Former Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix writes farewell letter to staffers

Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, left, with her close friend and former colleague, retired Supreme Court Justice Sylvia G. Ash.
Photo by Nelson A. King

After leaving her post on May 31 as the city’s top lawyer, Barbadian-born former New York City Corporation Counsel, Sylvia Hinds-Radix shared with Caribbean Life a farewell email she had written to staffers.

“For over two years, I have had the honor of serving as the 81st Corporation Counsel,” said Justice Hinds-Radix. “Leading one of the finest law offices in the country and contributing to the betterment of the city has been the privilege of a lifetime.”

During her City Council confirmation hearing, she recalled that she had pledged to uphold the mission of the office, “which is to protect and defend the interests of the City of New York.

“Together, we have fulfilled that promise with excellence and integrity,” she said, stating that a main priority during her tenure was to strengthen the office “to help us more effectively carry out its mission.”

Justice Hinds-Radix said that she was gratified that, after extensive efforts advocating for the department, she and staffers had secured and implemented salary and merit pay increases to address significant retention and hiring issues.

“The program we created to invest in our bar exam retakers has been phenomenally successful,” she said. “It has substantially increased pass rates and provided additional attorneys for the office.”

She said the creation of two new legal divisions — Ethics & Compliance, and Risk Management — fortified the office’s capabilities and provided additional resources for all city agencies.

Also, she said weekly meetings with Agency General Counsels helped in sharing knowledge on a variety of new legal issues and effectively coordinated citywide on numerous matters affecting the city.

Justice Hinds-Radix said what they had achieved in other areas at a time of “great challenge” was spectacular.”

Still recovering from the global pandemic, she said the arrival of nearly 200,000 migrants, beginning in the Spring of 2022, severely strained city resources.

She said numerous Law Department divisions provided the legal guidance for all the urgent measures taken by the city to manage the crisis.

Justice Hinds-Radix said the department also drafted numerous executive orders and contracts, defeated legal challenges to the siting of migrant housing facilities, and brokered a landmark agreement with the Legal Aid Society in Callahan v. Carey, providing the city with additional flexibility it needed to respond to the emergency.

At the same time, many of the staffers “worked tirelessly to support other key municipal initiatives and defend the City’s interests in court.

“Every day, we have helped the city deliver on its key mission of furthering public safety, safeguarding taxpayer dollars, rebuilding our economy, and improving the quality of life for New Yorkers,” she said, stating that their efforts “saved billions of dollars for taxpayers and will leave a lasting impact on the city.”

Hind-Radix said the city’s Law Department implemented protest response reforms; sued online ghost gun retailers; fought for sensible gun laws in court; created a citywide task force to enhance Family Court Division collaboration with the New York Police Department (NYPD) and communities to stem gun violence; and secured the correction of code violations at thousands of apartments across the city to protect tenants.

She said the department played “a leading role” in helping the city shut down illegal smoke and cannabis shops; sued social media companies fueling a youth mental health crisis; filed lawsuits against distributors of illegal flavored vapes; participated in coalition litigation to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; and defeated an unprecedented legal challenge to the Department of Education’s $31 billion budget, which threatened to disrupt operations supporting over a million students.

In addition, Justice Hinds-Radix said the Law Department defeated Con Edison’s property tax bill challenge, which saved $1.3 billion for the city; won other tax refund cases, protecting over $100 million in city revenue; and recovered tens of millions of dollars for the city, from breach of contract cases, commercial disputes, cigarette trafficking cases, construction defect matters, false claims act cases, judgement enforcements, and other affirmative lawsuits.

She said the law department’s work to support economic development, housing creation and job growth will impact generations of New Yorkers.

She said the department advised the city on its historic plan to transform Willets Point into a thriving community, a project that will generate $6.1 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years, create 1,550 projected permanent jobs and 14,200 construction jobs; successfully defended rent stabilization laws in appeals court and opposed Supreme Court review; defeated court challenges to an historic rezoning plan to create 3,000 permanently affordable homes and improve access to the waterfront for Gowanus residents; successfully defended minimum pay rules for food delivery workers; and enhanced the city’s financial relief program to support 1,800 taxi medallion owners impacted by the pandemic.

Hinds-Radix said those achievements represent a “select but significant sample” of the city’s Law Department’s collective efforts to advance the welfare of the city.

During her previous roles as a Supreme Court and Appellate Court Justice, she said was always impressed by the knowledge and professionalism of the Law Department members that appeared before her.

As Corporation Counsel, she said she had seen up close staffers’ “deep expertise” across dozens of specialized areas, their steadfast dedication to the rule of law, and “unwavering commitment to protect the interests of the city and its residents.

“I thank you for your exceptional contributions, which have helped the Law Department remain a beacon of public service,” Justice Hinds-Radix said. “Your excellent work extends beyond the courtroom and has touched the lives of individuals and communities. I commend those of you who mentor young people and others, which I strongly believe is an investment in our future.

“I have also been deeply moved and encouraged by the feedback received by those inspired by the story of an individual born on the 166-square-mile island of Barbados, becoming the first Caribbean-born woman to serve as Corporation Counsel, and the second woman, and the first woman of color, to serve in that position,” she added.

“It has been an honor to work with you serving the people of this great city,” she continued.

Justice Hinds-Radix is succeeded by another woman of color, Muriel Goode-Trufant.

On May 31, New York City Mayor Eric Adams thanked Hinds-Radix for her “service and dedication to the people of this city.”

“Not only did she serve this city as an attorney, as a judge, but also as our corporation counsel,” he said. “Look over the last two years and six months, leading a group of lawyers larger than any major law firm in the country. She did it with a level of dignity that I respect.”

According to NY1 cable tv, the mayor and Hinds-Radix were “reportedly at odds over the city representing him in a sexual assault lawsuit.”

But in late April, Adams sought to dismiss any rupture with Hinds-Radix.

“Judge Radix is a longtime friend for many, many years,” NY1 quoted him as saying at one of his weekly question-and-answer sessions. “I was at her daughter’s wedding. There is no disagreement.”

Justice Hinds-Radix’s eldest daughter, Jovia Radix-Seaborough, is also a lawyer.