Doug Seidman Retires After 42 Years of Dedicated Service

Today, please join me as The Legal Aid Society salutes Douglas “Doug” Seidman on his retirement after 42 years as a legal services attorney and colleague of the Civil Practice.

A talented lawyer, advocate, professor and mentor, Doug has made a significant and lasting contribution to the legal services profession, community based organizations, emerging legal services leaders, students, and most importantly, the tens of thousands of low-income individuals on whose behalf he has saved from eviction and homelessness.

Doug began his career in 1975 as a Vista Attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. B where he worked on government benefits cases. Doug moved on to work at Nassau-Suffolk Law Services, and then Bronx Legal Services as Unit Director of Government Benefits before joining The Legal Aid Society in 1979. For six years, Doug worked in the Staten Island Neighborhood Office as a general practice attorney for senior citizens; served as Attorney-in-Charge of the Chelsea Neighborhood Office for ten years; and in 1995 spearheaded the Society’s first courthouse based eviction prevention practice in the Manhattan Housing Court, where Doug has worked tirelessly to ensure that Manhattan’s most vulnerable low-income households can receive both rapid response to a crisis, as well as early intervention services to clients at the beginning stages of a case.

In 1988, Doug identified and worked with an anonymous donor to establish the Chelsea Relief Fund to provide one-time emergency funding tailored to our client’s most immediate and pressing needs – such as one-time housing-related expenses, personal care items, emergency childcare needs, filing or application fees, or bridge expenses to secure a large private charitable grant or government subsidy.

Hundreds of new attorneys have benefited from Doug’s willingness to serve as a teacher and mentor. While practicing as a civil legal services attorney, Doug has found the time to serve as an associate or adjunct professor at Bronx Community College in a program teaching inmates at Arthur Kill Correctional Facility in Staten Island; Marymount Manhattan College; and most recently as an adjunct associate professor of a landlord-tenant law clinic at Fordham University Law School. He generously provides support and professional development skills to Legal Aid staff, pro-bono attorneys, legal services attorneys, law students, and advocates across the city. Doug also inspires others to become leaders in their particular areas of practice. Currently, there are supervisors, legislators and sitting judges as well as Supervising Judges throughout the City who all say that he is an excellent teacher, mentor and inspiration to them and others in the equal justice community.

Earlier this year, through class action litigation, Doug and a team of our government benefits and housing attorneys, created a new housing subsidy – the Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) – that will assist as many as 20,000 families with minor children who are facing homelessness as a result of an eviction proceeding or domestic violence. The new FHEPS rent supplement, when combined with the existing public assistance shelter allowance, will provide as much as $1,534 for a family of three to maintain or secure an apartment. It will also open up the joint State and City-funded program to families who are facing homelessness as a result of domestic violence for the first time. This remarkable success builds upon the work of the Society’s initial landmark litigation, Jiggetts v. Dowling, which had already helped families over the course of more than three decades prior to this the Velez/Tejada settlement. Through these many years, and as part of our Jiggetts/FEPS/FHEPS team’s citywide training and support of advocates and lawyers to place families with these subsidies, Doug has been an integral part of preventing the eviction and stabilizing the housing of hundreds of thousands of people.

Doug’s steadfast commitment to the mission of The Legal Aid Society is demonstrated daily, and what is most remarkable is that Doug does all of this tirelessly, with intense purpose, and without complaint or demand for recognition.

We are extremely grateful for Doug. He is an inspiration to his clients, our staff and his legal services colleagues. For this reason we will miss him very much. Please join me in saluting Doug on an incredible career that has improved the lives of so many!