Alumni Spotlight: Eric C. Henry Jr. ’10
Our Alumni Spotlight Series highlights some of the most exciting, ambitious, and successful members of our alumni community—NYLS graduates who are making real differences in New York City and beyond.
In our inaugural installment, we caught up with Eric C. Henry Jr. ’10, who has spent his entire career serving his beloved New York City. Read on to learn about his winding path to NYLS, his unique ability to effect change, and his love for his favorite borough.
Law school was never the plan.
Eric C. Henry Jr. ’10 spent his first three years of college on the pre-med track, grinding his way through organic chemistry, biostats, biochemistry, and the like.
Outside of the lab, Henry was heavily involved in student groups, student government, and nonprofit work. He was drawn toward advocacy and social action, and a mentor-professor suggested another path. “You like to advocate for people,” he told Henry. “Have you ever thought about doing something along those lines—like law?”
It clicked. Although some people in his life urged Henry not to take on law school, Henry says he was “stubborn and hard-headed” in his decision. He switched to pre-law and moved onto the track that led him to his career advocating for his New York City community. With a career that already includes work directing legislation for the New York City Council, government relations at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, increasing support for New York City’s veterans, service as general counsel in the Mayor’s office, and now governmental affairs in the private sector, Henry’s just getting started.
Life as a 1L
Henry poses with fellow students in the NYLS Urban Law Clinic in 2009. L–R: Kathy Greenier ’10, Stephanie Torre ’09, and Charlene Barker Gedeus ’10.
“Just surviving your first year is an accomplishment in and of itself,” Henry says of his 1L year at NYLS. It was a flurry of long days and late nights, but a community quickly revealed itself.
Henry marveled at the “breadth of people that [he] met in his first year. He met one of his best friends at NYLS in his first semester, a former doctor in his 60s who decided to make a career change. He’d made the same change—albeit on a much larger scale—that Henry had made, and they found common ground. “I saw so many people from different age groups, different racial backgrounds, financial backgrounds,” he says of his time at NYLS. “It’s like New York City.”
Choosing an Area of Law
Henry poses with classmate Greg Bailey ’10 in 2012.
During his coursework, Henry started to narrow down his area of focus. Corporate law wasn’t for him—real estate or transactions didn’t draw him in. He was interested in education policy and civil rights. He participated in the Urban Law Clinic and was a fellow at the Wilf Impact Center for Public Interest Law (formerly the Justice Action Center) where his interest in civil rights grew. It was clear his passions lay with public interest law.
All in a Day’s Work
Henry accepts a citation of merit from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Deputy Borough President Janet Peguero in 2022.
Henry’s career has always leaned toward action: From the start, he was effecting real change in New York City. After a postgraduate fellowship at the Wilf Impact Center for Public Interest Law, Henry moved into politics, working on local and state-level campaigns. His first job was a position handling policy for a city council member, drafting bills, whipping votes, and getting bills passed. In his next role at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx (where, he says, he used to spend tons of time as a kid, marveling at curiosities like palm trees in New York City), he advocated for the Garden’s environmental sustainability and children’s education mission. Today, he serves on the Garden’s Board of Directors.
He was tapped to re-join City government with the opportunity to build a policy and legal division from the ground up in the City’s Veteran’s Affairs agency. As their general counsel, he ensured that the city’s 210,000 veterans were entitled to benefits they may be denied at the local level. “We’ve made tremendous strides bettering the lives of veterans since the agency was formed,” he says.
Henry was plucked by the Mayor’s office to serve as General Counsel and was tasked with negotiating bills between a vast array of governmental departments and agencies. He had a broad portfolio that included the FDNY, oversight and investigations, labor, civil service, general operations, human rights, and more. “It solidified what it means to work for the City of New York,” he says of the experience.
His switch to the private sector hasn’t put a stop to his advocacy work. In his role at Altice USA, a telecommunications organization, he’s working on what he calls a “large passion project:” bridging the digital divide for New Yorkers who don’t have high-speed, low-cost broadband internet access. In his first two months on the job, he helped to set up high-speed broadband access in family and domestic violence shelters in the Bronx and Brooklyn—a move that was especially important during the remote-schooling period of the pandemic.
Never content to sit on the sidelines, Henry is committed to rolling up his sleeves and getting stuff done for New Yorkers and beyond.
A New Yorker to the core, Henry has deep love for his home borough of the Bronx, where he has lived for most of his life. Henry calls himself a “cheerleader” of the Bronx—constantly singings its praises around New York City. He’s intensely connected to the community, with his whole family living in the borough. “I’m a Bronx boy through and through,” Henry says.