILraith was “subjected to an astounding barrage of groping and sexually explicit and derogatory comments, texts, emails, and signs by her boss.”  When she complained, the company sided with the harasser, cut Ms. McILraith’s commissions, and forced her out.

Ms. McILraith filed suit in the New York City Commission on Human Rights notwithstanding Wegman’s attempt to force her into arbitration. The Commission is a powerful body that investigates complaints of discrimination and harassment in New York City. It can award individual damages and attorneys’ fees to the victims just like a court.

“No woman should have to experience this sort of disgusting sexual harassment at work,” said ECBA partner Zoe Salzman, Ms. McILraith’s attorney.  “Ms. McILraith is standing up and saying this sort of behavior has to stop. Other women are standing up. And more will follow.”

Read about the case in The New York Post and The New York Law Journal.

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ECBA Sues Westchester Town for Discriminatory Zoning that Favors Whites

ECBA filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO) against the Town of Bedford and its affordable housing agency, Blue Mountain Development.

Like other Westchester County towns, Bedford’s population is overwhelmingly white. The complaint alleges that the Town awards its affordable “middle income” housing using “preferences” in its zoning code. These preferences prioritize people who already live or work in Bedford and who are far more likely to be white. These preferences violate the Fair Housing Act because they discriminate against African Americans who would otherwise be eligible for the Town’s affordable housing and make it more likely the housing will be given to white people.

The plaintiffs FHJC and WRO are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk and Zoe Salzman.

Read the complaint here.

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Tamir Rice Family Expresses Its Outrage at 10 Day Suspension for Officer Involved in Killing of Tamir

The announcement today by the City of Cleveland that the officers involved in the shooting death of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice have been disciplined has only added insult to the pain and grief of the Rice family. Although pleased with the termination of Officer Timothy Loehmann, the decision says nothing about his unlawful actions in shooting young Tamir without cause or justification. Loehmann was terminated not for causing Tamir’s death but rather for lying on his employment application.

The Rice family is disheartened by the decision to suspend Officer Frank Garmback for a mere 10 days where it has been determined that he failed to employ proper tactics when he drove directly up to Tamir thus contributing to the chain of events that resulted in Tamir’s shooting.

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, described the discipline as “deeply disappointing. I am relieved Loehmann has been fired because he should never have been a police officer in the first place—but he should have been fired for shooting my son in less than one second, not just for lying on his application. And Garmback should be fired too, for his role in pulling up too close to Tamir. As we continue to grieve for Tamir, I hope this is a call for all of us to build stronger communities together.”

Tamir’s family is represented by ECBA attorneys Jonathan AbadyEarl Ward, and Zoe Salzman, together with William Mills of FirmEquity and Subodh Chandra of The Chandra Law Firm LLC.

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Supreme Court Upholds City Standing Under Fair Housing Act, as ECBA Sought in Amicus Brief

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the City of Miami has standing under the Fair Housing Act to sue banks that engaged in predatory lending, triggering foreclosures and other harms throughout the City. ECBA filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the City’s position, on behalf of Miami’s firefighters and first responders who have had to cope with an increase in crimes and other problems festering in foreclosed, vacant properties. The brief was authored by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Debra Greenberger, and Zoe Salzman.

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