Brad Gerstman is a leading New York State attorney, lobbyist and communications specialist. His diverse background and extensive experience in law, business, government, education, and the not-for-profit community places him in a unique position to represent and advocate for a broad range of clients and causes.

As both a personal donor and successful fundraiser, Brad has built a political career that spans all levels of government, and encompasses pertinent figures from both sides of the political spectrum. He has served on a number of Finance Committees, and has been sought out by some of the most prominent members of government for both campaign guidance and fundraising aid. It is this exceptional fundraising prowess that has allowed Brad to create an incomparable reputation state-wide.

Mr. Gerstman’s exceptional track record for building both relationships and coalitions has earned Brad the respect of policy makers, and guided them in constructing essential legislation for the state of New York. Through years of experience, Brad has developed the skills necessary to steer his clients through the complex legislative, political, and bureaucratic processes, while concurrently serving as their spokesperson. With progressive strategies, Brad has acquired the ability to tap into political trends and opportunities, which enable him to identify and overcome obstacles for his clients. Brad’s work has resulted in the shaping of public policy in a number of areas including business advocacy, land use, municipal matters, special education, and charitable causes. Admittedly, Brad has been quoted stating, “Because of the passion I possess as an advocate, the consideration of running for office is always lurking somewhere in my mind”. This very passion even led to a successful exploratory campaign funded, in part, by 500,000 dollars of Brad’s own personal finances.

Brad provides clients with a unique blend of legal, political, and business experience. As a member of the New York State Bar since 1994, Brad developed a remarkable reputation as a defense attorney, prosecutor and general corporate counsel. His distinguished career as a litigator began when Brad was appointed as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx. In this role, Brad faithfully served New Yorkers through his investigation of corporate fraud and corruption cases, as well as his tenacity in persecuting violent criminals. From the DA’s office, Mr. Gerstman went on to head a law firm that focused on criminal defense and general litigation. During this period he handled numerous high-profile cases that included the protection of children from lead-based paint, and advocating for the rights of senior citizens. Currently, Brad is a partner in Gerstman, Schwartz & Wink, LLP,  and Gotham Government Relations & Communications, based in Roslyn. In addition, Brad is a member of the Education Law Association and the Nassau County Bar Association’s Education Law Committee.

Mr. Gerstman is a strong advocate for children with special needs. He currently acts as both co-founder and board member of the Lisa Beth Gerstman Foundation, a family foundation that provides summer camp experiences to children with physical and developmental disabilities. In the past, Brad has also served as the Long Island Advocacy Chair for Autism Speaks, one of the nation’s largest autism advocacy organizations, as well as Advocacy Chair on the 2007 Long Island Walk Now for Autism Planning Committee. In 2008, Brad was appointed by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi to chair his Autism Coalition. In addition, Mr. Gerstman was recently elected by the Long Island Autism Coalition Board to serve as Counsel to their organization. Read the rest of Brad’s Bio…

From Nassau Lawyer, the Journal of the Nassau County Bar Association:

There is a crisis in educating children with autism on Long Island-one that is brought to us by the Good Intentions Paving Company. This is very personal to me because my son has been diagnosed as autistic. Here the personal becomes political and in order to insure our rights, and those of my son, we have to organize and fight for them not only in the political arena, but on the front lines in each and every school district.

In writing about educating special needs kids and the law it is important to start off by saying this is less about the law per se than it is about how the law is interpreted and implemented at the school district level. School administrators on Long Island, often well-intentioned, have come a long way, but in trying to better address the needs of autistic students, they are still failing to implement best educational practices-a failure that many parents of these children remain unfortunately unaware of.

Put simply, there is a gap between the written statutes and the reality of what’s going on in the classrooms on Long Island. This gap inevitably leads to the shortchanging of children who need intensive educational services-and it is precisely at this juncture where we as lawyer/advocates belong in order to insure that the law is implemented as it was intended to be.

One of the main goals of any parent in America is for their children to receive a quality education. Parents will uproot their families to move into areas where educational opportunities are better for their kids. Even more important for any parent, however, is that their children be healthy.

Now imagine that your son or daughter has been diagnosed with autism-or any one of the variants of the disease that are subsumed under Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the world. The CDC reports that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, 1 in 50 school aged children, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups, and is four times more likely to strike in boys than girls. There is no medical detection or cure for Autism.

Ever since 1975 when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Act was passed our country has recognized its obligations to these challenged children. Passing a federal law, or any law for that matter, is only the first step. IDEA requires every state to issue regulations that guide the implementation of the federal law within the state. At a minimum, state regulations must provide all of the protections contained in IDEA. Some states may have additional requirements that go beyond the federal law. Many states offer handbooks or guides to help parents understand these state-specific policies and procedures.

The IDEA states that children with autism and other disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  Unfortunately, they don’t incorporate a clear definition of inclusion and this grey area leaves parents at the mercy of school districts with their own ideas about what are the appropriate educational methods for these special kids. At the district level, what passes for “policy” is too often a one page memo that leaves educational policy as an ad hoc process without any clear cut methodology.

It is important that parents and advocates understand that The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides specific procedural safeguards to help parents advocate for their child’s educational well-being. It promotes parents’ involvement in the education of their child and gives them the necessary tools to be key decision makers.

The federal law allows parents to participate in all meetings concerning their child, examine their child’s school records, request an independent evaluation and agree or disagree with placement decisions. The first step towards more successful policy implementation is the existence of a strong cohort of engaged parents to help motivate school officials to follow the legal guidelines.

The irony is that the districts on Long Island are trying to make things better. Their approach, however, is too often a one size fits all policy that is attempting to herd special needs kids back into the public schools from their more expensive, but extremely effective, outsourcing at private schools devoted exclusively to educating special needs children.

The narrative that the districts employ is very seductive. They talk about “mainstreaming” and “integrated classrooms” where “co-teachers” are utilized to make the special needs child feel just like any other kid. This approach can be effective when it is used for a small number of students with comparable disabilities. When a larger number of these kids with disparate skills and abilities are herded together, however, good outcomes are much harder to obtain. Mainstreaming sounds good but is not always the best approach if it isn’t properly implemented.

The problem here for Long Island is that there are 126 separate school districts, each with their own method of how to implement the protocols suggested under IDEA. Unlike NYC, where the Department of Education has developed a consistent city wide approach, Long Island’s disparate treatment of children on the autism spectrum makes it incumbent on the parent and/or the practitioner to become familiar with the specific methodology used in a particular district.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t have the requisite knowledge or the wherewithal to navigate this complicated thicket, and to fight successfully on behalf of their children who might not be getting the right educational services. Our role as lawyers is to educate the parents and advocate for their children by bringing cases that, if successful, can set legal precedents leading to policy changes that will improve the education of all special needs children in a district.

What this means is that lawyer/advocates, along with the parents of children with ASD, must constantly fight for the educational rights of these special kids-holding administrator’s hands to the fire so that schools are following the law and providing children with the education they deserve to have.

This is precisely where the legal and the political meet. On Long Island there is the Long Island Advocacy Chair for Autism Speaks, one of the nation’s largest autism advocacy organizations. When particular legal issues arise, it is a huge help to practitioners to have an organized advocacy group that can buttress individual legal claims. It goes without saying that administrative officials will respond to political pressure and grass roots advocacy efforts, and lawyers practicing in this field would be well-advised to develop strong ties to the advocates who posses both a deep reservoir of important information, as well as necessary political will.

All children with special needs are a unique kind of special interest. How we treat these kids helps to define us as a society. Our legislators have recognized this, but lawyer/advocates need to insure that vigilance is maintained at the school level to insure that the promise of the law, and the righteous hopes of parents, are actually realized.

Read more From Nassau Lawyer, the Journal of the Nassau County Bar Association…

Learn the Philosophy & Mechanics of Lobbying

November 10, 2014

What is lobbying? Join Brad Gerstman, David Schwartz, Robert Malito and elected officials for an educational event.

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Former Hofstra players raising funds for Wyandanch football

November 2, 2014
Newsday

“They’re coming together for a great cause, to ensure that Wyandanch football remains for as long as this district is around.”

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LI Herald: Fighting anti-Semitic crimes

September 18, 2014
LI Herald

In partnership with Nassau County, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island and Brad Gerstman, a Roslyn resident, established a fund to financially reward those who provide information about anti-Semitic crimes.

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NY Post: Muslim waiter sues Waldorf Astoria for firing him

September 15, 2014
NY Post

“If we can’t get justice for our client, we intend to take action in the community and protesting, picketing and rallying in front of the hotel,” Kotbi’s new attorney Brad Gerstman said.

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