Bill Ferro has seen it all. As a criminal defense attorney, he has handled myriad high-profile criminal matters, civil rights, civil rights violations and police brutality cases. His time in this world opened his eyes to the best and worst parts of society. But, above all, he believes that the law exists to protect the rights of all people.
In 1989, he founded what is now Ferro, Kuba, Mangano, P.C. and built a well-respected, successful law firm. He also knows a segment of our population that truly needs someone to give them a voice, help them through the complicated legal process and ensure that they are afforded the same rights, representation and education as all citizens. Seeing the growth of Spanish-speaking communities in our area made it clear that there was a tremendous void to be filled. In 2014, Ferro created a full-service branch of the FKM law firm, specifically for the Spanish-speaking immigrant community. That brand is Liga De Justicia.
“The truth is, many immigrants are afraid to go to a lawyer or law enforcement,” Ferro says. “They have been told for too many years that they do not have the same rights to safety or protection that others have, and this is simply untrue.”
In response, the firm opened its first community-based law center in Brentwood and later, a location in Jackson Heights, Queens. The firm recently opened a location in Riverhead at 180 Old Country Road, the same plaza that is home to the easternmost DMV office.
Many success stories are part of the Liga De Justicia story — one of which was a high-profile case that combined racial profiling, harassment and even deadly force on three Hispanic men.
“There was a robbery at a Taco Bell in Huntington Station, and three Hispanic men fled the crime scene on foot. My clients, three men, were driving home from work,” Ferro recounts. “They were pulled over by an overzealous Suffolk police officer, screamed at, accosted, and then the officer wound up shooting into the car, gravely injuring one of the men.”
After the incident, the men went to a “prestigious law firm,” Ferro says, but were told they should settle for a paltry $250,000.
“That was outrageous, given the severity and discrimination of this case,” Ferro notes. “Our firm took over the case, prepared it for trial in federal court, and the case settled during jury selection for $1.5 million. It was the right decision, and we were proud to have gotten them some justice and compensation.”
As the Liga De Justicia law practice grew, Ferro knew more had to be done to help the immigrant community. So this past year, he launched two Spanish-speaking internet radio stations that serve Long Island and New York City.
“We wanted to reach as many people as possible, provide trustworthy education and guidance to our listeners,” Ferro says.
The stations continue to grow in popularity and have become well-known. But when COVID-19 hit the world, it was clear more needed to be done to help the Spanish-speaking community understand the pandemic, learn what help existed and most of all—how to remain safe.
“The most basic questions had to be answered, so we decided to add to our media platform and continue our mission of being the trusted voice of this community,” he explains.
The firm created Liga Media Group, launched a magazine, Nuestra Imagenes, with the first issue solely dedicated to providing COVID information and education. The magazine builds a new bridge to the elected officials, who could use the forum to communicate with their Spanish-speaking constituents.
The entire team of Liga Media Group on both the radio and magazine side are Spanish speakers. Additionally, much of the staff of the law firm is Spanish-speaking as well, something Ferro thought was essential to their success.
The firm went into communities and provided thousands of masks, gloves and other PPE required throughout the pandemic. When the vaccine program began, Liga De Justicia held a vaccination drive at their Brentwood location.
“These things helped solidify our position as trustworthy, committed members of the Latino community,” Ferro says. “We have great relationships with community leaders and routinely provide legal guidance, representation and assistance for people in need.”
Ferro’s downtime is usually spent on the East End, a place that he and his family have loved for decades.
“For 25 years, we would vacation in Montauk with our friends,” says Ferro. “Our kids grew up going there, spending the day on the beach, going to the Bake Shoppe in the morning, and having ice cream at night.”
When COVID began to close up the world, Ferro and his family retreated to a home in Sag Harbor, where they spend their time enjoying the beautiful Hamptons.
“Some of the most beautiful things about Sag Harbor are the simplest things. Like sitting at night watching another incredible Long Island sunset,” Ferro shares. “The house brings my family together, which is the most important thing we have.”
Estia’s Little Kitchen is at the top of the list as far as their favorite Sag Harbor locations. But their favorite may be Cromer’s Market. “It is like our headquarters. We love their food, we buy our groceries there—it is an institution.”
Ferro says that despite the many changes that have taken place on the East End, one of the best things is that people still support local businesses in the area.
“We buy our bread locally, our eggs, cheese—everything we can,” he notes. “Every weekend, we are at the farmers market, buying good food and helping small local businesses thrive.”
Even during the most serene moments, watching the sky turn red as the sun falls below the horizon, Ferro thinks about the people who Liga De Justicia represents and wants to do more.
“Everyone wants to be safe, to be healthy, to have a degree of calm and dignity in their lives, and Liga De Justicia is there for them,” he adds.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.