Wearing Many Hats: AABANY Leaders Support Adhikaar and Other AAPI Community-Based Organizations

On October 21, 2022, Adhikaar, a community organization for New York’s Nepali-speaking community, hosted its sold-out Fall Utsav at the Queens Museum. Rina Gurung, Board Chair of Adhikaar (and one of the co-chairs of AABANY’s Government Services and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee), opened the ceremony by thanking the Adhikaar Board and its staff for spearheading a wonderful organization that empowers the Nepali-speaking community by addressing social rights, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. Gurung also gave a shout-out to her work colleagues and AABANY.


Kevin Hsi, co-chair of GSPI, and May Wong, co-chair of the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, were also in attendance at Fall Utsav to support Rina and Adhikaar.
AABANY’s GSPI and PBCS Committees wish the best to Pabitra Khati Benjamin, Executive Director of Adhikaar, who steps down from her leadership role at the end of October.


Moving forward, PBCS hopes to bridge a partnership with Adhikaar to secure Nepali-speaking clients for PBCS upcoming legal clinics! For more information about AABANY’s PBCS, please contact probono@aabany.org.


In other news, AABANY’s ties with other Asian American community organizations are as strong as ever. AABANY member and Prosecutors Committee co-founder Kin Ng attended the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn’s (UCA) 20th Anniversary Gala to accept the Community Leader of the Year Award. PBCS partners with UCA to host its pro bono clinics. Register for the December 10th Brooklyn PBCS pro bono clinic here. Read more about AABANY members celebrating with Kin at the UCA Gala here.


Next event coming up that supports AAPI Community-Based Organizations:
11/17 – MinKwon hosting its Virtual Anniversary Gala with NAKASEC

AABANY Hosts 2022 Annual Meeting of Members

On Tuesday, February 8, 2022, AABANY held its Annual Meeting of Members for the second time on Remo. President Terrence Shen called the meeting to order and established quorum. The main order of business was conducting the election for the 2022 Board of Directors and Officers.

President Terrence Shen presented the Annual Report of the Board and thanked the Board members for their service during the past year. Treasurer William Hao and Membership Director Beatrice Leong presented the reports for their respective offices. 

Executive Director Yang Chen presented highlights from the Committee Reports. Following the reports, awards were presented to honor AABANY leaders and committees for their dedication to AABANY over the past year. While these presentations were occurring, Immediate Past President Sapna Palla and President-Elect William Ng tallied the votes.

The following awards were presented:

Committee of the Year: The Membership Committee

The Membership Committee received the Committee of the Year Award for its outstanding contributions in promoting AABANY’s membership engagement and in recruiting new members. The Committee successfully transitioned from virtual mixers to in-person events. The most popular events include a visit to Little Island (New York’s newest public park attraction), live stand-up comedy as part of the Asian American International Film Festival, and a screening of “Shang Chi – Legend of the Ten Rings” in a private theater in Times Square. 

Program of the Year: Turning the Tide (T3) Project

The Program of the Year Award was given to the Turning the Tide (T3) Project, a joint project of AABANY and AALFNY, for providing a holistic and practicable action plan to address anti-Asian hate and violence. AABANY established an Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, composed of leadership from several AABANY committees, to leverage diverse skills and talents towards turning back the rising tide of hate and violence against AAPIs. 

Member of the Year: May Wong

The Member of the Year Award was presented to May Wong, for her prodigious contributions, not just but especially, this past year to further the mission of AABANY through the Pro-Bono and Community Service Committee as well as her collaboration with other AABANY Committees. At a time when committees were unable to plan regular events due to the COVID surge, May was forging ahead to come up with new ways for the PBCS Committee to successfully continue to serve and assist the AAPI community with their legal needs. As Vice-Chair of the Committee, she initiated many projects, liaised with law students and firms, led planning meetings, and often was the first to show up and the last to leave. 

Congratulations to all the honorees for the recognition of their achievements and hard work during the 2022 fiscal year.

After the presentation of awards, Terry announced the election results. The following officers were elected and will begin their term one-year terms on April 1, 2022:

Karen Kim

President-Elect

Joseph Eng

Vice President, Programs and Operations

Beatrice Leong

Vice President, Programs and Operations

Evelyn Gong

Treasurer

Shirley Bi

Secretary

Christopher Bae

Membership Director

Anna Mercado Clark

Development Director

The following candidates were elected as Directors to serve two-year terms starting on April 1, 2022:

Grace Fu

William Hao

Gigio Ninan

Won Shin

Kazuko Wachter

Lawrence Wee

After the election results were announced, all the attendees were invited to stay and network in Remo. We thank everyone who came and participated in the Annual Meeting and the election. Congratulations to all the Officers and Directors who were elected to the Board to serve in the 2023 fiscal year that begins on April 1, 2022.

Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Presented with Certificate of Commendation at NYS Senators’ Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration

New York State Senators John Liu (11th District, Queens), Andrew Gounardes (22nd District, Brooklyn), Brian Kavanagh (26th District, Manhattan) and Toby Stavisky (16th District, Queens) hosted a Lunar New Year virtual celebration Tuesday evening, February 16, featuring performances from AAPI youth and community honorees. The event was well-attended by city, state and federal elected officials, as well as community leaders and their organizations.

Senator Kavanagh presented May Wong, Esq., and Olympia Moy with a certificate of commendation to recognize the work of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee in providing invaluable legal assistance to the AAPI community during the pandemic. May Wong and Olympia Moy were proud to accept the certificate on behalf of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee. In their acceptance speech, they detailed the committee’s success in creating a one-day “in-person” clinic in July 2020 to assist tenants with paper applications for the COVID Rent Relief Program. When the COVID Rent Relief Program was extended to February 2021, law students volunteered again to establish a two-week remote hotline service to assist non-English speaking tenants apply via telephone. They were able to assist callers in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish with the help of the committee’s community partners, Chinatown CLT and GOLES. May Wong and Olympia Moy concluded their speech by expressing gratitude towards the State for its effort in addressing the State’s housing and poverty crisis and strongly encouraged the State to “direct emergency financial relief to tenants and property owners in meaningful programs that can provide permanent rental assistance and increased access to rental subsidies.”

Thank you to all the attorney volunteers and law students who helped AABANY and the community, especially May Wong, William Lee, Karen Lin, Nicholas Loh, Xinyi Shen, and Olympia Moy.

Congratulations to the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee on this well-deserved recognition! To learn more about the Committee and all its wonderful work, go to probono.aabany.org. They are always looking for more volunteers so email them at clinic.volunteer@aabany.org if you can help.

One Case, Many Takeaways: Bei Yang’s Experience with AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic

By Bei Yang

As an out-of-state law graduate from Tennessee, I was not familiar with any specific New York practice rules. While waiting for my bar exam results and preparing for my legal career in New York, and with the encouragement of my mentor Mr. Rocky Chin, I participated in the AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic. The Clinic provides legal information and referrals to individuals, particularly those with limited English proficiency, with legal issues such as immigration, housing, employment, family, elder law, anti-Asian violence, and those pertaining to small businesses.

After registration, I received an email with a list of cases that was sent to all volunteers. Volunteers can choose to take on one or more cases based on interests or experience, and if you are not licensed or not experienced in a specific area, the Clinic partners you with a more experienced attorney to remotely shadow and learn from. Since I have not yet been admitted and this was my first time volunteering, I decided to shadow Ms. May Wong, an experienced volunteer attorney, on a contract law case.

Before making a callback, Ms. Wong and I knew that our client only spoke Mandarin and had been recently served with a Summons. With this limited information at hand, we discussed the legal matters that we needed to inform the client of. These matters included the risk of a default judgment if the clinic client did not respond to the service in a timely fashion (CPLR §3215: default judgment), the possible defenses the client might take, like defects in the service of process (§CPLR 308: Methods of personal service upon a natural person), and the statute of limitations (CPLR §213(2): 6 years for a breach of contract claim in New York). Ms. Wong then patiently went over the normal calling process and basic civil procedure in New York with me. Only after making sure that I did not have any more questions and was comfortable to make the call, she started our three-way phone call with the clinic client.

On the call, we explained our limited roles and asked the client to elaborate on the facts of his case. While acting as a language interpreter, I was able to ask the caller questions about his case to narrow down the issues, thus gaining useful intake skills. I learned that this case was about a family business dispute worth $25,000. The caller was not represented by an attorney and we strongly encouraged him to engage one rather than risking a default judgment, which is enforceable for 20 years and would cost him more money to vacate.

Not only did the client receive useful legal information regarding his case, but he also felt like his voice was finally heard. Volunteering with the pro bono clinic was a great experience, as I was able to learn so much about New York civil procedure rules and gain a lot of important legal experience from just one case. I look forward to continuing my volunteering experience to become an advocate to help those with limited resources and language skills.

To volunteer for the Remote Pro Bono Clinic, please email: clinic.volunteer@aabany.org.

For more information about AABANY Pro Bono Resources, please visit: https://probono.aabany.org/

Thank You to AABANY’s Remote Clinic Volunteer Attorneys and Students

To meet the continuing need of the AAPI community for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee launched its Remote Legal Assistance Clinic this summer. Since June, Clinic attorney volunteers have received 138 calls from individuals with limited English proficiency and have assisted 116 callers from the AAPI community with their legal matters involving housing, immigration, criminal law, small business, matrimonial and family law, elder law, and trusts and estates. This would not have been possible without the dedicated volunteer attorneys, generously giving of their expertise and time, and the law students, whose multilingual assistance have been indispensable in facilitating access for our LEP community members. A special note of recognition to May Wong and Judy Lee, for spearheading the operation of the Remote Clinic, and to William Lee, for leading and mentoring the highly prolific AABANY COVID Student Task Force whose volunteers have been instrumental in publicizing the Remote Clinic and other AABANY COVID-19 Related Resources through social media platforms and door-to-door campaigns in local New York City neighborhoods.

AABANY deeply expresses its appreciation to the following volunteer attorneys:

Asako Aiba
Youngjin Choi
Rina Gurung
Thomas Hou
Eugene Kim
Karen King
Ming Chu (Judy) Lee
William Lee
Beatrice Leong
Zhixian Jessie Liu
Yan Sin
Samantha Sumilang
Ada Wang
Edmond Wong
May Wong
Siyan Joane Wong
Angela Wu
Shengyang Wu
Karen Kithan Yau

AABANY deeply expresses its appreciation to the following law student volunteers and active APALSAs:

Jenna Agatep
Nanako Arai
Justina Chen
Chao-Yung (Kloe) Chiu
Esther Choi
Jing Chu
Jeremy Chu
Long Dang
Andersen Gu
Alex Hwang
Dianna Lam
Connie Lee
Olympia Moy
Yang Ni
Anthony Park
Jenny Park
Annalee Patel
Xinyi Shen
Annie Tan
Meng Zhang

Asian Pacific American Law Student Associations at Brooklyn Law, Cardozo, Columbia, Cornell, CUNY, Fordham, Harvard, Hofstra, New York Law School, New York University, Seton Hall, St. John’s.

Additional thanks to Jenna Agatep, AALFNY Pro Bono Scholar, Kwok Ng, and Karen Lin, for ongoing administrative assistance with the Remote Clinic.

AABANY and Community Land Trust Hosts Successful Rent Relief Application Drive

The COVID Rent Relief Program (“RRP”) held by Community Land Trust (“CLT”) and the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) concluded on July 26th, 2020 with an application drive in Chinatown. During the term of outreach, the program received over 125 voicemails and online form submissions. On the day of the drive, 25 volunteers aided over 100 walk-in applicants who had been screened for qualification. 

The application drive held on July 26th at the Florentine School was expeditiously put together in five days, to accommodate the quickly approaching application deadline of July 30th*, by AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and COVID Student Task Force. Most notably, attorneys May Wong, Angela Wu, William Lee, and law students Dianna Lam, Olympia Moy, Xinyi Shen, and Meng Zhang were the driving factors of the event’s success. To the volunteers, it was imperative to host an in-person event to help the community. “Many Chinatown residents cannot go on Zoom, some don’t even have online access, and, even with online access, some may not find the forms because of language difficulties,” noted Moy. The volunteers have spent tireless hours in organizing the logistics for the event, training for and then evaluating RRP applications of the community, and then following up with intakes for those who are eligible applicants. “One of the most memorable parts of our [RRP], despite all the hurdles we had to navigate through, was how much all the volunteers cared to help our community,” says Lam. Lam add: “All the volunteers patiently and calmly explained to the tenants all their options, any risks they might bear submitting their information, and sat through with each applicant until the application was either fully complete or until the tenants accepted that they did not qualify.”

AABANY again thanks all the volunteers mentioned above, as well as May Mok and Sherman Ngan of AM 1380 & AM 1480 and Jacky Wong, for advertising and covering the event; Samantha Sumilang who provided rent relief training to volunteers over Zoom the day before; Jonathan Hernandez for being on standby for any last minute needs; the APALSA COVID Student Task Force for reaching out to their members for volunteer recruiting; and all other attorney, CLT, and community volunteers who made the event possible.

The RRP was introduced on July 16th, 2020 and first administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The purpose of the RRP is to distribute a $100 million fund amongst the low-income families of New York who have suffered income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to keep their families in their homes. The $100 million fund was provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. The RRP declares that a household is eligible for assistance as long as at least one member in the household has U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. All adult household members, regardless of their income earning position, are to be listed on the application form to be considered, including household members with ineligible immigration status. This is a potential grave risk to undocumented immigrants since the federal government could get their information through the RRP. As such, it should be noted that by applying for rent relief, applicants bear the risk of being or having undocumented family members deported.

“The drive’s success is a true testament of our selflessness, passion, and commitment to giving back as a community. We find comfort knowing that our locals are better positioned to receive rent relief,” said Lee.

For additional coverage in Chinese, please see the article written by World Journal here.

*As of July 31st, 2020, the application deadline has been extended to August 6th, 2020.