Updated: May 1
By Jon Winkler
OLA of Eastern Long Island, an advocacy group for the Latino community, has hired a full-time general counsel.
Andrew Strong, 38, of Springs said he will act as a “conduit” to connect Latino residents to legal resources throughout Long Island and New York.
“These services are more difficult to access out here,” he said. “In a city, you could throw a stone and hit an attorney. It can be more difficult for OLA’s population.”
“Solid legal help is not only not easy to find if you’re working class but it’s going to be harder to find representation you feel comfortable about,” said Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director. “Sometimes people won’t take it all the way because of fears of drawing attention to their lives that lead to exposure.”
Latino men and women can be especially vulnerable to exploitative situations involving wages and documentation of work hours, as well as eviction practices that are “not so scrupulous,” Ms. Perez said.
She cited the $82 million mortgage fraud scheme orchestrated by former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi, who spent three years in prison after being accused of falsifying loan applications and using straw buyers to scam homeowners in Southampton as an example of a serious incident requiring “cost-effective, high-quality” legal representation. She also noted the need for legal assistance for victims of domestic violence, assault, and crimes involving children.
“We should be addressing and helping them so that the victims will no longer feel victimized,” Ms. Perez said.
Mr. Strong graduated cum laude from Northwestern University Law School and spent seven years practicing at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Netherlands. He also represented the prime minister of Kosovo, an independent country in southeastern Europe, in consecutive war crime trials and worked for the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Counter Terrorism, adding to his experience in international human rights law and international criminal defense litigation.
He currently lives with his two children and wife, Rachael, in her hometown of Springs.
Ms. Perez met Mr. Strong a year ago, and Ms. Perez commended his ability to encourage dialogue, be respectful of his clients and learn as much as possible in any given situation.
“He’s such a great personality,” she said. “We needed someone who’s open and doesn’t assume the worst in any situation. It’s a long process involving a lot of conversation, but it’s no drastic change to what we’ve been doing here. It’s just a better way of doing it.”