Projects, Units & Initiatives
Community Development Project
The Community Development Project (CDP) provides targeted support to small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and Housing Development Fund Companies (HDFCs) in New York City in order to empower our clients to achieve long-term success and create jobs, thereby promoting economic and social stability in their communities. We offer advice on selecting the right legal structure, developing a board of directors, writing corporate bylaws, and additional services related to establishing, maintaining, and growing businesses owned by low income individuals in our communities.
In February 2019, The Legal Aid Society and Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, with the financial support of Thorobird Companies LLC, secured an important settlement for The First Union Baptist Church of the Bronx, a decades-old church located at 2064 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. After protracted litigation and hard-fought negotiations, the Church, which has faced the risk of losing its historic building since 2012, will remain in its current location.
Under the settlement agreement, Thorobird paid off the Church’s debt and received title to the Church property in exchange for agreeing to build affordable rental housing units on the site and for giving a deed back to the Church at the completion of the renovation of a 4,500-square-foot Church space.
“This is a perfect example of collaborating to build sustainable communities while at the same time protecting those vital institutions that maintained stability during the turmoil of economic and social unrest. The people in our communities should not be put on the auction block in the name of economic development when property values rise. We can achieve balanced economic development without furthering economic disparities by making opportunities available to everyone,” said Susan Chase, Staff Attorney with the Community Development Project.
“First Union is a community institution that stood firm and provided resources when the Bronx was burning, through drug epidemics and gang violence. We are so grateful for the expert legal advocacy of the Kasowitz team along with Ms. Chase of Legal Aid in negotiating this complex transaction. Now we will be able to continue our legacy of service to the community,” said Reverend Dr. James E. Wilson, Jr., the Church’s Senior Pastor since 1974.
The Community Development Project (CDP) has recently partnered with Union Settlement’s East Harlem Youth Opportunity Hub, a new initiative to provide social spaces with one-stop support services for at-risk children, teenagers, and young adults. Through this, we’re able to collaborate with 28 other providers and organizations to supply wraparound support services and civil legal services to Hub youth participants and their families.