COMPLETE VIDEO: 175th CityLaw Breakfast featuring Georgia Pestana, New York City Corporation Counsel

Image Credit: CityLand.

Today, November 12, 2021, New York City Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana spoke at the 175th CityLaw Breakfast. Ms. Pestana spoke on “Practicing Law During the Pandemic: Crisis, Challenges & Opportunities.” Professor Ross Sandler, Director of the Center for New York City Law provided opening remarks. After the talk, President and Dean of New York Law School Anthony W. Crowell and Professor Michael J. Pastor, Director of the James Tricarico Jr. Institute for the Business of Law and In-House Counsel, held a discussion with Ms. Pestana. This Breakfast was sponsored by ConEdison, Greenberg Traurig, and Verizon. This was the ninth virtual CityLaw Breakfast as in-person events are not feasible at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Pestana is a 33-year veteran of the Law Department and the first Latina and first woman to lead the Law Department, as well as the first Corporation Counsel to be selected from within the Law Department. She began her talk with a discussion about how the Law Department adapted during the pandemic to continue to serve New York City, including working from home and collaborating with agency General Counsels. According to Ms. Pestana, “while we can’t predict the next crisis, this has been an opportunity to learn” how to navigate emergency situations. The Law Department had to handle the number of emergency executive orders and changes in rules that would allow City government to continue to function during the pandemic. 

Ms. Pestana then discussed the legal challenges the Law Department had to face due to pandemic restrictions, vaccine mandates and the protests after the murder of George Floyd. As the City began to reopen, decisions had to be made that balanced the need to protect public health with constitutional rights. Measures like the curfew imposed during the protest were upheld in court while cases from protestors are still pending. Vaccination incentives like the Key to NYC Program, which limits indoor dining and indoor entertainment to require proof of vaccination, resulted in increased vaccination rates. While some cases against the vaccine mandate for City workers are still pending, the mandate resulted in a great increase in vaccination rates. According to Ms. Pestana, as of November 11th 93 percent of City workers were now vaccinated. For Ms. Pestana, “what’s most important is achieving the right result for the city and its residents.”

In the discussion with Dean Crowell and Michael Pastor, Ms. Pestana discussed the importance of risk management and how, as the Corporation Counsel, she has been exposed to more areas of law that the Law Department handles that her prior roles did not. She believes that as someone who came from within the Law Department, she has a unique perspective on how to operate the Law Department than her predecessors. They also discussed the differences in handling the COVID-19 pandemic versus prior emergencies like 9/11 and Super Storm Sandy, as the technology that enabled most to work from home during the pandemic was not readily available in prior emergencies.

To watch the video, click here or watch below:



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