Op-ed | A lawyer for all New York

Randy Mastro, corporation counsel nominee
Randy Mastro, the lawyer representing New Jersey in its congestion pricing suit, is expected to be named the city’s Corporation Counsel by Mayor Eric Adams.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

For the past 24 years, I have been the CEO of the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), one of New York City’s largest, most effective, and well-respected nonprofit organizations working extensively with the city and state. For over a decade prior to that, I served in New York City government under Mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani.

After reading recent media reports indicating that Mayor Eric Adams may nominate Randy Mastro to serve as the next NYC Corporation Counsel, I feel compelled to share my unwavering support for this decision. I have known Randy Mastro professionally for over 30 years and cannot imagine a better person to serve our city in this role. 

I say this based on years of experience working directly, often daily, with Randy in his capacity as BRC’s attorney, preceded by years of our experience working together in city government.

I hired Randy to defend BRC against a wealthy, well-organized, “not in my backyard” coalition that was suing our organization to stop us from siting, developing, and operating multiple shelter and treatment programs in a vertical campus in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Using their deep pockets, our opponents left no stone unturned in their efforts to malign and destroy a project that would deliver critical services for New Yorkers in need. Randy Mastro’s passion would not let them, and his brilliance stopped them.

Randy provided us with wise counsel, a comprehensive strategy, vast knowledge of every aspect of state and local law, and a heartfelt conviction to ensure that the right to quality care of our city’s most vulnerable would not be denied. In short, he brought us victory. 

Not only did Randy protect BRC’s interests, he went even farther, setting new legal precedents that continue to protect the entirety of NYC’s homeless shelter system to this day. This litigation, in multiple venues and with appeals, went on for nearly four years, and not once did Randy hesitate, tire, or back down. Simply put, BRC and the unhoused people we serve could not have had a more dedicated or capable advocate than Randy Mastro.

Indeed, it is quite likely that without Randy as our lawyer, BRC would not exist today.  

As noted above, I also worked with Randy for years when he served as chief of staff and deputy mayor, during the years that I helped lead the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS). In those years, Randy was DHS’s fiercest advocate at city hall. He championed the mayor’s effort to implement the recommendations of the NYC Commission on Homelessness.

With Randy’s stewardship of the many layers of bureaucracy that were resistant to change, the newly created DHS was able to transform how homeless services in NYC were provided, turning what was a one-size-fits-all shelter system that was failing the most vulnerable New Yorkers into a robust and service-rich system operated by a diverse array of New York City’s best community-based nonprofits that actually delivered results. 

He worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to ensure more resources were spent on supportive and low-income housing, helping to bring into place a new level of commitment between the city and the state in the NY-NY housing program, and working with the Clinton Administration in a bipartisan spirit to bring the largest federal commitment of resources to addressing homelessness in NYC at the time.

These are just some of the accomplishments Randy Mastro made possible when I worked with him, but his record of public service speaks for itself. This includes his success in the US Attorney’s office to break organized crime’s dominance of the carting industry, food service industry, and Fulton Fish Market, putting his own life at risk. Or his volunteer leadership roles, such as being vice chair of the board of the Legal Aid Society, board chair of Citizen’s Union, or stepping in to try and save the great Harlem nonprofit Hale House after it had been rocked by financial scandal. 

Suffice it to say that throughout his career, Randy has been a fighter for the most vulnerable, willing to take on the most powerful, even if it meant risking his life. There could be no greater advocate for the City of New York or its residents than Randy Mastro.  

Muzzy Rosenblatt is the CEO and President of BRC, and has been since 2000. From 1988 to 1999, in served in three mayoral administrations, ultimately as acting commissioner of the NYC Department of Homeless Services.

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