Legal Aid Society

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Community Development Project

The Community Development Project (CDP) provides targeted support to small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and Housing Development Fund Companies (HDFCs) in New York City in order to empower our clients to achieve long-term success and create jobs, thereby promoting economic and social stability in their communities. We offer advice on selecting the right legal structure, developing a board of directors, writing corporate bylaws, and additional services related to establishing, maintaining, and growing businesses owned by low income individuals in our communities.

Our Impact

Many of CDP’s small business cases involve immigrants who need to work, are unable to do so under current law, and benefit greatly from learning that they can form a business. These immigrants face daunting obstacles and are often vulnerable to fraud.

In response to these very real problems, the CDP has mobilized to assist this discreet group.  Our project provides advice, community education and legal assistance to these immigrants to help them start their own businesses, achieve their dreams and support their families.

An example are the owners of “AC” LLC—six Mexican immigrants who worked for over ten years at a store in Harlem until their employer sought to change the terms of their employment and ultimately terminated their contract. They’d learned the industry but couldn’t remain employed and sought out CDP’s help.  We provided assistance and counsel related to all aspects of starting a business and helped put these clients on the path to economic sufficiency.  They now own and operate two stores, the profits of which support their many families.

The Legal Aid Society and Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, with the financial support of Thorobird Companies LLC, secured an important settlement for The First Union Baptist Church of the Bronx, a decades-old church located at 2064 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. After protracted litigation and hard-fought negotiations, the Church, which has faced the risk of losing its historic building since 2012, will remain in its current location.

Under the settlement agreement, Thorobird paid off the Church’s debt and received title to the Church property in exchange for agreeing to build affordable rental housing units on the site and for giving a deed back to the Church at the completion of the renovation of a 4,500-square-foot Church space.

“First Union is a community institution that stood firm and provided resources when the Bronx was burning, through drug epidemics and gang violence. We are so grateful for the expert legal advocacy of the Kasowitz team along with Ms. Chase of Legal Aid in negotiating this complex transaction. Now we will be able to continue our legacy of service to the community,” said Reverend Dr. James E. Wilson, Jr., the Church’s Senior Pastor since 1974.


The Community Development Project partners with elected officials, colleges, civil and professional groups, and other legal service providers to reach small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and low-income co-ops across New York City. We provide training, support, and legal advice and representation to those businesses in order to empower our clients to achieve long-term success and create jobs, thereby promoting economic and social stability in their communities. During the pandemic, we conducted approximately 50 trainings and outreach events each year, reaching nearly 6,000 individuals annually.