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November 25, 2009

THE GOOD WE DO: NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION RECOGNIZES ATTORNEYS FOR PRO BONO SERVICE

Skadden Arps Team Helps Make Low-income Housing a Reality Despite Bad Economy

When Peter J. DiConza, Jr., an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, saw the need to help provide low-income housing in the Bronx for people with special needs, he jumped at the opportunity to offer his pro bono team's skills.

DiConza's team helped Community Access negotiate a joint venture agreement with Alembic Development Company LLC to develop a 106-unit, low-income housing project in the Bronx, which includes 55 units designated for people with special needs, and provides program space for special services.

Formed in response to the state's mass release of psychiatric patients to the streets in 1974, Community Access has provided supportive housing for homeless and mentally ill populations. It owns and manages buildings and apartments of permanent and transitional supportive housing in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
 
"They reviewed all of the documents, especially as we got close to closing on the project and made suggestions and comments," said Maggi Knox, director of Project Development for Community Access. After delays related to the dire financial and tax credit markets, the project's closing was held in May.

New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City), said, "Increasingly, more and more New Yorkers and worthy non-profit organizations, are finding it harder to keep their heads above water as they try to navigate our legal system. Whether it's low-income housing, foreclosure cases, or child custody issues, every New Yorker should have equal access to justice. The State Bar is proud to salute attorneys, like Peter DiConza and his pro bono team, who truly live the words, and justice for all." 

In honor of the first-ever National Pro Bono Week, the New York State Bar Association is recognizing the significant contributions made by the scores of attorneys like DiConza and his team who already participate in pro bono, to educate the public and the legal profession about the ever-growing unmet legal needs of low-income people and others who have been hard hit by the economic downturn, and to encourage more attorneys to volunteer. As part of its "The Good We Do" campaign, the State Bar will be highlighting these attorneys performing pro bono services and their impact on the greater good.

"You learn so much on these deals," DiConza said recently. Assisting non-profits with complicated legal proceedings "helps you to broaden your legal knowledge and it helps you to broaden your own skills."

DiConza specializes in real estate finance and development law for Skadden Arps. Since this project, DiConza has assisted with other leases, and is working on another Community Access development project as pro bono counsel. "It is just a great organization with only a handful of assets and they help so many people," he said.

DiConza is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law and received his bachelor of arts in Sociology from Johns Hopkins University and a real estate finance certificate from New York University.
 
Founded in 1876, the 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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