Georgia Pestana to be first woman and Latina to head NYC law department

Local News

NEW YORK — Longtime New York City lawyer Georgia Pestana has been tapped as the city’s next corporation counsel, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday, making her the first woman and first Latina to head up New York’s law department.

In her new role as the chief lawyer for New York, Pestana will oversee the city’s approximately 1,000 lawyers and 890 support professionals.

“I’m deeply honored to be nominated to be the city’s 80th corporation counsel,” Pestana said Wednesday alongside the mayor. “I admit to feeling a little bit in awe at the significance of being the first woman and the first Latina proposed to lead a department with such a long history,” she added.

De Blasio pointed out that Pestana is also the first person appointed to the position after working her way up through the ranks of the department through the years.

“She has devoted her entire career to serving the people of New York City,” the mayor said.

Pestana, who has worked as the first assistant corporation counsel since 2015, was chosen by de Blasio to succeed her boss, Corporation Counsel James Johnson, as he heads off to the private sector.

After holding the title since being appointed by de Blasio in November 2019, Johnson will soon become the new chief operating officer for Trinity Church.

De Blasio described Pestana as “an extraordinary public servant,” adding that she is “unquestionably” one of the most talented and effective people working for the city.

The mayor credited Pestana as being a key figure in saving New York City public housing when the city faced many challenges in its “complex” dealing with the Trump administration.

“When I started at the law department right out of law school, I never dreamed that I would be there 33 years later, or siting in this seat, hearing the mayor of the city of New York nominate me,” Pestana said.

She first joined the city’s law department in 1987, directly after graduating from NYU School of Law.

Early on in her years with the department, Pestana worked as the managing attorney and then deputy chief of the General Litigation Division.

In 2002 she was appointed chief of the law department’s newly created Labor an Employment Law Division, overseeing all litigation arising out of the city’s role as an employer of over 300,000 workers.

Pestana was again promoted in 2013, moving into the role of executive assistant corporation counsel for employment and policy litigation.

“I know that I am up to being the chief legal officer of the City of New York, and I will make other women and long-serving city employees proud, and will make the city proud,” Pestana said.

Watch the mayor’s full press conference below:

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