Just like the economy, the Mergers and Acquisitions world is shaped by countless, ever-evolving factors. Numerous considerations, such as looming concerns of a recession (both globally and here in the United States), trade tensions with China and the uncertainty that is inevitable during presidential election years can dictate how and when companies should seek to expand their business vis-à-vis an M&A deal.
The U.S. saw approximately $1.5 - $1.7 trillion in domestic and international M&A deal volume in 2019, representing an approximate 8% decrease from 2018, while domestic IPO activity rose by approximately 45% from 2018 to approximately $60 billion in activity in 2019. Notable highlights include Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox for $84 billion, DowDuPont’s $40 billion spin-off of Dow Inc., and the $8.1 billion Uber IPO. A strong U.S. economy relative to Europe and Asia, increased valuations resulting from corporate tax cuts and decreased regulations seems to have caused over-valued businesses and increased corporate leverage, thus partially explaining the decrease.
Election years, like 2020, often cause market uncertainty as companies brace themselves for changes in the regulatory, economic and geo-political landscape. Fortunately for private equity investors and strategic buyers, this uncertainty often leads to (i) companies looking to remain proactive as a means of strengthening themselves during periods of uncertainty and staying ahead of their competitors, and (ii) potentially lower valuations. With record-levels of available cash being held by private equity firms (aka “dry powder”) estimated at $1.3 trillion at the outset of 2020, these investors will likely be chomping at the bit to take advantage of these reduced valuations as they aggressively seek to deploy those funds. On the other side of the equation, Ernst & Young’s latest “Global Capital Confidence Barometer” found that 52% of senior executives that responded to the survey expected their company to actively pursue an M&A transaction during 2020. In other words, 2020 should see an increase in M&A activity.
What does this mean for you and your business? The bottom line is that if you were ever thinking of selling or expanding your business, 2020 might be a golden opportunity for you to do so as these private equity investors and strategic buyers are potentially looking for companies such as yours. To that end, have you ever conducted a formal valuation of your business? Are you facing stagnant revenues and are unsure of how best to take your company to the next level? Are you looking to expand your business into new markets, new regions or expand your ability to offer new products? To discuss where to take your business in 2020, please feel free to contact me at KLawrence@swc-law.com or (516) 228-1300.
Michelle Greenberg, discusses the trends in commercial real estate that she thinks we will see in 2020:
• Despite the challenges WeWork faced since their failed IPO, there continues to be significant growth in the flex office space providers in the likes of Knotel and Spaces by Regus. Occupiers are looking for flexibility to grow and contract, as well as the ability to invest in retaining and attracting talent. Co-working offers a flexible menu of options with modern facilities which make including co-working a very attractive option as part of a corporate client’s real estate strategy. Additionally, given the competition and demand for amenity spaces, owners are creating their own brand to offer similar services in order to attract tenants.
• Tech growth continues – Despite Amazon HQ2 pulling out of Long Island City in 2019, leaving a $3 billion incentive package on the table, Silicon Valley keeps pushing forward in New York City. Facebook completed a deal in November 2019 to take 1.5 million square feet at 50 Hudson Yards and they are not the only tech company with grand New York City plans. The access to tech talent in the New York City metro area has been a catalyst to growth and look for this trend to continue in 2020.
• Sustainability efforts continue to trend as building owners try to minimize carbon footprints through implementation of energy efficiency improvements and savings. This will continue as New York City legislation goes into effect requiring buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 40% by 2030 increasing to a targeted 80% decrease by 2050). It is estimated that the Climate Mobilization Act will impact 60% of the current building stock as a result.
Christian Browne and Elaine Colavito successfully prosecuted their clients’ claim for title to property by adverse possession in a dispute between property owners in Long Beach. The case arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when many properties in Long Beach were severely damaged. The storm brought down large trees in the clients’ backyard and destroyed a 40-year-old fence that ran along their rear property line.
The clients attempted to replace the fence on the same line after the storm, but the replacement drew an objection from their neighbor to the rear, who claimed that the fence was several feet on to his property. Subsequently, the neighbor sold his parcel to a developer who proceeded to knock down the clients’ new fence when he began construction of a new house on the neighboring lot. The firm's clients' commenced an action against the developer, claiming that they had acquired title to the area around the fence by adverse possession and seeking a judgment ejecting the developer from the disputed land.
After a trial before Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger, the Court found that the Plaintiffs had proven their claim to title to the disputed land by “clear and convincing evidence.” The Court also ruled that the defendant developer should be ejected from the disputed area and awarded the clients money damages for the damage done to their fence.
Michael Sahn guided Fogo de Chao in opening its new, 300 seats upscale Brazilian steakhouse in Carle Place. Fogo de Chao has restaurants throughout the United States and in many countries. The restaurants feature top quality food, prepared in the traditional Brazilian culinary technique and upscale dining environments. The Firm represented the restaurant through a series of land use, zoning and administrative approvals to a successful opening just before the holidays. Read More here about the successful opening.
Joshua Brookstein, a Partner with the Firm, will receive the 40 Under 40 award from Long Island Business News at a special ceremony on February 6, 2020 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The 40 Under 40 Awards celebrate future leaders of Long Island who have already begun to distinguish themselves in business, government, education and the not-for-profit sector. They also have a proven track record of career success, and are involved with mentoring and promoting their profession while giving back to their local communities.
Adam H. Koblenz, serving as lead counsel, along with the assistance of Ralph Branciforte and Joseph D. Brees, recently mediated an employment and labor dispute that resulted in a successful settlement through mediation. A former employee filed various claims with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Firm’s client, a large Queens based nationwide manufacturing and wholesale distribution business, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act and New York Labor Law for, inter alia, wage, overtime, gender and age discrimination. As a strategic measure, Adam successfully steered the administrative and agency-based claims to private mediation instead of traditional litigation in State or Federal court. As this case demonstrates, mediation can serve as a cost effective method to resolve disputes, while saving the parties valuable time and resources often expended in protracted and costly litigation.
2019 marks the Firm’s 20th anniversary. Looking back and looking ahead, Michael shares some thoughts and observations about the Firm, and its legal practice.
What were your goals when you started the Firm?
My goals were simple. Build a law firm based on excellence that would provide the highest quality representation for our clients and always adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards. Jon Ward, who joined me a year after I established the Firm likes to say that we made a commitment to “Tiffany-like” work product, done the right way-meaning that the services and advice we provide are always the best by every measure and standard. I think that adhering to these fundamental principles has given us the foundation to build the Firm, and set the stage for our future, sustained growth.
When you started the Firm, did you have any concerns about whether you could accomplish your goals?
No, none whatsoever. I was fortunate to have great mentors who taught me how to be a lawyer, and how to practice law “the right way”. I only worked for two people in my career. My first and always “Boss” is Judge Edward G. McCabe, who is now Special Counsel to our Firm. Judge McCabe hired me right out of law school when he was the Town Attorney in North Hempstead. The Judge basically had one rule for everyone who worked for him; that was do the best you can and do it right. Judge had no exceptions. He had a simple phrase when he inquired about a case or legal issue: “Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you know.” After working at the Town, I joined Mike Ricigliano in private practice. Like the Judge, Mike never compromised his values. And, when it came time for me to go out on my own, he gave me his unconditional support and encouragement. So, I learned from great people and had great people behind me. I was confident that if I applied the lessons I learned, I would be successful.
Law practice is very demanding. What do you enjoy most about the Firm and its practice?
The people who I work with at the Firm, my partners, the attorneys and our professional staff, are absolutely the best. I enjoy working with everyone, every day. We have a collegial working environment based on a high respect for each other. Our Firm culture is unique. We enjoy working with each other, we collaborate on issues, and we challenge each other to achieve. We participate in many activities together outside the office, such as our softball and bowling teams, and other social activities. Everyday I learn something new from my partners and the other attorneys at the Firm as well as our professional staff. Many of us have worked together from the time I started the Firm, or even before that in my former firm with Mike Ricigliano. In addition, we have terrific, sophisticated clients who entrust us with their cases and legal issues. We take our responsibility very seriously. Nothing is more satisfying then the mutual respect and trust between attorney and client. We do our best to nurture and sustain that relationship. That gives us incredible satisfaction.
What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of?
Every lawyer or professional has certain cases they always recall as high points in a career or cases that laid the foundation for the future. When we first started the Firm, Jon Ward and I litigated a case challenging the New York State’s right to build sound barrier walls along the LIE. We took on the State and won on the merits. That set the tone for our practice. Even though years later the decision was reversed on a technical, statute of limitations issue having nothing to do with the merits, we learned that we were capable of achieving great results with diligent work. After that we had a very complex case about the termination of a commercial lease. Our client was a very prominent developer with uncompromising values, and the other party was represented by a large New York City firm. Again, we were successful and that, too, set the foundation for many cases. Recently, we have achieved successes for not-for-profit health care institutions that will enable patients in need to get the most sophisticated medical care for themselves and their families. That is the most gratifying work we’ve ever done because generations of people will benefit from our efforts.
How do you see the future of the Firm?
Our Firm is going to continue to grow. We want to take the Firm to the next level, so to speak. We now have a New York City and a Suffolk County office. We expect to continue to add lawyers and staff, and expand our practice areas as a full service Firm. For our Firm size, our attorneys are young, and exceptionally experienced, talented, and dedicated. That’s the perfect combination for the future. We will always look for new opportunities to grow, and hope to attract talented people to join us. We are ready to invest in our future. Standing still is not in our vocabulary.
The Firm recently represented the purchasers of The Sewane Country Club located on the South Shore of Long Island. The attorneys in the Environment, Energy and Resources practice group guided the transaction. Our team consisted of Michael Sahn, Wayne Edwards, Michelle Greenberg, Miriam Villani, Christian Browne, Kyle Lawrence, and Adam Koblenz. The team members worked together using their knowledge and expertise of real estate, zoning, land use, corporate, and environmental law to provide counsel necessary to close on the purchase of the property.
SWC is very pleased to announce the promotion of Joshua D. Brookstein to Partner.
Josh concentrates his practice in zoning and land use planning, municipal law, real estate law and transactions, and litigation and appeals.
Josh’s responsibilities include representing the Firm’s municipal and private-sector clients as well as not-for-profit institutions in a wide range of cases. Recently, Josh guided the recording of the first commercial subleasehold condominium subdivision map in Nassau County for a not-for-profit healthcare institution. Josh has also worked on the Firm’s team that secured approvals for medevac helicopters to land at Cohen Children's Medical Center in Lake Success.
Josh has received various awards and recognitions for his professional accomplishments. He was selected by Super Lawyers to the Metro New York Rising Star List in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He was also a recipient of the Long Island Business News Leadership in Law Award in 2018, in the law firm Associate category.
Outside his regular office responsibilities, Josh serves the legal profession and his community in many ways. He received the Pro Bono/Public Service Attorney of the Year Award from Touro Law Center in 2018 for his dedication to pro-bono work.
For the past five years, Josh has been involved in the New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament — his first year as a judge, and the last four as attorney advisor to a mock trial team. In addition to serving as a mock trial coach, he also serves as a mentor to middle school students through the Nassau County Bar Association. During the regular school year, Josh mentors students twice each month at public schools in Nassau County.
Josh is a Board member of Teach for America – New York Associate Board where he supports Teach For America’s mission to eliminate the achievement gap in education. He also serves on the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center’s Nassau County Family Court Children’s Center Advisory Council.
Josh is a member of the New York State Bar Association, the New York City Bar Association, and the Nassau County Bar Association, where he serves as Chair of the Association’s Community Relations and Public Education Committee. The Community Relations and Public Education Committee is charged with organizing timely and relevant public seminars to the residents of Nassau County.
Josh graduated cum laude from Muhlenberg College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Political Management. He later earned a Masters degrees from Fordham University and Bank Street College of Education. He graduated from New York Law School, where he was the Student Commencement Speaker and an Arthur Abbey Public Service Fellow.
“We are extremely proud that Josh is now a Partner of the Firm,” said Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member. “Josh is an exceptionally accomplished and dedicated lawyer. He is a vital part of our practice, and he has earned the respect and confidence of our clients and his colleagues at the Firm. We greatly respect Josh’s commitment to community service and pro-bono work. Josh is a role model for all of us in his engagement with our clients and his community.”
“I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, and to serving the Firm’s clients in this new capacity,” Josh said. “I cannot thank enough, the Firm’s members and the rest of the SWC team, for this incredible opportunity.”
Prior to joining the Firm, Josh worked at the New York City Law Department, in its Family Court Division, and was a member of the Special Victims Unit where he handled felony and misdemeanor cases through trial.
On Thursday, November 21, 2019, Elaine Colavito was awarded the Long Island Business News Leadership in Law Award in the Partner category. Ms. Colavito received this award due to her dedication both in the legal profession and in the community. Learn more about Ms. Colavito's biography here.
SWC will be hosting an Earth Day event in conjunction with the NYSBA Environmental and Energy Law Section (EELS) on April 22, 2019, from 5:30-7:30pm. The event is being held to honor the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This networking event will feature light refreshments and a notable speaker from the local environmental community. Learn more about the event here: Read More
In this edition of our Newsletter, we highlight the work of Thomas C. Haberlack. Tom concentrates his practice in estate planning, estate administration, elder law, and probate law. Tom discusses about the best time to consider estate planning, and how to protect your assets and loved ones as you prepare for the future.
Is it ever too early to prepare an Estate Plan?
No, it is never too early to set up your estate plan; nor is it ever too late. If you die and you haven’t provided for the transfer of your assets to your intended beneficiaries, then New York State will decide where your assets will go. Under current New York law, for instance, if you die survived by a spouse and children, then your assets will be divided between them. This can be unduly burdensome because if your children are minors, the portion going to your minor children will be controlled by the Surrogate’s Court until they reach age 18. If minor children become partial owners of any real property, including the primary residence, the surviving spouse would not have the ability to sell or even refinance the property without the prior approval of the Court.
Which Estate Planning tool do you recommend- a Trust or a Will?
As a practitioner that handles the planning and administration phases of estates, the decision will depend on many factors, including the client’s assets, family circumstances and intentions. Trusts do have some administrative advantages over a Will. A Trust avoids probate and, therefore, there is no need to locate or notify missing or excluded heirs. The transfer of assets upon death can be accomplished immediately, subject to providing for taxes and creditors’ claims. Also, the terms of the Trust remain private while a Will is filed with the court and becomes a public document.
When the estate is controlled by a Will, how long does the probate process take? The timeline is fact sensitive, but generally, if all the necessary parties sign off on the probate, the time to probate a Will could be as little as four or five weeks from the date everything is submitted to the Court. However, if the decedent had minor children, the Court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent their interests, which could delay the proceeding for up to several months. Additionally, if there are missing heirs or if a party contests the validity of the Will, it could delay the probate of the Will for more than a year.
What other steps should I take to complete my estate plan to protect my family?
A full estate plan not only considers what happens upon death, but also provides for the possibility of a short term or long term disability. So, in addition to a Will or Trust, everybody should have a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will and Advance Burial Directive. A Power of Attorney designates the person to handle your financial needs. The Health Care Proxy sets forth the person who will speak to your medical professionals if you cannot. The Living Will states your what measures you want taken in the event you are in a permanent coma. And finally, the Advance Burial Directive designates the person to whom you have communicated your burial wishes and directions. You may select either the same or different people for each role. If you do nothing and you become disabled, your family will be required to petition the Court to appoint a guardian to make these decisions for you without you ever having a voice in who handles your affairs.
No matter the size of your estate thoughtfully deciding how your assets will be distributed and choosing someone to be in charge of managing your affairs will go a long way towards having loved ones peacefully work together while avoiding family misunderstandings and costly probate proceedings.
As a New York City zoning and land use attorney, I regularly represent clients in the purchase of development rights (a/k/a “air rights” transfers). One question that I commonly hear from clients is “can I get title insurance?”
I’ll cut to the chase. The answer is no. Although, some background here is important. In order to transfer development rights from one tax lot to another where both are in separate ownership, the tax lots must be merged into a single zoning lot by a mechanism established in the New York City Zoning Resolution. The merger requires that the lots are contiguous for 10 linear feet, located within a single block, and are declared to be a tract of land to be treated as one zoning lot. In addition, this declaration (called a “Declaration of Zoning Lot Restrictions”) must be executed by each party-in-interest except if the party has waived its right to execute the Declaration. Both the Declaration and any waivers must be recorded against the parcels. Parties-in-interest generally include fee owners, mortgagees, holders of recorded or visible easements, contract vendees, holders of options to purchase, the United States as to federal liens, judgement creditors with docketed judgements, mechanic’s lienors, the City of New York for real estate taxes, and holders of reverters or rights of entry. The Zoning Resolution further requires that the title company prepare a certification of parties-in-interest to be provided to the Department of Buildings.
Moreover, the tax lot owners will typically enter into an agreement called a Zoning Lot Development Agreement (ZLDA). This is a private agreement between the parties that sets forth the rights and obligations within the merged zoning lot, and typically includes provisions setting forth which party gets the unused floor area within the merged zoning lot. This document is not required pursuant to the Zoning Resolution and lots can be merged without Zoning Lot Development Agreements.
So, what do you actually get when you merge lots into a common zoning lot? Nothing...everything. First, unlike purchasing fee title, you walk away with nothing. The rights are invisible. They cannot be touched or seen. It is a creation through zoning. Once lots are merged, any plans and zoning calculations filed for a new development must show the entire merged zoning lot, including any existing buildings on the zoning lot. The Department of Buildings does not care whether there is a Zoning Lot Development Agreement in place or what it says, or what the agreement is between the parties as to which party gets unused floor area. All they care about is whether the lots were properly merged and will require that the owner proposing development prove that a proper merger was completed pursuant to Section 12-10. The Department of Buildings will review the title company’s certification of parties-in-interest and confirm that all parties-in-interest have either executed the Declaration or waived their right to execute the Declaration.
So, if there are no tangible rights, are there any protections a title company can provide? The answer is yes. In New York City, title companies can issue a special product called a Development Rights Endorsement. It will insure that all parties-in-interest have joined in, waived, or subordinated their interests to the Declaration. In other words, it will protect the owners of a merged zoning lot against any third-party challenges to the validity of the zoning lot, such as a third-party that claims to be a party-in-interest that never consented to the lot merger. The endorsement will also insure that the seller has consented to the Zoning Lot Development Agreement (if one exists) and that it is valid and effective, and if there are any negative covenants such as light and air easements, but it will not insure the amount of floor area available or transferred, or other specific rights set forth in a Zoning Lot Development Agreement.
A failure of a zoning lot merger could be devastating to a project. You could imagine a scenario where a challenge to the validity of a zoning lot was successful after construction has commenced on a building using development rights from an adjoining parcel. Construction will be stopped and it will be impossible to obtain a certificate of occupancy until the proper merger is completed. Having a title company step up to defend the validity of the zoning lot is crucial.
Jon Ward, Andrew Roth and Joseph Bjarnson are defending Suffolk County and the Suffolk County Comptroller in litigation that LIPA commenced to invalidate in excess of $22 million in real-property tax liens. The liens are pending against LIPA's electrical grid in Suffolk County. LIPA claims the tax liens are invalid because the electrical grid is tax exempt under the LIPA Act, a State statute under which LIPA took over the generation and distribution of electricity on Long Island from LILCO. In defending the case, the Firm brought a third-party complaint on behalf of Suffolk County against all ten Townships in Suffolk County, alleging, among other things, that if the tax liens are invalidated, the unpaid taxes must be charged back to the Townships from which they originated. The Towns' filed a motion to dismiss the County’s third-party complaint. The Suffolk County Supreme Court denied the Towns motion, finding that Suffolk County stated viable claims against the Towns.
Christian Browne and Ralph Branciforte successfully defended an appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department in a trademark infringement and unfair competition lawsuit. The Appellate Division upheld the trial court's determination in favor of the firm's client, the owner of a Pizzeria in Farmingdale. A competitor sued the client alleging that the client had improperly infringed upon the competitor's trade name and was engaging in unfair competition. After a trial, the Supreme Court dismissed the competitor's case.
The Appellate Division agreed with the Trial Court that the competitor failed to establish a legal basis for his claims against the Firm's client regarding the use of the trade name "Three Brother's Pizza".
Which important matters have you been working on recently?
Working closely with Michael Sahn and Joseph Bjarnson, I guided the recording of the first commercial subleasehold condominium subdivision map in Nassau County for a not-for-profit healthcare institution. While commercial subleasehold condominium subdivisions have long been recognized in New York City, they have not been used and recorded on Long Island. Subleasehold condominium subdivisions are complex transactions and are a helpful corporate structuring tool that can assist non-profit entities in financing arrangements and financial structuring to achieve their missions. I am now preparing to file the first subleasehold condominium subdivision map in Suffolk County, also for a not-for-profit organization.
I am also incredibly proud to have worked on the team that secured approvals to construct a helistop for Cohen Children's Medical Center. The helistop will allow first responders, such as the NCPD, to transport critically sick and injured children to Nassau County's only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center. When every second counts, the ability to transport patients within minutes, will no doubt save lives and help the youngsters receive the care they need.
Tell us about your new role as Chair of the Nassau County Bar Association's Community Relations and Public Education Committee.
The Community Relations and Public Education Committee is charged with leading the NCBA's community engagement and public education initiatives. The Committee organizes and executes the annual Nassau County High School Mock Trial Tournament, where over 50 schools compete annually. The winner travels to Albany to represent Nassau County in the state competition.
The CRPE is also responsible for planning and facilitating public education seminars on legal issues surrounding current hot topics (i.e., Special Education, Opioids, Identify Theft, and Elder Abuse). Our next seminar, "Early Voting Comes to Nassau County," will be held on September 18th at the Nassau County Bar Association headquarters. This seminar will address how Nassau County will implement the new early voting law recently enacted in New York. Admission is free and no registration is required.
My other pro-bono activities include coaching Crescent High School's mock trial team, and serving as a mentor to an at-risk middle school student biweekly during the school year, and serving on the Advisory Committee for the Nassau County Family Court's Children's Center.
You also joined the New York Associate Board of Teach for America ("TFA"). What does this involve, and why did you join?
TFA's mission is to eliminate educational inequity across our country and ensure that all children obtain an excellent education. Upon graduating from college, I joined TFA and worked as a teacher and assistant principal in the South Bronx for nine years before practicing law. While I am no longer in the classroom full-time, I remain committed to TFA's mission and appreciate the Firm supporting my Associate Board membership. As a member of the Associate Board, I work to ensure that TFA corps members have the resources and training necessary to meet the needs of the children they serve in New York City. As an attorney, I believe it is my responsibility to not only provide excellent counsel to my clients, but also to help support, inspire, and motivate the next generation.
Chris J. Coschignano has been appointed to the Nassau County Bar Association (NCBA) Board of Directors. He also presently serves as Co-Chair of the Municipal Law Committee with fellow SWC Partner John Farrell.
Mr. Coschignano has been a practicing attorney since 1990. He concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use planning, real estate law and transactions, municipal and legislative law, economic development and industrial development agency law, advanced litigation in state and federal courts, and matrimonial and family law. He has handled some of the most complex zoning and land use planning projects on Long Island, and he and his projects have been recognized by multiple organizations for smart growth and proper planning objectives. Additionally, he is well-versed in municipal benefits and industrial development agency (IDA) law, thus allowing his clients the additional means of government economic development support, as well as the ability to create public-private partnerships. Mr. Coschignano has also handled every aspect of commercial and residential real property contracts, as well as some of largest and most complex transactions on Long Island.
Mr. Coschignano served as a Councilman with the Town of Oyster Bay, from his election in 2001 until 2017. Prior to that, he was appointed in 1995 to serve as Counsel to the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Oyster Bay to oversee the operations and exclusively handle all municipal litigation involving the agency. Mr. Coschignano also presently serves as Counsel to the Republican Commissioner at the Nassau County Board of Elections. In all, Mr. Coschignano has served for over 25 years in various municipal capacities, and this experience and wealth of knowledge complements his practice areas.
Mr. Coschignano is involved in many charitable and non-profit organizations. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Touro Law Center, where in 2016, he established the Chris J. Coschignano/Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC Scholarship, given annually to a second-year law student who is interested in practicing in the area of land use and real estate law. In 2019, he was selected as the Honoree of the Touro Law Center's Annual Golf Classic, along with the Firm. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Boys & Girls Club, as well as an Honorary Director of the Syosset Chamber of Commerce and the North Shore Boys and Girls Club.
Mr. Coschignano is a member of the American, New York State and Nassau County Bar Associations and the Nassau Lawyers' and the Columbian Lawyers' Associations. Mr. Coschignano was admitted to practice law in the State of New York and the State of Connecticut in 1990. He received his undergraduate degree from St. John's University (B.S., 1985), and his law degree from Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College (J.D., 1990).
The Firm successfully defended the Sands Point Board of Appeals in an Article 78 proceeding brought to reverse the Board’s denial of permission to convert a non-conforming accessory structure into a guest house for residential use.
The case presented an important legal issue since the applicant claimed vested rights to a building permit and that it was entitled to the use because the Building Department made a mistake when it issued a permit to own. The Petitioner argued that the Village negligently issued a building permit which it relied on in good faith to enlarge the building and establish the use. The Petitioner also argued that the accessory use was a lawful prior non-conforming use and a permitted accessory use pursuant to the Village Code, because it was used for habitable purposes prior to the Village Code amendment in 1989 prohibiting their use for habitable space.
The Village relied on cases that the Village cannot be estopped from enforcing its zoning laws based on an erroneously issued building permit.
The Court sided with the Village. It denied the Petitioner's application holding that there was no evidence that the accessory use was utilized as habitable space prior to the application to enlarge it. The Court found that the Village Board’s decision was not arbitrary or an abuse of its power and stated: "In as much as the building permit was issued in error, and absent any evidence presented to the Village at the hearing of the accessory use being utilized for habitable space, the findings of the Village requiring an area variance for permitted uses is rationally and reasonably based pursuant to the current Village code requirements."Click here to view the full decision.
Jon A. Ward and Andrew M. Roth have successfully prosecuted a lawsuit on behalf of the owner of a 10.4-acre commercial property in Nassau County against the State of New York and the New York State Department of Transportation over disputed access rights on state land. In granting summary judgment in favor of the Firm's client, the New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County (Commercial Division), ruled that, based on notations on a 50-year-old condemnation map, the Firm's client had an absolute right of ingress and egress to and from its property over an adjoining 1,000-foot-long strip of State-owned land. The Court further held that the Firm's client was entitled to these access rights, even though the strip of land had never been opened and improved as a public highway, and the State had obstructed access over the strip by stockpiling dirt, rocks and debris on it. "This was a complex real property litigation," said Mr. Roth, "and we are very pleased that the Court agreed with our arguments and ruled in favor of our client, who can now move forward with developing its property with these access rights."The decision was reported in the September 6, 2019 edition of the New York Law Journal.
This summer, Sahn Ward Coschignano PLLC participated for the first time in a non-competitive CoEd Summer Mini Softball league organized by ABA Sports Network. The league featured a handful of local businesses in which teams compete over seven weeks playing one doubleheader per week with the top four teams finishing off the season with a mini-playoff series.
The idea was first brought up by Cami-Ellen Negus, the Team Captain, who pitched the idea to Michael Sahn. From there, news of Team SWC's first game quickly spread.
The Firm held a friendly practice in late May to determine full participation and player positions. The team is comprised of Partners, Associates, and Interns, as well as some of the Administrative staff, some of whom are first-time players.
Throughout the season, Team SWC has rallied behind the strong arm of Christine Raffa-Seip, who has proven to be their solid go-to winning pitcher. The offense is backed by solid play from Brian Sales, Joseph Bjarnson, Nick Cappadora and Daniel Wright. To date, Team SWC has played in 10 games yielding some exciting softball wins, a couple of come-from-behind wins and even a few heartbreaking losses along the way. Throughout it all, this team has enjoyed every minute, with lots of laughs, funny player nicknames ("Joey Hits" and "Showboat Sales"), and plenty of great memories to last a lifetime.
Recently, Team SWC clinched a playoff spot with just two regular-season games remaining. The team is excited for the playoffs and hopeful they will be able to bring back to the office their first-ever Championship trophy. Win or lose, this season has been such a great success that it looks like the Firm will be participating again next summer and may even inquire about other Firm activities for the fall/winter.
After a process that lasted more than three years, the Firm successfully obtained final subdivision approval from the Village of Rockville Centre Planning Board to permit the construction of a six-home subdivision and new public street. Christian Browne represented the developer throughout a contentious approval process that resulted in two separate litigations against the Village. The final approval from the Planning Board allows the developer to file a new subdivision map with the Nassau County Clerk's Office. The developer hopes to break ground on the project this fall.
Christian Browne and Wayne Edwards jointly represented a private security firm on the acquisition of a 40,000-square-foot warehouse located in an industrial area of Oceanside. The client plans to convert the warehouse into a state-of-the art rifle and pistol range that will primarily serve as a training facility for law enforcement agencies and private security companies. Following the acquisition, the Firm represented the client before the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals and successfully obtained the zoning approvals required to permit the client to construct the range.
John Farrell recently secured approval from the Nassau County Planning Commission for a two-lot subdivision in Bethpage that will allow for the construction of a 116,000-square-foot CubeSmart self-storage facility on the newly created lot. Prior to obtaining the subdivision approval, Mr. Farrell helped secure site plan approval and variances from the Town of Oyster Bay. In a separate matter, the Hempstead Town Board of Appeals granted variances in connection with the demolition and reconstruction of a Wendy's restaurant with a drive-thru located at 199 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont.
Following several years of litigation, Adam Koblenz successfully resolved a case for construction law dispute of a North Shore Nassau County homeowner. The homeowner had engaged a general contractor in a $500,000 renovation of their two-story colonial. A dispute arose whereby the homeowner alleged negligence and defective work. On the eve of trial, the parties agreed to submit the matter to mediation. At mediation, Mr. Koblenz was able to secure a favorable outcome, resulting in monetary damages being paid to the client.
Dan Braff served as a member of the Planning Committee for the Cohen Children's Circle Golf Classic, which took place on Monday, August 5 at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success and Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset. Mr. Braff is an active member of Cohen Children's Circle, which supports and raises funds for the Child Life Program at Cohen Children's Medical Center.
Once again, Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC was a supporting sponsor of this year's Marcum Workplace Challenge, which was held on July 30 at Jones Beach State Park. A large contingent of the Firm took part in the 3.5-mile run/walk.
Approximately 9,000 participants from more than 200 local companies were in attendance. Participating organizations included businesses, non-profits and governmental agencies, representing almost every industry in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Proceeds from the event went to benefit the Long Island Children's Museum, Children's Medical Fund of New York, Long Island Cares, Inc. — The Harry Chapin Food Bank and The Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Since its inception, the Marcum Workplace Challenge has raised over $900,000.
Attorneys and staff members from the Firm, and their family members, join together for a photo at the 2019 Marcum Workplace Challenge.
Members of the Firm join other sponsors of the 2019 Marcum Workplace Challenge.
Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member, represented Northwell Health and the owner of the Calvert Manor Shopping Center in Seaford in obtaining site plan approval and building permits from the Town of Oyster Bay to renovate the shopping center building and the entire site, including new paving, landscaping, parking, drainage and amenities for Northwell Health’s 33,466-square-foot medical center.
To accommodate the Northwell facility, two free standing pad buildings will be removed, and a new 5,000-square-foot building will be constructed for a hair salon, bagel store and stationery store, all of which are existing tenants in the shopping center.
This was recently reported by Long Island Business News.Click here to read the article.
Elaine Colavito had her "Bench Briefs" column published in the June 2019 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. "Bench Briefs" is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.To review these decisions, click here.
What are the two hottest issues in environmental law today?
In a nutshell, climate change and clean drinking water are the most significant environmental law concerns of the day. Both of these issues have global as well as regional and local impacts.
Clean drinking water is a global crisis. Here are some facts:
Regionally, in New York State, and locally, on Long Island, the regulatory agencies are in the process of investigating and developing standards for Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), which include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoro sulfonic acid (PFOS), as well as 1,4-Dioxane. These substances are currently known as emerging contaminants.
PFAs are part of a large class of chemicals containing fluorine that are toxic to the environment and animals, including humans. PFAs contamination results from manufacturing, industrial, and consumer uses and disposal activities. They are resistant to degradation and persist in soil, water, dust, and crops. The drinking water in New York State, including on Long Island where we have a sole-source drinking water aquifer, is contaminated with PFAs. Nationally, the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFAs are being studied and recommended below 70 parts per trillion (ppt), but New York State is considering making the standard much more stringent at 10 ppt. Further, we can anticipate that PFAs eventually will be regulated by federal environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA").
1,4-Dioxane is a human carcinogen that has been found in groundwater throughout the United States and does not readily biodegrade in the environment. It was used as a stabilizer in certain chlorinated solvents, paint strippers, antifreeze, aircraft deicing, and in some consumer products such as deodorants, shampoos, and cosmetics. No federal MCL has been established for 1,4-Dioxane, but it is included in the Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule as a drinking-water contaminant. Regulatory agencies are evaluating and considering regulation of this contaminant.
Climate change is one of the most pervasive and threatening issues of our time. It is expected to impact where people live, grow food, build, and rely on ecosystems. Temperature changes and sea-level rise are already putting ecosystems under stress and affecting human life and welfare and we can expect temperatures to continue to rise.
In the Northeast region, including New York State, heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose growing challenges. Infrastructure, agriculture, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. As a result, many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their land use planning and regulatory programs.
In New York State, legislators just passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a climate plan that requires the state to mostly eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Advocates believe that gasoline-powered cars and oil heat will be phased out, and electric power would come from carbon-free and renewable sources including wind and solar. New York's bill, which would create a carbon neutral or "net-zero" economy, sets one of the most ambitious climate targets by any lawmakers in the world. There is a lot that has to happen if the targets are to be met, however. The way people live and work will have to change, and making the kinds of changes necessary will take time. Advocates for the bill believe the people of the state will be able to meet the 2050 goal, though.
Why is environmental due diligence an important and necessary part of commercial transactions?
Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) have become a necessary tool when considering environmental liability associated with the purchase of real property. Phase I ESAs are often done by a purchaser or its lender as part of the environmental due diligence process. One of the reasons the purchaser undertakes an ESA is to qualify for certain protections and defenses under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). The applicable provisions give the purchaser who does its all appropriate inquiry (AAI) or due diligence a way to avoid environmental liability for existing environmental impacts and conditions at the property.
An ESA can be useful for the seller as well. When time is of the essence, undertaking an ESA before the property is put on the market can serve to move the expected transaction to closing faster. The information obtained through the ESA informs the seller of any contamination or compliance issues that should be addressed prior to marketing. A clean Phase I ESA report can serve to reassure a prospective purchaser. A report and supporting documents indicating that conditions found during an ESA have been investigated and remediated to the regulatory agency's satisfaction, provides reassurance as well. Finally, even if environmental conditions are found through a pre-marketing ESA, a seller may decide to market the property as is with a plan for how it will address those concerns through negotiations and a well-drafted contract of sale.
How is technology changing your practice?
The profession of law has embraced technology, generally. Technology improves the accessibility and quality of legal services. It also reduces costs. There are significant ways technology is changing the profession, and my practice has benefited from those changes.
Technology has allowed lawyers to create value in new ways. One of the most basic but important has been the ability to draft a document such as an agreement once and use and reuse the bones of that document to develop new documents to suit various other sets of facts and circumstances. Using computers and specially designed software and programs to transfer information from one document to another, using an autofill tool, and simply cutting and pasting have become integral parts of the administrative part of the practice.
One of the benefits of technology for lawyers and clients alike is the streamlining of communications. Lawyers now can work remotely while expanding the ways they communicate with clients as well as with each other. Telecommunications of this sort make lawyers more productive. We can communicate with our clients wherever and whenever needed. I use text messaging, email, voicemail, and web conferencing in my practice.
Online communities are another useful tool. I belong to a New York State Bar Association Environmental and Energy Law Section community. The community connects me with other lawyers and law students allowing information to be shared and issues in our practice area to be discussed and debated. Social media is another forum lawyers use for networking and collaboration purposes. LinkedIn's focus on professional growth and networking make it the perfect social media for lawyers.
The environment and the health of the planet impact everything. After all, without a healthy planet there would be no place for humans to live and work, making everything else irrelevant. So first and foremost is the environment.
A healthy environment means clean air, soil, and water. Activities that impact those media must be monitored and controlled. Strong, fair laws that uniformly address the health of the environment across the country and around the globe ensure the protection of the earth.
There have been periods of time when this country has made the protection of the environment a priority. One of those times was in the 1970s when I first became aware of and interested in environmental protection. Many of our environmental laws were enacted during that period. As time went on and we entered the 21st century, we became a global society. Countries around the world began working together to address the serious impacts of environmental contamination and climate change on the planet. The work of those of us in the United States dedicated to environmental protection has become challenging over the last couple of years, but that has made it all the more important. I have been involved in this vital effort as an environmental lawyer first for the United States Environmental Protection Agency and then as a lawyer in private practice, fulfilling the plan I made for myself years ago.
SWC was a sponsor of Vision Long Island's 18th Annual Smart Growth Awards, which took place on June 14 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The awards are given to those who stand out from others in their ability to create developments that encourage mixed use, providing housing choices for all types of families from various income levels, feature walkable neighborhoods and encourage use of public transportation, preserve open space and use clean energy, among others.
In addition, the Firm was a sponsor of the Touro Law Center's 15th Annual Golf Classic, which was held on June 24 at The Village Club in Lake Success. Chris J. Coschignano, a Member of the Firm and a 1990 Touro Law graduate, was the event's honoree, along with the Firm. Mr. Coschignano, Managing Member Michael H. Sahn, and Firm Partner John Farrell, who graduated from Touro Law in 2000, served as members of the Golf Committee.
Once Again Serves as Co-Chair of the Tennis Committee for CMF's Annual Golf and Tennis Classic
Adam H. Koblenz, a Member and Partner with the Firm, was recently named to the Children's Medical Fund of New York's Board of Trustees (CMF). Mr. Koblenz has been actively involved with CMF for over a decade.
Two years ago, he and his wife, along with CMF's Board of Trustees and Men's Division, were instrumental in the opening of the Children's Medical Fund Center for Diagnostic Studies, a state-of-the-art MRI and diagnostic wing located on the fourth floor of the Cohen Children's Medical Center.
In addition, Mr. Koblenz once again served as Co-Chair of the Tennis Committee for CMF's 44th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic, which took place on June 17, 2019 at the Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury.
The Children's Medical Fund of New York is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York. Through a wide network of friends, volunteers and deeply committed donors, CMF has raised over $87 million to help build, equip and secure ongoing funding for programs that are vital to the needs of seriously ill children and their families.
Elaine M. Colavito, a Partner with the Firm, was recognized as the outgoing Chair of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association (NCWBA) during the organization's Annual Installation Dinner, which was held on June 17 at Westbury Manor. In addition, she was recently installed as a delegate to the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY).
Ms. Colavito has been a longtime member of the NCWBA. She was the organization's President from 2018 to 2019, and served as President-Elect from 2017 to 2018. From 2015 to 2017, she was a Vice President and, prior to that, she served a two-year term as treasurer. In 2013, she received the NCWBA's Bessie Ray Geffner, Esq. Memorial Award for her demonstrated interest in improving the justice system, professionalism of the Bar and service to the community at large.
The mission of the NCWBA is to promote the advancement of the status of women in society and the legal profession; to promote the fair and equal administration of justice; and to act as a unified voice for its members with respect to issues of statewide, national and international significance to all women, and to female attorneys in particular.
Firm Partner Elaine M. Colavito (right) was recognized as outgoing President of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association (NCWBA) and installed as a delegate to the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY). She is joined by Andrea Brodie (left), president-elect of the NCWBA, and Irene C. Angelakis (center), incoming NCWBA president.
The Firm successfully represented an applicant on a rezoning application pertaining to a parcel located in the Nassau County hamlet of Inwood. The Hempstead Town Board rezoned a piece of property on Bayview Avenue to allow the client to build a new multifamily development for a total of 48 rental units and a parking lot. The new development will revitalize a blighted block and bring much-needed new housing to the Inwood community.
The Firm represented a Petitioner in an Article 78 proceeding, in which the Petitioner challenged the denial of his subdivision application by the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals. The trial court dismissed the client’s petition, claiming that the petition was insufficiently detailed and did not contain citations to the record of the Zoning Board hearing. However, on appeal to the Appellate Division, Second Department, the Firm successfully argued that the petition should not have been dismissed and that it is the obligation of the Zoning Board, not the Petitioner, to supply the record of the Zoning Board proceedings. The Appellate Division, therefore, reversed the decision and ordered the petition reinstated.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Member, and Firm Associate Nicholas J. Cappadora guided Porsche Gold Coast to its magnificent new dealership facility in Jericho, securing land use and building construction permits over a complex, multi-year process. The new facility, housed in a stunning building, is located on the LIE South Service Road and is one of the largest Porsche dealerships in the Northeast.
The Firm had represented the dealership for many years in its former location in Roslyn. "We are really proud to have been part of a great team that made this new facility a reality," Mr. Sahn said. "We congratulate our client for this achievement."Click here to read the Newsday article
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Member, was one of the guest speakers at the "Long Island State of the Market 2019" summit, which took place on June 6 at the Holiday Inn Plainview-Long Island. Mr. Sahn joined a panel of real estate professionals, moderated by Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island, who discussed such topics as trends in the Long Island industrial, retail, office and multifamily real estate markets; current projects; Opportunity Zones; future construction plans; and energy solutions.
Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC was also one of the event's sponsors. The event was presented by the New England Real Estate Journal and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.
Joseph D. Brees, an Associate with the Firm, wrote an article, “New York State Courts Permitted to Take Judicial Notice of Google Maps,” for the June 2019 issue of the Nassau Lawyer. In the article, Mr. Brees addresses how state courts may now take judicial notice of information derived from a web mapping service, i.e., Google Maps.
Late last year, Governor Cuomo signed into law Senate Bill S9061, allowing state courts hearing civil or criminal cases to take judicial notice of information provided by a web mapping service, a global imaging site, or an internet mapping tool. Before the law went into effect, the party that sought to have information from these sources entered into evidence would have to go through the time-consuming process of proving to the court that “the map is relevant, complies with New York’s rules of evidence, and could be admitted into evidence.”
The law, however, does not automatically allow the information into evidence. As Mr. Brees points out, an opposing party has no later than ten (10) days before trial to persuade the court that the information should not be judicially noted.
“It is worth noting how far courts have come in accepting reputable internet map information,” Mr. Brees wrote. “Today, however, internet map information is frequently used in a wide variety of areas, ranging from Uber drivers to attorneys. Accordingly, introduction of internet map information into evidence is a necessity, especially in premise liability cases, traffic cases and determining proper venue.”
Elaine Colavito's "Bench Briefs" column was published in the May 2019 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. "Bench Briefs" is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Michelle Greenberg recently joined the Firm as Counsel. She concentrates her practice in real estate law and transactions and brings an extensive amount of experience representing landlords, tenants, buyers, sellers, lenders and borrowers in handling complex commercial real estate transactions.
What does your practice entail?
My practice consists of handling all phases of commercial real estate transactions, including commercial leasing for both landlords and tenants, acquisitions and sales of commercial properties, and commercial financing for both lenders and borrowers.
What are the biggest challenges in handling a commercial real estate transaction? A commercial lease?
Generally, the biggest challenge in handling a commercial transaction is managing expectations of all the parties involved, both my client and the other side, to get everyone to the table to close a deal. The biggest challenge in working on a commercial lease is that, in addition to protecting my client’s interests in the present, I must also anticipate what their future needs might be, including changes to their business, growth, contraction and transfers, so that I can draft documents that will be protective of them in the future.
What trends do you see in the metropolitan New York real estate market?
There continues to be significant growth among flex office space providers in the likes of WeWork, Knotel and Spaces by Regus. Companies are looking for flexibility to grow and contract, as well as the ability to invest in retaining and attracting talent. Co-working offers a flexible menu of options with modern facilities, which make including co-working a very attractive option as part of a corporate client’s real estate strategy. Additionally, given the competition, we are also seeing owners creating their own brand to offer similar services in order to compete.
How will Mayor de Blasio’s bill banning the use of glass and steel in newly constructed buildings impact the New York City real estate market?
It is too early to say. The impact depends on the language in the legislation as ultimately signed into law. There has been some indication that the legislation will not be an outright ban on glass and steel, that developers will still be able to use those materials, so long as they employ other sustainability methods at their properties.
What attracted you to the more complex aspects of real estate law?
I’ve always been interested in real estate development and thought briefly about becoming an architect. Transactional real estate allows me to be part of a team bringing a real estate project to fruition, even if it is just providing the legal expertise to close a land purchase, obtain construction financing and putting revenue-generating leases in place.
Susan C. Finegan has joined the Firm as a new Associate. She will concentrate her practice in general litigation and real estate law and transactions.
Prior to joining the Firm, Ms. Finegan served as an Assistant Law Clerk to the Honorable Carmen Victoria St. George of the New York State Supreme Court, Civil Term. Before that, she was an associate attorney with Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. in New York City.
While attending Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip, Ms. Finegan was the Research Editor of the Touro Law Review. She also wrote an article for the publication titled Conflicting Confrontation Clause Concerns: The Admissibility of Hospital Records Versus a Defendant’s Right to Confrontation, 29 TOURO L. REV. 1399 (2013).
Ms. Finegan is admitted to practice in the State of New York. She is a member of the New York City Bar Association.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Juris Doctor at Touro Law Center. She resides in New York City.
“We welcome Susan to the Firm,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member. “Her background, knowledge and experience will make her an excellent addition to our Firm.”
Susan C. Finegan (right) has joined the Firm as Associate. She is joined by (left to right) Firm Counsel Michelle Greenberg; Jon A. Ward, the Firm’s Member and Partner; and Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member.
Alexis Majano (pictured, left) and William D. Ramos (pictured, right) will join the Firm this month as Summer Law Associates. Both are second-year law students, who share the distinction of serving in the United States military and now attend the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.
Mr. Majano served in the United States Marine Corps from 2014 to 2015 as a field radio operator in an infantry unit. He earned the rank of Lance Corporal. He remains in the Marines as a reservist.
Mr. Ramos was a captain with the United States Army’s Field Artillery Unit from 2004 to 2015. From 2004 to 2008, he was an enlisted logistical/operations non-commissioned officer (NCO) during Operation Iraqi Freedom III. In 2010, he was assigned to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he became executive officer/platoon leader. Two years later, he was named rear detachment commander during Operation Enduring Freedom and, in 2013, he became a liaison/operations officer in a Multiple Launch Rocket System/Army Tactical Missile System battalion.
Both expect to earn their Juris Doctor degrees in 2020. Mr. Majano is currently a research assistant in Hofstra Law School’s Law Logic & Technology Laboratory. Mr. Ramos is active in Hofstra Law School’s Dispute Resolution Society.
“We are excited and glad to welcome Mr. Majano and Mr. Ramos for this summer,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member. “We are fortunate to have these two individuals who served our country with distinction intern with our Firm, and for the opportunity to contribute to their legal education.”
Alexis Majano (second from right) and William D. Ramos (right) will serve as Summer Law Associates at the Firm. Also pictured (left to right) Thomas McKevitt, Counsel with the Firm; Jon A. Ward, Member and Partner with the Firm; and Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member.
We will again be a supporting sponsor of this year's Marcum Workplace Challenge, which will take place on July 30 at Jones Beach State Park. A large contingent of the Firm will be participating in the 3.5-mile run/walk.
Last year, more than 8,400 participants from 200 local companies were in attendance. Participating organizations included businesses, non-profits and governmental agencies, representing almost every industry in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Long Island Children's Museum, Children's Medical Fund of New York, Long Island Cares, Inc. — The Harry Chapin Food Bank and The Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Christian Browne and Matthew C. McCann successfully moved to vacate a notice of pendency indexed against a client’s home as a result of litigation over a contract of sale. The prospective buyer of the residential property cancelled the contract of sale, demanded the return of the down payment and filed a notice of pendency against the property to prevent its sale. Although the buyer terminated the contract, he claimed to have a “vendee’s lien” over the land, and used such claim to justify his imposition of a notice of pendency.
On behalf of the seller, Mr. Browne and Mr. McCann moved to cancel the notice of pendency, arguing that a buyer who, in essence, seeks the return of his down payment in a breach-of-contract dispute, does not have the right to file a notice of pendency, and may not assert an interest in real property that he does not wish to purchase. Justice Roy Mahon of Nassau County Supreme Court agreed, granted the firm’s motion and cancelled the notice of pendency.
Chris J. Coschignano and John Farrell were appointed Co-Chairs of the Nassau County Bar Association’s (NCBA) Municipal Law Committee. Both attorneys practice municipal law and legislative practice, and have experience in local government. Mr. Coschignano served in Oyster Bay Town government for more than 25 years before stepping down in 2017. Mr. Farrell was an Assistant Town Attorney for the Town of Babylon and is currently serving as Counsel for the Village of Plandome Manor.
Chris Browne is slated to speak at the NCBA’s Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Lunch program, which is scheduled for May 20.
Joshua D. Brookstein has been named Chair of the NCBA’s Community Relations & Public Education Committee. Mr. Brookstein has been involved in the Bar Association as a Mentor for local school children through the NCBA and Mock Trial Team Coach for The Crescent School in Hempstead.
The Firm will be one of the sponsors of the Bar Association’s 120th Annual Dinner Dance, which will take place on May 11 at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. This year’s honoree will be Steven Gassman, Past President, NCBA.
Elaine M. Colavito, a Partner with the Firm, was recognized by Hofstra Law for Commitment to Women in the Law at its 2019 Outstanding Women in the Law reception, which took place on April 22 at RXR Plaza in Uniondale.
The Outstanding Women in the Law Dinner recognizes women who have made meaningful and inspiring contributions to the legal community.
Ms. Colavito concentrates her practice in matrimonial and family law, trusts and estates, civil litigation and immigration matters. She is President of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association and is a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Nassau County Bar Association. In addition, she writes a monthly “Bench Briefs” column for Suffolk Lawyer, a publication for the Suffolk County Bar Association.
Elaine M. Colavito (right), a Partner with the Firm, was recognized for Commitment to Women in Law at Hofstra Law’s 2019 Outstanding Women in the Law reception, which was held on April 22 at RXR Plaza in Uniondale. She is also joined by Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York President Greta Kolcon (left) and Nassau County Assistant District Attorney and Second Appellate Division Bureau Chief Tammy J. Smiley (center).
We are proud to announce that Chris J. Coschignano, and the Firm of Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC, will be honored at the Touro Law Center’s 15 th Annual Golf Classic, which will take place on Monday, June 24 at The Village Club at Lake Success.
Mr. Coschignano is a 1990 graduate of Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. In 2015, he was named Touro Law Center’s Alumni of the Month, as well as being the recipient of the Keith Romaine Elected Official of the Year Award for his passion in government, in which he served the Town of Oyster Bay in various capacities for 25 years. He has also joined with the Firm in establishing the Chris J. Coschignano/Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded annually to a second-year law student who is interested in practicing in the area of land use or real estate law.
In addition, Mr. Coschignano will serve as a member of the Golf Committee, as well as Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member, and John Farrell, a 2000 graduate of Touro Law Center and one of the Firm’s Partners.
Michelle Greenberg has joined the Firm as Counsel. Ms. Greenberg concentrates her practice in real estate law and transactions.
Her experience and expertise include all phases of commercial real estate transactions, contract negotiations, construction and mortgage loan financing, commercial property acquisitions, lease negotiations and IRC §1031 exchanges.
Ms. Greenberg is admitted to practice in the State of New York. She is a member of the Nassau County Bar Association, the Westchester Women’s Bar Association and Commercial Real Estate Women New York.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Juris Doctor degree at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C.
“I am pleased to join the Firm,” Ms. Greenberg said. “I am looking forward to working with a talented group of attorneys, building relationships with their real estate clients and serving the clients’ needs.”
“We are proud to welcome Michelle Greenberg to the Firm,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member. “Michelle is highly accomplished and talented. Her wide-ranging experience in handling real estate transactions will be very valuable to our practice and a tremendous resource to the Firm’s clients.”
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Member, will be one of the guest speakers at the “Long Island State of the Market 2019” summit, which will take place on June 6 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Holiday Inn Plainview-Long Island. Mr. Sahn will join a panel of real estate professionals, moderated by Eric Alexander or Vision Long Island, who will discuss such topics as trends in the Long Island industrial, retail, office and multifamily real estate markets; current projects; Opportunity Zones; future construction plans; and energy solutions.
Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC is also one of the event's sponsors. The event is being presented by the New England Real Estate Journal and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, has been appointed as a member of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Executive Committee and has also joined the Board of Directors of The New York Bar Foundation.
Mr. Christopher concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use planning, real property, municipal and legislative law. He is an active member of the Young Lawyers Section (YLS) of NYSBA, having previously served as chair of the section, and having served on the section’s executive committee in various capacities since 2011. Most recently, Mr. Christopher served as co-chair of the YLS’ 10th annual Trial Academy Program, held from April 3-7 at Cornell Law School in Ithaca. Mr. Christopher also serves on the executive committee of the Real Property Law Section, is a member of the NYSBA Committee on Cannabis Law and will begin a term as a member of the NYSBA Executive Committee on June 1, 2019.
Recently, Mr. Christopher was elected to serve as a director of The New York Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors, where his term will begin on June 1, 2019. Mr. Christopher will serve as one of 25 directors, consisting of distinguished lawyers from across the state of New York, who are charged with the management of the Foundation. Mr. Christopher has been a fellow of the Foundation since 2017.
“I am very honored to be part of both the New York State Bar Association’s Executive Committee and The New York Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors,” Mr. Christopher said. “I wish to thank my colleagues in both legal organizations for recognizing my achievements and I am looking forward to proudly joining them in serving the legal community and the public at large.”
Elaine Colavito had her "Bench Briefs" column published in the April 2019 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. "Bench Briefs" is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Michael Sahn, Managing Member of the Firm, was an announcer at the 2019 Innovator of the Year Awards ceremony, which was held at The Crest Hollow Country Club on March 26. The awards ceremony was hosted by Innovate Long Island for the fourth consecutive year. The Firm is proud to be a longtime sponsor of the organization. The list of honorees included persons with accomplishments in the areas of technology, clean energy, health science/medical devices, invention and craft food beverage. In addition to those areas, the event also had two special categories for No Boundaries and High School Student Innovation.
The full list of awardees can be found here on Innovate Long Island’s website.
John Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, and Terrence Tarver were honored to represent The New York Bar Foundation and the Young Lawyer Friends of the Foundation in awarding a grant to Brooklyn Defender Services for veteran services. “We had the privilege of meeting with Executive Director Lisa Schreibersdorf and learned about the good work that Brooklyn Defender Services does for our veterans in New York City and its mission to provide high-quality legal representation to those who cannot afford to retain a private attorney,” Mr. Christopher said. “They are a great organization and we are very happy that we supported them this year with proceeds from our Veteran’s Day 24 Hours of Giving event.”
Daniel H. Braff, a Member and Partner with the Firm, secured a special permit from the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals for Akt-in-Motion's fitness facility at the second floor of 1182 Broadway in NoMad. The facility occupies the entire second floor of the mixed-use building, and has three studios, as well as changing rooms with showers, a retail and reception area, and office and meeting space. Akt-in-Motion offers a variety of fitness classes, and is known primarily for its dance-based cardio classes, which has a celebrity following.
The facility is deemed a Physical Culture Establishment under the Zoning Resolution of the City of New York, and requires a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals. The local Community Board supported the application.
A recent opinion in Nassau County Supreme Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Firm's client in a proceeding challenging the validity of a tax deed. The Firm's client, the Plaintiff in the case, lost a piece of property through the Nassau County tax lien process. The County Treasurer transferred the Plaintiff's property to the Defendant by a tax deed. On behalf of the Plaintiff, the Firm demonstrated that both the County and new tax deed holder had failed to provide the Plaintiff with the required notices prior to the County's selling a tax lien to the Defendant and awarding him a tax deed to the Plaintiff's property.
Andrew Roth, a Partner with the Firm, successfully defended two real estate appraisers and their firm against a claim by a lender alleging appraisal malpractice and seeking monetary damages in excess of $1.1 million. The central issue in the case was determining if the accrual of the three-year statute of limitations was applicable to claims of appraisal (professional) malpractice.
The Defendants (real estate appraisers) were retained by a mortgage broker to appraise a property located in Kings Park, New York in connection with purchase money mortgage financing. On February 12, 2015, the appraisal, in which the Defendants opined that the value of the subject property to be $4.6 million, was sent to the mortgage broker. Thereafter, the appraisal was delivered by the mortgage broker to the Plaintiff, who claimed to rely thereon in approving and funding two mortgage loans to the borrower. A third mortgage loan, issued by a non-party who did not rely on the subject appraisal, but which held a first priority position, also encumbered the subject property.
All three loans went into default. The Plaintiff foreclosed on one of its mortgages. As a result of the foreclosure sale of the subject property for $3.050 million, the senior mortgage against title was satisfied, resulting in a deficiency for the two mortgages held by the Plaintiff of $1,169,319.66.
The Plaintiff claimed that it relied on the appraisal in making the two loans, the Defendants failed to raise material facts in the appraisal, and they incorrectly valued the property.
Although the Plaintiff and Defendants agreed the statute of limitations for appraisal malpractice is three years, they disagreed as to when the statute of limitations began to run. The Plaintiff argued in opposition to the appraisers’ motion for summary judgment that the three-year period begins to run at the time all facts necessary to the cause of action have occurred and an injured party can obtain relief in court. The appraisers argued that the three-year period begins to run from the date the appraisal is submitted to the lender.
On January 29, 2019, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Jerome C. Murphy granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint. The Court held that, because the Plaintiff agreed to rely upon the subject appraisal in connection with its determination to approve mortgage financing, the three-year period accrued on the date the Defendants delivered the subject appraisal to the mortgage broker.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision,” Mr. Roth said. “The Plaintiff waited more than three years after the delivery of the appraisal to take action against the Firm’s clients, so the Court was right to dismiss the action as time-barred.”
John Farrell, a Partner with the Firm and head of the Firm’s Suffolk County office, was appointed counsel to the Village of Plandome Manor.
Mr. Farrell concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use planning, environmental law, litigation and appeals and municipal law and legislative practice. His previous municipal experience included serving as counsel to the Town of Babylon’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
This was reported by The Port Washington Times.
During the past several months, Joshua Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, and Firm Counsel Tom McKevitt led two local high school mock trial programs in their legal tournaments sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association. Mr. Brookstein coached the Crescent School team in Hempstead, and Mr. McKevitt coached the Holy Trinity Diocesan High School team in Hicksville for the past 19 years. The mock trial program allows students to learn all the aspects of a trial. Both Mr. Brookstein and Mr. McKevitt helped to oversee and foster the teens’ interest in the legal and civic system by devoting time with them over the course of the fall and winter to prepare them for their match-ups. The teams eventually try their cases before real judges in actual courtrooms in Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola. This program educates students on the legal process and fosters greater awareness of all roles in the justice system.
Miriam E. 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 Fall/Winter 2018 issue. In Ms. Villani's introductory message, she shared with the members what can be done to defend against the effects of climate change.
Elaine M. Colavito, a Partner with the Firm, has been selected to receive an award for Commitment to Women in the Law. This award is being presented at Hofstra Law’s 2019 Outstanding Women in the Law reception being held at RXR Plaza in Uniondale on April 22.
The Outstanding Women in the Law Dinner recognizes women who have made meaningful and inspiring contributions to the legal community.
Ms. Colavito concentrates her practice in matrimonial and family law, trusts and estates, civil litigation and immigration matters. She is President of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association and is a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association and the Nassau County Bar Association. In addition, she writes a monthly “Bench Briefs” column for Suffolk Lawyer, a publication for the Suffolk County Bar Association.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Member, successfully represented Northwell Health before the North Hempstead Town Board, which unanimously approved plans for the health network to construct an eight-floor surgical pavilion at Northwell’s North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. The approval now allows Northwell to apply for permits at the town’s Building Department.
Mr. Sahn argued a new pavilion was needed to accommodate a growing number of patients awaiting surgery. The proposed pavilion, which would be located near Community Drive, would include intensive care units and operating rooms for procedures, such as bone marrow and liver transplants, and be accompanied by a 31,000-square-foot parking garage.
“We’re very pleased with what has happened so far with the town and we’re optimistic that Northwell will be able to build the facility and provide the care for everybody,” Mr. Sahn said.
This was reported by The Island Now.
Kyle Lawrence, who joined the Firm as Counsel in March 2018, has been promoted to Partner. Mr. Lawrence concentrates his practice in corporate and securities law, as well as real estate law and transactions.
Since joining the Firm, Mr. Lawrence has led the Firm's growing Corporate and Securities Practice by serving as the Firm's lead counsel on all types of corporate transactions, including asset and equity dispositions, private placements, mergers, business acquisitions, joint ventures, corporate finance, planning and strategies, licensing, manufacturing, supply and distribution agreements, as well as serving in a general outside advisory role to various businesses. With emerging and early-growth-stage companies among the Firm's clientele, Mr. Lawrence has been able to expand the Firm's scope of services to provide advice and guidance on all aspects of day-to-day corporate and business matters.
"We are extremely proud to have Kyle join our prestigious list of Partners at the Firm," said Michael Sahn, the Firm's Managing Member. "Kyle is an exceptionally talented and dedicated lawyer. He is a vital part of our practice, and he has earned the respect and confidence of our clients."
"I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and serving the Firm's clients in this new capacity," Mr. Lawrence said. "I can't thank Michael, and the rest of the SWC team, enough for this incredible opportunity."
Chris Browne, a Member and Partner with the Firm, successfully represented the Apostolic Church of God 7th Day in a foreclosure action in which the seller of a property in Nassau County — which was purchased by the church — sought to foreclose on the church for nonpayment of taxes.
In September 2016, the church moved from its original location in St. Albans, Queens to Valley Stream, placed a 50% down payment on the $725,000 purchase price and took out a $362,500 mortgage from L&L Associates Holding Corp., the property’s seller, to be paid over three years. Two months later, the church applied for tax-exempt status with Nassau County. The church did not receive tax-exempt status until April 2017 and, unbeknownst to the church, it continued to accrue taxes on the St. Albans property during that time.
In November 2017, L&L began foreclosure actions against the church after receiving a notice of unpaid taxes from Nassau County. Although the church was able to pay off $100,000 in back taxes and wanted to continue paying the mortgage, L&L refused to accept any loan payments from the church. Further, the seller was seeking an additional $70,000 in interest and penalties.
On December 21, 2018, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division allowed the foreclosure action to be postponed. The decision allows the Firm to file an appeal.
This was reported by Long Island Business News.
Joseph D. Brees has joined the Firm as a new Associate. Mr. Brees will concentrate his practice in litigation and appeals, including commercial and corporate litigation, and real estate law and transactions.
Mr. Brees earned his Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Binghamton (B.A., 2015), cum laude, and his Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (“Maryland Law”) (J.D., 2018). While attending Maryland Law, Mr. Brees interned for the Honorable W. Michel Pierson, Circuit Administrative Judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court. He also performed pro bono work for Maryland Law’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic. Mr. Brees also served as a Staff Editor, Executive Articles Editor, and Member of the Editorial Board of the University of Maryland Journal of Business & Technology Law. He is the author of Trade Secrets Go Federal – Parade to Follow, 12 J. BUS. & TECH. L. 277 (2017), which analyzes the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 and its impact on the U.S. economy.
Mr. Brees is admitted to practice in the State of New York.
“We welcome Joseph to the Firm,” said Firm Member Adam H. Koblenz. “Joseph is dedicated, bright and is quickly developing into a big asset to our clients and our growing practice.”
Thomas C. Haberlack has joined the Firm as Counsel. Mr. Haberlack concentrates his practice in the areas of estate planning and administration, trusts and elder law.
Mr. Haberlack is admitted to practice law in the State of New York. He is a member of the Surrogate's Court Estates & Trusts Committee and the Elder Law Social Services and Health Advocacy Committee of the Nassau County Bar Association.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a Juris Doctor from St. John's University School of Law.
"We welcome Mr. Haberlack to the Firm," said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Member. "Tom has extensive experience and knowledge, and our clients are benefitting from his guidance and counsel."
"I am excited to be a part of Sahn Ward," Mr. Haberlack said. "I look forward to working with the Firm's clients to help them address their estate planning and elder law needs."
In addition to serving as Counsel with the Firm, Mr. Haberlack continues to serve as principal of his own firm, Law Office of Thomas C. Haberlack, P.C. in Garden City.
Elaine Colavito had her "Bench Briefs" column published in the February 2019 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. "Bench Briefs" is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Member, wrote an article entitled "Deferential Treatment of Zoning and Land Use Applications" that was published in the January 2019 issue of Nassau Lawyer, The Journal of the Nassau County Bar Association. The article focused on the accommodation and deferential treatment that educational and religious institutions are entitled to receive from municipalities in land use applications.
In the article, Mr. Sahn explained that, in recent decisions, the state courts have expanded their interpretation of circumstances warranting such treatment. The article also discussed the enactment of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLIUPA) by the federal government and the state courts' expansion of the definition of "educational use" in land use and zoning matters.
Mr. Sahn gave advice to land use and zoning practitioners in handling cases involving religious and educational uses. "Given the expansive interpretation of the types of educational and religious uses entitled to accommodation and deferential treatment, and the RLUIPA statute applicable to religious uses, it is important to identify the potential for a proposed use to fit within the framework of accommodation," he wrote.
Court Applies Rational Basis Test in Finding Moratorium Served No Proper Purpose
Christian Browne, a Member and Partner with the Firm, successfully represented the owners of the Woodmere Club against the Town of Hempstead, which placed a series of moratoria on any development on the golf course property. The court ruled that the moratorium extensions served no purpose, other than to deprive the owners of their property rights, and was, therefore, unconstitutional.
The Plaintiffs purchased the property with the intent of developing residential housing, which was allowed under current zoning law. But before the closing, community opposition to the project began to grow and, as a result, the Town instituted a moratorium on any construction. On January 2017, the Town retained the services of Cameron Engineering & Associates to identify any impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods. In order to complete its work, the firm requested - and was granted - numerous moratoria.
The report was not completed until May 2018. A vote on the project was scheduled for the same month, but some members of the Town Board asked to postpone the vote indefinitely. The moratorium was then extended three more times on June 2018, September 2018 and November 2018.
In its decision, the Court applied the rational basis test to the Town's moratorium, in that the Court must determine "whether there is any rational basis that supports the Town's latest extensions of the moratorium in June, September and November 2018." The Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs, stating that the moratorium was "unconstitutional because it serves no proper purpose and it has now been extended beyond a reasonable time. … Absent a valid reason for the continuation of the moratorium, it must be stricken down."
"We are very pleased with the Court's decision," Mr. Browne said. "Rather than follow the rule of law, the Town bent to community pressure and, as a result, my clients' rights were violated. The Town abused its authority in continually extending the moratorium for no reason, which was an unconstitutional act."
This was reported by the Long Island Herald.
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