Attorney Sanford “Sandy” Rubenstein, senior partner at the Brooklyn-based law firm of Rubenstein & Rynecki, is one of the most iconic and well-respected attorneys in the New York legal landscape. His body of work in the courtroom and in the public eye reads like a storybook. He has been constantly seen as a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for the underrepresented—more literally—a fierce and revered attorney for all.
Sanford Rubenstein is a regular name on the pages of the New York City tabloids as well as The New York Times, frequently on the front cover of amNewYork Metro; some would say an attorney who practices in the court of public opinion. For the past several decades, you may have heard him comment on his cases on all of the New York news networks as well as CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News Channel. He also has appeared as a regular panelist on FOX’s The Strategy Room, as well as Law & Crime, which recently covered the George Floyd trial.
“What we do as lawyers is to obtain for our clients a maximum award, for the damage they suffered, for which they are entitled,” he says. “But, more importantly, we fight for change so what happens to one victim does not happen to another. That’s very important to the victims’ families.”
Rubenstein has represented more than 20 families who have lost their loved ones at the hands of police in New York City, as well as countless matters in which victims have suffered from police brutality, such as Abner Louima. He is a man of many hats. He and his team also recently secured a $62-million medical malpractice verdict in New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
Any way you look at it, Rubenstein has made his mark in the legal community, particularly in the fight for social justice in New York.
“I recently had the honor of testifying before the International Commission on Systematic Racist Police Violence Against People of Color in the United States,” he says. “The commission found that, in America, ‘black people are targeted … maimed and killed by law enforcement officers with impunity.’
“And, right now, in the United States Congress, we are trying to get change here in America,” he continued. “We are fighting to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act made into law … so we don’t see the type of tragedy that we saw in the killing of George Floyd.”
Rubenstein is a native New Yorker born in Brooklyn, the place in which he has spent his whole career practicing law. From humble beginnings, Rubenstein proudly recounts his story from “the projects to the penthouse.” As a child, his family lived in the Ravenswood housing project in Queens, where he went through public school.
“I grew up until 14 in the housing projects in Long Island City, Queens,” he says. “After my family decided they wanted to get out of the projects, live a better life, they bought a small house in Rockland County … The lawyer who represented my family was a fellow named Arnold Becker. I was so impressed by the way my father and mother respected this man, and listened to his advice. It opened my mind to the idea of becoming a lawyer.”
Sanford started his collegiate career at Rockland Community College, from which he went on to receive his B.A. Cum Laude from SUNY Oswego, completed an MBA at Baruch College, and then went on to Brooklyn Law School at night while teaching public school in Harlem during the day. This was the seed of a prolific legal career.
Starting at a storefront law office in Bedford-Stuyvesant, he became the person to call for victims of injustice and quickly developed a larger-than-life persona. Having for many years been seen alongside Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, in recent years you have likely seen him fighting for justice with both Rev. Kevin McCall, of the Crisis Action Center in Brooklyn and Hawk Newsome, the chair of Black Lives Matter-Greater New York.
His heart-wrenching accounts on behalf of his clients have often shone light on the distance that American society needs to come before we can have justice for all.
After all these years and countless hours advocating for victims, he has found his “retreat” in the Hamptons.
“I had decided that I wanted a place that could be a getaway for me, so to speak,” he says. “There were a number of places I considered. I decided that the Hamptons were the right choice—the beach, the ocean, the horses, the cows, the vegetable fields—it was just so amazing that I absolutely fell in love with everything the East End has to offer.
“I had asked a friend of mine who had a home in the Hamptons ‘where should I look?’ and he said, ‘between Water Mill and Bridgehampton, south of the highway,’” he continued. “I was fortunate, at that time, to find a modern-style house that I now call my home in the Hamptons.”
And no matter how much Rubenstein loves the city streets and the bright lights, he sees our East End oasis as his escape.
“It’s an amazing retreat to decompress from the work that I do, which is very stressful, very important to me and, at the same time, makes a difference, I hope,” he says. “I love going to the local farms, like Babinski’s for their fresh fish and Fairview Farms at Mecox, particularly for their pies and Challahs. For dinner, I love Pierre’s in Bridgehampton and Tutto il Giorno in Sag Harbor.
“I so much love the life out here, and nothing gives me more pleasure than to see my three grandsons enjoy it as well,” Rubenstein concluded.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.