John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, represented the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section (YLS) at the United States Supreme Court Admissions Program in Washington, D.C. on June 12.
To qualify for admission to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, an applicant must have been admitted to practice in the highest court of a state, commonwealth, territory or possession, or the District of Columbia for a period of at least three years. The applicant must also appear to the Court to be of good moral and professional character.
In addition to serving as Chair of the YLS, Mr. Christopher also serves as a Section Delegate to the NYSBA House of Delegates and Liaison to the Real Property Law Section. He is also admitted to practice law in the State of New York in 2008 and before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.
Firm Partner John P. Christopher (front row, second from left) is joined by fellow members of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section (YLS) in front of the steps of the United States Supreme Court building before attending the United States Supreme Court Admissions Program on June 12.
This summer, two law students will be working with the Firm's attorneys on a wide range of matters, helping them to gain insight and practical experience working in a law firm setting. Joseph D. Brees is a 2015 graduate of Binghamton University, where he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History & Philosophy. He is entering his third year at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Robert A. Veintimilla graduated summa cum laude from SUNY-Farmingdale State College School of Engineering in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science. He is currently entering his second year at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.
The Firm received the Long Island Business News Corporate Citizenship Award at a special ceremony held on June 6 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The Firm was honored in the category of Leadership Excellence for outstanding contributions and leadership in the community.
The Corporate Citizenship Awards recognize companies and individuals who believe that, by being a good corporate citizen, we contribute to the economic and social well-being of our employees, businesses and the community. Honorees consistently prove that true community stewardship evolves through building strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations and others that strive to meet the critical needs of our community.
In addition to being a Partner with the Firm, Chris J. Coschignano served as Councilman in the Town of Oyster Bay. After more than 25 years in public service, Chris has decided to move on to a new chapter in his professional career. He will continue to be involved in community service and will continue with his full-fledged efforts with the Firm.
“All of us at the Firm congratulate Chris on his distinguished career in public service and elected office,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “Chris has been a role model in his service to the public and the legal profession. We are fortunate that our partner will continue his work with us, both as a lawyer and as a leader in our community.”
In this interview, Chris shares his experience in public office, his involvement in the community and the work he continues to perform with the Firm.
Adam H. Koblenz, a Member and Partner with the Firm, has been named to the Children's Medical Fund of New York's (CMF) Board of Trustees. Mr. Koblenz has been actively involved in the organization, previously serving as vice president of the men's division for several years.
More recently, Mr. Koblenz and his wife Bess were proud to play a small role in helping to open a new diagnostic wing at the Cohen Children's Medical Center through volunteering and fundraising efforts. The Children's Medical Fund Center for Diagnostic Studies, located on the fourth floor, features two advanced 3D magnetic resonance imaging machines specifically geared to children. To help alleviate any fears the children may have, the room also has a mock scanner and is decorated in an outer space motif. Children are provided with special goggles so they can watch movies during the examination.
John Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, has been named chair of the Young Lawyers Section. This was reported by State Bar News. Mr. Christopher also serves as a section delegate to the House of Delegates and liaison to the Real Property Law Section. In January, he was named a fellow to the New York Bar Foundation.
The Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has appointed Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC as pro bono counsel. The Nassau County SPCA is dedicated to the rescue, care and placement of animals that have been displaced or harmed. The nonprofit group is designed to protect animals in the county from abuse and neglect. The Firm is proud to support this terrific organization in its efforts to better serve the community at large.
Michael Sahn, the Firm's Managing Partner, along with Firm Partners Chris Coschignano and Dan Braff and Firm Associate Nick Cappadora, are representing the developer Engel Burman of Uniondale before the Town of Hempstead. The Firm's client is seeking zoning changes on two parcels of land on the former A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility campus in Uniondale to construct 388 rental units.
The developer plans to construct two three-story buildings on the hospital property, one zoned as high-density residential and the other zoned as age-restricted (55 years of age and older). Mr. Cappadora assisted Mr. Sahn in the presentation before the Town Board. Mr. Coschignano handled the zoning matters for the developer and Mr. Braff negotiated the terms of the lease with the hospital.
Jon A. Ward, Andrew M. Roth and Joseph R. Bjarnson, Partners with the Firm, successfully represented the Biener Auto Group (Biener), an Audi dealer located in Great Neck, New York, before the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, in a case of first impression under the New York Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act (the Dealer Act).
The Dealer Act includes a provision requiring a manufacturer to give notice to a dealer of any “modification” of the dealer’s franchise to enable the dealer to provide the opportunity to challenge the modification. Likewise, it also contains a provision requiring a manufacturer to give notice to a dealer if it is establishing a new dealership within the “relevant market area” of an existing dealer of the same brand of cars. On Long Island, a dealer’s “relevant market area” is defined under the Dealer Act as a six (6) mile radius around the existing dealer’s facility.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, was retained as counsel by the new operator of the Woodmere Country Club for its development rights on its existing golf course. A moratorium is currently in place to halt the development of a residential project on a parcel of approximately 50 acres. Once construction is permitted, the project is expected to be the largest residential development in Nassau County.
Mr. Browne also successfully represented a landowner and a Burger King franchisee before the Village of Freeport Site Plan Review Board in obtaining approval of a site plan to build the restaurant on a vacant commercial property on the corner of Henry Street and Merrick Road.
Firm Partner Wayne G. Edwards represented a purchaser of a property in a $2 million transaction. The contract closed within six weeks. He also represented a seller in the $2.8 million sale of a building in Woodmere. In addition, Mr. Edwards represented a developer in a $5 million sale of vacant land in Old Brookville for residential development and negotiated construction agreements with the purchasers of the property on two of the remaining lots. He is currently working on a $6 million refinancing of a commercial property in Springfield.
Firm Partner Robert A. Abiuso and Associate Michael J. Barone, Jr. successfully represented an engineering firm that was seeking to purchase a commercial property in New Hyde Park. The property in question was wrought with many issues regarding zoning, certificate of occupancy, corporate formation and taxes. Thanks to Mr. Barone’s efforts, he was able to identify and correct the underlying problems. Mr. Abiuso and Mr. Barone were also able to work with multiple outside attorneys and third parties on these issues, as well as provide financing for the purchase and satisfy the requirements of the Small Business Administration.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Partner, will be one of the moderators at the 2017 "Future of Long Island Commercial Real Estate" summit, which will take place on June 8 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Holiday Inn-Plainview Long Island. Mr. Sahn will moderate a panel of real estate professionals who will discuss such topics as finance, capital investments and 1031 exchanges.
Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC is also one of the event's sponsors. The event is being presented by the New York Real Estate Journal and American Investment Properties.
Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC will receive the Long Island Business News' Corporate Citizenship Award at a special ceremony on June 6 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The firm will be honored in the category of Leadership Excellence for outstanding contributions and leadership in the community.
The Corporate Citizenship Awards recognize companies and individuals who believe that by being a good corporate citizen we contribute to the economic and social well-being of our employees, businesses and the community. Honorees consistently prove that true community stewardship evolves through building strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations and others that strive to meet the critical needs of our community.
By Joshua D. Brookstein
The law brings people together. That’s why I dedicate my time to mentoring young people and coaching a mock trial team. Breaking down stereotypes, building self-confidence, and fostering a sense of community are essential elements in the development of the social-emotional intelligence of our youth. In today’s world, our young people are subject to the diminution of civil discourse and the ability to disagree respectfully. Unfortunately, the state of our discourse is increasingly filled with hyperpartisanship and the assignment of blame, more often than not based on preconceived notions rather than actual experiences in engaging with those with whom one disagrees. The sad reality is that, instead of coming together as Americans, we, too, are often planting seeds of divisiveness within our next generation of leaders when we should be unifying them through compassion, communication, and cooperation. High school mock trial programs, however, are one way to reverse this trend.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the May 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
In addition to her family and matrimonial law practice and being a monthly contributor to the Suffolk Lawyer with her "Bench Briefs" column, Elaine Colavito will be installed as President-elect of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association on June 2017. In this interview, Elaine discusses her upcoming new role with the Nassau County Women's Bar Association and her ability to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
What is it like to soon be installed as the President-elect of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association?
It is an honor to be selected by my colleagues for this new position. I have been involved in the Nassau County Women's Bar Association for many years in various capacities. I have been able to see and participate in the good that it has done in promoting the advancement of women in law and women in general.
What does it mean to you to be part of this organization?
This organization means a lot to me and to the other women attorneys involved in the organization. We do many things to support one another, both professionally and personally. Participating in the various committees of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association is one way that we provide support for one another. For example, last year, at meetings of the Working Parents Committee, we discussed time management and work/life balance.
This year, I enjoyed serving as the association’s Vice President. I was first elected in 2012 as a member of the Board of Directors. The next year, I was elected as Treasurer. I served in this capacity for two terms. After that, I was elected as a Vice President. I am presently serving my second term as Vice President. In 2013, the association presented me with the Bessie Ray Geffner, Esq. Memorial Award for my interest in improving the justice system, professionalism of the bar and service to the community at large. It was a prestigious honor.
Through the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association, I have also been involved in the community. During the 2016 election, each chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York was encouraged to run a voter registration drive. The Nassau drive was held in conjunction with the Nassau County League of Women Voters. The goal of the drive was to get more people involved in the political process. Statewide, we had more than 1,300 new people register to vote.
How do you balance your work and home life?
I have eight children, so, as one could imagine, juggling work and home life is a daily challenge. However, having a large family forces me to make the most efficient use of my time and to constantly prioritize and re-prioritize. I do this both at home and at work to keep me focused and to adequately manage my time.
During my undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I gave birth to my first two children. I was expecting my third child (six months along) when I graduated. I was set to commence law school immediately thereafter. My third child was five days old at that time, however, I decided to defer law school for one year. During that year, I worked in a homeless shelter. I then returned to Touro Law School in the Fall of 2004. At that time, my children were four, two and one years old and I was expecting my fourth child. I subsequently gave birth to my fourth and fifth children during law school, while working part-time as a paralegal. Hence, juggling work, school and family was necessary and time management was essential to stay organized.
I gave birth to my sixth, seventh and eighth children while working full-time as an attorney. Again, time management and obtaining an optimal work/life balance is a daily challenge. Being an attorney, time management and organizational skills are key.
They say “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I truly believe this because, the more that I have to do, the more that I get accomplished and the more focused that I am.
What do your duties as family and matrimonial attorney entail?
In matrimonial matters, I counsel clients with regard to child support, maintenance, and equitable distribution, in addition to ancillary issues that arise in the context of divorce, both contested and uncontested.
In Family Court matters, I counsel and advise clients concerning custody and visitation rights, child support, child support enforcement and modification, paternity, and orders of protection.
I also negotiate and draft prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and represent clients in adoptions and guardianships.
What made you want to enter the field of family law?
With family law, I found it to be more relatable than with other practice areas, and one is able to see the impact of the representation on a client’s daily life.
How do you incorporate your own personal experiences as a mother when you are representing a client?
Running a household is no different than representing a client. In a court of law — just like in a house full of kids — you have to pick your battles!
Miriam Villani, a Partner with the Firm, serves as Editor-in-Chief of The New York Environmental Lawyer, a publication of the New York State Bar Association's Environmental Law Section, which recently published its Winter/Spring 2017 issue. In Ms. Villani's introductory message, she recounted the environmental progress that has been seen since the EPA was first established in the 1970s.
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, has been named a Trailblazer in Divorce, Trusts & Estates by the National Law Journal. The Trailblazers Award honors the movers and shakers in the legal industry who have made an impact in the Divorce, Trusts and Estates sector through new types of strategies or innovative court cases. In a recent supplement published in The New York Times, Ms. Colavito was named a "Rising Star" in Family Law by Super Lawyers. It is the third consecutive year she has been recognized. She has also been named among the 2015 Super Lawyers' "Top Women Lawyers in New York."
Representing the New York Bar Foundation, Firm Partner John Christopher delivered a grant in the amount of $8,500 to Nassau Suffolk Law Services on April 12 for its Veterans Rights Project, which provides effective assistance and advocacy to veterans living on Long Island. The money was raised from the Help A Veteran 24-Hour Giving Challenge, which took place on November 11, 2016.
“We have over 130,000 veterans residing in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, many of whom struggle with physical and mental disabilities,” said Mr. Christopher. “I wish to thank all of my friends, family and colleagues who donated during the Help A Veteran 24-Hour Giving Challenge to help those who served our country get the services they need.”
Mr. Christopher, who serves as Chair-elect of the New York State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section, is also a Fellow with the New York Bar Foundation.
Firm Partner John Christopher (center) presents the check for $8,500 to Susanna E. Laruccia (left), Staff Attorney with the Veterans Rights Project, and Jeffrey A. Seigel (right), Executive Director of the Nassau Suffolk Law Services Committee.
Sahn Ward Coschignano represented the purchaser of a five-story mixed-use building in the Two Bridges/Chinatown area of Manhattan. The closing price was approximately $10 million, and the Firm guided the purchaser in securing $3.75 million in acquisition financing. The deal also included light and air, and egress easements with an adjoining parcel, adding significant complexity. The purchaser intends to renovate and double the number of residential units in the building. This once-quiet area of Manhattan has been a recent focus of new development with Extell's 800-foot-tall One Manhattan Square residential condominium under construction, and several others in the pipeline, reportedly totaling 3,500 new residential units.
Wayne G. Edwards, a Partner with the Firm, recently represented the buyer of a $6.7 million shopping center in Brownsville, Texas. He also handled the refinancing of a $34 million shopping center located in Staten Island, New York.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a defendant homeowner in a real estate commission litigation matter.
The plaintiff, a real estate agent, alleged breach of real estate agency contract. In 2012, the client listed her and her late husband's home with an expiration date of November 1, 2012, which was extended to January 30, 2013. In the interim, a prospective buyer engaged in negotiations for the purchase of the property, but no agreement was reached. In July 2013, the agent contacted the client, indicating the same buyer was still interested in the property, and a price was agreed upon, requiring that the sale be made with no contingencies and the property be sold "as is." The defendant's usual attorney was unavailable and the client agreed to be represented by an attorney, who was referred to by the agent. While waiting for the contract, the client was contacted by another buyer, but was told a sale was pending. When the contract was received, the Firm's client rejected it, based on the contingencies it contained. The defendant client later sold the property to the second buyer, closing in November 2013.
Based on the facts of the case, Mr. Browne moved for summary judgment as a matter of law. According to the court, "to establish the right to a commission, a broker must demonstrate that he or she produced a ready, willing, and able purchaser who came to a meeting of the minds with the seller as to all of the material terms of the sale." The court went on to state that this duty extends not only to the price, but also other essential matters, "such as the closing date and delivery of possession, and matters pertaining to restrictions, encumbrances, mortgages, and the payment of taxes; until this is done his right to a commission does not accrue."
The court found that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the contingency language referred to was not standard, or that its omission would be tantamount to legal malpractice. It found further that the agent apologized for the failure of the sale, took responsibility for the failure, and found that the plaintiff's papers "consist of nothing more than general conclusory statements lacking in evidentiary support and legal argument," and therefore granted summary judgment on behalf of the Firm's client.
Wayne G. Edwards, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented the Missionary Church before the Hempstead Town Board of Zoning Appeals for the conversion of a warehouse to a church, including securing parking variances and a special use permit to operate the church.
He also successfully represented a commercial real estate client before the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals in obtaining special permits and variances for a Starbucks to be located on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. The Board also granted variances to allow a Codoba to be constructed also on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow.
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, was one of the Program Co-Chairs for the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section (YLS) Trial Academy, which was held on April 5-9 at Cornell Law School in Ithaca. The program covered all aspects of a jury trial, including jury selections; opening statements; trial ethics; direct and cross-examinations; evidence, foundations and objections; trial motions and motions in limine; and closing arguments. Approximately 140 students and faculty members attended.
Mr. Christopher, Chair-elect of the NYSBA YLS, was also chosen as one of the "Winners" by Newsday for his being named as a Fellow to the New York Bar Foundation.
John P. Christopher (center) is joined by members of the New York State Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Section at the NYSBA YLS Trial Academy. Also pictured (left to right): YLS Staff Liaison and Associate Director of Member Outreach and Development Megan O’Toole; YLS Liaison to the Section Services Department Amy Jasiewicz; NYSBA Business Law Section Chair and Past YLS Chair Sarah E. Gold; NYSBA President-elect Sharon Stern Gerstman; NYSBA President Claire P. Gutekunst; Trial Academy Co-Chair and Past YLS Chair Erica M. Hines; YLS Chair Erin K. Flynn; and Trial Academy Team Leader and Past YLS Chair Michael L. Fox.
John P. Christopher (left) and Erica M. Hines (right) at the NYSBA YLS Trial Academy.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, spent several months mentoring and coaching students from the Crescent School in Hempstead who participated in the New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament, which was sponsored by the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship and The New York Bar Foundation. In Nassau County, the tournament was also sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association. The Crescent School made it to the Elite 8 of the 48 teams participating.
Pictured are students from The Crescent School who participated in
the New York State High School Mock Trial Competition along with
Joshua D. Brookstein (top left) at the Nassau County Supreme Court.
New York raised the State's Estate Tax Exemption on April 1st, from $4,187,500.00 to $5,250,000.00 per person. While this sounds like good news at first glance, in fact, it is not necessarily the case. The way the law is written, everyone does not get the benefit of the exemption. The reason is that the law says that, if your assets exceed $5,512,500.00, you lose the exemption, unless your will is structured properly. In other words, there is no exemption at all in New York for people whose assets exceed $5,512,500.00, and the estate tax will be calculated on the first dollar of assets. So, proper planning for asset allocation is very important, and consideration must be given to revising estate plans.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the April 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, was cited by InnovateLI in its March 28 e-newsletter describing how New York State is currently accepting public comments for a proposed overhaul of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The e-newsletter article included a link to an opinion editorial Mr. Sahn wrote last year, in which he discussed the need for better environmental review and oversight for large-scale development projects.
Matthew E. Rappaport has become Counsel to the Firm. He concentrates his practice in trusts and estates matters; business succession planning; asset protection; tax matters involving real estate, including § 1031 exchanges; and tax matters involving closely held companies, including mergers and acquisitions.
Mr. Rappaport advises clients regarding tax planning and structuring for generational wealth transfer, commercial real estate enterprises, business transactions, and cross-border considerations. He advises real estate and financial professionals and closely held businesses and assists other attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, bankers and insurance professionals who may need a high level of tax law expertise.
Mr. Rappaport has written numerous articles that have appeared in the Nassau Lawyer, the Journal of Taxation of Investments, the Journal of Real Estate Taxation, Bloomberg BNA’s Tax Management — Real Estate Journal,and The Tax Adviser. In addition, he has spoken before the American Bar Association Section on Taxation, the National Conference of CPA Practitioners’ Long Island Tax Professionals Symposium, the Nassau County Bar Association, Strafford Publications, and the advisors of various law, accounting, and wealth advisory firms across the country.
He is licensed to practice in New York State and is admitted to practice before the Eastern and Southern District Courts of New York and the United States Tax Court. He is an active member of the Nassau County Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association Tax Section, and the American Bar Association Section of Taxation. He served as Co-Vice Chair of the Nassau County Bar Association’s Tax Committee from 2015 to 2016. In addition, he is the Founding Member of Hydra Collective, Inc., a business networking organization for young professionals with more than 200 members and divisions in New York City, Long Island, and Chicago.
Mr. Rappaport graduated from Washington University in St. Louis (cum laude) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 2007. In 2011, he graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with a Juris Doctor and a Master of Laws in Taxation.“We are proud to welcome Matthew as part of our Firm,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “His knowledge and experience will allow the Firm to better serve our clients and their growing needs for taxation and estate planning guidance.”
Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center to be Housed in New, 14,380-Square-Foot Second Floor Facility
Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Jason Horowitz, a Partner with the Firm, successfully represented the North Shore Animal League before the Town of North Hempstead for construction of a second-story addition and complete renovation of its existing animal shelter building on Davis Avenue in Port Washington.
Renderings of North Shore Animal League’s
Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center in Post Washington
(North & East elevations above and South and West elevations below)
The project consisted of applications to both the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Town Board. On October 5, 2016, the Firm successfully obtained the necessary zoning variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Town Board then unanimously granted site plan approval for the project on February 28, 2017.
The proposed second-floor facility — which will be named Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center — will encompass 14,380 square feet and will feature exam rooms, a Feline Behavior Department, grooming facilities, a kitten adoption facility, an around-the-clock nursery, surgical suite and a recovery room. In addition, the all-feline center will feature a solely cage-free environment.
Since 1944, the North Shore Animal League is the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization. The group has saved the lives of more than 1 million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens at risk of euthanasia. Through its many innovative programs, the North Shore Animal League reaches across the country to rescue animals from overcrowded shelters, unwanted litters, puppy mills, natural disasters and other emergencies and finds them permanent, loving homes.
“We are pleased to represent the North Shore Animal League in this new, state-of-the-art project,” Mr. Sahn said. “It is an honor to be part of the organization’s continued efforts to fulfill its mission to care for and protect animals.”
This was reported by Long Island Business News and InnovateLI.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the March 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Partners Chris Coschignano and John Farrell are leading the Firm's expanding Suffolk County zoning, environmental and real estate practice. Just as the Firm has established its New York City-based practice, the Firm is looking east towards Suffolk County for new growth. From Melville to Montauk – that's the Firm's new direction. The development opportunities are great in Suffolk, and the Firm is at the forefront of many cases. Here are just a few examples:
Michael Sahn, Miriam Villani, Jon Ward and Joe Bjarnson represented several Village of Asharoken residents who opposed a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore certain beaches in the Village, subject to the Village agreeing to provide public access to the beaches. The proposal required the Village to condemn private property owned by the Firm's clients to provide public access easements over their properties to the beaches. The Village Board of Trustees rejected the proposal.
Miriam Villani, Jon Ward and Dan Braff represented a real estate partnership in a lease option agreement for a solar panel farm in Riverhead. The agreement paves the way for the energy company to lease approximately 50 acres of land from the partnership in Suffolk County over a period of 20 years.
Chris Browne is representing property owners opposed to the expansion of a restaurant/motel in Montauk. The clients, whose property abuts that of the motel, claim the motel operators are flouting town law in an attempt to reopen the restaurant that originally closed down in 1970. The shuttered restaurant currently sits in the Resort District, where a special permit is now required in order to operate a restaurant.
John Farrell successfully represented the owner and operator of a non-conforming Rocky Point gasoline service station in an application to rezone its property from J-2 Business to J-5 Business before the Brookhaven Town Board. While the gas station has been located on the site since the 1950s, the applicants sought to convert the former repair shop in the service station to a convenience store, necessitating the change of zone application. The approval will allow the station to continue to operate at the site and subsequent approvals in the planning stage will allow for the entire site to be redeveloped.
John Farrell and Nick Cappadora successfully had an application reconsidered and approved by the Town of Huntington Board of Appeals. The client's application to the Board of Appeals had been denied and the Firm was retained to challenge the determination in an Article 78 proceeding. After filing the Article 78, Mr. Farrell and Mr. Cappadora extensively examined the history of the site and discovered that the Board was provided with false testimony about the history of the structure in question and, on the basis of this evidence, requested that the Board reconsider the decision to deny the relief. The request for reconsideration was granted and, based on the evidence presented at the new hearing, the Board of Appeals granted the application. This saved the client significant time and money in litigation.
John Farrell and Adam Koblenz successfully represented a property owner in connection with the development of two homes before the Village of Greenport Planning Board. Prior to the Firm's involvement with these matters, the property owner was experiencing resistance to the development of these properties and had gone through several hearings with the Planning Board without much success. Mr. Farrell was able to successfully argue for the approval of both applications.
John Farrell and Chris Coschignano represented a developer before the Town of Islip Planning Board in connection with an application to rezone a property zoned for industrial uses to zoning that would permit the development of an apartment complex with 96 residential units. After a contentious public hearing, the Board adopted a resolution to recommend that the Town Board change the zoning of the property to permit the development to go forward. This recommendation is an important step in the approval process and allows the matter to proceed to the Town Board for formal approval of the change of zone. The Firm will provide updates as this matter progresses.
John Farrell and Michael Sahn have been actively engaged in numerous matters for Northwell Health's Southside Hospital campus. They have conducted zoning analyses on many parcels in the area and have assisted in Northwell's expansion in the Bay Shore area in the Town of Islip.
John Farrell and Wayne Edwards are acting as zoning counsel to a fitness company seeking to establish a facility in Bridgehampton in the Town of Southampton. They have provided their client with a comprehensive analysis of the zoning issues related to the development, including the SEQRA process. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Edwards have extensive knowledge of the local zoning codes and the required environmental review process.
Jon Ward is prosecuting an appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Department, on behalf of a homeowners association, from an order of the Suffolk County Supreme Court dismissing the homeowners association's lawsuit seeking to enforce restrictive covenants limiting the use of waterfront property in a residential community. The homeowners association's lawsuit was dismissed because the trial court found that it did not have standing to enforce the restrictive covenants.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC, is currently coaching high school students at the Crescent School in Hempstead in conjunction with the New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament, which is sponsored by the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship and The New York Bar Foundation. In Nassau County, the tournament is sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association. The Crescent School is among 48 schools competing within the county. The school competed in its qualifying matches on February 8 at Nassau County Supreme Court and February 14 at the Nassau County Bar Association in Mineola, and competed in the next round on March 1 at Nassau County Supreme Court.
In the tournament, students assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses in two consecutive trials, alternately as plaintiff and defendant, in a malicious prosecution action. To prepare for the competition, students learn about developing case themes, making opening and closing arguments, executing direct and cross-examinations, responding to objections, and introducing evidence. Mr. Brookstein works with the students to develop the skills needed to excel in and out of the courtroom, such as public speaking, crafting and delivering persuasive arguments, and being able to think on their feet.
Mr. Brookstein has extensive educational experience, having served for nine years as a teacher and assistant principal with the New York City Department of Education.
"It has been wonderful to support all of the students and watch them develop their critical thinking skills," Mr. Brookstein says. "This process has provided students with an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone, learn new skills and strategies, and develop tools necessary to be successful in their future endeavors."
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, has been appointed as a Fellow of The New York Bar Foundation. Fellows are nominated by their peers to the Foundation based on their outstanding achievement and dedication to the legal profession.
The Fellows are a distinguished group of legal professionals, with only 1% of New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) membership invited to share in this honor. All fellows must be members of the NYSBA and admitted to practice in the State of New York.
Mr. Christopher concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use, real estate transactions and leasing, landlord/tenant disputes and municipal law. He is an active member of the Young Lawyers Section of the NYSBA, currently holding the position of Chair-elect and previously holding the positions of Treasurer and Secretary. In addition, he serves as a Section Delegate to the NYSBA House of Delegates and Liaison to the Real Property Law Section.
Established in 1950, The New York Bar Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic organization that receives charitable contributions from individuals, law firms, corporations or other entities and provides grants to further its goals of promoting and advancing service to the public, improvements in the administration of justice, legal research and education, high standards of professional ethics and public understanding of legal heritage. The Foundation makes grants to financially support law-related programs of legal services organizations, nonprofits, bar associations and other organizations throughout New York State.
“It is truly an honor to be selected to join this elite group,” Mr. Christopher said. “I am also pleased to be recognized by my colleagues who recommended me to this prestigious position.”
This appeared in Long Island Business News and LIBN.com.
In addition to his usual legal work at the Firm, Josh Brookstein is coaching a group of students at the Crescent School in Hempstead, New York in this year's New York State High School mock trial competition. In this interview, Josh discusses his involvement in the mock trial and how he tries to make an impact on his team.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I grew up in Philadelphia and was fortunate to have some great teachers who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. While in college, I learned about Teach For America ("TFA") and the opportunity to teach in a low-income community and work to eliminate the achievement gap. I wanted to inspire youngsters before pursuing my dream of becoming a lawyer.
How did you go from being an educator to being an attorney?
As a teacher and assistant principal, I always encouraged my students to set goals and develop action plans to meet them. I quickly learned that teaching is not simply "telling" youngsters what they need to know. I was most successful in reaching students when I was able to show them a new skill or strategy, not just tell them about it. I decided that it was time for me to go after my dream of becoming a lawyer and model for students that success can come when you work hard. For the next three-and-a-half years, I continued to reinforce this notion as an educator and part-time law school student.
After graduating from law school in 2012, I transitioned from the New York Department of Education to the New York City Law Department. I was assigned to the Family Court division where I investigated and prosecuted cases of juvenile delinquency. After three years at the Law Department, I transitioned into private practice and joined Sahn Ward Coschignano.
The people at the Firm are phenomenal. I came into this large law firm with such diverse practice areas, but was still able to draw on the expertise of others in the Firm, which is very welcoming. They not only helped ease me into this transition, but they want me to become a part of the Firm’s success.
What made you decide to become a mentor?
I have experienced the benefits of mentorship firsthand as a student, educator, and lawyer. Throughout my career, I have found ways to connect with youngsters and serve as a positive presence in their lives.
Middle school can be a tough time for youngsters. Peer pressure, the desire to be independent, and the constant stream of social media, can make the life of any 12-year-old more challenging. Add in potential academic difficulties and wide-ranging familial dynamics, and one begins to understand why many middle school students struggle. Mentoring is one opportunity to build a positive relationship with these youngsters and become a resource for them as they continue to navigate the complexities of adolescence.
Are you serving as a mentor now?
For the past year, I have had the pleasure of mentoring a seventh-grade student from Woodland Middle School, through the Nassau County Bar Association. Meeting twice a month for 45 minutes, I have been able to develop a positive relationship with my mentee. We talk, among other things, about our interests, favorite and least favorite subjects in school, video games, and anything related to Star Wars. My goal is simple: to serve as a positive and consistent presence, and, where appropriate, be a resource in my mentee's life.
Describe your involvement in the mock trial competition.
As a member of the Nassau County Bar Association's Speakers Bureau, I was aware of the mock trial. I volunteered as a judge last year and there was a new school that entered for the first time and was looking for a coach. The Crescent School was looking for a speaker on how the courts operate. I spoke about the courts and the law and gave them an overview as someone who was an educator, then went on to change careers.
When I was there, the teacher said I had a good rapport with the kids and said, "We'd love for you to be our coach." I've worked with the students since November 2016. We are currently in the middle of the mock trial competition, having completed and won the first two rounds. Our next round was on March 1 at Nassau County Supreme Court.
What is it like to be a mentor to these students?
For trial attorneys, organizing and persuasively presenting their cases are based on years of honing their skills. Mastering the facts, the rules of evidence, and thinking on your feet are some of the essential trial skills necessary before stepping into a courtroom. For the students of the Crescent School in Hempstead, New York, they had three months to get up to speed.
The Crescent School is one of Nassau County's 48 schools participating in the New York State Bar Association’s 2017 Mock Trial program. For the past three months, I have had the honor of coaching the Crescent Knights as they learn the basics of opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination, the rules of evidence, and developing and implementing a persuasive case theme. For the Knights, this was their first year participating in the mock trial program and they sought to gain a better understanding of how the trial process actually works, and not just what they see on reruns of Law & Order.
The mock trial program provided students with an opportunity to develop their skills in critical thinking, public speaking, and collaboration. Students were forced to learn how to think on their feet and present persuasive arguments. As their coach, I had the opportunity to watch as my team became more proficient in a once completely unfamiliar environment. At the same time, I have been able to reflect on my own practice when evaluating and presenting cases. No matter how far we get in the competition this year, the skills the students have begun to master will stay with them for life.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the February 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Miriam E. Villani, a Partner with the Firm and head of the Firm’s Environment, Energy and Resources Practice Group, was featured in the New York Real Estate Journal’s Professional Profiles section.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Nicholas Cappadora, an Associate with the Firm, wrote an op-ed for InnovateLI on how President Donald J. Trump’s sweeping executive orders on deregulation could affect local zoning laws and recommends that all municipal governments should stay ahead of the curve.
In their article, Mr. Sahn and Mr. Cappadora pointed out that Trump’s revocation of federal regulations could result in an elimination or a rollback of local land use controls, which will give the president the opportunity to go forward with his proposed infrastructure projects. In addition, local elected officials would have to revise the existing zoning regulations to stay in line with Trump’s executive orders.
“We must anticipate change, hopefully for the positive,” Mr. Sahn and Mr. Cappadora wrote. “Local governments have to start thinking about this now, before the next Executive Order catches everyone by surprise.”
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, has become the Firm's sixth Equity Member. He joins Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Partners Jon A. Ward, Chris J. Coschignano, Daniel H. Braff and Adam H. Koblenz. The Firm's name will remain the same.
In other news, three of the Firm's attorneys — Ralph Branciforte, Joseph R. Bjarnson and Robert A. Abiuso — have been promoted to Partner. Mr. Branciforte and Mr. Bjarnson were Associates and Mr. Abiuso was previously Counsel to the Firm.
Mr. Browne will participate in the management, leadership and continued growth of the Firm. He concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, zoning and land use, and municipal law, and has become a leader on Long Island in these practice areas.
"We are proud to announce that Chris has become an Equity Member of the Firm," said Mr. Sahn. "He has shown a steadfast commitment to the Firm and its clients, and has distinguished himself as an attorney in the legal community. We look forward to the continued growth and success of the Firm with his support and leadership."
The three attorneys promoted to Partner have all been successful advocates for their clients in their respective practice areas. In addition, they have been widely recognized for their pro bono work and their contributions to the legal community.
"We congratulate these excellent attorneys on their promotions," Mr. Sahn said. "They have proven themselves to be truly valuable to the Firm and it shows in their hard work and their commitment to our clients. More important, each of them are fine individuals with outstanding character."
This was reported in Newsday.
Click here to read the article.
Adam H. Koblenz, a Partner with the Firm, recently settled two dissolution actions venued in New York State Supreme Court concerning two closely held businesses, a specialty market situated on a former gas station site, and the underlying real estate, owned equally by two partners. The settlement was reached prior to the appointment of a receiver and commencement of a trial. The agreement resulted in one partner successfully buying out the other partner's interest. Mr. Koblenz, who represented the buyer, also worked on securing financing from a commercial lender for the transactions. He was assisted in the matter by Firm Partners Andrew M. Roth and Miriam Villani, who heads the Firm's Environment, Energy, and Resources Practice Group. Ms. Villani guided the client through Phase I and Phase II environmental reviews, necessary to complete the transaction.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a client in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County in an action involving the corporate structures of the Marco Polo Lodge of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America, a not-for-profit corporation.
The Firm's client, Leo Diliberti, was a leading member of the Lodge, having joined in 1970. On November 11, 1991, the Marco Polo Lodge entered into a contract to purchase a new building, located at 34-83 Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, to be used as its meeting hall. The contract was signed by Mr. Diliberti, as chairman of the Lodge. On January 16, 1992, Mr. Diliberti, and two other Lodge members, now deceased, formed a corporation named the Marco Polo Building Corp. for the purpose of taking title to the property. Title closed on March 3, 1992. However, the certificate of incorporation states that Marco Polo Building Corp. was formed pursuant to Business Corporation Law Section 402, a for-profit entity. However, it was undisputed that the intention of the incorporators was for it to be a charitable, not-for-profit corporation, and for it to assist in the charitable work of the Lodge. Further, since that time, no corporate formalities were followed. However, Mr. Diliberti argued that the Marco Polo Building Corp. maintains a bank account which is controlled by the President of the Lodge.
Since it was formed as a for-profit entity, the members of the Lodge could sell the property and retain the profits for themselves. In contrast, it is a basic tenet of non-profits that assets must be sheltered and that no individual can benefit directly.
On February 20, 2015, Mr. Diliberti commenced a special proceeding pursuant to Not-For-Profit Corporation Law Section 621 to compel the Lodge to allow him to inspect the minutes of the proceedings of the Lodge for 2014 and that he be provided access to the Lodge’s financial statements for 2014 and 2015. This action was dismissed on the grounds that Mr. Diliberti lacked standing, as he was no longer a member of the Lodge.
On July 30, 2015, the Firm brought this action on behalf of Mr. Diliberti seeking a declaratory judgment that, as the "last living original incorporator," Mr. Diliberti be allowed to convene an organizational meeting pursuant to the Business Corporation Law so that he may convert the for-profit corporation into a not-for-profit entity.
On August 22, 2016, the Court ordered that the present officers of the Marco Polo Lodge hold an organizational meeting, adopt by-laws and elect directors for the Marco Polo Building Corp. This meeting occurred on September 20, 2016. Following the decision, Mr. Diliberti filed a motion arguing that the decision should be amended to direct the incoming officers to transfer the assets of the building corporation to a duly formed not-for-profit corporation or to re-charter the Marco Polo Building Corporation as a not-for-profit entity. The Court agreed, citing the doctrine of de facto corporation, which can be invoked where a purported not-for-profit is incorrectly formed as a business corporation. The Court went on to explain that, had the Marco Polo Building Corporation been properly formed as a not-for-profit, its assets could not be distributed to its members. It ordered the directors of the Marco Polo Building Corporation file an amended certificate of incorporation, reorganizing the building corporation as a not-for-profit or, alternatively, that the directors may transfer the assets of the Marco Polo Building Corp. to a duly formed and organized not-for-profit.
"We are grateful that the Court agreed with our client's position and has taken action to ensure that the assets of the Marco Polo Building Corp. will continue to be used for charitable purposes. It's very rare that a client, at his own expense, will take legal action, when the client has little to gain personally. However, Mr. Diliberti spent many years working to build the Lodge and its strong financial foundation, and wanted to ensure that this good work would continue to benefit the community for years to come," Mr. Browne said.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a client in New York State Supreme Court, Westchester County, and on appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Department, in an action involving the issue of the proof necessary to obtain damages in a home improvement construction dispute.
The Firm's client, a construction company, contracted with the plaintiffs to perform construction work on the plaintiffs' home located in Chappaqua, New York. The plaintiffs paid $300,500 to the client for work completed pursuant to the contract. However, the plaintiffs filed suit after they became dissatisfied with the work and then hired others to complete the project and remediate what they alleged to be improper and poor work.
On March 14, 2014, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment which was granted in an order dated September 3, 2014. The Court ordered a nonjury trial on the issue of damages which was held in December 2014. Following the trial, the Court determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to damages in the amount of $300,500; however, the Court also found that the plaintiffs failed to establish that they made payments to other contractors to remediate the work or to complete the project.
Agreeing with the Firm's arguments, the Appellate Division cited that it was "fundamental to law of damages that one complaining of injury has the burden of proving the extent of the harm suffered, must demonstrate actual damages, and must lay a basis for a reasonable estimate of the extent of the harm." The Court went on to hold that the trial court erred in awarding damages equal to the amount paid by the plaintiffs to the defendant. It went on to state that "the proper measure of the plaintiff's damages was the cost of completion of the construction work and the correction of defects of the defendant's work." The Appellate Division, finding that at trial that the plaintiffs having failed to demonstrate they sustained actual damages, then dismissed the case.
Firm Partner Miriam E. Villani wrote an op-ed piece for Long Island Business News on how Donald J. Trump will reverse environmental policy that was implemented by his predecessor when he becomes President of the United States.
Ms. Villani says Mr. Trump’s choices for the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interior Department will support his plans to boost the coal industry, roll back federal environmental regulations, pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord, and do away with President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan.
“Many questions remain about what Trump’s environmental policy will look like, but one thing is fairly certain: we are likely to see a rollback of efforts to combat climate change, including the repealing of regulations, a push for increased fossil fuel development, and a limiting of the work of energy regulators,” Ms. Villani wrote. “In the face of this expectation, we will see the states take on a more significant role in environmental protection and energy regulation.”
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the January 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Nassau County Supreme Court’s Decision Allows Construction of 289-Bed Woodmere Nursing Home Facility to Move Forward
Firm Partners Jon A. Ward, Wayne G. Edwards and Andrew M. Roth and Firm Associate Ralph Branciforte recently won a decision that will allow their client, Woodmere SNF Realty, to proceed with the completion of construction of a $100 million, 289-bed nursing home facility to be located at 1050 Central Avenue in Woodmere.
On February 24, 2016, Woodmere Irving LLC and Woodmere Irving Annex LLC, which owns commercial properties abutting the construction site, filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that the construction of a retaining wall adjacent to their buildings would threaten the structural integrity of their buildings. In connection with the lawsuit, they sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining the construction of the retaining wall and nursing home.
After several months of litigation over the injunction, including several oral arguments and a preliminary injunction hearing, Justice Timothy S. Driscoll of the Commercial Division of the Nassau County Supreme Court dissolved a temporary restraining order which prohibited construction of the retaining wall and denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped construction of the project, clearing the path for the defendants to complete construction of the retaining wall and the project. The Court found that the plaintiffs failed to meet any of the criteria for a preliminary injunction: (1) they did not establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the retaining wall would be unsafe; (2) they did not demonstrate that they would suffer immediate irreparable injury if the defendants were allowed to proceed with construction of the retaining wall; (3) they did not establish that the equities in the case weighed in favor of an injunction. The Court was particularly persuaded by the fact that the design of the retaining wall had been extensively reviewed and approved by the Town of Hempstead Building Department.
“We are pleased that the Court ruled in our favor,” Mr. Ward said. “Resolution of this matter will allow our client to complete this much-needed project that will help address the need for nursing home care in the South Nassau region, as well as provide significant economic benefit to the Woodmere community.”
333 Earle Ovington Boulevard, Suite 601 Uniondale, New York 11553
Telephone: 516.228.1300 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAHN WARD COSCHIGNANO, PLLC Attorneys At Law ©2017