Attorney Michael Axelrod Dies at 63

Newsday - January 08, 2011

by OLIVIA WINSLOW

Prominent labor law attorney Michael C. Axelrod, lauded for his devotion to family, friends and his legion of public sector union clients over a career that spanned four decades, died Friday at his home in Roslyn. He was 63.

Axelrod carried on with work despite battling lung cancer for more than two years, his wife and colleagues said.

"He had the most positive attitude. He only thought about living. Work propelled him," said his wife, Jane. "His priorities were clear in life: his family, his friends, his work."

Axelrod, a partner with the East Meadow-based law firm Certilman Balin for 15 years, primarily represented unions for thousands of firefighters and police officers throughout the metropolitan area.

"He treated his clients, his labor unions, as one would treat their family," said Bernard Hyman, Certilman Balin's managing partner. "He would work night and day, 24/7 on behalf of his unions." He called Axelrod a "very dear friend and trusted counsel."

Axelrod had been a former North Hempstead Town Republican leader, and for 12 years, until 2008, was New York State commissioner of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

He was honored by several unions, including the Nassau Police Conference, the Nassau County Detectives' Association, and the New York State Association of PBAs, his law firm said.

Steve Cassidy, president of the nearly 9,000-member Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, called Axelrod's death a "sad day for the UFA." Axelrod had represented the union since 1996.

"Mike went through a long, difficult battle with cancer, yet up until the very end always preferred talking about improving safety and staffing levels for the firefighters he represented for so much of his life," Cassidy said in a statement.

Steven Klar, president of the Klar Organization real estate firm, who grew up with Axelrod in Roslyn, paid tribute to his friend of 50 years, saying Axelrod had a "generosity of spirit, fun and intelligence that made a lot of people want to be around him."

Axelrod was educated at the University of Miami, New York University, and the New England School of Law.

Besides his wife, his survivors include daughters Elizabeth and Kathryn; son-in-law Dr. Benjamin Brucker; and granddaughter Olivia Axelrod Brucker, all of Manhattan.

A service is to be held 11 a.m. Sunday at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn, with burial to follow at the Beth Sholom section of Beth Moses Cemetery in Farmingdale.