Maria Hunter
Director, Public Benefits

Maria Hunter-NYLAG-Public-Benefits-Unit-DirectorMaria Hunter is Director of the Public Benefits Unit, which works to ensure that low-income families, children, the elderly, those with disabilities, veterans, and other vulnerable populations have access to the public benefits to which they are entitled, including public assistance, SNAP benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Supplemental Security Income. Maria was previously the supervising attorney for the Elder Law Practice where she led a team that represented senior clients on issues regarding access to public benefits, advance life planning, and addressed elder abuse. Maria received her J.D. from the New York University School of Law and she attended Cornell University and Brandeis University for her undergraduate studies.


Victoriya Baratt
Staff Attorney, Elder Law practice, Public Benefits

Victoriya is a staff attorney in the Elder Law Practice of the Public Benefits Unit. She advises and represents low- income seniors residing in Brooklyn on matters including advanced directives, powers of attorney, living wills, Medicaid/Medicare, and homecare. Prior to joining NYLAG, Victoriya practiced civil litigation law. Victoriya received her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and her Bachelor’s Degrees from Stony Brook University.

Deborah Berkman
Senior Staff Attorney, Public Assistance/SNAP Advocacy Practice, Public Benefits

Deborah is a Senior Staff Attorney with NYLAG’s Public Benefits Unit with a focus on benefits administered by the City of New York. She advises and represents low-income clients regarding access to public benefits, including cash public assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) and Department of Homeless Services shelter.  Deborah pioneered NYLAG’s Shelter Advocacy Initiative, providing representation for homeless families who have been denied Department of Homeless Services shelter. Earlier, Deborah was a staff attorney in NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit. Before joining NYLAG, Deborah spent her career fighting on behalf of the disenfranchised at the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and in private practice. Deborah received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her J.D. from Fordham School of Law.

Abby Biberman
Supervising Attorney, Public Assistance/SNAP Advocacy Practice, Public Benefits

Abby is supervising attorney of the Public Assistance and SNAP Practice, which provides representation to clients at hearings to ensure access to the cash assistance and food stamp benefits to which they are entitled. Abby also co-teaches the Economic Justice Clinic at Brooklyn Law School.  Previously she was a staff attorney practicing in the areas of housing, public health insurance, and elder law. Abby joined NYLAG as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with a fellowship focused on immigrant access to government benefits. Prior to joining NYLAG, Abby had the same fellowship at LawHelp NY at the City Bar Justice Center. Abby received her BA from Wesleyan University, and her JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she was a Rubin-Presser Public Interest Scholar and Executive Articles and Symposium Editor of the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.

Téa Solomonia Bishop
Senior Staff Attorney, Elder Law Practice, Public Benefits

Téa is a senior staff attorney with NYLAG’s Elder Law Practice where she advises and counsels the elderly on advance directive documents including, Health Care Proxies, Powers of Attorneys, Living Wills and Last Wills and Testaments. She participates in community outreach programs, helping individuals get critical information and assistance regarding Medicare and Medicaid. Prior to joining NYLAG she worked as Legal Information Specialist at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, assisting attorneys with legal research and managing the law library and access to legal information. She graduated from SUNY University at Buffalo Law School where she was actively involved in the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review.

Margaret Cardenas
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Vianka Colon
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Eliana Fisher
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Ryan Foley
Coordinating Attorney, Public Benefits Unit

Talia Gal-Osher
Paralegal, Legal Health, Public Benefits

Alena Gellerman
Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Alena is a staff attorney specializing in public benefits and health law, including public assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits. Alena also provides elder law services, including preparing Wills, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, and Living Wills. She works directly with many of her clients in their local community centers or in their homes.  Prior to coming to work at NYLAG, Alena worked as a Director of Human Resources at IDCC. She also worked at JCH of Bensonhurst as a project manager. Before she immigrated to the U.S., Alena worked as corporate attorney and taught Employment Law at Kubansky State University Law School, in Krasnodar, Russia. Alena received her L.L.M degree from NYU School of Law.

Julia Greenberg
Coordinating Attorney, Public Benefits

Albert Hor
Staff Attorney, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Itzel Hurtado
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Miriam Hurwitz
Coordinating Attorney, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Miriam is a coordinating attorney with NYLAG’s Disability Advocacy Project (DAP). Through the project, Miriam provides advice, advocacy, and full representation in Social Security appeals, terminations, and over-payments. Miriam previously represented vulnerable clients in federal criminal cases. She also served as an administrative law judge deciding unemployment benefits cases. Miriam graduated magna cum laude with honors from Brandeis University and from Northeastern University School of Law.

Samantha Gerber Levine
Senior Staff Attorney, Elder Law Practice, Public Benefits

Sam is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Elder Law Practice of the Public Benefits Unit.  She advises and represents low-income seniors on a variety of health care and home care matters. Sam also assists clients with advance planning documents, including Medical Advance Directives, Powers of Attorney and Last Wills and Testaments. Sam provides direct legal assistance to many of her clients in their own communities by staffing NYLAG’s mobile legal van, counseling seniors in their community centers and conducting home visits.  Before joining NYLAG, she practiced corporate law at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.  Sam graduated magna cum laude from University of Pennsylvania and received her law degree from Brooklyn Law School.

Isabelle Muhlbauer
Senior Paralegal, Public Benefits

Marta Mychak
Public Interest/Public Service Brooklyn Law School Fellow, Public Benefits

Marta works in the Public Assistance and SNAP Practice where she provides advice, advocacy and representation at administrative Fair Hearings to people whose benefits were terminated, reduced, or denied. She also participates in monthly SNAP policy workgroup and taskforce meetings where she joins other advocates from New York City to discuss widespread SNAP issues. Marta graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2016, and joined NYLAG as a Public Interest, Public Service (PiPs) Fellow.

Chris Portelli
Coordinating Attorney, Project FAIR Co-Director, Economic Justice Clinic Founder & Director, Public Benefits

Chris is Co-Director of Project FAIR and a Coordinating Attorney at NYLAG. Over the past 20 years, Chris has worked as a civil rights attorney at two major law firms, and has served on numerous boards and national committees focused on HIV/AIDS and lesbian and gay civil rights issues. Chris is also the founder and director of the new Economic Justice Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law. He has published several articles regarding law and public policy in scholarly and professional journals including: The Journal of Homosexuality, The Journal of Urban Affairs, The SIECUS Report, Priorities: The Journal of the American Council on Science and Health, and The New York Law School Journal of International and Comparative Law. Chris has taught courses on public policy and law at The Milano Graduate School (The New School) and New York Law School. Chris has served as the Director of Information for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in New York City, and was the founding Executive Director of the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association in Washington, DC. Chris earned his BA in Philosophy from DePauw University, his JD from New York Law School, and a Masters of Philosophy in Public and Urban Policy from The New School.

Blanca Quintanilla
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Eliana Robles
Senior Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Kseniya Shetrit
Supervising Attorney, Elder Law Practice, Public Benefits

Kseniya is the Supervising Attorney of NYLAG’s Elder Law Practice, which provides representation to senior clients on issues related to access to public benefits, including Medicaid, Medicare and home care, advance life planning, including drafting Medical Advance Directives, Powers of Attorneys and Last Wills and Testaments, and elder abuse.  Kseniya provides legal assistance to many of her clients directly in their community centers or in their homes. Prior to joining NYLAG, Kseniya practiced at a boutique trusts and estates firm on Long Island.  She received her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 2005 and her B.A. from New York University in 2002.  She is a member of the Trusts & Estates Law and the Elder Law and Special Needs Sections of the New York State Bar Association.

Michelle Spadafore
Senior Supervising Attorney & Project Director, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Michelle Spadafore is the Senior Supervising Attorney and Project Director of NYLAG’s Disability Advocacy Project (DAP). DAP provides advice, advocacy and/or full representation in Social Security appeals, terminations and overpayments. Michelle was previously a staff attorney at the AIDS Center of Queens County, a community-based nonprofit organization that provides services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Her background includes advising clients on Social Security, access to public benefits and health care, fair hearings, consumer credit issues, and other civil matters. Michelle graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of California, Berkeley and magna cum laude from New York Law School.

Ben Taylor
Ben Taylor, Senior Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Ben has been working as an attorney at NYLAG since 2004, working primarily on Medicaid Home Care issues as part of NYLAG’s Elder Law Practice.  The primary goal of the Home Care Project is to provide the legal assistance that is necessary to enable the elderly and disabled to live at home instead of in an institution.  Ben provides direct representation to individuals with home care problems, as well as on class action lawsuits that seek to cure systemic problems with the New York Medical Assistance Program.  Ben graduated from Cardozo Law School in 2004, and Reed College in 1998.

Gabrielle Woods
Paralegal, Public Benefits