The volunteer Board of Directors and professional staff of Long Island Housing Services serve as a resource in the field of fair housing to other nonprofit and government agencies, corporations, and individuals.
Ian Wilder, Acting Executive Director
Prior to his association with Long Island Housing Services, Wilder worked from June 1994 to December 2008 (14 years) as a New York State licensed attorney in private practice with an emphasis on real estate issues in Nassau and Suffolk counties. During that time he developed a holistic view of housing issues by working with home buyers, home sellers, landlords, tenants, realtors, mortgage bankers, bank attorneys, government officials, landlord-tenant attorneys, real estate attorneys, and builders.
Wilder also brings a wealth of related experience from his personal life. He has spent his personal time over the last two decades as a social justice advocate, honing his communication and organizing skills. In addition. he has served as a board member for a number of nonprofit and community organizations where he has held the positions of Treasurer, Secretary, President, and Co-chair. As a writer, his work has been published in local magazines, newspapers, and poetry journals.
Wilder has a J.D. from George Washington University Law School and a B.B.A. in Management from Hofstra University. He is a life-long learner who follows the maxim of Stephen Covey in the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to constantly “sharpen the saw”. Wilder has taken classes in nonviolent communication; acting for better presentation; poetry theatre; and master classes in poetry. Wilder reads and listens to college classes on CD on a breadth of topics including management, communication, history, politics, economics, physics, social justice, and comparative religion.
Michelle Santantonio, Executive Director EmeritusAppointed Executive Director in 1999, Ms. Santantonio has 39 years of experience in Civil/Human Rights enforcement and advocacy. Specializing in Fair Housing enforcement since joining Long Island Housing Services’ staff in 1990 as the Testing Coordinator, she has directed Long Island Housing Services’ Private Enforcement Program since 1992, has investigated and assisted in filing hundreds of meritorious complaints, recruited and trained nearly 800 volunteer testers, executed more than 25 federal enforcement contracts for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and testing research projects for ERASE Racism, HUD’s 2nd National Housing Discrimination Study and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Under her direction, Long Island Housing Services has undertaken to identify and challenge predatory lending practices, has challenged discriminatory advertising, sought government support to examine potential for regional collaboration of entitlement jurisdictions’ efforts to analyze impediments and affirmatively further Fair Housing. Ms. Santantonio has provided Fair Housing education to local government, non-profits and the public, as well as some of LI’s largest real estate and management companies, increased Long Island Housing Services’ staff from 4 ½ to its current staff of 21, including 6 full time Staff Attorneys providing Fair Housing and Foreclosure Prevention services. In 2000, she worked to secure unanimous passage of Nassau’s local Human Rights law amendment to outlaw “Source of Income” and sexual orientation discrimination. Long Island Housing Services has initiated and supported numerous successful, landmark challenges resulting in increased awareness and compliance with Fair Housing laws, affirmative relief for victims, and creation of nearly 1,000 accessible units for people with disabilities and remains a leading force in challenging all forms of illegal housing discrimination.
Prior to Long Island Housing Services, she worked for local government for 13 ½ years conducting investigations, assessing claims, and filing complaints related to discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, credit and education. Her advocacy efforts have resulted in increased protections under local law beginning in 1988 when she drafted the successful amendment to Suffolk County Human Rights Law to include prohibitions about sexual orientation discrimination. Ms. Santantonio retired on July 28, 2017.
Linda R. Hassberg, Esq., PresidentLinda Hassberg, President of the Board of Directors, is a senior attorney in the Long Island office of the Empire Justice Center. Empire Justice is the only statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy non-profit law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. With a focus on poverty law, Empire Justice undertakes research and training, acts as an informational clearinghouse, and provides litigation backup to local legal services programs and community based organizations, including Long Island Housing Services. As an advocacy organization, Empire Justice engages in legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of those impacted by poverty and discrimination. As a non-profit law firm, the Center provides legal assistance for those in need and undertakes impact litigation in order to protect and defend the rights of disenfranchised New Yorkers.
Ms. Hassberg’s primary responsibility at Empire Justice Center is impact litigation in the areas of public benefits, access to health care, and disabilities. She has filed class action lawsuits against both counties in Long Island challenging untimely eligibility determinations for benefits applications, due process violations, and failure to provide emergency assistance. In addition, she has represented clients at administrative hearings and in court seeking assistance with child support, Medicaid coverage, day care benefits, and adequate emergency housing. In her prior work as staff attorney at the Western New York Law Center in Buffalo, New York, Ms. Hassberg represented Long Island Housing Services’ Fair Housing agency counterpart in Erie County, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc., in several actions challenging discrimination in the provision of federal Section 8 housing vouchers, and apartment rentals in state subsidized housing.
Alex P. Ames, Certified Public Accountant TreasurerAlex has a broad range of experience in Accounting, Auditing and Finance. He was engaged in Public Accounting as an Auditor and Accountant for many years serving large clients on Long Island and in New York City. He was also engaged in private practice serving a number of Non-Profit Social Service Agencies providing Accounting Services and Financial and Management Advice to top Management. He has a history of public service serving in numerous capacities with Suffolk County Government including Budget Director, Chief Deputy County Executive and Commissioner of Building and Grounds. He was an ex-officio member of numerous Committees including the Council on Environmental Quality, The Suffolk County Labor Bargaining Committee, The Bi-County Budget Advisory Group and others. He has been active in Professional Societies including the New York State Society of CPAs. He is a Past President and Founder of the Long Island Chapter of The American Society for Public Administration.
Alex also served as an Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at The State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has a range of experience in several disciplines including public accounting and auditing, non-profit accounting and governmental accounting. As such he is in a position to provide advice and consultation to Long Island Housing Services on a range of financial and management issues.
Alex first joined Long Island Housing Services as a volunteer to assist the Board of Directors and the Executive Director on financial issues. After a period as a volunteer, Alex later joined the Advisory Board of Trustees, also with the aim of providing financial expertise. Since 2009, Alex has served as a Member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer. He is Chair of the Finance Committee of the Board. He has a life-long interest in community affairs and issues which are the core work of Long Island Housing Services.
Georgette Grier-Key, Ed.D.Georgette Grier-Key, Ed.D. is currently the inaugural Executive Director and Curator of Eastville Community Historical Society of Sag Harbor, New York, the President of the Association of Suffolk County Historical Societies, and Cultural Partner for Sylvester Manor of Shelter Island. She is a cultural historian and preservationist working on the East End of Long Island. As a founding member and lead organizer of the Pyrrhus Concer Action Committee her continued work led to the rebuilding of the formerly enslaved Pyrrhus Concer’s homestead in the heart of Southampton’s Village. She continues to work on preserving historic structures in Sag Harbor and East Hampton. Dr. Grier-Key is also an adjunct history and political science professor at SUNY Nassau Community College. Most recently she has been elected to the 2019 class of board trustee for the Preservation League of New York State. Dr. Grier-Key has been a guest curator at various outlets, namely at the Suffolk County Historical Society of Riverhead, New York extending her work and expertise to the Smithsonian’s newly introduced National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Dr. Grier-Key has been recognized by various organizations and was awarded the Legacy Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Central Islip Branch.
Arguably, she is one of the most outspoken advocates for the preservation and celebration of Long Island history with an emphasis on African-American, Native-American and Mixed-Heritage historical reconstruction. Dr. Grier-Key contributes commentary regularly to local media outlets such as Newsday, Sag Harbor Express, Southampton Press, 27 East, Long Island Advance, East Hampton Star, Long Island Pulse, CBS New York and News 12; delivers lectures at CUNY Graduate Center, LIU Brooklyn, Hofstra University, and Suffolk County Community College; publishes her research in the Long Island History Journal and the Suffolk County Historical Society Register; serves on the Black History Commission of the Town of Brookhaven, Town of Brookhaven’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Committee and lends her services as an historian, educator, docent and special events manager to various private and public organizations including the Parrish Art Museum of Watermill, New York. Moreover, in her capacity as an founding member and lead organizer of the Pyrrhus Concer Action Committee (P.C.A.C.), Dr. Grier-Key has raised awareness about and fights to protect endangered historic African American sites, presence, history, folklore, and survival on Long Island’s East End. She is also a third-generation real estate broker and notary public and is licensed by New York State.
Champion of the rights and welfare of all Long Islanders, Dr. Grier-Key held an appointed position on the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission, assumed the role of executive secretary for NAACP Eastern Long Island Branch, moderator and original local planning committee member for the 2010 National Think Tank for African American Progress Long Island, co-chaired the Health and Fundraising/Advertising Committees. Currently she is working on the committee for the State of Black Long Island with the Urban League; Long Island, Policy Link, and the Long Island Community Foundation with an official report launch date for February 2017. She has an earned doctorate in Cultural Leadership and Institutional Sustainability. Dr. Grier-Key has been elected for three terms including President of the South Country Library Board; She initially served Long Island Housing Services as a Fair Housing Tester and since 2011, has served on its Board of Directors and serves as advisor to various civic and educational organizations specifically, director of the South Country Community Conference, advisor for E.M.E.R.G.E, (Empowering Minorities through Educational Research Government & Private Enterprise), and organizer for B.R.I.C. (Brookhaven Residents in Control).
Connie LassandroMs. Lassandro is an innovative and visionary leader, with more than thirty years of diverse experience working in the non-profit and government sectors administering housing programs for low and moderate income persons. Appointed by County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi in 2002 as Director of Nassau County’s Office of Housing & Homeless Services, she was a leader in the preservation of affordable rental units and in the rehabilitation and construction of additional affordable rental units in Nassau County. She administered the largest Housing Choice Voucher Program and ancillary housing initiatives in Nassau County; introduced Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers to promote new construction and substantial rehabilitation on existing housing stock; leveraged Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HOME and IDA funding to expand affordable housing throughout Nassau County. Ms. Lasandro co-authored the Nassau County Fair Housing Plan and Housing Plan; implemented the first Section 8 program on Long Island in 1974 for the City of Glen Cove and, prior to becoming Director of Nassau’s Housing Program, was Director of Homeless Services for the Community Development Corporation of Long Island (CDCLI) in Suffolk County.
During her leadership Nassau County OHHS was certified in 2005 as a HUD Certified Housing Counseling Agency, and created the Nassau County Homeownership program providing housing counseling to first time homebuyers and for foreclosure/loss mitigation. Additionally, under her leadership in 2003 Nassau County was awarded a Five Year Homelessness Intervention Program Grant of $1.1 million dollars from the NYS Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance and in 2009 a grant of $6.5 million from U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Renewal to administer the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing (HPRP) grant.
Currently, Ms.Lassandro serves as Chairperson of the Town of Riverhead’s Anti-Bias Task Force; Long Island Housing Services’ Board of Directors; Long Island Community Foundation Affordable & Equitable Housing Initiative Advisory Committee; Community Advocates Inc. Secretary; ERASE Racism’s College of Advisors and
Co- Chairperson for ERASE Racism’s Annual Benefit Reception in 2014 & 2015. She has served on National, State and Local committees and boards: National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials; National Leasing Housing Association; U.S. Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Casey Family Foundation Child Welfare Working Committee; National Center for Housing & Child Welfare;
Formerly, Ms.Lassandro served as Co-Chair of the Nassau County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi’s Homeless Task Force, Founder of the WARMBED Homeless Winter Hotline program, Fair Housing Task Force; Illegal Housing (Co-Chair) Task Force; Sober/Rooming Housing Advisory Committee; Common Sense for the Common Good Task Force Housing Committee Co-Chair; Women for Workforce Housing; Long Island Association Workforce Housing Committee; Long Island Housing Partnership; Nassau County Housing Development Committee; Association of Long Island Housing Agencies; and Boards of La Fuerza Unida Inc.; Community Development Corp.; Community Development Financial Lending Institute (CDFLI); Dominican Village; Sisters of Saint Dominic; Bethany House; Child Welfare League of America Housing Committee; Nassau Suffolk Coalition for the Homeless; and Hempstead Boys and Girls Club.
Professionally, Ms. Lassandro’s career reflects a hybrid experience not only in housing and community causes, but in protocol and public relations, which began during the administration of NYC Mayor John Lindsay, Chief of Protocol, and John (Bud) Palmer in the organization of celebrations, parades and diplomatic/head of state dinners and receptions coordinating with the United States Secret Service.
Currently, she is an Independent Consultant engaged in work related to revitalizing communities with economic development and housing and an advocate addressing issues pertaining to Homelessness, Anti-Bias and all acts of Discrimination.
Long Island Housing Services – Board of Directors
- Linda R. Hassberg, Esq. – President
- Glen R. Cherveny, AIA – Vice President
- Carol Germann – Secretary
- Alex P. Ames, CPA – Treasurer
- Rose M. Cicchetti
- Georgette Grier-Key, Ed. D
- Connie Lassandro
- Lenora W. Long
- Berta Cevallos, NS-LIS – President Emeritus
- Frederick K. Brewington, Esq.
- Cathryn Harris-Marchesi, Esq.
- Mildred Lewis
- Thomas Maligno, Esq.
- Robert W. Ralph
- Nina J. Stewart, Esq.
- Beth M. Wickey, Esq.