Innovation is in integration at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, which has combined its zoning, land use and environmental law practice groups into a single unit.
The group, chaired by partner E. Christopher Murray, maximizes RMF’s decades of development and zoning experience as an “integrated cross-disciplinary unit,” according to the Uniondale-based firm.
Managing Partner Adam Silvers noted development and zoning applications are often “intertwined” with environmental litigation and regulatory challenges, requiring a team effort on most real estate matters. And Murray is the right man to manage that team, Silvers added, with 25-plus years of experience in commercial litigation, municipal government and environmental law.
“Chris Murray is uniquely qualified to oversee our innovative initiative to combine these traditionally stand-alone practice areas,” Silvers said.
Murray’s lengthy experience includes federal and state litigation on a variety of environmental and zoning issues, including New York State Environmental Quality Review Act compliance and Article 78 proceedings, which determine if the letter of the law was followed in civil and legal matters. In addition to serving as a past president of the Nassau Council Chambers of Commerce – representing 6,000 small businesses and 40 local chambers – he is a former member of the Town of North Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals.
That zoning board gig, from 2005 to 2011, informs him constantly as a litigator of zoning issues and other real estate matters, Murray noted.
“It gives you the perspective of a zoning board,” he said. “You’re better able to understand what their concerns are going to be when you’re making an application. A zoning board has a lot of discretion to make decisions, and it’s helpful to know what they think is important.”
It’s also helpful for clients to know 47-year-old Ruskin Moscou Faltischek can deliver more rounded real-estate expertise, “as opposed to just meeting with one person about one thing,” Murray added, hence the formalization of the firm’s disparate practice areas into the new group.
“It’s important for the practice to be able to deliver expertise in the different aspects,” the partner told Innovate LI. “If you’re going to make an Article 78 challenge, it’s good to understand the zoning process. Same if you’re going for a zoning variance – being experienced in all aspects of [land-use law] is a more effective way of treating an issue.”
The group includes four attorneys now and is likely to add more, though the firm has not yet discussed an official expansion plan.
The focus now, according to Eric Rubenstein, RMF partner and real estate co-chairman, is on creating a “seamlessly integrated practice area” to address the land-use and environmental-law needs of a client base that includes developers, property owners and various commercial and residential cooperatives.
“RMF has been able to help maximize the value of our clients’ real estate investments through our expertise in litigation, land use, zoning and environmental matters,” Rubenstein said. “We will continue to meet the requirements of our clients by bringing these disciplines together.”
In January, the Uniondale firm also announced the formation of a cybersecurity and data privacy practice, uniting eight attorneys with experience in IP, cyber and privacy laws.