Barbara Finkelstein oversees every aspect of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV), the largest provider of free civil legal services to almost 600,000 poor and low-income individuals in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster Counties. Since Ms. Finkelstein became Executive Director in 1995 and now CEO, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley has increased its budget from $2 million to $13 million with a staff of 120 in eight offices. She is the first woman to lead the organization and is a national leader on the topic of civil legal services in areas of unmet need.
Ms. Finkelstein's accomplishments on behalf of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley are many.Under her leadership Legal Services of the Hudson Valley has made great strides in securing funding from public and private sources to increase services to low income residents of the Hudson Valley facing civil legal problems affecting the basic necessities of life. Motivated by a desire to make justice a promise for every member of society, Ms. Finkelstein created partnerships with governments, community-based organizations, and law schools to ensure solutions to the problems facing the low income population. Most recently, she started a Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project to provide legal assistance to returning veterans and their families. In 1996, she started the Domestic Violence Unit, which has provided legal assistance to more than 15,000 survivors of domestic violence. In 1999, Ms. Finkelstein started a Children's Advocacy Unit, and in 2002 a Family Law Unit, both supported exclusively by private funds raised through individual donors and a foundation fundraising program. Before joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Ms. Finkelstein was the Assistant Project Director at Queens Legal Services where she directed services to clients and assisted with overall program operations.
Ms. Finkelstein is a member of Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman's Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, the New York State Bar Association's President's Committee on Access to Justice and the Board of Directors for Nonprofit Westchester.
Ms. Finkelstein received her J.D. from Rutgers School of Law Newark, and her B.A. from Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Related Experience Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York New York State Task Force on Pro Bono Scholars New York State Bar Association's President's Committee on Access to Justice New York State Bar Association's Committee on Legal Aid Board of Directors, Nonprofit Westchester
Cynthia Knox Deputy Executive Director
Cynthia is Deputy Executive Director of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley where she is responsible for providing leadership, management and development oversight for all legal units and office. She also advises and works closely with the CEO and other executive team members on agency-wide and policy matters, and acts in the CEO’s sted as assigned or during periods of extended absence.
Prior to joining LSHV, Cynthia worked in HIV/AIDS law. Cynthia began focusing on HIV/AIDS legal issues in the 1990s and has extensive litigation experience in HIV/AIDS related law. Cynthia was the Deputy Executive Director of HIV Law Project in NYC from 2006 until she joined LSHV in 2011. Prior to becoming an HIV/AIDS advocate, Cynthia worked in the private sector as an attorney.
Cynthia has presented regularly at local and national conferences on HIV/AIDS Law, and is co-editor of the American Bar Association's AIDS Benchbook (2012). Cynthia is a member of the Committee on Legal Aid of the New York State Bar Association, a member of the Westchester Bar Association and the Westchester Women’s Bar Association. Cynthia is a former member of the ABA Committee on AIDS and a former Trustee of the Dominican Sisters of Hope Ministry Trust.
Cynthia received her J.D. from CUNY Law School and her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.
Rachel Chazin Halperin Deputy Director
Rachel Chazin Halperin, J.D., L.M.S.W., has been working as an advocate for underserved and vulnerable populations for the last 15 years. After graduating from law school, Rachel worked for four years as a staff attorney and then supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia where she represented victims of domestic violence in family court. In 2004, Rachel became the Legal Director of My Sisters' Place, the largest domestic violence service provider in Westchester Co., NY. From 2008 - 2014, Rachel worked at HELP USA as the Executive Director of Domestic Violence Programs & including HELP Haven emergency shelter and HELP ROADS non-residential domestic violence program. While at HELP USA, Rachel started several programs including a Transitional Housing Project, Economic Empowerment Program and Trauma-Informed Childcare Center.
Rachel received her J.D. from New York University School of Law and her M.S.W. from New York University School of Social Work. She received her B.A. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. Rachel sits on the Board of Directors of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Myra Loewenstein Chief Financial Officer
Myra Loewenstein joined the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Finance & Administration team in 2012 as Assistant Director of Finance. Previously she served in a number of corporate finance and consulting roles, including both start-up and large corporations. Most notable is her experience in the publishing industry – Reader's Digest & Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters). Her responsibilities included director positions in Finance and Reporting. Myra has a B.A. in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.B.A from Columbia Business School.
Joanne Labrusciano Director, Grant Initiatives & Reporting, Headquarters
Joanne Labrusciano heads the organization's grant initiatives and both internal and external reporting. Her responsibilities include oversight of (1) reviewing Requests for Proposals and other public funding opportunities, writing proposals and applying to selected opportunities, disseminating award information and informing and developing strategies for implementation;(2) ensuring contract terms are agreeable and paperwork is properly executed; (3) funder's reports at various intervals; (4) preparing program personnel for funder's monitoring visits; (5) arranging for contract renewal paperwork; (6) producing reports for internal and external use including productivity, contract fulfillment, performance metrics and special information requests for outreach and networking purposes and events; (7) reviewing database content to identify issues and propose solutions.
Ms. Labrusciano joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 2009 as Grants Manager in its White Plains office prior to assuming her current position. Her previous experience includes Wall Street investments, trading and financial analysis at a variety of firms including a large money market fund, primary money market dealer, primary government dealer, municipal bond insurer, money center bank's mortgage portfolio and a single strategy hedge fund.
She received her J.D. from Pace School of Law andhas an M.B.A. in Finance from Fordham University, Lincoln Center. She received her B.A. in Modern Languages from Fordham College, Rose Hill campus.
Related Experience: Member, Westchester Women's Bar Association Pace Law Investor's Rights Clinic
Marian Genio Pro Bono Director
Marian joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley as Pro Bono Director in July 2014. Most recently, she has been with the Pace Women's Justice Center, counseling victims of domestic violence. Concurrently, she worked as a mediator with Westchester Mediation Center. There she assisted clients involved in matters of divorce, custody and visitation, and community disputes, to resolve their issues without participating in the litigation process.
In addition to being an attorney, Marian has been an Executive Vice President in the publishing industry as well as a Director of Business Development in the financial services industry.
She is a graduate of Temple University School of Law, where she received a J.D.
Melinda Bellus Attorney-in-Charge, Yonkers Office
Melinda Bellus oversees Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Yonkers office, where she leads a team of over 20 attorneys, paralegals, and support staff in delivering comprehensive legal services to residents of Westchester County. Her primary area of concentration is elder law. However, since joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 1999, she has practiced in many areas including housing, government benefits, disability, and family law. Prior to supervising the Yonkers office, she was Attorney-in-Charge of our White Plains and Peekskill offices. Previously Ms. Bellus supervised our central intake unit. Ms. Bellus is a tireless advocate for seniors, and is committed to assisting seniors to remain in their homes.
Melinda Bellus received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and a B.A. in political science and theatre arts from Hunter College of the City of New York. Her prior experience includes working as an associate in the law firm of Zeichner Ellman & Krause in New York City, where she practiced real estate law.
Related Experience: Co-Chair of the Medicaid Litigation and Fair Hearings Committee - Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.
Jill Bradshaw-Soto Attorney-in-Charge, Mount Vernon Office
Jill Bradshaw-Soto heads Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's office in Mount Vernon, which has one of the largest poor and low-income populations in Westchester. In addition to handling a full caseload of her own, she is responsible for case strategy and management, daily client intake and supervision and mentoring of staff. She also has built strong ties with the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Pelham, as well as the many local non-profit organizations that address matters of concern to economically disadvantaged individuals and families.
Ms. Bradshaw-Soto joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 1998 as a housing attorney in its White Plains office and was subsequently named managing attorney of its Yonkers office prior to assuming her current position. Her prior experience includes work as a Special Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York's Paternity and Support Unit and as a legal advocate in the Osborne Association's Alternative to Incarceration Program in the Bronx.
She received her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and has a BS in Administration of Justice from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She received her paralegal certification from Mercy College.
Related Experience: Member, Westchester Black Bar Association St. Francis AME Zion Church Missionary and Member of the New Life Choir
Mary Grace Ferone Program Manager, Disability and Public Benefits Legal Services
Ms. Ferone has dedicated her entire career to working with low-income and disabled New Yorkers. She began her career in legal services in a small field office near the Canadian border where she represented clients with serious physical and mental disabilities. Ms. Ferone then represented low-income persons in housing matters at Queens Legal Services. A native of Westchester, Ms. Ferone returned home in 1999 to work in the mental health unit of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV). From 2001-2014, Ms. Ferone was managing attorney of LSHV's White Plains office (2001-2010) and LSHV's Yonkers office (2011-2014)
Currently, Ms. Ferone serves asProgram Manager, Disability and Public Benefits Legal Servicesat LSHV. Ms. Ferone welcomes this opportunity to work more closely with case handlers on client issues and litigation.
Active in the community, Ms. Ferone spends her time away from the office devoted to other organizations that advance the cause of justice. She is the current Board Chair of CHOICE, a Westchester based not-for-profit organization that provides peer advocacy services for persons with serious and persistent mental illness; a mentor with the Her Honor Mentoring program; a board member of the Max Michael Rosenfield Foundation, an organization dedicated to children's sports and literacy; and a member of the Westchester Women's Agenda.
Ms. Ferone received her law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center (University of New Hampshire) and BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Related Experience: Member, Westchester Disability Advocacy Partnership Past Board Member - Careers for People with Disabilities, Family Ties, New York State Civil Liberties Union Former White Plains Democratic District Leader
Lara Kasper-Buckareff supervises Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Poughkeepsie office. Previously, she supervised the organization's Neburgh office which includes approximately 15 staff members that cover densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas in Orange and Sullivan counties.
From 2008 until December 2012 when she joined the management team, Ms. Kasper-Buckareff was a Staff Attorney at LSHV during which time she gained diverse experience representing persons with disabilities in their related civil matters, survivors of domestic violence in their family court and matrimonial matters, and low-income children and their families in various matters, such as special education, Medicaid denials, Section 8 terminations, and school disciplinary matters. Prior to joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Ms. Kasper-Buckareff was an attorney at the Workers' s Rights Law Center of New York, Farmworker Legal Services of New York, and MidPenn Legal Services. Ms. Kasper-Buckareff is licensed to practice law in New York and Pennsylvania. She received her J.D. and M.S.W. (Health, Mental Health, and Disability Concentration) from SUNY Buffalo, and her B.A. in History from California State University, Fullerton. In 2014, she was appointed to the board of directors of The Newburgh Ministry
Sheeba Mathai Attorney-in-Charge, Spring Valley Office
Sheeba Roy Mathai began working as a Staff Attorney in the Domestic Violence Unit of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Yonkers office in March 2011. In that capacity, she represented victims of domestic violence in family offense and custody proceedings. Prior to joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Sheeba also worked briefly, through the NYC Teaching Fellows Program, as a New York City public school teacher of students receiving special education services.
Sheeba received her J.D. degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where she was enrolled in the school's Asylum and Human Rights Clinic. There she successfully represented a client with developmental disabilities who had been persecuted in his home country throughout his asylum application process. Sheeba attended George Washington University, and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration.
Joanne Sirotkin Attorney-in-Charge, White Plains and Peekskill Offices
Joanne Sirotkin is Attorney-in-Charge of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's White Plains and Peekskill offices, overseeing a staff of more than 20 attorneys, paralegals and support personnel. She joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's staff as Attorney Manager of Domestic Violence Services in November, 2013, bringing expertise as an experienced attorney and specialist in the dynamics of domestic violence.
Prior to joining Legal Services, Joanne Sirotkin was employed as Special Litigation and Appeals Counsel within the Legal Center of My Sister's Place, a full service domestic violence agency in White Plains. Ms. Sirotkin was previously at Faust Roy Mangold and Fuchs, a matrimonial firm. Prior to that, she was an associate at Lansner & Kubitschek, where she was part of the trial team representing the subclass A mothers in Nicholson v. Williams, a federal class action lawsuit initiated in 2000 on behalf of victims of domestic violence and their children, and the subsequent appeal, Nicholson v. Scoppetta.
Joanne's job duties will include coordination and substantive supervision of domestic violence legal services program-wide, guiding the professional development of staff regarding domestic violence work, and serving as a resource about domestic violence related issues to all Legal Services of the Hudson Valley staff and justice communities.
Lauren Sheeley Attorney in Charge, Kingston Office
Lauren W. Sheeley earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass, and her JD at Albany Law School in 2007. During law school, she participated in the Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Project where she represented developmentally disabled clients in various education matters and in Medicaid cases to obtain services, OMRDD eligibility and durable medical equipment. Lauren also represented disabled individuals who were inappropriately residing in state institutional facilities. Lauren interned at Disability Advocates, Inc., in Albany, where she provided legal representation and advocacy services to disabled individuals in special education matters, medical and financial entitlements involving Medicaid, as well as disability-related discrimination, retaliation and eviction cases. From 2007 to 2010, Lauren worked at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc., in the Children’s Law Project, and thereafter as a Staff Attorney in the Saratoga Springs office. As a Staff Attorney, Lauren worked in the Homelessness Prevention Project and she initiated an in-court housing attorney program in Saratoga Springs City Court. Lauren also provided advice and counsel to elderly residents at the Washington County Office for the Aging, and she represented claimants in Social Security appeals under the Disability Advocacy and Protection grant. In 2011, Lauren was hired as a Staff Attorney at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. Prior to being promoted in 2015 to Attorney in Charge of the Ulster County office, Lauren was the housing attorney in Kingston where she provided extensive eviction defense representation and prevented homelessness for many residents in private and subsidized housing. She also represented housing related clients who were being harassed by landlords and/or being deprived of safe and habitable living environments.
Rebecca Praus Supervising Attorney - Intake, White Plains
Rebecca Praus oversees Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's central telephone intake unit, where she ensures that the team of dedicated paralegals provides efficient and compassionate services to those calling for assistance. Rebecca brings her experience as a legal practitioner so that callers are provided with useful information and options when they contact LSHV. Prior to becoming the Supervising Attorney for the Intake Unit, Rebecca was a Staff Attorney in the White Plains Office of LSHV, where she spent seven years providing services to residents of Putnam and Westchester Counties who needed assistance with matters pertaining to the Department of Social Services and Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Rebecca taught several CLE (Continuing Legal Education) courses on how to represent claimants in Unemployment Insurance hearings
Rebecca is admitted to practice law in New York State, and is a member of the New York State Bar Association. She received a BA in Politics from Ithaca College, and her JD from CUNY Law School, where she was a member of the Editorial Board of the New York City Law Review.