Joseph Forstadt
Joseph Forstadt (Courtesy of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan)

Joseph L. Forstadt, a retired partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan who held a wide array of roles in city government for nearly 50 years, died Thursday night after suffering a severe stroke the previous weekend. He was 77.

Forstadt was a litigator for Stroock for more than 45 years, specializing in real estate, insurance and commercial interests. Among his notable cases was Seawall Associates v. City of New York, where the state Court of Appeals in 1989 overturned a local law compelling property owners to preserve single room occupancy buildings in New York City. The takings law decision played a critical role in the resurgence of real estate development in New York City, according to the firm.

Forstadt also was a mentor to younger attorneys at Stroock, co-managing partner Alan Klinger said.

“He would counsel attorneys on their career paths,” Klinger said. “He would work with people on the development of their trial skills. He would be alert to a concern that an associate might be having and work with them to address it.”

After 35 years as a partner, Forstadt became of counsel to the firm in 2010 and a retired partner in 2014.

“Joe was a friend and mentor to everyone here who came in contact with him, legal staff and nonlegal staff alike,” Burton Lipshie, managing attorney for Stroock’s litigation department, said in an email sent to lawyers at the firm. “He truly cared about the people he worked with, on both a professional and personal level.”

After graduating from New York University School of Law in 1964, Forstadt became a staff counsel to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s Citizen’s Commission on Reapportionment of the New York State Legislature and served as special legal counsel and law assistant to the Board of Justices, Supreme Court of New York, First Department from 1965 to 1967.

He joined New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s administration as deputy commissioner of the Department of Licenses and was later named acting commissioner of the newly created Department of Consumer Affairs. His role was expanded and he was named assistant administrator of the city’s Economic Development Administration, overseeing the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront and ports.

He joined Stroock as an associate in 1969 and was named a partner on Jan. 1, 1975.

He continued to hold public service positions while at Stroock. From 1970 to 1976, he served as a special adviser on the Rent Stabilization Law to Lindsay and Mayor Abe Beame, and became the owners’ representative on the New York City Rent Guidelines Board for 14 years under Mayors Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani. From 2001 to 2002, he was a member of the New York City Housing Court Advisory Council.

Additionally, Forstadt helped found the Association of Law Secretaries to the Justices of the Supreme and Surrogate’s Courts in the City of New York, and served as its counsel. The group named an award after him in 2015. He also served as counsel to the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which deemed him to be an honorary justice in 2008.

Klinger now serves as counsel to both groups. “As he transitioned into retirement, he paved the way for me to take over,” Klinger said of Forstadt. “He worked hard that the justices felt comfortable with me and I with them. He took a real personal interest in it.”

He is survived by his wife, Rona; sons, Jonathan, a principal court attorney for the Appellate Division, First Department, Andrew and David; daughters, Erica and Elizabeth; and 11 grandchildren.

A funeral is set to be held in Florida, where Forstadt and his wife resided. A memorial service in New York is planned for some time in June.