CityLaw Profile – NYCHA General Counsel David Farber on Meeting NYCHA’s Challenges

David Farber, New York City Housing Authority General Counsel and Executive Vice-President for Legal Affairs. Image credit: NYCHA

David Farber, New York City Housing Authority General Counsel and Executive Vice-President for Legal Affairs. Image credit: NYCHA

David Farber was appointed New York City Housing Authority Executive Vice-President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel in August 2014.  When speaking with David, his clear love for New York City is readily apparent and supplemented by a driving desire to leave the city better than he found it.  Turning 50 this year, David has spent the majority of his professional career in service to his city with great satisfaction.

Born in Manhattan and raised in Yorktown, Westchester County, David’s parents imparted both a love of New York and a tradition of civic responsibility to David.  After retirement, David’s father worked as a math teacher in a Bronx high school for five years, while his mother was a social worker.  David spent a childhood in music, playing the violin through his twenties but setting it aside in later years, and made trips to the Bronx when he could to see the Yankees play.  “As soon as I could drive, my best friend and I would drive down to Yankee games, but worry about where we were going to park the car.”

David attended Brandeis University and graduated in 1987 with a degree in intellectual history.  Wanting more than a career in the private sector, David and his wife Isabelle, whom he met while spending his junior year studying abroad in Paris, moved to Los Angeles where David enrolled in UCLA Law and earned his J.D. in 1991.  After an initial commercial litigation job in Los Angeles, David and his family relocated to New York, where he took a job for a small firm doing transaction work in the music industry.  Working as outside counsel to then-small hip-hop labels and producers, David worked on record deals for well-known artists The Notorious B.I.G., DJ Premier, Gang Starr, and Run-DMC.

While working in the record industry, David began looking for a bigger challenge and found it in 1997 working for the Economic Development division of the New York City Law Department.  That job opened the door to a career in public service work which has seen David serve as counsel to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, general counsel to the Department of Small Business Services, and his position prior to NYCHA as president and general counsel of the Hudson Yards Development Corporation.  David took part in negotiating the original movie studio lease at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, developing both stadiums for the Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones, acquiring Governor’s Island for the city from the federal government, and relocating Fulton Fish Market to the Bronx.  “It’s been great to positively contribute to the City, to have projects that are well-known and I can show off to my kids.”

David’s proudest accomplishment so far, however, has been his work with Hudson Yards.  David came to the project shortly after the 2005 rezoning and worked on developing the project’s financing, writing the RFP for building over the rail yards, and interacting with city agencies, community boards, private developers, contractors, and property owners.  Where his previous work had been of short three-year stints, David says his ten years at Hudson Yards allowed him to see a whole process from conception to completion, speaking with satisfaction at the opportunity to see complicated issues discovered, solved, and then implemented.

Now with NYCHA, David is tackling what he describes as the authority’s desire to evolve into a 21st-century organization.  The NYCHA general counsel position has traditionally been focused on litigation and rent collection, but under new chair Shola Olatoye, the authority is looking to find new ways to fund its operations and engage with residents rather than focus on risk avoidance at all costs.  Drawn to the job by the complexity and the scale – David points out NYCHA’s resident population of 400,000, by itself, would qualify as the thirty-second largest city in America – David was also attracted by NYCHA’s mission and strongly believes keeping New York’s affordable housing is a key component in preserving the city’s diversity.  As general counsel, David does not work on any one particular project but a variety, spanning topics from housing litigation to corporate affairs and labor law.  An added attraction of the job for David was the substantial support NYCHA was receiving from Mayor Bill de Blasio and his affordable housing plan, making it clear NYCHA’s efforts would not be on the fringe.  David sees a challenge going forward of continuing to fulfill NYCHA’s obligations to its residents in a time of diminished state and federal resources, but recognizes a danger in proceeding without meaningfully engaging the community and stakeholders in the solution.

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.