Reflecting on 2017, what were some of the more challenging projects you worked on?
Two projects come to mind. First, after several years, we secured approval for the extension of term of a pre-1961 special permit for a public parking garage in Midtown Manhattan. The garage was developed pursuant to a special use permit from the City Planning Commission granted on October 2, 1957 for a term of 25 years. This special permit was extended several times, with the last extension expiring on October 9, 2002. The approval had lapsed for nearly 13 years by the time we filed for the renewal and extension of term. In order to secure the approval, we had to establish supporting precedent that the approval could be reactivated and extended, despite being expired for nearly 13 years. City Planning also required many improvements to the garage in order to bring it into compliance with current zoning laws, which added another layer of complexity.
The second project was a comprehensive zoning analysis we prepared for a property within the East Midtown Rezoning. The East Midtown Rezoning established mechanisms to increase base maximum permitted floor area through bonuses. Different bonuses apply throughout East Midtown, and a very complex set of requirements must be met in order to obtain the bonus, such as a minimum of 75 feet of clear frontage on streets having a width of 75 feet or more. What made the analysis challenging was that the property was part of a larger combined zoning lot, made up of multiple tax lots with different owners, and the zoning lot was bisected by a special district sub-area boundary. Within each sub-area, different bonuses apply. The zoning resolution has very complex requirements for when and how floor area can be transferred. Analyzing which bonuses applied to each portion of the zoning lot, whether the zoning lot meets the requirements to allow for the bonuses, and how bonus floor area could be distributed within the zoning lot, was very challenging.
Looking back at 2017, in what areas did your zoning practice grow and what trends did you see?
Fitness, fitness and more fitness. You would think that, with the explosion of boutique fitness in NYC, there would be a slowdown. That has not been the case, based upon the growth of my practice. In 2017 alone, we were retained by several large and small fitness owners/operators to secure a special permit from the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals. In NYC, gyms and fitness studios are considered physical culture or health establishments under the NYC Zoning Resolution. They are only permitted in certain commercial and manufacturing zoning districts by special permit issued by the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals. The applications are comprehensive, and require many meetings and hearings before the Board of Standards and Appeals and the local community boards. This has become a very busy part of my practice.
Self-storage is another area of growth. We were retained by several large self-storage operators to review potential sites for new self-storage use. This area of growth is not surprising, considering both the residential and commercial growth the city has recently seen, especially considering the amount of limited space available. Self-storage uses are permitted in manufacturing zones, and many developers have come to realize that they can get a better return from a self-storage use than from a manufacturing use at the same property. In order to preserve and support manufacturing uses, the city has proposed a zoning text amendment that will put new restrictions on self-storage use in manufacturing districts in Industrial Business Zones. This proposal is presently in front of the City Council and should be approved before year's end.
How are rising real estate prices in parts of the city affecting your practice?
Rising real estate prices seem to have pushed my practice further into the outer boroughs. I am consistently working on more zoning analyses for developers and zoning opinions for lenders, as well as analyzing potential rezonings in the outer boroughs. Areas that may have been ignored have now become prime areas for development. Fifteen years ago, it was Williamsburg; 10 years ago, it was Bushwick and Crown Heights, and now it is East New York and Ridgewood. In the outer boroughs, developers are considering rezoning property to high-density residential zoning districts to facilitate larger residential development. Depending upon the bump up in residential floor area requested, the city will require that all or a large portion of the units be designated as affordable housing. I expect this trend to continue, and to be an area of growth for my practice.
Looking at city zoning in 2018, are there any new regulations that an owner/developer should keep an eye on?
One proposal that I am watching closely is the proposed M1 Hotel Text Amendment. Similar to the self-storage text amendment, in order to preserve and support manufacturing uses within parts of the city, the city has proposed a text amendment that will only allow hotels within M1 districts by a City Planning special permit. There has been a proliferation of hotels in M1 districts in recent years. I get retained regularly to analyze the potential for new hotel development in M1 districts. I do expect the hotel lobby to put up a big fight. A City Planning special permit is a complex and time-consuming discretionary approval that falls under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
Looking forward to 2018, what aspect(s) of your practice do you anticipate growing or keeping you busiest?
Until there is significant economic downturn, I don’t expect a slowdown in the development of fitness uses throughout the city. It seems that, every week, we have a new boutique fitness concept. I expect to handle more BSA special permit applications for these uses. I also expect more projects in the Bronx. As Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn continue to get pricier, I am noticing more and more attention on the Bronx, particularly for affordable housing development.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, and Michael J. Barone, Jr., an Associate with the Firm, recently represented the seller of Rock Cliff House, a historic inn in High Falls, New York. The inn stands on a 4.4-acre parcel, including four additional buildable lots.
Adam Koblenz, a Partner with the Firm, and Mr. Barone represented the purchaser of a commercial building in the Village New Hyde Park. The purchaser will use it as an office and storage facility for their landscaping business.
Chris J. Coschignano, a Member with the Firm, has been named to Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center's Board of Governors.
Mr. Coschignano is a 1990 graduate of Touro Law Center. 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 on state and federal courts and matrimonial law. In 2015, he was named Touro’s “Alumni of the Month” for the month of May and received the Keith Romaine Elected Official of the Year for his interest in and passion for government.
He is a member of the American, New York State and Nassau County Bar Associations and the Nassau Lawyers’ and Columbian Lawyers’ Associations. He is admitted to practice in the states of New York and Connecticut. In addition, he was named to the Metro New York Super Lawyers list in 2016 and 2017 in the practice areas of Land Use/Zoning, Real Estate: Business and General Litigation.
He previously served as a councilman with the Town of Oyster Bay from 2001 to 2017 and his previous municipal experience included serving as counsel to the Oyster Bay Town Zoning Board of Appeals from 1995 to 2001.
Mr. Coschignano is involved in many charitable and non-profit organizations. He participates in the annual Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor’s 5K Run and joins his colleagues at the Firm in the Marcum Workplace Challenge to help raise money for various charities. He is also pro bono legal counsel to Homes for Our Homecoming Heroes, which provided its first-ever house to a returning war veteran, and Oyster Bay-East Norwich Boys & Girls Club, of which he is a member of its Board of Trustees.
In addition, he is a board member with Pride in Athletics for Life (PAL), and is a volunteer coach with Oyster Bay Baseball and PAL Ice Hockey. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Sons of Italy, Syosset-Woodbury Rotary Club, Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce, Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset and the North Syosset Civic Association. He is also co-founder and member of the St. Edward Confessor Church’s annual festival committee and serves as an usher at the church. In 2015, he was honored at the school’s 15th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic for his ongoing commitment and involvement in the school and in Catholic education.
Last year, Mr. Coschignano worked with the Firm to establish the Chris J. Coschignano/Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to second-year law students at Touro Law Center who are interested in practicing in the area of land use and real estate law. This year’s scholarships went to Aaron Rogers and Denise Schubmehl.
The Touro Law Center Board of Governors is a group of distinguished men and women dedicated to supporting the growth of the Law Center. The Board consists of lawyers and non-lawyers who are leaders in the legal profession and in the business, philanthropic and academic communities on Long Island and nationwide.
“I am proud to join this prestigious group of attorneys, business and community leaders at Touro Law Center,” Mr. Coschignano said. “This appointment provides me with the opportunity to give back to my alma mater and help make contributions to its goal of becoming one of the leading legal education centers in the region.”
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the December 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Jon A. Ward (click for bio), a Partner with the Firm, and Firm Associate Elaine M. Colavito (click for bio) received the Leadership in Law award from Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on November 16 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Mr. Ward was honored in the category of Partner and Ms. Colavito in the category of Associate.
The Leadership in Law award recognizes all of the following qualities — dedication, hard work, skill, tenacity and excellence — and is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has had a positive impact on Long Island.
Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC represents clients in a wide variety of complex business, labor, employment, construction, real property, environmental, civil rights, and land-use litigation in state and federal trial and appellate courts... Read More
Firm Partners Adam Koblenz, Andrew Roth, and Joseph Bjarnson have obtained an important ruling from the Nassau County Supreme Court in the case of Forest Glen Realty LLC v. T11 Funding that protects Nassau County commercial property owners in real-property tax enforcement proceedings by requiring purchasers of Nassau County Tax Deeds to commence judicial proceedings to quiet title before they can assert rights under their Tax Deeds.
Nassau County enforces delinquent real property taxes under procedures set forth in the Nassau County Administrative Code (NCAC). Under the NCAC, when a property owner fails to timely pay real property taxes, the amount of the unpaid taxes automatically becomes a lien on the real property. Once a year, Nassau County sells the liens at a public auction. Private investors can purchase the liens at the auction as investments. If a tax lien is not satisfied by the property owner within two years of its sale, the tax-lien purchaser can serve a notice to redeem on the property owner. If the property is a commercial property, and if the owner does not pay the unpaid taxes plus interest and penalties after service of the notice to redeem, the tax-lien purchaser can apply to the County Treasurer for a Tax Deed pursuant to which the Nassau County Treasurer conveys the subject property to the purchaser.
Under this procedure, the property owner has no opportunity to be heard in a judicial proceeding before the Tax Deed is issued. Under the NCAC, the holder of the Tax Deed may thereafter commence a judicial proceeding in Nassau County Supreme Court to confirm that it has lawful title to the property. If the holder of the Tax Deed commences such a proceeding, however, the NCAC grants the commercial property owner the right to redeem the property in the proceeding by paying the unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.
In an attempt to divest commercial property owners of their right to redeem their properties in a judicial proceeding commenced under the NCAC, some holders of Tax Deeds commence landlord-tenant proceedings to evict commercial property owners from their properties based on their Tax Deeds. The commercial property owners have no right to redeem their properties in the landlord-tenant proceedings.
In the Forest Glen Realty case, Forest Glen Realty (Forest Glen) owns a commercial building in Glen Cove, New York, valued at approximately $2 million. It failed to pay approximately $1,000.00 in real property taxes on the property in 2014. Nassau County sold the tax lien on the property to T11 Funding, a private investor. When Forest Glen failed to redeem the tax lien by paying the unpaid taxes, T11 Funding applied for and was issued a Tax Deed for the property. Relying on the title that it purportedly acquired via the Tax Deed, T11 Funding commenced a landlord-tenant proceeding seeking to evict Forest Glen and its tenant from the property.
In response, SWC, on behalf of Forest Glen, promptly commenced an action in Nassau County Supreme Court seeking, among other things, a preliminary injunction enjoining T11 Funding from prosecuting the landlord-tenant proceeding and otherwise interfering with Forest Glen’s ownership and possession of the building on the grounds that, among other things, Nassau County’s tax enforcement procedures violate Forest Glen’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the law.
On November 13, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Jeffrey S. Brown granted Forest Glen’s request for a preliminary injunction. The Court ruled that, in order to comply with fundamental requirements of due process, T11 Funding was required to commence a judicial proceeding against Forest Glen under the NCAC to quiet title to the property. In that proceeding, Forest Glen is entitled “to one final opportunity to save … [its] property by paying the amount owed.” The Court ruled that T11 Funding could not circumvent this due process safeguard by commencing a landlord-tenant proceeding against Forest Glen based on the Tax Deed.
“The ruling is a victory for commercial property owners in Nassau County and a blow to those who attempt to use Tax Deeds to confiscate commercial properties from unwary owners who failed to pay their real property taxes for one reason or another,” Mr. Koblenz said. “A tax-lien purchaser can no longer rely on a Tax Deed, in and of itself, to establish title to real property. Rather, the holder of a Tax Deed must, in order to comply with fundamental requirements of due process, commence a judicial proceeding under the NCAC to confirm its title to the property. In that proceeding, the commercial property has one last opportunity to save its property from forfeiture by paying the unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.”
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK —Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC has announced that Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, and Tom McKevitt, the firm’s Counsel, will be helping to present a free public education seminar titled “The 411 on Local Government: Working through Zoning, Building, and Parking Issues.” The event is presented by the Nassau County Bar Association and will take place on November 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at NCBA headquarters, located at 1 West Street (15th Street and West Street) in Mineola.
As a member of the NCBA and as Vice Chair of the association’s Community Relations & Public Education Committee, Mr. Brookstein is responsible for helping to plan seminars such as these for the public. Mr. McKevitt, who is also a member of the New York State Assembly, will be joined by zoning, building and traffic officials from the Town of Hempstead to discuss zoning and building issues.
The seminar will provide an overview of the purpose and process of applying for building permits and variances on Long Island. Panelists will also address the process for responding to violations issued by Town and Village municipalities.
Continuing Legal Education is available for this program. For attorneys who wish to receive 1.5 CLE credits for this program, the cost is $30. This program also qualifies for skills credit for newly admitted attorneys.
The program is open to the public and there is no charge to attend. Although there is no charge, pre-registration is mandatory. To register, call the Bar Association at (516) 747-4070.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the November 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
The implosion of the Kosciuszko Bridge that took place on October 1 was reported by Real Estate Weekly and The Drive.
Jon Ward and Chris Coschignano, Partners with the Firm, and Firm Associate Nick Cappadora represented Emil Realty, a property owner and manager whose buildings laid within 20 feet of the areas where sections of the bridge were supposed to land. The property group retained the Firm as legal counsel due to concerns the buildings might be damaged as a result of the seismic impact of the implosion.
Aerial drone footage was taken following the implosion. From approximately the 2:00 mark to the 2:23 mark, the video shows the Firm’s client’s building and its close proximity to the debris site. The video can be seen here.
John Farrell and Wayne Edwards, Partners with the Firm, secured approvals from the Town of Huntington Board of Appeals on September 7, 2017 to convert second-floor office space at 355 New York Avenue in Huntington into apartments. The first floor of the building will remain as retail use. With the approval, the Board allowed the continued use of municipal parking lots to satisfy the Town Code’s parking requirements for the mixed-use building.
Moratorium Unjustly Targeted Applicants
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, successfully represented two developers against the Village of Rockville Centre, which imposed a building moratorium on a construction project on a 1.75-acre parcel of land owned by the Firm’s clients. A Nassau County Supreme Court judge struck down the moratorium, claiming it was unjustly applied.
Following building permit applications seeking approval to subdivide the site, the Village Board of Trustees voted to impose a six-month moratorium against building permit applications that proposed the construction of new “private roads.” Mr. Browne’s clients seek to divide their existing property into four new building lots. Two of the lots would be accessed by a new street. The Village deemed the proposed new street a “private road” and imposed the moratorium to stop the usual process for the review of subdivision applications.
Mr. Browne’s clients, however, had designed the new street for dedication as a public roadway. Mr. Browne therefore argued that the moratorium should not apply to the application, and further argued that the moratorium was an improper use of the Village’s legal powers, as it was enacted solely in response to community opposition to the development project.
On October 10, 2017, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John Galasso held that the language used in the moratorium “mirrors each of the plaintiffs’ proposed application to subdivide the subject property” and with “sufficient evidence of strong community opposition to plaintiffs’ subdivision application,” holding that the moratorium itself is “an invalid measure to halt development.” The judge struck it down accordingly.
“We are gratified with the decision,” Mr. Browne said. “We hope the Village will now allow the application to move forward, according to the process set forth in the law for the review of an application for subdivision approval.”
Adam Koblenz, a Partner with the Firm, was named as one of the “Ones to Watch” in Real Estate, Architecture, Engineering and Construction by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Elaine M. Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was recognized as one of the “Top 50 Women in Business” by Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on October 19 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Launched in 2000, the Top 50 Women in Business program has recognized Long Island’s top women professionals for business acumen, mentoring and community involvement.
LIBN Publisher Scott Schoen and Elaine Colavito
Elaine Colavito being joined by Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz attorneys and staff at LIBN’s Top 50 Women awards.
Chris Browne, a Partner with the Firm, represented a developer before the Village of Rockville Centre Planning Board in connection with an application to tear down a house located at 66 Vassar Place and construct two new single-family homes on two new lots. The previous home was abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair.
The Firm recently represented Emil Realty, the owner of commercial buildings in Brooklyn, New York, in the negotiation and consummation of an agreement to protect its buildings from potential damage arising from the implosion of the former Kosciuszko Bridge. The implosion was then allowed to occur on October 1, 2017. The matter was handled by Jon Ward, a Partner with the Firm, who was assisted by Firm Partner Chris Coschignano and Firm Associate Nick Cappadora.
Prior to the implosion, Emil Realty sought the Firm’s guidance on how best to protect its properties from potential damage arising from the implosion. The New York State Department of Transportation and its contractor, Skanska Kiewit ECCO III JV (SKE), called for the felling of the approach trusses of the bridge by detonating explosives at key structural points on the bridge and allowing the bridge road bed and its structural components to collapse to the ground below the bridge. As part of the plan, an 800-ton segment of the bridge was to fall a vertical distance of approximately 50 feet and land approximately 25 horizontal feet from the client’s buildings. The client was justifiably concerned that such ultra-hazardous activity could potentially cause catastrophic damage to its buildings.
To ensure that the client’s buildings would be protected from such damage and the owner would not be held responsible for any damage to the buildings, the Firm assembled a team of professionals, including a structural dynamics engineer, to assess the bridge felling plan and its anticipated impact on the client’s buildings (i.e., air blast energy from the detonation of explosives on the bridge; seismic vibrational energy from the impact of the bridge components on the ground; and a second air blast of dust and debris created from the impact). The Firm then successfully negotiated an appropriate agreement with SKE to protect the client’s buildings from the risk of damage.
Under the agreement, SKE was responsible for surveying the building before, during and after the felling; installing seismic monitoring devices to measure the vibrational energy from the felling; increasing the size of the earthen berms under the bridge to absorb the vibrational energy; installing and removing plywood covering the windows and covers for air handling units and scupper protection to protect the building from dust and debris; and inspecting the building’s structural integrity immediately after the felling, one month after the felling and six months after the felling. The contractor must also share any data, photographs and video of the felling, clean up any dust and debris from the building and quickly repair any damages sustained by the building.
The Firm also made sure that Emil Realty was to be indemnified from damages and liability arising from the felling and, as such, the client was added as an additional insured on SKE’s commercial general liability policy with coverage protection up to $10 million. If any disputes arose, both sides would enter into mandatory, expedited arbitration.
“We are pleased to be able to provide this representation to our client,” Mr. Ward said. “By entering into this agreement, we were able to protect our client’s properties and interests while, at the same time, allowing this vital public works project to move forward.”
Miriam Villani, a Partner with the Firm, was named as one of the "Ones to Watch" in Law by Long Island Business News. "Ones to Watch" is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK —Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC is pleased to announce its successful representation of the City of Glen Cove in two lawsuits filed by Glen Cove residents Roni Epstein and Marsha Silverman, who challenged the City's approval of the Villa at Glen Cove, a proposed 176-unit condominium complex to be built alongside Glen Cove Avenue at the western entrance to the City’s downtown area. The City's approval of the Villa at Glen Cove was the culmination of a 10-year, multi-layered review process that included, among other things: (i) the adoption of a community-wide master plan by the City Council in 2010 that seeks to revitalize the core area of the City, open up new housing opportunities, remove blight, and encourage new downtown development; (ii) the enactment of community-wide rezoning legislation by the City Council in 2010 to implement the recommendations of the City’s master plan; (iii) the granting of site-specific zoning incentives and waivers to the project by the City Council in 2015 in accordance with the master plan and rezoning; and (iv) the granting of a site-specific site plan approval to the project by the Planning Board in 2016.
In the lawsuits, Mss. Epstein and Silverman alleged, among other things, that the City failed to properly identify and analyze the environmental impacts of its various land-use determinations under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"). In a ruling on October 4, 2017, the Nassau County Supreme Court (Peck, J.) disagreed and dismissed the lawsuits. At the outset, the Court found that the residents’ challenge to the propriety of the City’s review of the environmental impacts of the master plan and rezoning was time-barred by the statute of limitations. The Court further found that the City conducted a proper review of the environmental impacts of the site-specific approvals that the City granted to the project. The Court found that, in connection with its site-specific review of the project, the City had identified all relevant areas of environmental concern relating to the project, took a "hard look" at them through an extensive and time-consuming environmental impact review process, and supported its environmental findings with reasoned elaborations. A temporary restraining order that was placed on the project was also vacated, allowing the project to move forward.
Firm Partners Jon Ward, John Farrell, and Joseph Bjarnson defended the City in the lawsuits.
"We are pleased that the Court ruled in favor of the City in these lawsuits", Mr. Ward said. "The real winners here are the citizens of Glen Cove. This project, at an entryway to the downtown area of the City, is an important part of the City's overall revitalization plans. It will convert a blighted commercial parcel into a beautiful, multi-family community that will be a benefit to the entire City for years to come.”
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, has been retained as special counsel to the Village of Freeport Zoning Board to provide legal counsel on an application for the redevelopment of Freeport Plaza West adjacent to the Freeport train station. The applicant is seeking to construct a new mixed-use building on the corner of Sunrise Highway and Grove Street, featuring residential, retail and restaurant space.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the October 2017 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 Partner, recently participated in a Best Practices/Ethics Panel during the “Land Use Training Program for Municipal Planning and Zoning Officials” conference, which took place on September 25 at the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center at Hofstra University’s North Campus. Mr. Sahn was joined by other attorneys and Sean Sallie, AICP, the Nassau County Department of Public Works’ planning division supervisor, in a mock public hearing.
The event was presented by the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, the Nassau County Planning Commission and the Institute of Real Estate at Hofstra University.
Jon A. Ward, a Partner with the Firm, and Firm Associate Elaine M. Colavito will receive the Leadership in Law award from Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on November 17 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Mr. Ward will be honored in the category of Partner and Ms. Colavito in the category of Associate.
The Leadership in Law award recognizes all of the following qualities — dedication, hard work, skill, tenacity and excellence — and is dedicated to those individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has had a positive impact on Long Island.
Six Chosen to New York Metro Super Lawyers List, Eight More Selected as “Rising Stars”
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK — Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC has proudly announced that Super Lawyers has recognized 14 attorneys from the Firm for 2017 honors. The 14 attorneys, amounting to three-fourths of the Firm’s Partners and Associates, were recognized in the practice areas of land use and zoning law, real estate law, environmental law, family law, and business and general litigation.
Six attorneys were selected to the 2017 New York Metro Super Lawyers list and eight more attorneys from the Firm have been selected to the 2017 New York Metro Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list.
The attorneys recognized as “Super Lawyers” and their respective practice areas are as follows:
The attorneys recognized as Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” and their respective practice areas are as follows:
“It is an honor to be named personally, but much more important is the credit and honor to the Firm to have so many of our attorneys recognized by Super Lawyers,” said Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “We are very pleased and gratified. This reflects the outstanding and talented lawyers who serve our clients.”
The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found at www.superlawyers.com. No aspect of this release has been approved by the Courts of the State of New York.
Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC has moved into a more spacious office on the sixth floor in the Omni Building, located at 333 Earle Ovington Boulevard in Uniondale. The new office will allow the Firm's attorneys and staff to collaborate more closely and better serve their clients.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Partner, will participate in a Best Practices/Ethics Panel during the "Land Use Training Program for Municipal Planning and Zoning Officials" conference, which will take place on September 25 from 5:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center at Hofstra University's North Campus. Mr. Sahn will be joined by other attorneys and Sean Sallie, AICP, the Nassau County Department of Public Works' planning division supervisor, in a mock public hearing.
The event is being presented by the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, the Nassau County Planning Commission and the Institute of Real Estate at Hofstra University.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation has retained Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC to provide advice and legal representation on environmental matters. Miriam Villani, a Partner with the Firm and head of the Firm's Environment, Energy, and Resources Practice Group, will lead the Firm's representation and counsel. Ms. Villani will work with the Shinnecock Environmental Department to develop laws and programs to assist with the Department's efforts on behalf of the Shinnecock Nation to protect the natural resources and wildlife habitat on Shinnecock lands and waterways. The scope of work will include the development and drafting of ordinances necessary to protect the health and safety of the people, land, water, and air within the Shinnecock territory; developing programs that will assist with the Nation's efforts to protect the environment, energy, and natural resources of the Shinnecock territory, with a focus on the protection of water resources; an assessment of the Tribe's water rights, including fishing and territorial rights; and drafting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water quality standards and permitting approvals. Ms. Villani will be assisted by Thomas McKevitt, Counsel with the Firm.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Partner, and Firm Partners Adam H. Koblenz and John P. Christopher represented Roslyn Rescue Fire Company in closing a $5.5 million loan from JP Morgan Chase to fund the construction of a new firehouse. This building and mortgage loan will allow the fire department to complete the firehouse as part of its mission to serve the public with state-of-the-art fire and rescue equipment.
Elaine M. Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, will be recognized as one of the "Top 50 Women in Business" by Long Island Business News at a special awards ceremony on October 19 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Launched in 2000, the Top 50 Women in Business program has recognized Long Island's top women professionals for business acumen, mentoring and community involvement
Tom McKevitt, Counsel with the Firm, served as the Focus Editor for this month's edition of Nassau Lawyer, the official publication of the Nassau County Bar Association. This issue focused on real estate and municipal law. Mr. McKevitt previously served as Nassau Lawyer's Editor-in-Chief.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Firm Associate Nicholas J. Cappadora co-authored “Best Presentation Practices for Gross Floor Area Variances” for the September 2017 issue of Nassau Lawyer. The article discusses how local zoning boards often apply greater scrutiny towards bulk variances, specifically gross floor area variances, and what attorneys should know and do when seeking approval for a gross floor area variance.
Gross floor area measures the square footage of a proposed structure on a property, such as a house, garage or shed. Nearly all municipal codes restrict the gross floor area of structures, most frequently in the form of a floor-area restriction (FAR). The article discusses relevant case law and provides practical advice for attorneys when presenting a gross floor area variance.
Mr. Sahn and Mr. Cappadora suggest that the attorney work with their client and team of professionals to minimize the variance and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Examples include having the architect improve the design features to make it more in line with the character of the surrounding community and review building department records to determine whether other properties have been granted (or denied) similar variances.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, serves as Vice Chair of the Community Relations & Public Education Committee of the Nassau County Bar Association. In his new role, he will help plan seminars for the public. Mr. Brookstein will also serve as Co-Chair for “Dealing with Local Government,” a seminar which will be held on November 30 at NCBA headquarters from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tom McKevitt, Counsel with the Firm, will be one of the panelists. He will discuss zoning and building issues.
The Community Relations & Public Education Committee provides speakers to schools, libraries and community organizations, conducts mock trial competitions for high school students, and promotes Law Day.
Upcoming programs include:
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, represented a seller in a commercial real estate transaction involving a mixed-use building in the Village of Babylon. The 12,100-square-foot building has three floors, with 7,500 square feet of restaurant, office and retail space on the first floor and eight residential apartments on the top two floors, covering 2,300 square feet on each of the two floors. Michael J. Barone, Jr., an Associate with the Firm, assisted Mr. Browne with the transaction.
Wayne G. Edwards, a Partner with the Firm, and Firm Associate Michael J. Barone, Jr. represented a client in a refinance of commercial property in Springfield, Massachusetts. The property amounted to one square block in the city. The refinance included the payoff of an existing mortgage and the client taking on a new mortgage on the property.
Dan Braff acted as special zoning counsel to a Manhattan-based law firm in connection with that firm's representation of a lender having a substantial mortgage on an industrial property in Queens. The owner of the property, subject to the mortgage, sought to merge its zoning lot with an adjoining zoning lot to facilitate the redevelopment of the property with a new four-story warehouse and showroom. As a "party in interest," pursuant to the New York City Zoning Resolution, the lender was required to waive its right to execute the Declaration of Zoning Lot Restrictions, which is the document necessary to effectuate a zoning lot merger in New York City. As special zoning counsel, Mr. Braff helped guide the law firm and its client through the complex requirements and address the potential risks associated with zoning lot mergers in New York City.
Mr. Braff represented the owner of a 35-story office building in midtown Manhattan in connection with the impact that a redevelopment of a neighboring property would have on the existing lot line windows of the office building. His representation included analyzing the effect of the East Midtown Rezoning on the redevelopment of the neighboring property, as well as the redevelopment of a two-story restaurant — also owned by the client — on the same block.
Mr. Braff presently represents three different fitness studios in connection with securing special permits from the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals. In New York City, most fitness facilities are deemed physical culture establishments and require a special permit. The special permit process is complex and requires public hearings before the local community board, as well as the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, is co-counsel in a lawsuit filed on August 3 in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County, seeking to halt the development of a six-acre parcel in Long Beach as two high-rise apartment buildings.
The project calls for construction of two 160-foot-tall, 15-story buildings, with 11,000 square feet of retail space along the boardwalk on a six-acre parcel located between Riverside Boulevard and Long Beach Boulevard, including two levels of underground parking. The developer was granted the necessary permits after reaching a settlement with the city in January 2014. The city also granted a variance for the buildings, allowing the developer to exceed the city’s height limit of 110 feet and 10 stories.
Mr. Browne and his co-counsel have argued the development should not move forward because the developer missed the deadline in obtaining the permits. They are seeking to have the permits invalidated and the variances deemed expired. A court date has yet to be determined.
This was reported in Newsday.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the September 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was featured in Long Island Business News’ “Who’s Who in Women in Professional Services.” Her profile focused on her work with the Firm, as well as her role as President-elect of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association.
Nicholas Cappadora, an Associate with the Firm, was named one of the “Ones to Watch” in Law by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
In addition to being an Equity Member of the Firm, Adam Koblenz donates time to various not-for-profit organizations serving the community. In this interview, Adam talks about his practice, his community service and how he is able to manage his time among work, family and community.
What does your practice entail?
My practice encompasses commercial litigation, real estate, employment and labor law, corporate, family law, and trusts and estates.
I have represented major corporations, municipalities, unions, small businesses, non-profits and individuals in various litigation matters. I’ve handled construction litigation cases such as mechanic’s lien foreclosures, insurance fraud actions, first-party property litigation, negligence, and complex mass toxic tort litigation. I also handle employment and labor matters regarding discrimination and Fair Labor Standards Act claims, wage and hour violations and partnership disputes. My real estate practice consists of representing buyers and sellers of commercial and residential real estate, as well as landlords and commercial tenants in the negotiation and preparation of lease agreements.
I am also a Village Prosecutor for the Village of East Hills and Special Prosecuting Attorney for the Village of Sands Point.
What areas do you see your practice and the Firm continuing to grow in?
I see our commercial litigation, construction litigation and commercial real estate practice areas as the main areas of growth. My practice is split, with 50% in New York City and the other 50% on Long Island. Together with my Partner, Dan Braff, we have developed the Firm’s New York City-based practice. I would like to continue to grow my practice in these areas, providing representation to individuals and businesses on a broad range of matters.
Last year, you were named Equity Member. Tell us what that means in your role with the Firm?
When I became an Equity Member, my role at the Firm expanded. I have taken on a managerial role. I manage and mentor the younger attorneys and I manage the Firm’s marketing efforts, including client development, emphasizing client relations, as well as community outreach at the charitable or pro bono level. I am trying to be more well-rounded in my new role.
You were recently named to the Children’s Medical Fund of New York’s Board of Trustees. How did you become involved in this organization?
I was introduced to some of the board members. It was very encouraging to see they had a vision for Cohen Children’s Hospital. From there, it took a life of its own. Obviously, the main objective is to have the hospital provide the highest quality healthcare services and support to the families of children battling serious illnesses. For me, that was the driving force to join the board.
I have been involved with the Children’s Medical Fund of New York for almost nine years. Recently, my wife and I were honored to play a role in helping opening up The Children’s Medical Fund Center for Diagnostic Studies, which is a new diagnostic wing at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center. We volunteered our time, assisting the Children’s Medical Fund in raising awareness for the project and raising money for construction of the new wing. It has two advanced 3-D magnetic resonance imaging machines specially geared to children. The room also has a mock scanner and is decorated in an outer space motif to help alleviate the children’s fears before they have to undergo the MRI. They can also wear special goggles so they can watch movies during the examination.
My involvement with the CMF also includes serving as the Tennis Co-Chair for the organization’s annual Golf and Tennis Charity Classic. In addition, I chaired the “Cycle for CMF” event at Lifetime Fitness in Syosset back in 2013.
Do you belong to any other organizations?
I am leading the Firm’s representation as pro bono counsel to the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We are proud to represent this group because of their efforts to rescue and protect animals in the county from abuse and neglect. In addition, I mentor first-year law students at George Washington Law School. That is where I attended law school and I wanted to do something to give back to my alma mater.
How are you able to maintain that balance among your practice, family life and serving the community?
Aside from time management, I would say that it is just an intersection of all three areas that go hand-in-hand. I have a good idea of what is important in my life and do my best to fulfill my duties, whether it is to the Firm, my family or those in the community. So, the best way to answer the question is to make the people around you your top priority and knowing what is important in your life.
On August 9, 2017, the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve two Zoning Authorizations in connection with the extension of term of a pre-1961 special permit for a 188-space public parking garage in Midtown Manhattan. Specifically, the first Zoning Authorization retroactively extended the term of the special permit from October 9, 2002 to October 9, 2012, and the second Zoning Authorization further extended the term from October 9, 2012 to October 9, 2022, thereby bringing the special permit current. Manhattan Community Board 5 also voted to approve the applications in July. The seven-story free standing garage was originally developed pursuant to a special use permit from the City Planning Commission granted on October 2, 1957, which allowed a public parking garage with more than 150 spaces. This first approval was granted for a term of 25 years, and was subsequently modified and extended, with the most recent extension expiring on October 9, 2002.
As part of the second Zoning Authorization (2012-2022), the owner committed to constructing several safety upgrades to the garage, which were intended to bring the garage into greater compliance with the current zoning regulations applicable to public parking garages under the New York City Zoning Resolution. By reactivating and extending the term of the special permit through two Zoning Authorizations, the owner avoided the need for a new special permit from City Planning, which would have been subject to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
The Firm recently obtained summary judgment in Nassau County Supreme Court on behalf of a client in a case involving a 36-acre parcel of land in Old Brookville. The land was owned by a Delaware limited liability company that was controlled by two cousins. The operating agreement obligated the cousins to partition the property into two (2) 18-acre parcels in substantial accordance with a proposed partitioning sketch attached to the agreement, and then to convey one parcel to one cousin and the other parcel to the other cousin. The agreement, however, required the cousins to agree on the final location of the partitioning line between the two proposed parcels, and to obtain municipal approval of the finally agreed-upon partitioning line. After years of study, the cousins were unable to reach an agreement on the location of the final partitioning line because they disagreed on where to put an access road on the property. One cousin then insisted that the other cousin was obligated to proceed with a partitioning of the property in accordance with the partitioning line shown on the proposed partitioning sketch and commenced a breach of contract action in Nassau County Supreme Court against the other cousin. The Firm was retained to represent the defendant cousin in the lawsuit.
After answering the complaint, the Firm filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of the defendant cousin, arguing, among other things, that the partitioning provision in the operating agreement was an unenforceable agreement-to-agree because it was missing a material term, the final location of the partitioning line, and there was no objective methodology or formula that the parties had agreed upon that the Court could turn to supply the missing term. The Nassau County Supreme Court agreed, and dismissed the lawsuit.
The matter was handled by Jon A. Ward, Andrew Roth, and Joseph Bjarnson.
Chris Browne, a Partner with the Firm, is representing developers who are seeking to subdivide a 1.75-acre parcel in Rockville Centre on Hempstead Avenue and is seeking to strike down a moratorium that the Village of Rockville Centre issued on the development.
Following the application made on behalf of Mr. Browne’s clients, the Village Board voted to impose a six-month moratorium on the construction on properties with private roads, in the face of community opposition to the proposed subdivision. Mr. Browne is arguing that the moratorium does not apply since his clients are not creating a private street, but instead a public one.
Mr. Browne appeared for an oral argument before Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John Galasso on July 24. He is currently awaiting a decision.
This was reported in the Rockville Centre Herald. Click here to read the article.
Chris Browne, a Partner with the Firm, is currently representing a Montauk resident in a lawsuit against the Town of East Hampton Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the East Hampton Building Department and the owners of a motel that abuts the client's property. The motel recently opened a new restaurant on its property. The client is challenging the legality of the building permit the Town issued to the motel owners in 2015 to allow for a restaurant operation of the property. Mr. Browne said the Town should have required the motel to obtain site plan approval from the Town Planning Board before issuing the permit for the restaurant use.
The case was reported by The East Hampton Star and 27east.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, obtained zoning approval from the Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals on June 29 to allow the former Treehouse Sports Bar in Merrick to reopen after it closed in 2011. The Board granted variances for the reconstruction of the property and for parking. Construction of the restaurant/bar is currently underway and will be renamed The Treehaus.
Dan Braff, a Member of the Firm, serves as a member of the Planning Committee for the Cohen Children's Circle Golf Classic, which will take place on August 21 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.
Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC was a supporting sponsor of this year’s Marcum Workplace Challenge, which took place on July 25 at Jones Beach State Park. A large contingent of the Firm also participated in the 3.5-mile run/walk.
More than 8,400 participants from 195 local companies were in attendance. Participating organizations included businesses, non-profits and governmental agencies, representing almost every industry in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
The Firm’s Equity Partners Adam H. Koblenz, Chris J. Coschignano, Jon A. Ward, Michael H. Sahn and Daniel H. Braff are pictured during the 2017 Marcum Workplace Challenge. In addition to its participation in the 3.5-mile run/walk, the Firm helped sponsor the event.
Proceeds benefited 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.
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, was sworn in as President-Elect of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association (NCWBA) at the group’s Installation Dinner on June 15, 2017. The term is for one year. She previously served as NCWBA’s Vice President for two years, and treasurer for two years.
Elaine Colavito (seventh from left), an Associate with the Firm, is sworn in as President-Elect of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association during the organization’s Installation Dinner.
The mission of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association 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.
Ms. Colavito concentrates her practice in the areas of matrimonial and family law, civil litigation and immigration matters. 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. She was recognized as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Family Law from 2014 to 2016 and was among the Super Lawyers’ “Top Women Lawyers in New York” in 2015 and 2016. This year, she was recognized as a Trailblazer in Divorce by the New York Law Journal. In addition, she writes the monthly “Bench Briefs” column for Suffolk Lawyer.
She graduated magna cum laude from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center and summa cum laude from State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Mr. Koblenz has been involved in the CMF for many years. He was recently named to the organization’s Board of Trustees and, along with his wife, played a part in helping to open the Children’s Medical Fund Center for Diagnostic Studies, the new diagnostic wing at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
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 $86 million to help build, equip and secure ongoing funding for programs that are vital to the needs of seriously ill children and their families.
Adam H. Koblenz (pictured, front row, right), a Partner and Member with the Firm, served as Tennis Co-Chair for the Children’s Medical Fund of New York’s 42nd Annual Golf and Tennis Charity Classic, which was held at the Glen Oaks Club on June 19.
John Farrell, a Partner with the Firm, was named one of the “Ones to Watch” in Real Estate/Architecture/Engineering/Construction by Long Island Business News. “Ones to Watch” is featured each week in LIBN, highlighting six people who stand out in their respective fields.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the June 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, represented the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section (YLS) at the United States Supreme Court Admissions Program in Washington, D.C. on June 12.
To qualify for admission to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, an applicant must have been admitted to practice in the highest court of a state, commonwealth, territory or possession, or the District of Columbia for a period of at least three years. The applicant must also appear to the Court to be of good moral and professional character.
In addition to serving as Chair of the YLS, Mr. Christopher also serves as a Section Delegate to the NYSBA House of Delegates and Liaison to the Real Property Law Section. He is also admitted to practice law in the State of New York in 2008 and before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.
Firm Partner John P. Christopher (front row, second from left) is joined by fellow members of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section (YLS) in front of the steps of the United States Supreme Court building before attending the United States Supreme Court Admissions Program on June 12.
This summer, two law students will be working with the Firm's attorneys on a wide range of matters, helping them to gain insight and practical experience working in a law firm setting. Joseph D. Brees is a 2015 graduate of Binghamton University, where he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History & Philosophy. He is entering his third year at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Robert A. Veintimilla graduated summa cum laude from SUNY-Farmingdale State College School of Engineering in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science. He is currently entering his second year at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.
The Firm received the Long Island Business News Corporate Citizenship Award at a special ceremony held on June 6 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The Firm was honored in the category of Leadership Excellence for outstanding contributions and leadership in the community.
The Corporate Citizenship Awards recognize companies and individuals who believe that, by being a good corporate citizen, we contribute to the economic and social well-being of our employees, businesses and the community. Honorees consistently prove that true community stewardship evolves through building strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations and others that strive to meet the critical needs of our community.
In addition to being a Partner with the Firm, Chris J. Coschignano served as Councilman in the Town of Oyster Bay. After more than 25 years in public service, Chris has decided to move on to a new chapter in his professional career. He will continue to be involved in community service and will continue with his full-fledged efforts with the Firm.
“All of us at the Firm congratulate Chris on his distinguished career in public service and elected office,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “Chris has been a role model in his service to the public and the legal profession. We are fortunate that our partner will continue his work with us, both as a lawyer and as a leader in our community.”
In this interview, Chris shares his experience in public office, his involvement in the community and the work he continues to perform with the Firm.
Adam H. Koblenz, a Member and Partner with the Firm, has been named to the Children's Medical Fund of New York's (CMF) Board of Trustees. Mr. Koblenz has been actively involved in the organization, previously serving as vice president of the men's division for several years.
More recently, Mr. Koblenz and his wife Bess were proud to play a small role in helping to open a new diagnostic wing at the Cohen Children's Medical Center through volunteering and fundraising efforts. The Children's Medical Fund Center for Diagnostic Studies, located on the fourth floor, features two advanced 3D magnetic resonance imaging machines specifically geared to children. To help alleviate any fears the children may have, the room also has a mock scanner and is decorated in an outer space motif. Children are provided with special goggles so they can watch movies during the examination.
The Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has appointed Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC as pro bono counsel. The Nassau County SPCA is dedicated to the rescue, care and placement of animals that have been displaced or harmed. The nonprofit group is designed to protect animals in the county from abuse and neglect. The Firm is proud to support this terrific organization in its efforts to better serve the community at large.
Michael Sahn, the Firm's Managing Partner, along with Firm Partners Chris Coschignano and Dan Braff and Firm Associate Nick Cappadora, are representing the developer Engel Burman of Uniondale before the Town of Hempstead. The Firm's client is seeking zoning changes on two parcels of land on the former A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility campus in Uniondale to construct 388 rental units.
The developer plans to construct two three-story buildings on the hospital property, one zoned as high-density residential and the other zoned as age-restricted (55 years of age and older). Mr. Cappadora assisted Mr. Sahn in the presentation before the Town Board. Mr. Coschignano handled the zoning matters for the developer and Mr. Braff negotiated the terms of the lease with the hospital.
Jon A. Ward, Andrew M. Roth and Joseph R. Bjarnson, Partners with the Firm, successfully represented the Biener Auto Group (Biener), an Audi dealer located in Great Neck, New York, before the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, in a case of first impression under the New York Franchised Motor Vehicle Dealer Act (the Dealer Act).
The Dealer Act includes a provision requiring a manufacturer to give notice to a dealer of any “modification” of the dealer’s franchise to enable the dealer to provide the opportunity to challenge the modification. Likewise, it also contains a provision requiring a manufacturer to give notice to a dealer if it is establishing a new dealership within the “relevant market area” of an existing dealer of the same brand of cars. On Long Island, a dealer’s “relevant market area” is defined under the Dealer Act as a six (6) mile radius around the existing dealer’s facility.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, was retained as counsel by the new operator of the Woodmere Country Club for its development rights on its existing golf course. A moratorium is currently in place to halt the development of a residential project on a parcel of approximately 50 acres. Once construction is permitted, the project is expected to be the largest residential development in Nassau County.
Mr. Browne also successfully represented a landowner and a Burger King franchisee before the Village of Freeport Site Plan Review Board in obtaining approval of a site plan to build the restaurant on a vacant commercial property on the corner of Henry Street and Merrick Road.
Firm Partner Wayne G. Edwards represented a purchaser of a property in a $2 million transaction. The contract closed within six weeks. He also represented a seller in the $2.8 million sale of a building in Woodmere. In addition, Mr. Edwards represented a developer in a $5 million sale of vacant land in Old Brookville for residential development and negotiated construction agreements with the purchasers of the property on two of the remaining lots. He is currently working on a $6 million refinancing of a commercial property in Springfield.
Firm Partner Robert A. Abiuso and Associate Michael J. Barone, Jr. successfully represented an engineering firm that was seeking to purchase a commercial property in New Hyde Park. The property in question was wrought with many issues regarding zoning, certificate of occupancy, corporate formation and taxes. Thanks to Mr. Barone’s efforts, he was able to identify and correct the underlying problems. Mr. Abiuso and Mr. Barone were also able to work with multiple outside attorneys and third parties on these issues, as well as provide financing for the purchase and satisfy the requirements of the Small Business Administration.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm's Managing Partner, will be one of the moderators at the 2017 "Future of Long Island Commercial Real Estate" summit, which will take place on June 8 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Holiday Inn-Plainview Long Island. Mr. Sahn will moderate a panel of real estate professionals who will discuss such topics as finance, capital investments and 1031 exchanges.
Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC is also one of the event's sponsors. The event is being presented by the New York Real Estate Journal and American Investment Properties.
Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano, PLLC will receive the Long Island Business News' Corporate Citizenship Award at a special ceremony on June 6 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The firm will be honored in the category of Leadership Excellence for outstanding contributions and leadership in the community.
The Corporate Citizenship Awards recognize companies and individuals who believe that by being a good corporate citizen we contribute to the economic and social well-being of our employees, businesses and the community. Honorees consistently prove that true community stewardship evolves through building strong partnerships with nonprofit organizations and others that strive to meet the critical needs of our community.
By Joshua D. Brookstein
The law brings people together. That’s why I dedicate my time to mentoring young people and coaching a mock trial team. Breaking down stereotypes, building self-confidence, and fostering a sense of community are essential elements in the development of the social-emotional intelligence of our youth. In today’s world, our young people are subject to the diminution of civil discourse and the ability to disagree respectfully. Unfortunately, the state of our discourse is increasingly filled with hyperpartisanship and the assignment of blame, more often than not based on preconceived notions rather than actual experiences in engaging with those with whom one disagrees. The sad reality is that, instead of coming together as Americans, we, too, are often planting seeds of divisiveness within our next generation of leaders when we should be unifying them through compassion, communication, and cooperation. High school mock trial programs, however, are one way to reverse this trend.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the May 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
In addition to her family and matrimonial law practice and being a monthly contributor to the Suffolk Lawyer with her "Bench Briefs" column, Elaine Colavito will be installed as President-elect of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association on June 2017. In this interview, Elaine discusses her upcoming new role with the Nassau County Women's Bar Association and her ability to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
What is it like to soon be installed as the President-elect of the Nassau County Women's Bar Association?
It is an honor to be selected by my colleagues for this new position. I have been involved in the Nassau County Women's Bar Association for many years in various capacities. I have been able to see and participate in the good that it has done in promoting the advancement of women in law and women in general.
What does it mean to you to be part of this organization?
This organization means a lot to me and to the other women attorneys involved in the organization. We do many things to support one another, both professionally and personally. Participating in the various committees of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association is one way that we provide support for one another. For example, last year, at meetings of the Working Parents Committee, we discussed time management and work/life balance.
This year, I enjoyed serving as the association’s Vice President. I was first elected in 2012 as a member of the Board of Directors. The next year, I was elected as Treasurer. I served in this capacity for two terms. After that, I was elected as a Vice President. I am presently serving my second term as Vice President. In 2013, the association presented me with the Bessie Ray Geffner, Esq. Memorial Award for my interest in improving the justice system, professionalism of the bar and service to the community at large. It was a prestigious honor.
Through the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association, I have also been involved in the community. During the 2016 election, each chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York was encouraged to run a voter registration drive. The Nassau drive was held in conjunction with the Nassau County League of Women Voters. The goal of the drive was to get more people involved in the political process. Statewide, we had more than 1,300 new people register to vote.
How do you balance your work and home life?
I have eight children, so, as one could imagine, juggling work and home life is a daily challenge. However, having a large family forces me to make the most efficient use of my time and to constantly prioritize and re-prioritize. I do this both at home and at work to keep me focused and to adequately manage my time.
During my undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I gave birth to my first two children. I was expecting my third child (six months along) when I graduated. I was set to commence law school immediately thereafter. My third child was five days old at that time, however, I decided to defer law school for one year. During that year, I worked in a homeless shelter. I then returned to Touro Law School in the Fall of 2004. At that time, my children were four, two and one years old and I was expecting my fourth child. I subsequently gave birth to my fourth and fifth children during law school, while working part-time as a paralegal. Hence, juggling work, school and family was necessary and time management was essential to stay organized.
I gave birth to my sixth, seventh and eighth children while working full-time as an attorney. Again, time management and obtaining an optimal work/life balance is a daily challenge. Being an attorney, time management and organizational skills are key.
They say “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I truly believe this because, the more that I have to do, the more that I get accomplished and the more focused that I am.
What do your duties as family and matrimonial attorney entail?
In matrimonial matters, I counsel clients with regard to child support, maintenance, and equitable distribution, in addition to ancillary issues that arise in the context of divorce, both contested and uncontested.
In Family Court matters, I counsel and advise clients concerning custody and visitation rights, child support, child support enforcement and modification, paternity, and orders of protection.
I also negotiate and draft prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and represent clients in adoptions and guardianships.
What made you want to enter the field of family law?
With family law, I found it to be more relatable than with other practice areas, and one is able to see the impact of the representation on a client’s daily life.
How do you incorporate your own personal experiences as a mother when you are representing a client?
Running a household is no different than representing a client. In a court of law — just like in a house full of kids — you have to pick your battles!
Miriam Villani, a Partner with the Firm, serves as Editor-in-Chief of The New York Environmental Lawyer, a publication of the New York State Bar Association's Environmental Law Section, which recently published its Winter/Spring 2017 issue. In Ms. Villani's introductory message, she recounted the environmental progress that has been seen since the EPA was first established in the 1970s.
Elaine Colavito, an Associate with the Firm, has been named a Trailblazer in Divorce, Trusts & Estates by the National Law Journal. The Trailblazers Award honors the movers and shakers in the legal industry who have made an impact in the Divorce, Trusts and Estates sector through new types of strategies or innovative court cases. In a recent supplement published in The New York Times, Ms. Colavito was named a "Rising Star" in Family Law by Super Lawyers. It is the third consecutive year she has been recognized. She has also been named among the 2015 Super Lawyers' "Top Women Lawyers in New York."
Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano represented the purchaser of a five-story mixed-use building in the Two Bridges/Chinatown area of Manhattan. The closing price was approximately $10 million, and the Firm guided the purchaser in securing $3.75 million in acquisition financing. The deal also included light and air, and egress easements with an adjoining parcel, adding significant complexity. The purchaser intends to renovate and double the number of residential units in the building. This once-quiet area of Manhattan has been a recent focus of new development with Extell's 800-foot-tall One Manhattan Square residential condominium under construction, and several others in the pipeline, reportedly totaling 3,500 new residential units.
Wayne G. Edwards, a Partner with the Firm, recently represented the buyer of a $6.7 million shopping center in Brownsville, Texas. He also handled the refinancing of a $34 million shopping center located in Staten Island, New York.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a defendant homeowner in a real estate commission litigation matter.
The plaintiff, a real estate agent, alleged breach of real estate agency contract. In 2012, the client listed her and her late husband's home with an expiration date of November 1, 2012, which was extended to January 30, 2013. In the interim, a prospective buyer engaged in negotiations for the purchase of the property, but no agreement was reached. In July 2013, the agent contacted the client, indicating the same buyer was still interested in the property, and a price was agreed upon, requiring that the sale be made with no contingencies and the property be sold "as is." The defendant's usual attorney was unavailable and the client agreed to be represented by an attorney, who was referred to by the agent. While waiting for the contract, the client was contacted by another buyer, but was told a sale was pending. When the contract was received, the Firm's client rejected it, based on the contingencies it contained. The defendant client later sold the property to the second buyer, closing in November 2013.
Based on the facts of the case, Mr. Browne moved for summary judgment as a matter of law. According to the court, "to establish the right to a commission, a broker must demonstrate that he or she produced a ready, willing, and able purchaser who came to a meeting of the minds with the seller as to all of the material terms of the sale." The court went on to state that this duty extends not only to the price, but also other essential matters, "such as the closing date and delivery of possession, and matters pertaining to restrictions, encumbrances, mortgages, and the payment of taxes; until this is done his right to a commission does not accrue."
The court found that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the contingency language referred to was not standard, or that its omission would be tantamount to legal malpractice. It found further that the agent apologized for the failure of the sale, took responsibility for the failure, and found that the plaintiff's papers "consist of nothing more than general conclusory statements lacking in evidentiary support and legal argument," and therefore granted summary judgment on behalf of the Firm's client.
Wayne G. Edwards, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented the Missionary Church before the Hempstead Town Board of Zoning Appeals for the conversion of a warehouse to a church, including securing parking variances and a special use permit to operate the church.
He also successfully represented a commercial real estate client before the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals in obtaining special permits and variances for a Starbucks to be located on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. The Board also granted variances to allow a Codoba to be constructed also on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow.
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, was one of the Program Co-Chairs for the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Young Lawyers Section (YLS) Trial Academy, which was held on April 5-9 at Cornell Law School in Ithaca. The program covered all aspects of a jury trial, including jury selections; opening statements; trial ethics; direct and cross-examinations; evidence, foundations and objections; trial motions and motions in limine; and closing arguments. Approximately 140 students and faculty members attended.
Mr. Christopher, Chair-elect of the NYSBA YLS, was also chosen as one of the "Winners" by Newsday for his being named as a Fellow to the New York Bar Foundation.
John P. Christopher (center) is joined by members of the New York State Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Section at the NYSBA YLS Trial Academy. Also pictured (left to right): YLS Staff Liaison and Associate Director of Member Outreach and Development Megan O’Toole; YLS Liaison to the Section Services Department Amy Jasiewicz; NYSBA Business Law Section Chair and Past YLS Chair Sarah E. Gold; NYSBA President-elect Sharon Stern Gerstman; NYSBA President Claire P. Gutekunst; Trial Academy Co-Chair and Past YLS Chair Erica M. Hines; YLS Chair Erin K. Flynn; and Trial Academy Team Leader and Past YLS Chair Michael L. Fox.
John P. Christopher (left) and Erica M. Hines (right) at the NYSBA YLS Trial Academy.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with the Firm, spent several months mentoring and coaching students from the Crescent School in Hempstead who participated in the New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament, which was sponsored by the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship and The New York Bar Foundation. In Nassau County, the tournament was also sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association. The Crescent School made it to the Elite 8 of the 48 teams participating.
Pictured are students from The Crescent School who participated in
the New York State High School Mock Trial Competition along with
Joshua D. Brookstein (top left) at the Nassau County Supreme Court.
New York raised the State's Estate Tax Exemption on April 1st, from $4,187,500.00 to $5,250,000.00 per person. While this sounds like good news at first glance, in fact, it is not necessarily the case. The way the law is written, everyone does not get the benefit of the exemption. The reason is that the law says that, if your assets exceed $5,512,500.00, you lose the exemption, unless your will is structured properly. In other words, there is no exemption at all in New York for people whose assets exceed $5,512,500.00, and the estate tax will be calculated on the first dollar of assets. So, proper planning for asset allocation is very important, and consideration must be given to revising estate plans.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the April 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, was cited by InnovateLI in its March 28 e-newsletter describing how New York State is currently accepting public comments for a proposed overhaul of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The e-newsletter article included a link to an opinion editorial Mr. Sahn wrote last year, in which he discussed the need for better environmental review and oversight for large-scale development projects.
Matthew E. Rappaport has become Counsel to the Firm. He concentrates his practice in trusts and estates matters; business succession planning; asset protection; tax matters involving real estate, including § 1031 exchanges; and tax matters involving closely held companies, including mergers and acquisitions.
Mr. Rappaport advises clients regarding tax planning and structuring for generational wealth transfer, commercial real estate enterprises, business transactions, and cross-border considerations. He advises real estate and financial professionals and closely held businesses and assists other attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, bankers and insurance professionals who may need a high level of tax law expertise.
Mr. Rappaport has written numerous articles that have appeared in the Nassau Lawyer, the Journal of Taxation of Investments, the Journal of Real Estate Taxation, Bloomberg BNA’s Tax Management — Real Estate Journal,and The Tax Adviser. In addition, he has spoken before the American Bar Association Section on Taxation, the National Conference of CPA Practitioners’ Long Island Tax Professionals Symposium, the Nassau County Bar Association, Strafford Publications, and the advisors of various law, accounting, and wealth advisory firms across the country.
He is licensed to practice in New York State and is admitted to practice before the Eastern and Southern District Courts of New York and the United States Tax Court. He is an active member of the Nassau County Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association Tax Section, and the American Bar Association Section of Taxation. He served as Co-Vice Chair of the Nassau County Bar Association’s Tax Committee from 2015 to 2016. In addition, he is the Founding Member of Hydra Collective, Inc., a business networking organization for young professionals with more than 200 members and divisions in New York City, Long Island, and Chicago.
Mr. Rappaport graduated from Washington University in St. Louis (cum laude) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 2007. In 2011, he graduated from Georgetown University Law Center with a Juris Doctor and a Master of Laws in Taxation.“We are proud to welcome Matthew as part of our Firm,” said Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “His knowledge and experience will allow the Firm to better serve our clients and their growing needs for taxation and estate planning guidance.”
Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center to be Housed in New, 14,380-Square-Foot Second Floor Facility
Michael Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Jason Horowitz, a Partner with the Firm, successfully represented the North Shore Animal League before the Town of North Hempstead for construction of a second-story addition and complete renovation of its existing animal shelter building on Davis Avenue in Port Washington.
Renderings of North Shore Animal League’s
Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center in Post Washington
(North & East elevations above and South and West elevations below)
The project consisted of applications to both the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Town Board. On October 5, 2016, the Firm successfully obtained the necessary zoning variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Town Board then unanimously granted site plan approval for the project on February 28, 2017.
The proposed second-floor facility — which will be named Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center — will encompass 14,380 square feet and will feature exam rooms, a Feline Behavior Department, grooming facilities, a kitten adoption facility, an around-the-clock nursery, surgical suite and a recovery room. In addition, the all-feline center will feature a solely cage-free environment.
Since 1944, the North Shore Animal League is the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization. The group has saved the lives of more than 1 million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens at risk of euthanasia. Through its many innovative programs, the North Shore Animal League reaches across the country to rescue animals from overcrowded shelters, unwanted litters, puppy mills, natural disasters and other emergencies and finds them permanent, loving homes.
“We are pleased to represent the North Shore Animal League in this new, state-of-the-art project,” Mr. Sahn said. “It is an honor to be part of the organization’s continued efforts to fulfill its mission to care for and protect animals.”
This was reported by Long Island Business News and InnovateLI.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the March 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Partners Chris Coschignano and John Farrell are leading the Firm's expanding Suffolk County zoning, environmental and real estate practice. Just as the Firm has established its New York City-based practice, the Firm is looking east towards Suffolk County for new growth. From Melville to Montauk – that's the Firm's new direction. The development opportunities are great in Suffolk, and the Firm is at the forefront of many cases. Here are just a few examples:
Michael Sahn, Miriam Villani, Jon Ward and Joe Bjarnson represented several Village of Asharoken residents who opposed a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore certain beaches in the Village, subject to the Village agreeing to provide public access to the beaches. The proposal required the Village to condemn private property owned by the Firm's clients to provide public access easements over their properties to the beaches. The Village Board of Trustees rejected the proposal.
Miriam Villani, Jon Ward and Dan Braff represented a real estate partnership in a lease option agreement for a solar panel farm in Riverhead. The agreement paves the way for the energy company to lease approximately 50 acres of land from the partnership in Suffolk County over a period of 20 years.
Chris Browne is representing property owners opposed to the expansion of a restaurant/motel in Montauk. The clients, whose property abuts that of the motel, claim the motel operators are flouting town law in an attempt to reopen the restaurant that originally closed down in 1970. The shuttered restaurant currently sits in the Resort District, where a special permit is now required in order to operate a restaurant.
John Farrell successfully represented the owner and operator of a non-conforming Rocky Point gasoline service station in an application to rezone its property from J-2 Business to J-5 Business before the Brookhaven Town Board. While the gas station has been located on the site since the 1950s, the applicants sought to convert the former repair shop in the service station to a convenience store, necessitating the change of zone application. The approval will allow the station to continue to operate at the site and subsequent approvals in the planning stage will allow for the entire site to be redeveloped.
John Farrell and Nick Cappadora successfully had an application reconsidered and approved by the Town of Huntington Board of Appeals. The client's application to the Board of Appeals had been denied and the Firm was retained to challenge the determination in an Article 78 proceeding. After filing the Article 78, Mr. Farrell and Mr. Cappadora extensively examined the history of the site and discovered that the Board was provided with false testimony about the history of the structure in question and, on the basis of this evidence, requested that the Board reconsider the decision to deny the relief. The request for reconsideration was granted and, based on the evidence presented at the new hearing, the Board of Appeals granted the application. This saved the client significant time and money in litigation.
John Farrell and Adam Koblenz successfully represented a property owner in connection with the development of two homes before the Village of Greenport Planning Board. Prior to the Firm's involvement with these matters, the property owner was experiencing resistance to the development of these properties and had gone through several hearings with the Planning Board without much success. Mr. Farrell was able to successfully argue for the approval of both applications.
John Farrell and Chris Coschignano represented a developer before the Town of Islip Planning Board in connection with an application to rezone a property zoned for industrial uses to zoning that would permit the development of an apartment complex with 96 residential units. After a contentious public hearing, the Board adopted a resolution to recommend that the Town Board change the zoning of the property to permit the development to go forward. This recommendation is an important step in the approval process and allows the matter to proceed to the Town Board for formal approval of the change of zone. The Firm will provide updates as this matter progresses.
John Farrell and Michael Sahn have been actively engaged in numerous matters for Northwell Health's Southside Hospital campus. They have conducted zoning analyses on many parcels in the area and have assisted in Northwell's expansion in the Bay Shore area in the Town of Islip.
John Farrell and Wayne Edwards are acting as zoning counsel to a fitness company seeking to establish a facility in Bridgehampton in the Town of Southampton. They have provided their client with a comprehensive analysis of the zoning issues related to the development, including the SEQRA process. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Edwards have extensive knowledge of the local zoning codes and the required environmental review process.
Jon Ward is prosecuting an appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Department, on behalf of a homeowners association, from an order of the Suffolk County Supreme Court dismissing the homeowners association's lawsuit seeking to enforce restrictive covenants limiting the use of waterfront property in a residential community. The homeowners association's lawsuit was dismissed because the trial court found that it did not have standing to enforce the restrictive covenants.
Joshua D. Brookstein, an Associate with Sahn Ward Coschignano, PLLC, is currently coaching high school students at the Crescent School in Hempstead in conjunction with the New York State High School Mock Trial Tournament, which is sponsored by the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Law, Youth and Citizenship and The New York Bar Foundation. In Nassau County, the tournament is sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association. The Crescent School is among 48 schools competing within the county. The school competed in its qualifying matches on February 8 at Nassau County Supreme Court and February 14 at the Nassau County Bar Association in Mineola, and competed in the next round on March 1 at Nassau County Supreme Court.
In the tournament, students assume the roles of attorneys and witnesses in two consecutive trials, alternately as plaintiff and defendant, in a malicious prosecution action. To prepare for the competition, students learn about developing case themes, making opening and closing arguments, executing direct and cross-examinations, responding to objections, and introducing evidence. Mr. Brookstein works with the students to develop the skills needed to excel in and out of the courtroom, such as public speaking, crafting and delivering persuasive arguments, and being able to think on their feet.
Mr. Brookstein has extensive educational experience, having served for nine years as a teacher and assistant principal with the New York City Department of Education.
"It has been wonderful to support all of the students and watch them develop their critical thinking skills," Mr. Brookstein says. "This process has provided students with an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone, learn new skills and strategies, and develop tools necessary to be successful in their future endeavors."
John P. Christopher, a Partner with the Firm, has been appointed as a Fellow of The New York Bar Foundation. Fellows are nominated by their peers to the Foundation based on their outstanding achievement and dedication to the legal profession.
The Fellows are a distinguished group of legal professionals, with only 1% of New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) membership invited to share in this honor. All fellows must be members of the NYSBA and admitted to practice in the State of New York.
Mr. Christopher concentrates his practice in the areas of zoning and land use, real estate transactions and leasing, landlord/tenant disputes and municipal law. He is an active member of the Young Lawyers Section of the NYSBA, currently holding the position of Chair-elect and previously holding the positions of Treasurer and Secretary. In addition, he serves as a Section Delegate to the NYSBA House of Delegates and Liaison to the Real Property Law Section.
Established in 1950, The New York Bar Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic organization that receives charitable contributions from individuals, law firms, corporations or other entities and provides grants to further its goals of promoting and advancing service to the public, improvements in the administration of justice, legal research and education, high standards of professional ethics and public understanding of legal heritage. The Foundation makes grants to financially support law-related programs of legal services organizations, nonprofits, bar associations and other organizations throughout New York State.
“It is truly an honor to be selected to join this elite group,” Mr. Christopher said. “I am also pleased to be recognized by my colleagues who recommended me to this prestigious position.”
This appeared in Long Island Business News and LIBN.com.
In addition to his usual legal work at the Firm, Josh Brookstein is coaching a group of students at the Crescent School in Hempstead, New York in this year's New York State High School mock trial competition. In this interview, Josh discusses his involvement in the mock trial and how he tries to make an impact on his team.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I grew up in Philadelphia and was fortunate to have some great teachers who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. While in college, I learned about Teach For America ("TFA") and the opportunity to teach in a low-income community and work to eliminate the achievement gap. I wanted to inspire youngsters before pursuing my dream of becoming a lawyer.
How did you go from being an educator to being an attorney?
As a teacher and assistant principal, I always encouraged my students to set goals and develop action plans to meet them. I quickly learned that teaching is not simply "telling" youngsters what they need to know. I was most successful in reaching students when I was able to show them a new skill or strategy, not just tell them about it. I decided that it was time for me to go after my dream of becoming a lawyer and model for students that success can come when you work hard. For the next three-and-a-half years, I continued to reinforce this notion as an educator and part-time law school student.
After graduating from law school in 2012, I transitioned from the New York Department of Education to the New York City Law Department. I was assigned to the Family Court division where I investigated and prosecuted cases of juvenile delinquency. After three years at the Law Department, I transitioned into private practice and joined Sahn Ward Braff Koblenz Coschignano.
The people at the Firm are phenomenal. I came into this large law firm with such diverse practice areas, but was still able to draw on the expertise of others in the Firm, which is very welcoming. They not only helped ease me into this transition, but they want me to become a part of the Firm’s success.
What made you decide to become a mentor?
I have experienced the benefits of mentorship firsthand as a student, educator, and lawyer. Throughout my career, I have found ways to connect with youngsters and serve as a positive presence in their lives.
Middle school can be a tough time for youngsters. Peer pressure, the desire to be independent, and the constant stream of social media, can make the life of any 12-year-old more challenging. Add in potential academic difficulties and wide-ranging familial dynamics, and one begins to understand why many middle school students struggle. Mentoring is one opportunity to build a positive relationship with these youngsters and become a resource for them as they continue to navigate the complexities of adolescence.
Are you serving as a mentor now?
For the past year, I have had the pleasure of mentoring a seventh-grade student from Woodland Middle School, through the Nassau County Bar Association. Meeting twice a month for 45 minutes, I have been able to develop a positive relationship with my mentee. We talk, among other things, about our interests, favorite and least favorite subjects in school, video games, and anything related to Star Wars. My goal is simple: to serve as a positive and consistent presence, and, where appropriate, be a resource in my mentee's life.
Describe your involvement in the mock trial competition.
As a member of the Nassau County Bar Association's Speakers Bureau, I was aware of the mock trial. I volunteered as a judge last year and there was a new school that entered for the first time and was looking for a coach. The Crescent School was looking for a speaker on how the courts operate. I spoke about the courts and the law and gave them an overview as someone who was an educator, then went on to change careers.
When I was there, the teacher said I had a good rapport with the kids and said, "We'd love for you to be our coach." I've worked with the students since November 2016. We are currently in the middle of the mock trial competition, having completed and won the first two rounds. Our next round was on March 1 at Nassau County Supreme Court.
What is it like to be a mentor to these students?
For trial attorneys, organizing and persuasively presenting their cases are based on years of honing their skills. Mastering the facts, the rules of evidence, and thinking on your feet are some of the essential trial skills necessary before stepping into a courtroom. For the students of the Crescent School in Hempstead, New York, they had three months to get up to speed.
The Crescent School is one of Nassau County's 48 schools participating in the New York State Bar Association’s 2017 Mock Trial program. For the past three months, I have had the honor of coaching the Crescent Knights as they learn the basics of opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination, the rules of evidence, and developing and implementing a persuasive case theme. For the Knights, this was their first year participating in the mock trial program and they sought to gain a better understanding of how the trial process actually works, and not just what they see on reruns of Law & Order.
The mock trial program provided students with an opportunity to develop their skills in critical thinking, public speaking, and collaboration. Students were forced to learn how to think on their feet and present persuasive arguments. As their coach, I had the opportunity to watch as my team became more proficient in a once completely unfamiliar environment. At the same time, I have been able to reflect on my own practice when evaluating and presenting cases. No matter how far we get in the competition this year, the skills the students have begun to master will stay with them for life.
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the February 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Miriam E. Villani, a Partner with the Firm and head of the Firm’s Environment, Energy and Resources Practice Group, was featured in the New York Real Estate Journal’s Professional Profiles section.
Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Nicholas Cappadora, an Associate with the Firm, wrote an op-ed for InnovateLI on how President Donald J. Trump’s sweeping executive orders on deregulation could affect local zoning laws and recommends that all municipal governments should stay ahead of the curve.
In their article, Mr. Sahn and Mr. Cappadora pointed out that Trump’s revocation of federal regulations could result in an elimination or a rollback of local land use controls, which will give the president the opportunity to go forward with his proposed infrastructure projects. In addition, local elected officials would have to revise the existing zoning regulations to stay in line with Trump’s executive orders.
“We must anticipate change, hopefully for the positive,” Mr. Sahn and Mr. Cappadora wrote. “Local governments have to start thinking about this now, before the next Executive Order catches everyone by surprise.”
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, has become the Firm's sixth Equity Member. He joins Michael H. Sahn, the Firm’s Managing Partner, and Partners Jon A. Ward, Chris J. Coschignano, Daniel H. Braff and Adam H. Koblenz. The Firm's name will remain the same.
In other news, three of the Firm's attorneys — Ralph Branciforte, Joseph R. Bjarnson and Robert A. Abiuso — have been promoted to Partner. Mr. Branciforte and Mr. Bjarnson were Associates and Mr. Abiuso was previously Counsel to the Firm.
Mr. Browne will participate in the management, leadership and continued growth of the Firm. He concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial litigation, zoning and land use, and municipal law, and has become a leader on Long Island in these practice areas.
"We are proud to announce that Chris has become an Equity Member of the Firm," said Mr. Sahn. "He has shown a steadfast commitment to the Firm and its clients, and has distinguished himself as an attorney in the legal community. We look forward to the continued growth and success of the Firm with his support and leadership."
The three attorneys promoted to Partner have all been successful advocates for their clients in their respective practice areas. In addition, they have been widely recognized for their pro bono work and their contributions to the legal community.
"We congratulate these excellent attorneys on their promotions," Mr. Sahn said. "They have proven themselves to be truly valuable to the Firm and it shows in their hard work and their commitment to our clients. More important, each of them are fine individuals with outstanding character."
This was reported in Newsday.
Click here to read the article.
Adam H. Koblenz, a Partner with the Firm, recently settled two dissolution actions venued in New York State Supreme Court concerning two closely held businesses, a specialty market situated on a former gas station site, and the underlying real estate, owned equally by two partners. The settlement was reached prior to the appointment of a receiver and commencement of a trial. The agreement resulted in one partner successfully buying out the other partner's interest. Mr. Koblenz, who represented the buyer, also worked on securing financing from a commercial lender for the transactions. He was assisted in the matter by Firm Partners Andrew M. Roth and Miriam Villani, who heads the Firm's Environment, Energy, and Resources Practice Group. Ms. Villani guided the client through Phase I and Phase II environmental reviews, necessary to complete the transaction.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a client in New York State Supreme Court, Nassau County in an action involving the corporate structures of the Marco Polo Lodge of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America, a not-for-profit corporation.
The Firm's client, Leo Diliberti, was a leading member of the Lodge, having joined in 1970. On November 11, 1991, the Marco Polo Lodge entered into a contract to purchase a new building, located at 34-83 Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, to be used as its meeting hall. The contract was signed by Mr. Diliberti, as chairman of the Lodge. On January 16, 1992, Mr. Diliberti, and two other Lodge members, now deceased, formed a corporation named the Marco Polo Building Corp. for the purpose of taking title to the property. Title closed on March 3, 1992. However, the certificate of incorporation states that Marco Polo Building Corp. was formed pursuant to Business Corporation Law Section 402, a for-profit entity. However, it was undisputed that the intention of the incorporators was for it to be a charitable, not-for-profit corporation, and for it to assist in the charitable work of the Lodge. Further, since that time, no corporate formalities were followed. However, Mr. Diliberti argued that the Marco Polo Building Corp. maintains a bank account which is controlled by the President of the Lodge.
Since it was formed as a for-profit entity, the members of the Lodge could sell the property and retain the profits for themselves. In contrast, it is a basic tenet of non-profits that assets must be sheltered and that no individual can benefit directly.
On February 20, 2015, Mr. Diliberti commenced a special proceeding pursuant to Not-For-Profit Corporation Law Section 621 to compel the Lodge to allow him to inspect the minutes of the proceedings of the Lodge for 2014 and that he be provided access to the Lodge’s financial statements for 2014 and 2015. This action was dismissed on the grounds that Mr. Diliberti lacked standing, as he was no longer a member of the Lodge.
On July 30, 2015, the Firm brought this action on behalf of Mr. Diliberti seeking a declaratory judgment that, as the "last living original incorporator," Mr. Diliberti be allowed to convene an organizational meeting pursuant to the Business Corporation Law so that he may convert the for-profit corporation into a not-for-profit entity.
On August 22, 2016, the Court ordered that the present officers of the Marco Polo Lodge hold an organizational meeting, adopt by-laws and elect directors for the Marco Polo Building Corp. This meeting occurred on September 20, 2016. Following the decision, Mr. Diliberti filed a motion arguing that the decision should be amended to direct the incoming officers to transfer the assets of the building corporation to a duly formed not-for-profit corporation or to re-charter the Marco Polo Building Corporation as a not-for-profit entity. The Court agreed, citing the doctrine of de facto corporation, which can be invoked where a purported not-for-profit is incorrectly formed as a business corporation. The Court went on to explain that, had the Marco Polo Building Corporation been properly formed as a not-for-profit, its assets could not be distributed to its members. It ordered the directors of the Marco Polo Building Corporation file an amended certificate of incorporation, reorganizing the building corporation as a not-for-profit or, alternatively, that the directors may transfer the assets of the Marco Polo Building Corp. to a duly formed and organized not-for-profit.
"We are grateful that the Court agreed with our client's position and has taken action to ensure that the assets of the Marco Polo Building Corp. will continue to be used for charitable purposes. It's very rare that a client, at his own expense, will take legal action, when the client has little to gain personally. However, Mr. Diliberti spent many years working to build the Lodge and its strong financial foundation, and wanted to ensure that this good work would continue to benefit the community for years to come," Mr. Browne said.
Christian Browne, a Partner with the Firm, recently successfully represented a client in New York State Supreme Court, Westchester County, and on appeal in the Appellate Division, Second Department, in an action involving the issue of the proof necessary to obtain damages in a home improvement construction dispute.
The Firm's client, a construction company, contracted with the plaintiffs to perform construction work on the plaintiffs' home located in Chappaqua, New York. The plaintiffs paid $300,500 to the client for work completed pursuant to the contract. However, the plaintiffs filed suit after they became dissatisfied with the work and then hired others to complete the project and remediate what they alleged to be improper and poor work.
On March 14, 2014, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment which was granted in an order dated September 3, 2014. The Court ordered a nonjury trial on the issue of damages which was held in December 2014. Following the trial, the Court determined that the plaintiffs were entitled to damages in the amount of $300,500; however, the Court also found that the plaintiffs failed to establish that they made payments to other contractors to remediate the work or to complete the project.
Agreeing with the Firm's arguments, the Appellate Division cited that it was "fundamental to law of damages that one complaining of injury has the burden of proving the extent of the harm suffered, must demonstrate actual damages, and must lay a basis for a reasonable estimate of the extent of the harm." The Court went on to hold that the trial court erred in awarding damages equal to the amount paid by the plaintiffs to the defendant. It went on to state that "the proper measure of the plaintiff's damages was the cost of completion of the construction work and the correction of defects of the defendant's work." The Appellate Division, finding that at trial that the plaintiffs having failed to demonstrate they sustained actual damages, then dismissed the case.
Firm Partner Miriam E. Villani wrote an op-ed piece for Long Island Business News on how Donald J. Trump will reverse environmental policy that was implemented by his predecessor when he becomes President of the United States.
Ms. Villani says Mr. Trump’s choices for the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interior Department will support his plans to boost the coal industry, roll back federal environmental regulations, pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord, and do away with President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan.
“Many questions remain about what Trump’s environmental policy will look like, but one thing is fairly certain: we are likely to see a rollback of efforts to combat climate change, including the repealing of regulations, a push for increased fossil fuel development, and a limiting of the work of energy regulators,” Ms. Villani wrote. “In the face of this expectation, we will see the states take on a more significant role in environmental protection and energy regulation.”
Elaine Colavito had her “Bench Briefs” column published in the January 2017 edition of The Suffolk Lawyer. “Bench Briefs” is a roundup of recent decisions from Suffolk County trial courts.
Nassau County Supreme Court’s Decision Allows Construction of 289-Bed Woodmere Nursing Home Facility to Move Forward
Firm Partners Jon A. Ward, Wayne G. Edwards and Andrew M. Roth and Firm Associate Ralph Branciforte recently won a decision that will allow their client, Woodmere SNF Realty, to proceed with the completion of construction of a $100 million, 289-bed nursing home facility to be located at 1050 Central Avenue in Woodmere.
On February 24, 2016, Woodmere Irving LLC and Woodmere Irving Annex LLC, which owns commercial properties abutting the construction site, filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that the construction of a retaining wall adjacent to their buildings would threaten the structural integrity of their buildings. In connection with the lawsuit, they sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining the construction of the retaining wall and nursing home.
After several months of litigation over the injunction, including several oral arguments and a preliminary injunction hearing, Justice Timothy S. Driscoll of the Commercial Division of the Nassau County Supreme Court dissolved a temporary restraining order which prohibited construction of the retaining wall and denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped construction of the project, clearing the path for the defendants to complete construction of the retaining wall and the project. The Court found that the plaintiffs failed to meet any of the criteria for a preliminary injunction: (1) they did not establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the retaining wall would be unsafe; (2) they did not demonstrate that they would suffer immediate irreparable injury if the defendants were allowed to proceed with construction of the retaining wall; (3) they did not establish that the equities in the case weighed in favor of an injunction. The Court was particularly persuaded by the fact that the design of the retaining wall had been extensively reviewed and approved by the Town of Hempstead Building Department.
“We are pleased that the Court ruled in our favor,” Mr. Ward said. “Resolution of this matter will allow our client to complete this much-needed project that will help address the need for nursing home care in the South Nassau region, as well as provide significant economic benefit to the Woodmere community.”
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