On Saturday, September 4, 2021, the Student Outreach Committee and the Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) returned to Asian and Asian American communities across New York City to promote PBCS’s newly-back in person Pro Bono Clinic and AABANY’s COVID-19 Legal Know-Your-Rights Resources as well as AABANY’s Legal Referral and Information Service (LRIS).
The Brooklyn Chinatown volunteers were led by May Wong, Judy Lee and Kwok Ng of the PBCS Committee, the Koreatown volunteers were led by Victor Roh and Will Lee, a key leader and organizer of last year’s event, and the Manhattan Chinatown volunteers were led by Nicholas Loh and Dianna Lam, another key leader and organizer of last year’s event.
This campaign built off the energy and momentum of the initial flyering campaign held last year over the July 4 holiday weekend, during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This year’s campaign saw the addition of another community, Brooklyn Chinatown, and included over 40 volunteers from AABANY and law schools across the Greater New York area.
The results were impressive. Over 1,000 flyers in Chinese, Korean and English were distributed to local small businesses promoting AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic, Know-Your-Rights information, and the LRIS. Our student volunteers had meaningful opportunities to interact with small business owners who have been hit hard by a staggering two years of anti-Asian hate and violence, COVID-19 business disruptions, and the devastating impact on Asian businesses as a result of xenophobia and racism.
This event would not have been possible without the co-sponsorship of AABANY’s Student Outreach Committee, AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, AABANY’s Young Lawyers Committee, Asian Americans for Equality, APALSAs from all across the Greater New York area and Mayer Brown.
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.
To assist the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in New York City amid the surge of anti-Asian hate and violence, AABANY has created a Know Your Rights brochure to inform and educate AAPIs on their legal rights if they experience a bias incident or potential hate crime.
The brochure provides a background of the U.S. legal system, defining a hate crime according to the New York State hate crime statute and differentiates between a hate crime and a bias incident. It encourages individuals who have experienced an incident to focus on the facts and ask themselves: “Do I have evidence that an attack was motivated by a belief or perception about an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, or gender?” The brochure also provides tips on what to do when individuals are experiencing a bias incident. This includes turning on sound or video recording; taking note of the attacker’s physical appearance and clothes; and collecting bystander witness contact information. The brochure then outlines the steps of what to do after experiencing a bias incident, such as pursuing action through the criminal justice system, a civil lawsuit, or non-legal option.
AABANY is available as a resource to the AAPI community. The bar association offers interpretation and translation services, provides information or referral services for individuals interested in pursuing a civil lawsuit, and can serve as a guide for individuals interested in exploring the criminal justice process and other forms of assistance.
To view the Know Your Rights Brochure, please see the links below:
NEW YORK – March 31, 2021 – AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Services Committee (“PBCS”) and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (“CCBA”) will launch monthly virtual community presentations and clinic sessions beginning April 2021. This is a joint project to serve members of the Asian Pacific American community who have limited English proficiency by providing free “Know Your Rights” presentations about various common legal issues in housing law, elder law, family law, immigration law, and employment law. Each month will focus on one specific area of law that affects the community, along with a Know Your Rights session on anti-Asian hate and harassment at every virtual presentation. We hope to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, to inform our audience how to report a hate incident, and to provide helpful resources to victims of hate crime.
NEW YORK – July 17, 2018 – the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) is proud to partner with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) and Manhattan Legal Services (MLS) to host a Know-Your-Rights Presentation and Clinic on rent overcharge on August 1, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at VNSNY Chinatown Community Service Center, 7 Mott Street. The event is free and open to any community member.
The Know-Your-Rights presentation will address whether units are entitled to rent protections, rent overcharges and the legal remedies that are available. After the presentation, attendees can meet one-on-one with an attorney to discuss their rent issues and review their rent histories. Therefore, attendees should obtain and bring their rent histories from the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) by calling (718) 739-6400 or going to 25 Beaver Street (or another DHCR office). Mandarin and Cantonese interpretation will be available. Due to the limited availability of individual appointments, those who are interested should call (646) 442-3119 immediately to schedule an appointment.
Through the Know-Your-Rights clinic, AABANY hopes to make important legal information more readily available to the public by partnering with VNSNY and MLS, two organizations that are committed to addressing the dire need for social and legal services for underprivileged communities in New York City. VNSNY has long served the area as the United States’ largest nonprofit home- and community-based health care organization, providing high quality health care programs. MLS, as a branch of the Legal Services NYC, has worked to protect the rights of low-income residents by providing legal services and engaging in social justice advocacy for over 50 years.
“AABANY is pleased to be able to work with VNSNY and MLS on this Know-Your-Rights clinic in Chinatown,” stated James Cho, AABANY President. “Our theme this year is ‘Serving Our Community, Advancing Our Professions,’ and we look forward to meeting this goal by engaging our members as volunteers to serve the community as pro bono attorneys while at the same time advancing the legal profession through community service.”
“Unscrupulous landlords are attempting to charge tenants too much for rent and not give tenants the protections from rent increases and evictions that the law provides,” asserted Amy Luo, Senior Staff Attorney at Manhattan Legal Services. “Through this clinic and partnership, we can make sure that Chinatown tenants know and enforce their rights and protect our community.”
For more information, please contact Yang Chen, AABANY Executive Director, at (212) 332-2478, or direct any inquiries to [email protected].
The Asian American Bar Association of New York is a professional membership organization of attorneys concerned with issues affecting the Asian Pacific American community. Incorporated in 1989, AABANY seeks not only to encourage the professional growth of its members but also to advocate for the Asian Pacific American community as a whole. AABANY is a New York regional affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).