Legal Aid Society

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Community Development Project

The Community Development Project (CDP) offers essential transactional legal services to assist small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and Housing Development Fund Companies (HDFCs) throughout New York City. Our mission is to empower our clients, enabling them to pursue sustainable, long-term success and foster job creation, thereby contributing to the enhancement of economic and social stability within their respective communities.

We provide expert guidance on critical areas such as legal structure selection, board of directors’ development, corporate bylaws drafting, and a comprehensive range of supplementary services aimed at the establishment, maintenance, and growth of businesses owned by individuals with limited financial resources. Our commitment is to facilitate their journey towards prosperity while fostering economic resilience within our neighborhoods.

Our Work

Supporting Low-Income Small Businesses
We offer comprehensive guidance to our low-income small business clients, aiding them in selecting the appropriate business structure, crafting operational agreements, securing financing, adhering to tax obligations, safeguarding their intellectual property, and negotiating commercial leases, among other vital matters. These clients, ranging from street vendors to caterers and beauty salons, play a pivotal role in job creation and fostering economic vitality within their communities.

Empowering Nonprofit Organizations
Our nonprofit clients receive counsel spanning a wide spectrum of legal issues, including incorporation, tax exemption, compliance with charitable regulations, corporate governance, real estate matters, intellectual property, and employment concerns. Our clientele encompasses arts organizations, after-school and childcare programs, community development entities, and groups dedicated to serving marginalized communities.

Supporting Low-Income Housing Cooperatives and Tenant Associations
CDP also represents low-income housing cooperatives and tenant associations striving to establish affordable coops. We offer existing coops guidance in corporate governance, financing, and navigating potential tax foreclosure risks. Tenant associations receive continuous representation throughout the cooperative conversion process.

A Collaborative Approach
At CDP, we actively collaborate with community-based partners to offer workshops, counseling, and legal representation that amplify our impact and promote community resilience.

Our Impact

Assisting Immigrants
Many of the cases CDP handles involve immigrants who are eager to work but face barriers due to current immigration laws. These individuals greatly benefit from discovering the opportunity to establish their own businesses. Unfortunately, they encounter significant challenges and are often vulnerable to fraudulent schemes.

In response to these pressing issues, CDP has taken proactive steps to assist this specific demographic. Our project offers valuable advice, community education, and legal support to these immigrants, enabling them to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and provide for their families.

For instance, one group we assisted consisted of six Mexican immigrants who had dedicated over a decade to working at a store in Harlem until their employer attempted to alter their employment terms and ultimately terminated their contracts. Although they had acquired industry knowledge, they were unable to secure stable employment and turned to CDP for assistance. We provided comprehensive guidance and legal counsel on all aspects of business establishment, setting these clients on a path to economic self-sufficiency. Currently their company successfully operates two stores, the profits of which sustain the owners and their families.

Addressing Gentrification
The Legal Aid Society and Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, with the financial support of an affordable development company, secured an important settlement for The First Union Baptist Church of the Bronx, a decades-old church located on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. After protracted litigation and hard-fought negotiations with a private hedge fund, the Church, which has faced the risk of losing its historic building since 2012, will remain in its current location on the ground floor and the developer will build affordable rental housing units.

“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 actively engages in partnerships with elected officials, colleges, civil and professional organizations, and fellow legal service providers, fostering a collaborative approach to uplift and enhance our communities. By uniting with these stakeholders, we forge connections with small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and low-income cooperative groups across New York City.

Our overarching mission is to empower these entities with training, support, and expert legal counsel. Through these strategic alliances, we equip our clients with the tools necessary to achieve sustainable success, thereby enabling them to actively contribute to job creation and play a pivotal role in nurturing economic and social stability within their neighborhoods.

Throughout the challenges posed by the pandemic, we remained steadfast in our commitment, conducting approximately 50 training sessions and outreach events annually, effectively reaching nearly 6,000 individuals each year.

Corporate Transparency Act

Beginning on January 1, 2024, the Corporate Transparency Act will require most entities formed or registered in the United States to report detailed information about their beneficial owners, i.e. the individuals who own or control the company to the U.S. Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Learn More.


For help with small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and HDFCs contact the Community Development Project at 212-298-3340,, or reserve a spot in our new virtual clinic by completing our online questionnaire.