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Biographies

HELEN DIANE FOSTER
Commissioner

Helen Diane Foster was appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights in September 2013. She was confirmed by the New York State Senate in June 2014.  As Commissioner, Ms. Foster is responsible for the enforcement of New York State’s Human Rights Law, the oldest such law in the country.  In this capacity, she is in charge of developing, managing, and executing strategies to prosecute systematic forms of discrimination through investigations and complaints initiated by the Division or by individual complainants, and developing policies and legislation to advance the civil rights of all New Yorkers.
 
Prior to her appointment, Ms. Foster served in the New York City Council for 11 years representing the 16th District in Bronx County, one of the poorest council districts in the city. As Councilmember, Ms. Foster served as the Chairperson for the New York City Council Committee on State and Federal Legislation, and the Committee on Parks and Recreation, She also served as Co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and Co-chair of the Women’s Caucus. In addition, Ms. Foster served on the Committees on Aging, Education, Health; Community Development, and Public Safety. 
 
Ms. Foster donates her time to a variety of causes. As a person with dyslexia, she is especially committed to working with children and adults with this condition. Every year she participates in the International Dyslexia Association’s conference in a panel discussion on adults with dyslexia. She uses speaking engagements as a tool to empower communities and encourage youth to achieve their full potential.
 
Ms. Foster attended Hyde School in Bath, Maine, Howard University in Washington D.C. and the City University of New York School of Law (CUNY).  While attending law school, Councilmember Foster participated in an international exchange program at the University of Havana.  She served as a summer associate at the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office and the Atlanta Legal Aid Office.
 
Upon graduating from CUNY, Ms. Foster worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  She eventually moved into the private sector, where she served for a number of years as Assistant Vice President for Legal Affairs at St. Barnabas Hospital.
 
She lives in Bronx County with her husband Eric McKay, and their daughter Nia and her stepdaughter, Aminah.