New York Lawyers for the Public Interest will create the Michael Rothenberg Fellowship to honor the organization’s former executive director, who died earlier this year (NYLJ, Feb. 27). The fellow will work on disability matters, an area Rothenberg took interest in after watching his parents struggle to obtain services for his developmentally disabled older brother.

“Michael was completely passionate about and committed to advancing the rights of people with disabilities, so for us this is the single most appropriate way for us to honor his legacy,” said Miranda Massie, NYLPI’s legal director and interim executive director.

Massie said the organization’s board of directors and emeritus board have raised enough money to support the first two years of the fellowship program and NYLPI expects to hire its first fellow by the end of the year. The organization, she said, is looking for a “seasoned advocate with a demonstrated passion for and commitment to disability justice issues.”

NYLPI is also reaching out to individual donors and the New York City social justice community as a whole for additional funding to make the fellowship permanent.

Rothenberg joined NYLPI as associate director in 1997 and was named executive director in 2001. Under his leadership, the organization’s budget grew to $4 million from $1 million and its staff more than doubled to 35 from 14.