25 Years of New York City Charter Revisions

Process, Powers, and Lessons for the Future: 25 Years of New York City Charter Revisions – Speakers


John Avlon
 is senior columnist for Newsweek and the Daily Beast as well as a CNN contributor. He is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, as well as editor of the anthology Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns. Previously, he was a columnist and associate editor for the New York Sun and chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ award for best online column in 2012. After the attacks of September 11th, 2001, Mr. Avlon and his team were responsible for writing the eulogies for all firefighters and police officers murdered in the destruction of the World Trade Center. Avlon’s essay on the attacks, The Resilient City concluded the anthology Empire City: New York through the Centuries and won acclaim as “the single best essay written in the wake of 9/11.” Mr. Avlon has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, PBS, and C-Span.  He has spoken at the Kennedy School of Government, the Citadel, the State Department’s visiting journalist program, and civic organizations around the nation. He serves on the board of Citizens Union of New York and The Bronx Academy of Letters as well as the advisory board of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.  He was appointed to the New York City Voter Assistance Advisory Committee in 2011. 

Michael A. Cardozo is New York City’s 77th Corporation Counsel, and chief legal officer of New York City, serving as legal counsel to the Mayor, elected officials, the City and its agencies. Mr. Cardozo has served as Corporation Counsel since January 1, 2002, making him the longest-serving Corporation Counsel since the title was formally created in the early 19th century. Priorto his appointment, Mr. Cardozo was a senior partner at Proskauer Rose, LLP, one of New York City’s largest law firms. He joined the firm in 1967 and was elected to its executive committee three times. He also co-chaired its Litigation Department from 1987 to 1991. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Cardozo was a law clerk in the chambers of the late Honorable Edward C. McClean in the Southern District of New York. From 1996 to 1998, he served as President of the New York City Bar Association, where he previously worked on numerous committees for over 30 years. He is the former Chair ofthe Fund for Modern Courts, a non-partisan citizen organization devoted to improving New York State courts, and also previously chaired two court system task forces appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo and Chief Judge Solomon Wachtler. He is also a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the American Law Institute, the Board of Trustees of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Anti-Defamation League. Mr. Cardozo earned his J.D. degree at Columbia Law School in 1966, where he was an editor of its Law Review and is the former Chair of its Board of Visitors. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University in 1963.

Anthony W. Crowell is the Dean and President of New York Law School. Prior to becoming Dean in 2012, Dean Crowell was Counselor to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. In this role, he served as counsel and senior management and policy advisor to the Mayor, as well as general counsel to the Office of the Mayor. In addition, he served either as an executive director, counsel, or commissioner with six city charter revision commissions. Before becoming Counselor to the Mayor, Dean Crowell served as Special Counsel to the Mayor from 2002 to 2006. From 1997 to 2002, he served as Assistant Corporation Counsel in the New York City Law Department’s Tax & Condemnation and Legal Counsel Divisions. In 2001, he directed the city’s World Trade Center Death Certificate Program, and was counsel at the city’s Family Assistance Center, aiding families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Dean Crowell first joined New York Law School in 2003 as an adjunct professor and continues to teach the law school’s New York City Law Seminar and Workshop. He is also Board Chair of the Brooklyn Public Library, the nation’s fifth largest library system, and serves on the boards of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Citizens Union Foundation. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and American University’s Washington College of Law.

Dick Dadey is the executive director of Citizens Union, a citywide good government organization founded in 1897.  Over the past 8 ½ years, he has reinvigorated the group’s focus and work, raised its profile, and led the organization to notable achievements in the areas of state redistricting reform, state ethics reform, greater public oversight of police misconduct, city campaign finance reform, local lobbying reform, and election reform, among other issues.  Mr. Dadey served from 2001-2004 as the executive director of two parks-related organizations: City Parks Alliance, a national organization that works to strengthen city parks throughout the country and New Yorkers for Parks, a citywide parks advocacy organization. For seven years beginning in 1991, he served as the first executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s statewide gay and lesbian political organization which he helped found and build into one of the most powerful and effective organizations in New York’s political landscape. Before joining the Pride Agenda, Mr. Dadey served as the Development Director for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. He has served on a number of nonprofit boards and currently serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and Friends of Hudson River Park.  A native of Syracuse, New York, Mr. Dadey graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in American Studies and lives in Brooklyn Heights.

Elizabeth Fine has served as General Counsel to the New York City Council since 2006.  She has a long career in law and public policy.  Ms. Fine was a senior official of the United States Department of Justice from 1993-2001, serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Policy, Counsel to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, and Counselor to the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  In 1993, she was Special Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office, coordinating the administration’s review of Administration appointees.  In 1992, she was a counsel to the Clinton-Gore campaign based in Little Rock, Arkansas and Associate Counsel to the Presidential Transition.  Previously, she served as Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.  Among other things, she was the congressional staff member responsible for intellectual property and also for oversight of the U.S Bureau of Prisons.  From 2002-2006, Ms. Fine was Counsel to Spence Chapin Services to Families and Children, the city’s largest private adoption and social services agency.  She is a graduate of Brown University (1982), New York University School of Law (JD, 1987), and Georgetown University Law School (LLM, 1989).  She was a Fellow at the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University.

Ester Fuchs is Professor of Public Affairs and Political Science and Director of the Urban and Social Policy Program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.  She served as Special Advisor to the Mayor for Governance and Strategic Planning under New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg from 2001-2005. Professor Fuchs was chair of the Urban Studies Program at Barnard and Columbia Colleges and founding director of the Columbia University Center for Urban Research and Policy.  While at City Hall, Professor Fuchs coordinated significant mayoral initiatives. In 2005, Professor Fuchs became the first woman to serve as chair of a NYC Charter Revision Commission. She currently serves on the NYC Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board, NYC Economic Opportunity Commission, and the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues, among others. Professor Fuchs is the author of Mayor’s and Money: Fiscal Policy in New York and Chicago and has written about New York City politics and policy, global cities, neighborhood economic development, civic engagement, political parties and elections, and many other public policy issues.  She is a frequent political commentator and lectures internationally on American politics and policy. She received a B.A. from Queens College, CUNY; an M.A. from Brown University; and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

Randy M. Mastro is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where he is co-chair of both the firm’s Litigation Practice Group and Crisis Management Group, and serves on the firm’s Management and Executive Committees.  Before returning to Gibson Dunn in 1998, Mr. Mastro served as NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Chief of Staff and then as New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Operations.  He also served as Chair of two NYC Charter Revision Commissions, established by Mayor Giuliani in 1999 and 2001.  Mr. Mastro graduated graduating cum laude from Yale College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Mr. Mastro currently teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  His op-ed pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Daily News, and New York Post, and he has also written for the Washington Post and Time.  Mr. Mastro also authored the chapter, “White Collar Crime,” in Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, recently published by Thomson Reuters.

Mitchell Moss is the Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.  He teaches and does research on urban planning and politics, with special emphasis on economic development, telecommunications, and the governance of New York City. From 1988 to 2004, Professor Moss served as Director of the Taub Urban Research Center. He is the author of a study on the need for reform of The Stafford Act, the principal federal legislation governing federal disaster policies. Professor Moss’s essays have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Newsday, the New York Post, and The New York Observer. Professor Moss was voted Professor the Year by NYU Wagner students in 2002, and in 2003, he was awarded the American Planning Association’s N.Y. Metro Chapter’s Robert Ponte Award for his contribution to the vitality of the New York Area. He is the member of the Steering Committee of the Association for a Better New York.

Frederick (Rick) P. Schaffer is General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs of The City University of New York. He is responsible for providing legal counsel to the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor and the University on a wide range of issues and supervising a legal department of eighteen lawyers. Mr. Schaffer also serves as General Counsel to the CUNY Construction Fund, a public authority that finances capital construction at the University, and was General Counsel to the 2010 NYC Charter Revision Commission established by Mayor Bloomberg. Before coming to CUNY, Mr. Schaffer was a litigation partner in the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP. Earlier in his career, Mr. Schaffer served as Counsel to Mayor Koch, Chief of Litigation in the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, and Assistant U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. He also was an Associate Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Mr. Schaffer recently served as Chairman of the Legal Aid Society. He has previously served as Chairman of NYC Public/Private Initiatives, Inc. and a Director of the University Settlement Society. He is also active in the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, where he has served as a member of a number of committees, including the Executive Committee and the Nominating Committee and as Chairman of the Committee on Education and the Law. Mr. Schaffer received his B.A. degree summa cum laude from Harvard College and his J.D. degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, he clerked for the Honorable Francis L. Van Dusen, U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Mr. Schaffer was a recipient of one of the 2011 Awards for Excellence in Public Service from the New York State Bar Association.

Frederick (Fritz) A.O. Schwarz, Jr. is Chief Counsel of the Brennan Center at the New York University School of Law. From 1975-76 Mr. Schwarz was Chief Counsel to the Church Committee (formally known as the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Activities with Respect to Intelligence Activities). He served as New York City Corporation Counsel under Mayor Edward I. Koch (1982-1986). In 1989, he chaired the NYC Charter Revision Commission that extensively revised New York City’s Charter. And from 2003-2008 he chaired the New York City Campaign Finance Board.  He was a long-time litigation partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, where he is currently Senior Counsel in the firm’s Litigation Department. Mr. Schwarz received an A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1957 and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1960, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He clerked for Chief Judge J. Lumbard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Mr. Schwarz has written numerous op-ed and magazine articles, and two books, including (with Aziz Huq) Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror (The New Press). His article (with Eric Lane), The Policy and Politics of Charter Making: The Story of New York City’s 1989 Charter, is a definitive account of the seminal changes made to the NYC Charter in 1989. He served as Chair of the Boards of both NRDC and the Vera Institute of Justice, on whose boards he continues to serve. He also chaired the board of the Fund for the City of New York and of Atlantic Philanthropies.  While at the Brennan Center, he was awarded the New York State Bar Association’s Gold Medal for distinguished service in the law.

David Yassky is the Commissioner and Chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.  Mr. Yassky served for eight years as a member of the New York City Council, representing the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg.  On the Council, he sponsored legislation to promote the use of fuel-efficient hybrid cars as taxicabs and authored innovative laws in the areas of affordable housing and economic development, including the City’s Film and TV Production Tax Credit. Before election to the Council, Mr. Yassky had a distinguished legal career in government service, private practice and academia.  In the 1990s, Mr. Yassky served under then-Representative Chuck Schumer as Chief Counsel to the House Subcommittee on Crime, helping to enact the Brady Law, the Assault Weapons Ban, and the Violence Against Women Act.  In 1998, he joined the faculty of Brooklyn Law School, specializing in administrative law and constitutional law.  His scholarship on the Bill of Rights has been published in leading law reviews and has been cited widely in academic journals and judicial opinions.  He has also taught at New York University Law School and has published more than twenty op-ed articles in New York daily newspapers.  Mr. Yassky earned his A.B. at Princeton University, and his J.D. at Yale Law School, where he served on the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal and was awarded the Potter Stewart Prize for best moot court argument.