"I don’t know what we would do without Legal Services. Poor people can't afford a lawyer. We elderly need Legal Services of the Hudson Valley to protect our interests."

KEY STAFF MEMBERS

Barbara Finkelstein
Chief Executive Officer

Cynthia Knox
Deputy Executive Director

Rachel Chazin Halperin
Deputy Director

Thomas Cochran
Chief Financial Officer

Joanne Labrusciano
Director, Grant Initiatives & Reporting, Headquarters

Marianne Delaney
Development Director

Marian Genio
Pro Bono Director

Melinda Bellus
Attorney-in-Charge, White Plains and Peekskill Offices

Jill Bradshaw-Soto
Attorney-in-Charge, Mount Vernon Office

Mary Grace Ferone
Program Manager, Disability and Public Benefits Legal Services

Jill Faber
Attorney-in-Charge, Poughkeepsie and Kingston Offices

Benjamin J. Hooper
Attorney-in-Charge, Yonkers Office

Lara Kasper-Buckareff
Attorney-in-Charge, Newburgh and Spring Valley Offices

Joanne Sirotkin
Attorney Manager, Domestic Violence Services

Rebecca Praus
Supervising Attorney - Intake, White Plains


Barbara Finkelstein
Chief Executive Officer

Barbara Finkelstein oversees every aspect of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV), the largest provider of free civil legal services to more than 500,000 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 fivefold and has grown to a 100-person staff with an $11 million-dollar budget and eight offices. She is the first woman to lead the organization.

Ms. Finkelstein’s accomplishments on behalf of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley are many. Under her leadership LSHV 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 Veteran’s 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 an individual donor and 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
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 oversight of Services and Offices, including supervision of all program managers and substantive law work groups. LSHV provides support, advocacy and legal representation in civil legal matters for low-income individuals and families, in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.

Prior to joining LSHV, Cynthia worked in the field of 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 is a passionate advocate for social justice and is sustained by the belief that through effective advocacy justice can be achieved for low income individuals and communities.

Cynthia has presented regularly at local and national conferences on HIV/AIDS Law, and she is co-editor of the American Bar Association’s AIDS Benchbook (2012). 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.


Thomas Cochran
Chief Financial Officer

Thomas Cochran joined the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Finance & Administration team in 2011. Previously he served in a number of corporate accounting roles, including both start-up and large corporations. Most notable is his experience in the telecommunications industry—Verizon & NYNEX.  His responsibilities included director positions in Corporate Accounting, Market Area Management, and Regulatory Affiliated Interests.  

Tom has a Bachelor of Science in Public Accounting from Fordham University and is a member of the Business Council of Westchester County, NY.


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) funders’ reports at various intervals; (4) preparing program personnel for funders’ 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 and has 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 Investors’ Rights Clinic


Marianne Delaney
Development Director

Marianne Delaney joined the Development office at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 2013. Previously she served as Director of Development and Communications at Neighbors Link in Northern Westchester, NY, a non-profit community center providing education and employment opportunities to immigrant families and individuals. Prior to that she worked in public relations, non-profit management, fundraising, community organizing, arts management and as a writer and editor. She authored Ireland: Places and History.

Marianne has an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. She serves on the Bedford Central School District’s Budget Advisory Committee, the Friends of Neighbors Link and other community organizations.


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, White Plains and Peekskill Offices

Melinda Bellus supervises our largest office in White Plains, as well as our newest office in Peekskill.  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 White Plains and Peekskill offices, Ms. Bellus supervised our central intake unit.  As attorney-in-charge of the White Plains and Peekskill offices, she leads a team of over 20 attorneys, paralegals, and support staff in delivering comprehensive legal services to residents of Westchester and Putnam counties. 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, 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 as Program Manager, Disability and Public Benefits Legal Services at 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


Jill Faber
Attorney-in-Charge, Poughkeepsie and Kingston Offices

Jill Faber supervises Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Poughkeepsie and Kingston offices, which serve Dutchess and Ulster Counties. Ms. Faber's background is in legal issues affecting children. Prior to assuming her current position, Ms. Faber served as Senior Staff Attorney in Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Lanza Children's Law Center. Before that, she was a partner in the firm of Frishman & Faber, where she represented children with disabilities and their families.

Ms. Faber has extensive experience litigating special education, Section 504 and ADA cases. She lectures frequently on education law and laws affecting children with disabilities and their families. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a J.D. from Northeastern University. She also has a Master's Degree in Education from Harvard University and is licensed to practice in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Related Experience:
Board Member, Advocates for Exceptional Children
Community Advisory Board Member, Westchester Institute for Human Development


Benjamin J. Hooper
Attorney-in-Charge, Yonkers Office

Ben Hooper joined the staff of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in June 2014 as Attorney-in-Charge for the Yonkers office.  He has practiced in civil legal aid since 1999.   Previously, Ben served as managing attorney for MidPenn Legal Services in York, Pennsylvania (2009 – 2014) and Reading, Pennsylvania (2006 – 2009).   Between 2000 and 2006, he worked in the city of Kennewick, Washington for Columbia Legal Services, becoming regional director in 2004.

Throughout his career, Ben’s substantive focus has been federally subsidized housing.  While at MidPenn Legal Services, Ben was co-counsel along with the Community Justice Project on Santiago v. Sutton, (2:01-CV-02496-GP), a challenge to a Pennsylvania state civil rule imposing a bond requirement on low-income tenants in eviction appeals, resulting in a favorable settlement.  He also has experience representing clients in the areas of employment law and domestic violence.  Ben earned his law degree at Northeastern University. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Binghamton University.  


Lara Kasper-Buckareff
Attorney-in-Charge, Newburgh and Spring Valley Offices

Lara Kasper-Buckareff supervises the Newburgh and Spring Valley offices which include approximately 15 staff members that cover densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas in Orange, Sullivan and Rockland 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’ 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.


Joanne Sirotkin
Attorney Manager, Domestic Violence Services

Joanne Sirotkin 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 Sisters’ 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.


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.