Letter to Councilor Jake Barrett


June 6, 2013

Hon. Jake Barrett

Syracuse Common Councilor

City Hall

300 E. Washington Street

Syracuse, NY 13202

Re: Sound Garden

 Dear Councilor Barrett:

I am a lawyer and small business owner. I have recently relocated my legal practice from the Northside of Syracuse back downtown to enjoy the vibrancy and energy that downtown offers as well as the proximity to the Courthouse and other offices I need.

One of the things that excited me most about being back downtown is the proximity I would be to Sound Garden. Sound Garden has and remains to be one of my favorite downtown shopping venues. Unfortunately your actions, and yours alone seem to be placing a death knell on Sound Garden’s door.

Sound Garden’s first store, on Walton Street over the Empire Brewing Company was a wonderfully eclectic mix of record store and gathering place. Often times, I would spend my lunch hour browsing the collection of CD’s available for purchase both new and used. Ultimately the management installed listening stations (one of the first local stores to do so) in order to allow the listener to gain an appreciation of what it was they were about to purchase.  At no time then, or now was there any acknowledged or known illegal activity taking place there.

Subsequently, Sound Garden moved to its present location. Not only did it have the opportunity to expand its selection of music, movies and novelties, the company took advantage of its new location to provide a service to the community. Sound Garden held movies and concerts for the benefit of the community, at no cost and they were fun and well attended.

Now, they are leaving. They have become overburdened by the necessities of legislation drafted by you. They have become unable to work with a Council where the Councilor responsible for working with Sound Garden is taking every opportunity to work against this store. You should be ashamed.

At a time when our national and local economy is reinventing itself, we need more Sound Gardens.

It is my hope that you take every step to redress this wrong. It is my hope that you will reach and find a way to make this treasured landmark a continued part of Armory Square. However, it is my expectation that you will do neither; instead you will continue to be dogmatic in your approach. Instead of finding ways to encourage small business growth you will continue to work against it, that is my expectation from you.

Therefore, the only way to counteract this to effectuate the change in leadership that is necessary to move Syracuse forward. Good luck with your reelection campaign, I’ll be supporting your opponent.

Very truly yours,

Todd S. Engel

Soundgarden Needs our Help

I read the article on Syracuse.com with respect to how new legislation in the City of Syracuse is impacting the ability of Sound Garden to remain operational.


Sound Garden is an eclectic and wonderful store. It started 16 years ago on Walton Street, above Empire Brewing Company and quickly became my go to place to buy music and dvds. It is a dying  breed: a true independent music store that sells pre-owned cd’s and dvds as well as new issues. They carry all types of music from big band to alternative rock and rap and everything in between. The store became so successful that several years ago, they moved into a stand alone building adjacent to Onondaga Creek and the new creek walk. If you ever want to get lost for a few hours browsing music old school style, go there and look through their collection; you will be amazed.

If Syracuse Common Councilor Jake Barrett has his way, you won’t have much longer to go, so hurry.

The Syracuse Common Council has enacted legislation regarding “second hand” stores, whereby sellers of previously owned merchandise must keep strict record keeping with the Syracuse Police Department.  The owners of Sound Garden have stated that by virtue of the large volume of pre-owned merchandise they take in per day they would be overly burdened by this restriction.  This is especially true since there are no allegations of selling stolen music or videos. As a result, the owners of Sound Garden appealed to Councilor Barrett to obtain a waiver.

Councilor Barrett has stated he has “no intention” of granting a waiver for this successful business. If his mind isn’t changed, Sound Garden intends to leave downtown, closing a successful well run business that adds a lot to our community. We as an electorate need to reach out to Councilor Barrett and the other Councilors on the Common Council.

As a local business owner and one who supports locally owned or independent businesses as much as possible, I encourage you to write  or call Councilor Barrett. I am discouraged that this Administration will not work with a successful business in finding a way to work things out.

Please take a minute to make your voice heard on this issue:

Jake Barrett: Room 314 City Hall
Syracuse, New York 13202
Phone: (315) 448-8466
Fax: (315) 448-8423
Email: [email protected]

Techonology and my law practice

Becky Guiles of Boundless Media recently asked me to post a guest blog about my usage of technology in my law practice. If you would like to read that click here  

I have always been a tech geek. I think that technology has only increased the ability to practice law. I know it has made me more accessible to my clients, which is good. It has broadened my reach so that I am able to represent clients throughout New York State far easier than I could before.

Skype has been a blessing for this type of representation for it allows face to face conversations with clients no matter where they are.

In my view technology in my practice is definitely a blessing.


In addition to my board involvement. I have been proud to be a sponsor at various community events this past year. Sponsorship is an important way to develop and strengthen community awareness of your product, service or practice.

I was a proud sponsor of the New York State Blues Fest this summer. It was wonderful to see our community gather for such fantastic music. I am looking forward to returning next year as a sponsor.

Engel Law Offices is a proud member of Syracuse First. Syracuse First is a community organization started three years ago  to think about developing a locally first attitude regarding business decisions within the Syracuse area. In that time it has grown to over 300 members and is an exciting grass roots organization in our community.

We have also sponsored the  Jewish Music and Cultural Festival held in September at the Jewish Community Center in Syracuse. This festival highlights Jewish Culture and music of all kinds.

Giving back to the community is key to growing and developing a vital Syracuse.



My Birthday Challenge: Can you help me reach my goal?

On March 28, 2012 I’ll celebrate my birthday.


It’s a long standing tradition in my family for the person celebrating a birthday to give something away. We receive gifts, but we always give something as well.

This year , I want to give back to both of the communities I practice in. Syracuse and Saratoga both mean a great deal to me. The people have supported me and my law practice.  For that I am very grateful and believe it is time to give back.

Two organizations near and dear to my heart are the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center, which is a non-profit organization in Syracuse dedicated to ending child abuse through intervention and education and Camp TLC, an on the move camping program based downstate that delivers a week of camp to children living in hospitals, group homes, and shelters across the country at no charge.

One of Camp TLC’s programs is a week long camp during the Saratoga thoroughbred race meet for kids of the backstretch employees, grooms, hotwalkers and other stable help who otherwise would not have the ability to send kids to camp for the summer.

Here is my challenge to you:

As I write this, my Facebook page sits at 391 likes. If I can reach 1000 likes by midnight on my birthday – 30 days from now – I will donate $1000, $500 to each organization.

Will you help? Please share this post.

Estate Planning Seminar for LGBT and Same Sex Couples

Engel Law Offices is excited to announce that we are presenting at a seminar regarding estate planning and legal issues for the LGBT community.

The first session is February 28, 2011 at Wise Guys Comedy Club in Syracuse NY. The session begins with a networking session at 6:00 and presentation at 6:30. We will be discussing health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney.

Hope to see you there.

Special Olympic Winter Games

I am proud to be a member of the Special Olympics of New York Games Organizing Committee for the Winter Games being held in Syracuse on February 5th and 6th. Being a part of this team has been an exciting and educational experience and one that I will cherish.

Special Olympics is an important organization that allows athletes with special needs to participate in sporting events across the spectrum and compete against other individuals with disabilities. The Winter Games will be comprised of six events in five locations throughout Onondaga County. I’ll tell you more about them as we go on.

The Games will start with Opening Ceremonies Friday night at 7:00 at the Oncenter. Each athlete participating will march in just like the Olympic Games. They will be welcomed by local law enforcement officers and community dignitaries as they enter the arena. There will even be a Torch Run and the lighting of the Olympic Torch.

Following the Opening Ceremony the Games will start with the Floor Hockey Pairing games. Each team will play to determine their seeding for Saturday morning’s games which will take place at the Oncenter. These games will start at 8:30 at the Oncenter and will be single elimination games throughout the day.

Saturday is the day when the events really start kicking into high gear. The events will at 8:30 in the morning. Figure Skating will be at the Onondaga County War Memorial followed by speed skating. Floor Hockey and the Olympic Village will be at the Oncenter. Snowshoeing will be at Thorden Park. Alpine skiing will be at Toggenburg Ski Center. Nordic Skiing will be at Highland Forest.

Each of the events are free to attend. They will be finished by 2:30 so come out and enjoy the day watching these athletes compete. I hope to see you there!

Todd Engel
[email protected]

New No Fault Divorce Bill becomes effective in New York

On August 16 Governor David Patterson signed into law three bills that will change the landscape of matrimonial law in New York State. The reason it is important now is that they become effective on October 16th so planning needs to be taken now.

The first bill provided that there is an additional cause of action in New York providing for No Fault Divorce. The second bill will allow the Court additional opportunities to examine maintenance issues. The final bill provides for interim attorneys fees so that the monied spouse is responsible for interim fees during the course of matrimonial litigation and that the nonmonied spouse is not at a disadvantage due to their lack of financial ability to afford what can be mounting and daunting legal fees.

The bill getting the most attention is the addition o a no fault cause of action. This brings New York in line with the other 49 states n the country allowing for a divorce to end for no certifiable reason. The benefit to this cause of action is that when parties are just no longer compatible they can get a divorce without creating additional pain that existed under the previous causes of action. It means that people don’t have to create language that fits within cruel and inhuman treatment.  Ultimately it will allow for people to eliminate some of the acrimony generally viewed in a fight over cause.

The second bill passed deals with the examination of maintenance or spousal support both on a temporary and permanent basis. This will allow the courts to examine specific factors in setting temporary maintenance.  Maintenance is important and sometimes vital to to keep the non-monied spouse  in the same lifestyle and have the same financial stability that was available prior to the break up of the marriage.

The third bill provides for interim counsel fees when there is a financial disparity between the parties. One of the fundamental aspects  of litigation is that attorneys need to be paid! The financial ability for one side to pay or not pay should not be a detriment to the ability to be represented in a divorce. This will allow for both parties to get proper and adequate representation during a matrimonial action. This will equal the playing field so that the party with money doesn’t bury the one without in legal fees.

Todd Engel

Need for Estate Planning

Need for Estate Planning

I do not intend to be Chicken Little with this post. However in 2011 unless Congress acts to extend the estate tax credit all estates over $1,000,000 in value will be taxed at 55% of the entire value. This means that many people who previously would have had few estate tax issues presently need to examine planning options to protect their assets for their heirs.

That means that If planning has not already begun, the clock is ticking. What do you need to do in order to be ready?

The first thing you need to do is determine what your net worth is. Compile your account statements as well as your real estate holdings. The combination of these two basic totals will give you an initial basis of your basic net worth. If you are a business owner a valuation of your interest n the business will be necessary to include in the calculation. Once your net worth is established it is imperative to sit with an estate planning attorney to determine how to preserve your assets

When you sit with your estate planning attorney make sure you bring with you your net worth documentation so that the planner may review the assets to determine what else may be included in the calculations. That will make sure all information is available to make the best plan for you and your family ensuring the assets you worked hard to obtain will be able to be there for your children.

The estate planning attorney will explain the various options for you. They will start talking about different trust vehicles that may fit your needs. Listen carefully and understand certain trusts will divest you as the earner of this income of control of the assets. Others will allow you to maintain control but may lose certain benefits to you. Each individual’s circumstance is extremely specific so meet with your planner to best determine your need and the right planning to protect your assets as well as ensure your family is able to enjoy what you have worked hard to attain rather than the US government.

Todd Engel
[email protected]
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/toddengel