"Keeping Families Home for Good" Conference Presenters

Presenter Bios

Shekar Krishnan is the NYC Council Member for District 25, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Queens, two of the most diverse immigrant communities in the world. He is the first Indian-American ever elected to the City Council in NYC history.

Shekar is also Chair of the Council’s Committee On Parks and Recreation. He negotiated the highest budget ever for NYC Parks. As Parks Chair, Shekar has approached access to parks and expanding green space as a key component of social, racial, and immigrant justice.

Jackson Heights and Elmhurst are home to thousands of essential workers—many of whom are immigrants—who have carried this city forward during the pandemic. Shekar has championed a number of issues affecting our most vulnerable communities. He has been on the front lines fighting to: make sure the NYC government protects our taxi workers; secure badly needed resources for public hospitals like Elmhurst Hospital; ensure that New York City treats housing as as human right; end the practice of solitary confinement at Rikers Island; and expand public space for neighborhoods like his own that lack it.

Shekar has been a champion for the the 34th Avenue Open Street, 26 blocks of pedestrian space in Jackson Heights that is the gold standard of open streets across NYC.

Before his election to City Council, Shekar was a long-time community activist in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and civil rights lawyer fighting housing discrimination. He co-founded the legal services organization Communities Resist, a legal services organization highly acclaimed citywide for its community-rooted, intersectional approach to housing and racial justice in North Brooklyn and Queens. Shekar began his legal career with the landmark Broadway Triangle fair housing struggle against the City of New York, a successful case challenging a rezoning under the Fair Housing Act. He also co-founded Friends of Diversity Plaza. Located on the border of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, Diversity Plaza has become a national symbol of how public space can bring people together.

Shekar is the son of immigrants from South India who made enormous sacrifices and worked tirelessly to build a life for their family in this country. He is also a father of two small children, who can often be seen biking or scooting up and down the open 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, and husband to Zoe, an immigration public defender and reproductive justice advocate.

Ann Marie Scalia is a program innovator and organizational leader with a long‐standing commitment to social justice and implementing strategies to improve social service outcomes. Over the past two decades, she has served as a senior manager, litigator, advocate and organizational leader in the family regulation and social services fields.

Presently, Ann Marie is the Chief Program Officer of the NYC Department of Human Resources (HRA), where she oversees the planning, management and implementation of special initiatives and projects designed to improve client access to HRA benefits and services, including cash, food, shelter, utilities, transportation, burial and child support assistance. Prior to this role, Ann Marie served as the Deputy Chief Legal Officer in the Office of Legal Affairs at the Department of Social Services (DSS) and oversaw Fair Hearings, the Office of Policy Procedures and Training as well as Outreach and Advocacy.

Before joining the City, Ann Marie worked for over a decade as an attorney and advocate on a growing portfolio of juvenile rights cases and initiatives at The Legal Aid Society and the New York Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Children. She also served as an International Monitor for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa and clerked for the  Honorable Philip B. Cummis. Ann Marie holds a J.D. and B.A. in Spanish and Psychology from the University of Rutgers.

Anastasia Rivera-Bonilla joined CFR in February 2011 as a Litigation Supervisor for Family Defense. In October 2018, Ms. Rivera also became the Litigation Supervisor for Civil Defense. In her capacity as a Litigation Supervisor, Ms. Rivera represents parents and caregivers in Article 10, termination of parental rights, custody, paternity and family offense cases. She also represents clients in non-payment and holdover proceedings in NY and Queens County Housing Courts and handles administrative hearings for clients concerning public housing eligibility, termination of tenancy, and shelter eligibility.

Ms. Rivera has successfully submitted applications for supportive housing and assists clients with issues related to all public benefits, especially when they affect housing stability. Ms. Rivera supervises staff attorneys and support staff in CFR’s family and civil defense programs. Currently, she Co-Chairs the ACS-Advocates Housing Work Group and participates in an Advocates Only workgroup concerning public benefits. From 2015-2018, she Co-Chaired the Practicing Law Institute’s (PLI) Children’s Law Institute. Ms. Rivera also participates in various trainings and presentations for staff and outside agencies.

Prior to joining CFR, Ms. Rivera was a member of the Assigned Counsel Plan in Bronx County Family Court where she represented litigants and children in various proceedings including Article 10 and juvenile delinquency proceedings. Ms. Rivera began her career at the Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) Services in 1999 until 2008 where she appeared on behalf of the agency on abuse and neglect, custody and visitation petitions. Ms. Rivera received her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law and admitted to the New York State Bar in January 1997. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration from Pace University.

Wendell Cruz joined CFR as a Litigation Supervisor in the agency’s Criminal Defense Practice in 2016 and since 2019 has been CFR’s Director of Holistic Practice, whose duties include oversight of the agency’s Home for Good Practice. Mr. Cruz has extensive experience representing adults and youth in both criminal and family court. For ten years, he was with New York County Defender Services (NYCDS) in Manhattan and handled all levels of misdemeanor and felony cases.

Mr. Cruz was named the “Juvenile Defense Specialist” attorney at NYCDS and represented juvenile offender clients charged as adults. Prior to CFR and NYCDS, Mr. Cruz was an attorney for the child in the Bronx office of the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP) and the Assistant Attorney in Charge of JRP’s Queens County Office where he was the direct supervisor for attorneys assigned to handle juvenile delinquency cases.  Since coming to CFR, Mr. Cruz has supervised CFR attorneys and social work staff representing clients on juvenile delinquency, juvenile offender, and adult offender cases in New York and Queens County.

Jana McNulty is a Senior Trial Attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services.  Jana has been a criminal defense attorney since 2014, first as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County and then as a Trial Attorney at New York County Defenders Services. In her years as a litigator, she tried twenty cases to verdict.

Most recently, Jana was a Litigation Supervisor at the Center for Family Representation where she oversaw their growing Criminal Defense Practice.  While working as a Litigation Supervisor, Jana represented women facing homicide and other serious felony charges, whose histories of trauma and abuse led to their involvement in the criminal justice system.  Jana specializes in advocating for clients who qualify for sentencing relief under the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, and joined Brooklyn Defenders in 2022 to work with the Women’s Defense Project.

Jana is a Special Professor of Law in Trial Advocacy at Hofstra University School of Law where she has taught Trial Techniques and Advanced Trial Skills courses since 2014.  In 2020, Jana joined St. John’s School of Law as an Adjunct Professor. In addition, Jana is a Team Leader with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Jana holds a BA in Political Science from Villanova University and a JD from Hofstra University School of Law.

Danny Alicea has supervised the immigration practice at the Center for Family Representation (CFR) since February 2018.  He also directly represents CFR clients with applying for immigration benefits and defending against their deportation proceedings. For any CFR non-citizen youth or adult client facing criminal charges, Mr. Alicea helps evaluate the potential immigration consequences that may result from the proceedings. He provides similar advisals on family defense cases as necessitated by recent changes in immigration enforcement.

Danny Alicea is the current Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the NYC Bar Association. The Committee addresses diverse issues pertaining to immigration law, policy, and practice. He also co-chaired the Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative’s training committee from 2019-2022. Mr. Alicea regularly presents at municipal, state, and national conferences about interdisciplinary immigration practice as well as on the overlap between immigration and other areas of law such as criminal and family regulation law.

Tina Romero is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society.  She specializes in immigrant youth representation, practicing in both state and federal courts.  She advises the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice on immigration matters, trains pro bono attorneys, and coordinates the New York City SIJS Advocates’ group.  In 2014, she started the Immigrant Youth Advocacy Externship at Columbia Law School, which she continues to teach. She assisted in the creation of the ICARE coalition to ensure unaccompanied children in New York City obtained representation in immigration court.  Tina recently joined the Steering Committee of the EndSIJSBacklog Coalition, a national group engaging in legislative, administrative and youth organizing advocacy.

The Keeping Families Home for Good Conference is sponsored by: