For second consecutive year, Lifetime Award-recipient dies before event
By Ryan Thompson
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
STATE STREET — Despite the deluge of a day, about 100 lawyers and judges trudged through Downtown Brooklyn for the city’s preeminent Housing Court Bar event.
High above the soggy courthouses and umbrella-adorned streets, the Kings County Housing Court Bar Association (KCHCBA) held its 11th Annual Awards Luncheon last Thursday atop Brooklyn Law School’s Feil Hall.
Guests were treated to an unusually fancy affair — with circulating hors d’oeuvres, abundant wines, beers, kosher foods, fruits and desserts. Following an often-humorous, yet appropriately serious, award ceremony, the socializing continued as attendees were served salmon filets and flank steaks.
“We are the only county that does something like this,” KCHCBA President Michael C. Rosenthal told the crowd, referring to how KCHCBA stands alone amongst other Housing Court bar associations. “We do what everybody else should be doing – honoring good work.”
In addition to a Kings County Housing Court clerk and court attorney, the court’s supervising judge, Hon. John Lansden, was honored with the Judiciary Award of Merit.
The award was “long overdue,” Judge Lansden joked upon his acceptance. He thanked the tireless staff of the court and told the crowd about the day Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Fern Fisher called to offer him the position of
He paused, he said, before ultimately accepting the promotion.
“The job of supervising judge is often thankless,” Rosenthal said. “We don’t think his job is easy. Most of us wouldn’t want his job.”
But both Rosenthal and Lansden agreed that the two entities work well together for the betterment of the court, and though Judge Lansden and the Housing Court bar don’t always see eye-to-eye, there is a mutual respect and often similar goals.
Prior to Judge Lansden’s acceptance, housing attorney Alan Redner did his own rendition of acknowledging the bench. In fact, he named every single Brooklyn judge that he and his colleagues appeared before, slightly singing a self-written poem!
It was a mostly humorous and good-hearted award ceremony – with court clerk Sil Debaz telling the crowd that he doesn’t know why he has continued to work in the Livingston Street courthouse for the last 28 years, and court attorney Lester Weisenfeld joking how his wife only cared whether a pay raise accompanied his award.
But the ceremony, for the second year in a row, ended with a sad and sobering fact — that the Lifetime Service Award-recipient had once again died prior to the event. Known as “the grandfather to everyone in the courthouse” and someone who had “an excellent nose for b.s.,” retired Housing Court Judge Bruce Gould passed away after being named this year’s honoree.
It was the second consecutive year this has happened, with landlord-tenant attorney Harvey Lustig also dying about two weeks prior to his planned acceptance of the 2011 KCHCBA Lifetime Service Award. Rosenthal noted this eerie coincidence before presenting the award to Gould’s daughter, Melinda Gould Konopko.
In Gould’s May 9 obituary in The New York Times, it said the 83-year-old “innovative policy maker and judge” was a “relentless advocate dedicated to a life of public service, particularly to improving and safeguarding the housing of New Yorkers.
“Never out of love from the first evening walk with his wife to be, Karolyn, of 53 years, [Gould] experienced his greatest sense of contentment when simply in the same room as his wife, children and grandchildren. … His family's loss will be eased by the legacy of his significant contributions to improve the lives of others and by the love he shared with family and his remarkable world of friends.”