Our Staff

Our staff of attorneys, legal advocates and researchers come from all over the country and bring decades of experience to clients in need.

Alline Alvarez

Housing Paralegal  

Alline is an SNP Housing Paralegal.  She graduated from The University at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Administration with a concentration in world affairs.   Alline loves working at SNP because of how welcoming and passionate SNP’s team members are about social justice, and she feels valued as an employee. Holding this position, Alline feels empowered and motivated as she loves to help people. Prior to joining SNP, Alline worked as a Workers Compensation Paralegal and held various positions for an elected official in the New York State Assembly. If you see Alline around, feel free to say hi, she loves meeting new people!  

Mayya Baker 

Supervising Attorney 

As a Supervising Attorney, Mayya manages a team of SNP attorneys who work to stabilize tenancies and expand tenant’s rights. SNP’s housing practice focused on defending indigent tenants in housing court throughout NYC, through NYCHA hearings, advocating for our client’s public benefits, conducting outreach, and educating tenants. Working in public service has been a lifelong career goal and Mayya is happy to be achieving it at SNP. 

Sam Bakken

Law Graduate Pending Admission  

Sam has worked at SNP since 2019. He is a Staff Attorney in SNP’s busy housing practice, which represents tenants facing eviction, conducts housing clinics, works closely with tenant organizing groups, and represents tenants to enforce their rights relating to repairs, landlord harassment. and safety. 

Amanda Beck

Law Graduate Pending Admission 

After graduating from Tulane University in 2017 with a degree in political science, Amanda deepened her roots in New Orleans, dedicating time to an AmeriCorps service term at a local legal aid organization, aiding pro se litigants with family law matters. This passion for public service further flourished at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Amanda engaged in the Family Defense Clinic, a field clinic and seminar partnered with the Bronx Defenders Family Defense Practice. As a 3L, Amanda took part in the Cardozo Criminal Defense Clinic, a year-long immersive experience with a personal caseload, representing clients in misdemeanors from arraignments to disposition and working “of counsel” for the Legal Aid Society. Joining the Safety Net Project (SNP) as a Housing Staff Attorney in May 2023, Amanda continues to address the complex intersections of legal challenges, with housing instability consistently emerging as a central concern.

Kathleen Cash

Benefits and Homeless Advocate 

Kathleen has been an advocate in SNP’s Benefits and Homeless Advocacy Unit since November 2019. Prior to working at SNP, Kathleen was assistant director of benefits and resources at Safe Horizon Streetwork Project, a drop-in center for runaway and homeless youth. Kathleen is dedicated to serving homeless, low- and no-income New Yorkers to obtain permanent housing and safety net benefits through a harm reduction and social justice framework. 

Aitana Ruilova Castro

Legal Assistant  

Aitana graduated from St. John’s University with a B.A. in Psychology in 2019 and an M.A. in Criminology and Justice in 2021. During her time at St. John’s as an undergraduate student, she led different student organizations and fundraising efforts for different non-profit organizations. She’s currently getting her MSEd in Mental Health Counseling and wants to work with at-risk communities. Aitana migrated to the U.S. in 2015 and is fluent in both Spanish and English.

Sanai Carchi-Merrick

Operations Associate  

Sanai joined SNP in February 2017 as a Housing Paralegal. Sanai received her Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and a Master of Public Administration and Policy from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Prior to joining SNP, Sanai worked as a Family Planner with Abbott House Foster Care Agency, which is an affiliate of the NYC Administration for Children’s services and The Harlem Children’s Zone as a Student Advocate and mentor. Sanai continues student mentorship through partnering with CUNY Service Corps. and the CUNY Public Service Scholar programs to connect SNP with talented social justice advocates! Sanai became the Operations Associate for SNP in 2018. 

Ira Cyril

Law Graduate

Ira joined SNP in April 2022.  Prior to joining SNP, Ira worked as an attorney in Toronto, Canada, for 6 years in Family Law and Wills and Estates.  Ira has been passionate about social justice since she was a child and chose to pursue a career as an attorney to be an advocate for underserved and marginalized communities.  Ira has experience working with child protection agencies as well as women who have experienced intimate partner violence. Ira’s current role at NSP aligns with her desire to work primarily in public interest law and provide legal services to underserved and unrepresented groups.

Elysee Degre

Staff Attorney

Elysée joined SNP in June 2022 after earning his LLM Degree at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. His passion for law is a lifelong journey. Elysée is Bilingual (French/English) and has experience working with startups and young entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire where he earned his first and second degrees in Law. He believes that everyone should be held accountable for their actions, and as a lawyer, Elysée strives to be the voice of those in need. He’s passionate about fighting to protect and defend the rights of marginalized communities. Working with the communities is a personal commitment and an honor that gives Elysée a sense of fulfillment

Roselin Denis

Housing Paralegal

Roselin is an SNP housing paralegal. She graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a double bachelor’s in criminal justice (BS) and Forensic Psychology (BA) minoring in Criminology. Prior to joining SNP, she worked with NAICA- Neighborhood Association of Intercultural Affairs for eight years where she advocated for tenants who were facing eviction, assisted in navigating the tenants in the Bronx Housing Court and settling their cases. She joined SNP because she is passionate about helping people and learning new things along the way.

Bri Denson

Lead Organizer

Marika Dias

Managing Director  

Marika Dias is a public interest attorney who has worked in civil legal services since 2001 with a focus on providing legal services that support community organizing efforts and grassroots organizing groups. Prior to her role at SNP, Marika was the Director of the Tenant Rights Coalition at Legal Services NYC and before that, the Managing Attorney at Make the Road New York. Marika is a member of the Steering Committee of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition and a movement lawyering trainer, including with the Movement Law Lab trainers collective. Marika is also an active board member of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project. which provides services for incarcerated LGBTQ+ immigrants and organizes around prison abolition. 

Raven Dorantes, Esq.

Managing Attorney  

Raven has worked with the Safety Net Project since 2016. She is now the Managing Attorney in SNP’s busy housing practice, which represents tenants facing eviction, conducts housing clinics, works closely with tenant organizing groups, and represents tenants to enforce their rights relating to repairs, landlord harassment, and safety. 

Lauren Drake

Law Graduate

Lauren joined SNP in August 2023 after earning her J.D. from CUNY School of Law. She is a Law Graduate in SNP’s busy housing practice, which represents tenants facing eviction, conducts housing clinics, works closely with tenant organizing groups, and represents tenants to enforce their rights relating to repairs, landlord harassment, and safety.

Natalie Druce

Staff Attorney  

At SNP, Natalie works with tenants facing eviction, trying to obtain repairs, experiencing harassment from their landlords or dealing with other housing-related issues. She joined SNP to support the fight to preserve housing as a fundamental human right. Natalie started her law career in Australia, where she worked in private practice as a Judicial Clerk in the New South Wales Court of Appeals and co-led an organization that facilitated legal education workshops with young people at risk of homelessness. She recently completed a Master of Laws, where she was a student advocate in the NYU Reproductive Justice Clinic. Before joining SNP, she worked as a fellow with the United Nations Development Program conducting research on sexual and reproductive health. Natalie speaks conversational French and is currently working on improving her Spanish. 

Seth Frazier

Supervising Social Worker

Seth joined SNP in April 2023 as the Supervising Social Worker and is a graduate of Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work. Seth has spent well over a decade supporting others with their housing, health, and employment goals. He dreams of a New York that provides housing and healthcare for all.

Sandra Garcia

Housing Benefits Advocate

Gracie Gerhart

Law Graduate

Gracie joined SNP from Ohio having earned her J.D. from Case Western Reserve University. Gracie is committed to empowering underrepresented individuals and has experience working with adult survivors of human trafficking and in Ohio domestic relations law. Gracie’s desire to do more for the women with whom she worked is what drove her to pursue a career in the law.

Roxanna Henry

Social Worker, MSW 

Roxanna Henry joined SNP in October 2019. As a social worker, Roxanna works to provide advocacy and social service assistance to clients experiencing problems such as accessing public benefits, homelessness, and tenant rights.   

Roxanna started her career path as a client seeking public assistance benefits when New York City’s Human Resources Administration told her that she would not be allowed to attend college as a student receiving public assistance. Since then, she has successfully graduated, completed WRI’s two-semester Community Leadership Training Program, and earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Social Work from Hunter College. Roxanna’s experiences and values inspire her to declare, “I’m glad to be able to give back to the community. My focus is to advance public benefits programs in New York and make safe spaces for others with first-hand experiences to join the policy table to make a real impact on social policies.” 

Glenda Hernandez

Supervising Attorney

Ulysses (Peter) Malvan

Homeless Advocate 

Peter is native New Yorker who became homeless from his Corona Queens residence on his 30th birthday. From the age of 15, Peter has been a caregiver to parents, patients, and friends. Peter has been on non-profit boards surrounding homelessness, worked on several research demonstration projects, and is a survivor of both WTC Bombings. Peter has lived on the streets, worked under MOC, and been a recipient of the city’s homeless services. As a Homeless Advocate at SNP, Peter utilizes this wealth of experience to engage in outreach and advocate on behalf of homeless New Yorkers in the city’s shelter system and living on the street.  One motivating factor in Peter’s work, which has helped him through many traumatic disasters, was realizing that obtaining and sustaining housing for all must be achieved. Peter’s hope is that joining this phenomenal organization and team will further his progress toward that goal. 

Adriana Mendoza

Benefits Supervisor

Adriana joined SNP as a Benefits Advocate in October 2016 providing direct representation to clients in public assistance and SNAP cases. Prior to joining SNP, Adriana was working at the Center for Family Life helping develop inclusive and democratically run worker-owned businesses. Adriana was born and raised in Brooklyn and is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She received her B.A. in Sociology and is a native Spanish speaker.

Sara Musfika

Chris Natale

Staff Attorney

Chris joined SNP in July 2022. Chris is an experienced attorney having worked across multiple practice areas including immigration, divorce and family law and general litigation in Sydney, Australia, where he gained distinction for his critical legal skills and commitment to his clients prior to joining SNP. Chris obtained his JD from the University of Sydney in 2016 and was barred in New York City in February 2023. For Chris, the focus is on the client and working collaboratively with each client to secure the best possible outcome in each case.

Eliza Ni Thighearnaigh

Grants and Development Associate 

Kathleen Olds

Law Graduate

Kathleen joined SNP after earning her J.D. from Yale Law School and working as a legal fellow with the Worker Justice Center of New York. She has a long-term commitment to supporting tenant-worker power, in all the ways she can. She’s deeply inspired by all the tenants in New York organizing to fight dispossessive conditions.

Ed Ortiz

Senior Benefits Advocate 

Ed Ortiz has worked with families and individuals since the 1980s to help them resolve their public benefits and tenancy issues. He joined UJC in 2003 after a long stint in legal services in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Ed has been active in political and social justice issues for over 40 years, including The Same Boat Coalition and the NYC Congress for Puerto Rican Rights. The coalition formed in 1985 to fight then-Mayor Giuliani’s assault on the city’s poor and homeless. He is now also active in the struggle to decolonize Puerto Rico and achieve its independence from the United States. Ed is a graduate of Hofstra University, B.S., 1992. 

Ayelet Pinnolis

Housing Paralegal

Ayelet joined SNP in May 2021. Prior to joining SNP, Ayelet worked at HomeStart, a Boston nonprofit working to prevent homelessness, where she advocated for tenants who were facing eviction, helped them navigate housing court and settle their cases, and assisted them with housing search. Ayelet also served as an AmeriCorps member with City Year in Boston, mentoring middle school students and implementing literacy interventions. Ayelet has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Chicago. 

Ben Rosenfield

Sandra Russo

Staff Attorney   

Molly Shatzkin

Staff Attorney

Valerie Smosna

Staff Attorney 

Valerie has worked at SNP since 2021. She is a Staff Attorney in SNP’s busy housing practice, which represents tenants facing eviction, conducts housing clinics, works closely with tenant organizing groups, and represents tenants to enforce their rights relating to repairs, landlord harassment, and safety. 

Ingrid Soto

NOEP Coordinator

Helen Strom

Benefits and Homelessness Unit Director  

Helen joined SNP in 2011 as a Benefits Advocate. Her work was initially focused on individual benefits advocacy and fair hearings. It later changed to include homeless advocacy, organizing and policy work, and managing. In 2015, Helen worked with impacted community members to start the Safety Net Activists, who continue to organize around homelessness, housing and public benefits issues in NYC. Helen is committed to working with the team at SNP to provide high quality legal and social services, all while building power with community members to fight for a city where all residents have the housing, income, food, and resources they need to survive and thrive and are treated with dignity and respect, free of the violence that comes from sweeps and criminalization of poverty.

Damian Terbiler

Staff Attorney 

Wendell Tong

Wendell Y. Tong joined the Safety Net Project as staff attorney in 2022.  Wendell is interested in helping indigent clients attain housing security in New York City.  She/they has a background in consumer protection, toxic torts, and mass litigation, in both federal and state courts.

Tanvee Trehan

Staff Attorney   

Tanvee has been a staff attorney at the Safety Net Project since 2018. Tanvee received her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and her B.A. from Fordham University. Tanvee represents tenants facing eviction while also working to stabilize tenancies and expand tenants’ rights. She provides direct representation to tenants in landlord-tenant cases. She conducts trainings, and housing clinics, works closely with tenant organizing groups, and represents tenants to enforce their rights relating to repairs, landlord harassment, and safety.

Blake Trettien

Staff Attorney 

Armando Vidana

Housing Benefits Advocate

With a background in Political Science, coupled with experience in employment law, Armando is well-equipped to advocate for tenants effectively. He is committed to safeguarding tenants’ rights and plays a pivotal role in assisting individuals facing eviction by securing them with assistance with rental and utility arrears. Armando is also fluent in Spanish.

Karim Walker

Homeless Outreach Worker and Organizer

Michele Yankson

Supervising Attorney

Michele A. Yankson is a supervising attorney in the Safety Net Project. She has spent several years advocating for low-income and marginalized individuals through a racial justice lens. She started her legal career as a federal law clerk in the Northern District of Ohio and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. She graduated from NYU School of Law where she received the Gary E. Moncrieffe award for racism and the law.

NEED HELP FINDING COUNSEL?

SNP provides free legal services to low and no income New Yorkers with housing or public benefits issues. Click below for our legal clinic schedules.

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We welcome your questions and comments

Main Office

40 Rector Street
New York, NY 10006

Telephone: 646.602.5600

Email: snp@urbanjustice.org

Hours

M-F: 9:00AM-6:00PM

The Safety Net Project does not conduct client intake at our Rector Street Office. For information about our services and walk-in clinics, check out our legal clinic schedules.

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