Pro Bono & Community Service Committee and Government Service & Public Interest Committee Launch First Hybrid Pro Bono Clinic on Aug. 14

On August 14, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee and Government Service and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee hosted a hybrid legal clinic and provided a “Know Your Rights” presentation for residential and commercial tenants on the topic of rent arrears and evictions. The event was held at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) in Manhattan’s Chinatown and was co-sponsored by AABANY, CCBA, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York (CCCNY).

During the presentation, which was shown on Zoom and screened in-person at CCBA, Rina Gurung, an associate court attorney at the New York State Unified Court System and co-chair of the GSPI Committee; Kensing Ng, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in East Harlem; and Meghan Liu, a Cleary Gottlieb pro bono fellow at Legal Services NYC, discussed different types of cases that are brought in housing court, such as nonpayment, holdover, and housing part cases. They also explained which eviction moratoria are in effect due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized that these laws can change at any time. This was especially relevant, given the imminent expiration of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act on August 31, 2021; the expiration of the CDC’s moratorium on October 3, 2021; and the U.S. Supreme Court’s August 12, 2021 opinion striking down part of the New York moratorium.

Gurung, Liu, and Ng also provided resources that tenants could contact to file hardship declarations and explained the basics of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides rental arrears, temporary rental assistance, and utility arrears assistance to low- and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They also explained that landlords seeking to sue their tenants should hire a lawyer and for those who received a marshal’s notice to go to court. In addition, the presenters explained differences in procedures for cases involving commercial tenants and provided resources for both landlords and tenants, phone numbers for free consultations for income-eligible individuals, and a guide to landlord disputes. Bei Yang, a contract attorney at On Call Counsel, interpreted the presentation live into Mandarin Chinese.

Eighteen clients attended the clinic for one-on-one legal consultations with AABANY volunteers, including 12 who had registered beforehand, one virtual caller, and five walk-ins. Topics ranged from housing and matrimonial law to immigration, fraud, medical malpractice, and personal injury. All available client consultation slots were successfully filled.

One client, an older man who only spoke Cantonese, came to the clinic because he had been scammed by a woman who claimed to be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him online. She then asked him to send her a significant sum of money, and he did so before realizing that she was a fraud. Such occurrences are not uncommon, especially among elders, and individuals who have been or who know victims of similar types of fraud should not feel ashamed to tell their stories or speak to an attorney. Sharing these stories promotes awareness of these types of scams and helps others avoid them.

While AABANY volunteers were conducting one-on-one consultations, several clients watched the presentation in the CCBA sitting area. One client asked for the PBCS email to see if she could get a recording of the presentation and re-watch it, as she missed a portion of the live presentation. She also was impressed by clips from the Anti-Asian Violence PSA that explained what hate crimes were and how they can be reported, and asked for the link to the YouTube video, even though she spoke no English. After the one-on-one consultations concluded, volunteers debriefed the clinic and got to know each other over a post-clinic meal at Canton Lounge.

The PBCS Committee thanks Rina Gurung, Kensing Ng, and Meghan Liu for lending their expertise in rent arrears, eviction moratoria, and landlord and tenant rights and Bei Yang for providing a live interpretation of the presentation. The Committee would also like to thank Beatrice Leong, Francis Chin, Guiying Ji, Jae Hyung Ryu, Judy (Ming Chu) Lee, Karen Kithan Yau, Kwok Ng, Samantha Sumilang, and Shengyang Wu for providing clients with legal information and resources during one-on-one consultations; Kloe Chiu and Esther Choi for providing language interpretation during one-on-one consultations; Luna Fu and Wai Yip from AAFE for language interpretation and other assistance; Zhixian (Jessie) Liu and Poonam Gupta for acting as standby consultants for immigration-related questions; and Asako Aiba, Karen Lin, Kevin Hsi, Kwok Ng, May Wong, Megan Gao, and Olympia Moy for coordinating and staffing the clinic.   AABANY would also like to thank CCBA, CCCNY, and AAFE for co-sponsoring this event. We are also grateful to the staff at Charles B. Wang for providing video resources on mental health and anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the PBCS Committee and its work, click here and here. The PBCS Committee is tentatively planning to hold its next hybrid legal clinic on Saturday, September 18, 2021 between 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM. For up-to-date details about the clinic and registration information, please click here.

AABANY Hosts Fundraising Event on May 21 to Support Welcome to Chinatown’s Longevity Fund

On May 21, in observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS) hosted an event titled “A Brief History of Anti-Asian Racism in America and Call to Action” to raise funds for Welcome to Chinatown’s Longevity Fund. Welcome to Chinatown is a grassroots initiative working to preserve New York City’s Chinatown by supporting small businesses and amplifying community voices. In 2020, they launched The Longevity Fund, a small business relief program, to support small businesses where cultural and socioeconomic barriers have prevented them from applying for assistance programs.

The first part of the fundraising event consisted of a presentation from Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair, and Issues Committee Chair, on the history of anti-Asian racism in America. He provided an overview of the history of sinophobia and anti-Asian violence in the United States, highlighting the passage of laws including the Naturalization Act of 1790, the Page Act of 1875, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Chris also shared the common themes of how Asian Americans have been perceived throughout history and are still seen today as “forever foreign.”

The presentation was followed by an informal Q&A session between Moderator Tiffany Miao, and William Ng, AABANY President-Elect and LRIS Panel Member, on the importance of AAPI representation in the legal profession and how AAPI lawyers can play a role in preserving Asian cultures and communities for future generations. After listening to Chris’ presentation, William spoke about how the history of sinophobia in the U.S. was never taught in school and how it is important to push towards adding it to school curriculums. Chris added that it’s critical for individuals to understand how race works with Asian Americans—although there’s similarity with how African Americans and Jews experience race, there are still differences and nuances. As for how AAPI lawyers can support AAPI communities, William stated, “While it’s a good career opportunity to do meaningful work, this time in particular, Asian Americans have an opportunity to do more, push certain initiatives.” In addition to representing Asian American clients at work, AAPI lawyers can donate to organizations such as Welcome to Chinatown, and join AABANY’s LRIS to provide legal assistance to the Asian American community.

To join AABANY’s LRIS, please email joinlris@aabany.org for an application. To learn more about Welcome to Chinatown, please visit welcometochinatown.com and check out their Instagram account @welcome.to.chinatown

At the conclusion of the fundraiser, AABANY was able to raise $2000 for The Longevity Fund. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the event, and thanks especially to all the donors for their support.

Pro Bono Committee & AABANY Volunteers Promote New Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown

On Friday, July 3, 2020, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) launched a flyering campaign to promote the new Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown. The event was organized by William Lee, Associate at Alston & Bird and an active member of the Pro Bono Committee. The goal of the campaign was to ensure that Asian American small businesses had access to the Pro Bono Clinic’s various resources during this time of great need. Many law students from local APALSAs, including Fordham, Cardozo, and Columbia, volunteered at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend to assist in distributing the flyers to local businesses.

The Chinatown volunteers were led by Dianna Lam and May Wong, frequent volunteers for the Pro Bono Clinic, and those in Koreatown were led by Will Lee. Both campaigns were very successful, and Dianna Lam and May Wong were even interviewed for the “Around the Boroughs” segment of Spectrum News NY1. Dianna and May emphasized the importance of the Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic, especially for smaller businesses impacted by COVID-19. Both groups ended the day with a volunteer appreciation lunch at the West New Malaysian Restaurant on Bowery Street. The group was able to sit at tables set up outside the restaurant, spaced out so that they could maintain a social distance.

We thank the Pro Bono Committee members, including Will Lee, Dianna Lam, and May Wong, for their leadership during this campaign. We also thank the students and volunteers who took the time to help the Remote Clinic reach more individuals and businesses in need of legal information. The Pro Bono Committee will be organizing similar campaigns in Flushing, Queens and Bay Ridge, so if you are interested in volunteering, please add your name to this document. Read AABANY’s press release about the Remote Pro Bono Clinic here. For more information on the Pro Bono Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/117. To find out more about AABANY’s pro bono resources, visit aabany.org/probono.

AABANY Relaunches Pro Bono Clinic Remotely to Assist Asian Pacific American Community

During this period of upheaval caused by the evolving Covid-19 pandemic, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) will be reopening its pro bono legal clinic in a remote capacity to continue aiding the Asian Pacific American community with legal issues including: immigration, housing, employment, family, and elder law. To promote the remote clinic as well as other rich resources relating to the Covid-19 pandemic that AABANY has developed, student volunteers will be going door-to-door this Friday, July 3, to share informational flyers with Asian neighborhood small businesses and residents in Manhattan and Queens.

AABANY’s Pro Bono Legal Clinic opened in 2015 to serve members of the Asian Pacific American community who have limited English proficiency (“LEP”) so that they can have meaningful access to justice. Mobilizing the skills and experience of AABANY’s diverse membership, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee has spearheaded the Clinic’s effort in helping nearly 2,000 LEP individuals in the vast yet underserved Asian American community in New York through its Clinics in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhoods. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AABANY’s walk-in clinic hours unfortunately had been suspended indefinitely. However, individuals from the Asian Pacific American community can now call and request remote assistance from volunteer attorneys by phone.

Student volunteers from the Asian Pacific American Law Student Associations (“APALSAs”) of NYU, Brooklyn Law, Cardozo, Columbia, CUNY Law, Hofstra, New York Law School, St. John’s, Fordham, Cornell, and Harvard have been working hard to promote the clinic and AABANY’s compilation of Covid-19 related resources via social media and email through their networks and community contacts. On Friday, July 3, they will go into the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Koreatown, Woodside, and Elmhurst to directly get the information out to the community.

“During these unprecedented times, there is a tremendous need for free legal assistance.  Many cannot even afford to meet their basic needs and yet they still face many legal issues with nowhere to turn. I applaud the Asian American Bar Association of New York for offering this much needed service to the immigrant community and the community at large,” says New York Committeewoman Sandra Ung, who in March was set to open the Queens expansion of the Pro Bono Clinic in Downtown Flushing until the shutdown was announced.

“The serious challenges brought on by COVID-19 have severely impacted the APA community in New York,” states AABANY President Sapna Palla. “AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic has served the APA community for many years before COVID-19 with competent legal services and information, overcoming linguistic, cultural and financial barriers. AABANY is pleased to be able to continue the vital work of the Pro Bono Clinic through remote operations, with proper regard for the health and safety of our community members, so that we can continue assisting them with their legal issues during these unprecedented times.”

See the flyer below for more information and how to contact the clinic for assistance. Check out https://www.aabany.org/page/covid19 for additional resources.

CACAGNY Presents Third Mid-Autumn Film Festival Oct. 26-27

Come out to the Mid-Autumn Film Festival presented by Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York on October 26 and 27. The festival will be held at 21 Pell Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown to celebrate Chinese American filmmakers and Chinese American stories in film.

11 films and 3 shorts will be presented. Discussions will be held with filmmakers, and you will have an opportunity to see Frank Chen, Curtis Chin, Baldwin Chiu, Leslie Li, Rick Quan, Peter Rosen, Lan Trinh, Miao Wang, and more.

Films by or about Chinese Americans will include TyrusMaineland, and, in commemoration of I.M. Pei (1917-2019), First Person Singular: I.M. Pei.

To see a trailer for Tyrus, click on the following link:
https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=tyrus+trailer&view=detail&mid=959F6E1555A8D71B2115959F6E1555A8D71B2115&FORM=VIRE

To see a trailer for Maineland, click on the following link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7pCyLeeyd8

In addition to the screenings, you will also have an opportunity to see bodybuilder/Bruce Lee mentor, first Chinese American mayor of a major city, only Taiwanese NY Yankee, Chinese Ginger Rogers, Chinese Andrews Sisters, a dramatization of a civil rights incident and more, followed by conversations with the filmmakers. A reception will be held on Saturday night, October 26th.

For more information, click on the following links:
https://twitter.com/filmautumn
https://www.facebook.com/CACAGNYMidAutumnFilmFestival/

To learn more about the program and to purchase tickets, click on the following link: http://www.cacagny.org/upcoming-events.html

Reduced prices are available.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez Hosts ADA Compliance Workshop on Mar. 20 in Chinatown

On March 20, 2019, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez is holding a workshop and roundtable discussion for small business owners on complying with the Americans with Disability Act.

Special guests invited to the event are State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assembly Members Yuh-Line Niou and Harvey Epstein, and Council Members Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera.

The workshop and discussion will be held in Chinatown at 49 Madison Street, New York, NY.

Thank you to our October Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

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October’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinic, held on Wednesday, October 10 at 3 Bowery Street in Confucius Plaza, brought out 17 lawyers and 6 interpreters who volunteered their time to help 51 clients:

Lawyers:

  • Zhixian Liu
  • Wei Li
  • Sylvia Chin
  • Sonya Chung
  • Rachel Yoo
  • May Kay Wong
  • Lord Chester So
  • Kwok Kei Ng
  • Kevin Hsi
  • Kelly Diep
  • Francis Chin 
  • David Lu
  • Conlyn Chan
  • Christopher Chin
  • Chris M. Kwok 
  • Annie Tsao
  • Jiayun Zhang 

Interpreters:

  • Alva Lin
  • Xianxiao (Emily) Li
  • Wen Zhang
  • Wei Ling Huang 
  • Rachel Chen 
  • Emily Li 

Special thanks to Roger Chen and Johnny Thach for coordinating the clinic, and the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Co-Chairs Pauline Yeung, Karen Kithan Yau, Ming Chu Lee, and Asako Aiba for their leadership. 

If you are interested in volunteering at next month’s Pro Bono Clinic on November 14, please contact Asako Aiba at asako.aiba@aabany.org. AABANY’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinic occurs every second Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.