AABANY Real Estate Committee Presents “Cannabis Law and Real Estate” CLE on August 3

On August 3, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented a “Cannabis Law and Real Estate” CLE, which explored the current state of real estate in New York State, within the context of recent cannabis legalization and a growing cannabis industry. Real Estate Committee Co-Chair Margaret Ling moderated the webinar, welcoming four speakers to introduce and explain current cannabis law and real estate practices, before opening the floor for a Q&A session.

Kristin Jordan spoke first, giving a broad overview of New York State’s adult use cannabis bill, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (“MRTA”), which was passed on March 31, 2021. Kristin is the Executive Director of Asian Cannabis Roundtable, a NYC-based professional networking community for those engaged in the cannabis industry, and Founder of Mannada. She explained how the bill positioned the state’s new cannabis regulatory body under the State Liquor Authority, because developing an entirely new agency would take too long. The new body comprises three agencies, the Office of Cannabis Management, the Cannabis Control Board, and the Cannabis Advisory Board. She also enumerated the different kinds of cannabis licenses available under the MRTA:

  1. Cultivator,
  2. Processor,
  3. Cooperative (non-profit),
  4. Distributor,
  5. Retail,
  6. Microbusiness,
  7. Delivery,
  8. Nursery, and
  9. On-site consumption.

In terms of New York real estate, Kristin noted that cannabis legalization and its budding industry would exact the most tangible effect on leases for retail stores, warehouses, and distribution facilities, because they provide the brick and mortar for cannabis businesses. Finally, she emphasized that since cannabis legalization is so recent, cannabis law and best practices promise a steep learning curve, with so much uncharted territory.

Steve LaFredo, Chief Banking Officer at Piermont Bank, discussed cannabis and real estate specifically as it relates to banking. He emphasized that “banks are safety, soundness, and risk organizations first”; in other words, banking is a slow industry, and it would take time for banks to adapt to the growing cannabis industry. He underscored the difficulty of navigating often differing state and federal law when dealing with cannabis businesses, though he noted that New York State has been relatively progressive, as the first state to create cannabis banking guidelines under the Department of Taxation and Finance. These guidelines aim to preserve the safety, soundness, and security of businesses involved with cannabis. Steve explained that in states that have legalized cannabis, the banking industry tiers cannabis businesses into 3 categories: Tier A, those with direct contact (e.g. growing, producing, selling); Tier B, those that derive more than 25% of their business from the cannabis space; and Tier C, those that derive 25% or less of their business from the cannabis space. Banks are most likely to be receptive to working with Tier C cannabis businesses.

Since they lie precariously between state and federal regulators, most banks have a zero tolerance policy for cannabis. Disclosure and transparency are critical for finding a financial institution with which cannabis businesses can safely operate; smaller, private banks and credit unions will be most likely to open their doors to cannabis businesses. Unfortunately, cannabis businesses are still largely relegated to cash transactions, and since mechanisms for depositing and delivering cash are scarce and expensive, banks are hesitant to get involved. After the federal decision to stand down in states that have legalized cannabis, however, banks have slowly begun entering the cannabis space. Steve expressed optimism about the future of cannabis banking.

Kathleen Deegan Dickson and Danielle Tricolla of Forchelli Deegan Terrana spoke last, focusing on the role of the law firm in the cannabis space. Kathleen is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Group at Forchelli Deegan Terrana, and Danielle is an Associate and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Group at Forchelli Deegan Terrana. They underscored the importance of “knowing what you don’t know,” since cannabis legalization not only means new legislation but also changes to existing legislation. Specifically, cannabis legalization involves changes to Public Health Law, Penal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Civil Practice Law and Rules, Labor Law, Vehicle and Traffic Law, and General Business Law. Like Steve, they touched on the interplay between state legalization and federal prohibition of cannabis. Devoting special attention to law firm clients interested in cannabis, they explained that “cannabis law” is a multidisciplinary practice area, since it affects real estate transactions, leasing, land use, zoning, banking, labor, and employment, among other areas.

The intersection of cannabis law and real estate presents a new and exciting business area, and AABANY thanks the Real Estate Committee Co-Chairs Margaret Ling, Wendy Yu, and Jane Chen for putting together such an informative and current event. To learn more about the Real Estate Committee, visit https://www.aabany.org/page/120.

Fall Conference 2020: Allyship and Black Lives Matter—Racism, Bias, and Xenophobia in Our Communities

On September 26, 2020, as part of AABANY’s 11th Annual Fall Conference, the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee hosted a plenary session on the ongoing racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd and the rise in xenophobia against Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic. The panel included:  

  • Margaret T. Ling, Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair at AABANY and Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. (Moderator)
  • Letitia James, 67th Attorney General for the State of New York
  • Rahul Agarwal, Executive Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey
  • Paula T. Edgar, Attorney, CEO of PGE LLC, and Partner of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
  • Chris Kwok, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee and Asia Practice Committee at AABANY and a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS
  • Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights

The esteemed panel discussed their experience addressing the issues of racism, bias, and xenophobia in their different capacities as government officials, bar association leaders, and diversity and inclusion specialists, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. As the opening speaker, Paula Edgar provided an informative presentation on systemic racism, the varying responses of Corporate America, and the importance for companies and law firms to invest in resources for diversity training as part of an urgent call to incorporate actionable plans into their missions for equity and inclusion. More importantly, allyship transcends performative activism, or surface-level activism, on social media and demands a sustained and active approach to listen to the experiences of marginalized communities, educate oneself on race-related history and issues, and speak out against any injustice. 

In highlighting the importance of using our vote at this historical moment, New York State Attorney General Letitia James suggested that the participation of more people of color in law-enforcement can be one of the ways to sustain the BLM movement and push for substantive, lasting changes. Some of the projects at the Attorney General’s Office include a lawsuit against the US Postal Service for their attempt to delay the vote-by-mail ballots and an effort to advocate for immigrants to ensure that they are counted in the 2020 US Census. Attorney General James emphasized the need to stay hopeful and utilize our vote as citizens to protect our democracy. 

Rahul Agarwal focused on the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and stressed the importance of active reporting on the part of community members to help law enforcement personnel investigate these crimes and open cases. Rahul explained that the law enforcement community takes reports on hate crimes very seriously because the perpetrators’ hatred often affects many individuals, and since the targeted population can become fearful, it is crucial for law enforcement to act quickly. 

Noting from a survey the significant increase in people’s perception and experience with racial inequality since 2016, Carmelyn Malalis described the active outreach by the New York City Commission on Human Rights to marginalized communities and its employment of staffers who speak a total of over 30 different languages at the Commission to increase community engagement. Echoing Attorney General James’ comment on the value of allyship, Commissioner Malalis added that allyship also means recognizing that the constructed narratives about marginalized groups are often inconsistent with the lived experiences of people in those communities. She emphasized the need to actively work on dismantling one’s biased preconceptions. 

Referring to the Stop AAPI Hate’s recent record of about 2,600 hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans in the past six months, Chris Kwok suggested that the actual number is most likely a lot higher since there has been insufficient attention directed towards AAPI hate crimes and a general lack of active reporting in the AAPI community. Chris highlighted the importance for Asian Americans to support the BLM movement since we are all fighting to challenge white supremacy and ensure justice in the United States. He concludes by emphasizing the need to say “BLM”— since black lives had been defined as property for decades, we, as allies in the BLM movement, should acknowledge the hashtag’s reflection of that history and recognition of the equal rights that every person deserves.

Thank you to Margaret, Attorney General James, Commissioner Malalis, Rahul, Paula, and Chris, for this insightful panel discussion. Thanks also to the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee for organizing this event. To view a recording of the plenary session, click here or on the image above.

AABANY Presents: Real Estate Closing in the New Norm: The New Rules & Practices

On July 23, AABANY’s Real Estate Committee presented a CLE Program on real estate closings in the COVID-19 era. The panel focused on how the real estate market is adapting to COVID-19 through new rules and practices and detailed the current state of property transactions. Speakers included Jason Wang, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson at COMPASS, Wendy Yu, Counsel at Yu Law, and Jane Chen, Associate at Forchelli Deegan Terrana LLP. The program was moderated by Margaret Ling, co-chair of the committee and Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corporation.

Margaret Ling began the panel with an update on the current New York state real estate legal landscape. This included the 202 executive order mandate by Governor Andrew Cuomo, declaring a state of emergency to permit only essential businesses. As a result, most real estate showings are now virtual and transactions are digital. Open houses are permitted only if social distancing measures are maintained.

Jason Wang spoke on his experience as a real estate salesperson at the inception of the pandemic and shared market observations. Because of at-home quarantine, buyers have begun to realize what they want in a home property and so there is a continued demand for property. Additionally, residents who fled New York City during the pandemic on-set may return in the near future and strengthen the real estate market.

Wendy Yu then outlined client protection concerns during virtual transactions. This includes taking into account that many buyers are now making offers without ever seeing property in person, emphasizing the need to place buyer protection clauses in contracts. Other considerations involve death clauses, in case that one party is no longer capable of continuing the transaction, as well as maintaining a flexible approach, so that either seller or buyer may be granted extra transaction time in case of pandemic-related challenges.

Jane concluded the panel by providing insight into co-op property transactions. Specifically, co-op boards that typically meet on a regular basis are now meeting less frequently, making it difficult for potential buyers to be interviewed for acceptance. Furthermore, because co-op boards are responsible for serving the interests of all building residents, it is important for interested buyers to keep in mind the visitor restrictions that exist in these communities.

Thank you to speakers Jason Wang, Wendy Yu, and Jane Chen for their time and insight, and Margaret Ling for moderating. Those interested in learning more about AABANY’s Real Estate Committee can do so here

AABANY Presents: Lunar New Year Celebration and Networking Event at Chase Bank

On January 28, 2020, Margaret Ling, AABANY Real Estate Committee Co-Chair, hosted and organized the Lunar New Year Celebration and Networking Event at Chase Bank located at 41-22 Bell Bvd, Bayside, New York.

Over 50 attorneys attended the reception. A lovely buffet was served, and entertainment was provided by master paper cutting artist Mr. Hou-Tien Cheng. AABANY’s Real Estate Committee collaborated with the following organizations to present this event: Queens County Bar Association Diversity and Inclusion Committee; KALAGNY; Big Apple Abstract Corporation; Chase Bank; and Forchelli, Deegan and Terrana, LLP. Margaret Ling, who is both the Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee and the Co-Chair of the Queens County Bar Association Diversity and Inclusion Committee, will continue to organize these joint collaborative bar events in the near future.

We thank everyone that attended and wish everyone a prosperous Lunar New Year!

AABANY Goes to the Opera: “La Bohème” at the Met

On Nov. 14, the Membership Committee together with the Asia Practice, Intellectual Property, and Real Estate Committees hosted a Night at the Opera, gathering about 30 AABANY members with friends and family to see a performance of “La Bohème” at the Met in Lincoln Center.

Before the performance a group of attendees mingled and enjoyed drinks and quick bites at the bar outside the Family Circle. Then, at 7:30, everyone went inside to take their seats. The AABANY contingent took up nearly three rows of seats.

For some it was a first-time experience that was greatly enhanced upon the discovery of subtitles that appeared on a thin bar that stretched across the row. Each person could see the subtitles displayed directly in front of them.

The sets were breathtaking and the score by Puccini was classic and timeless. The performances were excellent, and the main cast included two Asian Americans, with Hei-Kyung Hong playing the tragic character Mimi.

By all accounts, this event was a hit among those who attended. Talk is already brewing about another Night at the Opera. Stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks especially to Membership Director Beatrice Leong for organizing the event.

AABANY Presents: Understanding Opportunity Zones and 1031 Exchange Deferrals

On November 14, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented a CLE and networking event entitled “Understanding Opportunity Zones and 1031 Exchange Deferrals.” The CLE program was presented by John J. Lee, Esq, Vice President and Account Executive of IPX 1031. Margaret Ling, Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee moderated the program. Thanks to our sponsors: Xavier Wong of First Republic Bank, KALAGNY, and  Big Apple Abstract. John Lee discussed the basics and the differences between the 1031 Exchange Program and the Tax Deferral Structures provided by Qualified Opportunity Zones. In the photo, from left to right: Margaret Ling, Co-Chair of AABANY Real Estate Committee; Qili Li, MD; John Lee of 1031 Exchange; George Xu of Century Development LLC; Larry Litwack of Big Apple Abstract Corp.

AABANY Presents: Real Estate Fraud and Cyber Security

On October 28, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented a CLE program entitled “Real Estate Fraud and Cyber Security.” The CLE and networking event took place at Anchin Block & Anchin LLP at its Manhattan Headquarters. The event was attended by over 50 attorneys and CPAs. Special thanks to the sponsors: Anchin Block & Anchin LLP; Big Apple Abstract Corp; KALAGNY; Capital One; SDL & GHS Insurance Agency; Ingram, Yuzek, Gainen, Carroll & Bertolotti LLP; Ganfer, Shore, Leeds & Zauderer LLP; Anchin Digital Risk Solutions. Pictured from left to right: Amol Pachnanda, AABANY Real Estate Committee Co-Chair; Russell Safirstein, Partner, Anchin Digital Risk Solutions; Margaret Ling, AABANY  Real Estate Committee Co-Chair; Ashvini Persaud, Capital One; Daniel Jacoby, SDL & GHS Insurance; Benny Liu, CPA, Anchin; Larry Litwack, Big Apple Abstract; Jason Ganfer, Ganfer, Shore, Leeds & Zauderer LLP.

AABANY CLE: Understanding Diversity and Inclusion in Our Everyday World

On October 2, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented the CLE entitled: “Understanding Diversity and Inclusion in Our Everyday World.” The CLE was co sponsored by Flushing Bank, Big Apple Abstract Corp, KALAGNY, and Littler. It took place at Flushing Bank in New Hyde Park, New York and was attended by 40 attorneys. The panelists were AABANY’s very own William Ng, Shareholder at Littler; Samitha Lukose-Khan of Flushing Bank; and Sanjay Nair, Associate at Littler. The CLE was moderated by Margaret Ling, Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee. The presentation invoked some powerful and informative discussion specifically on diversity, inclusion and bias in the legal profession.

Pictured above from left to right: Riyaad Khan of Allstate Insurance; Maria Silva of Flushing Bank; Margaret Ling of Big Apple Abstract and AABANY; Thomas Kane of Flushing Bank; Mohammad Yusuf of Flushing Bank; William Ng of Littler; Sanjay Nair of Littler. 

AABANY CLE: Due Diligence and the Ethics of a Real Estate Transaction

On July 23rd, Margaret Ling, AABANY Co-Chair of the Real Estate Committee, presented a CLE event entitled “Due Diligence and the Ethics of a Real Estate Transaction” at Bank of Hope located in Flushing. More than 50 people attended the event, including 16 practicing real estate lawyers. This event was co-hosted by Bank of Hope, KALAGNY, Big Apple Abstract Corp, and AREAA New York East Chapter. 

Margaret shared multiple representative cases she handled to remind attendees of the importance of conducting due diligence before a real estate transaction and the obligations of an ethical lawyer. One such case involved a man selling a house, owned by his mother, while she was abroad. Margaret emphasized the duty to know the clients thoroughly. She also discussed wire fraud committed by brokers and how to negotiate with brokers on behalf of the client’s best interests.

We want to give special thanks to Bank of Hope and its staff for hosting the CLE panel and providing delicious food. Also, thank you to the speakers and attendees. One CLE credit in the area of ethics was awarded to attendees. To learn more about the Real Estate Committee, go to https://www.aabany.org/page/120.

AABANY Co-Sponsors: Trends in Long Island Real Estate Development – IDA Zoning and Land Use

On April 11, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee successfully presented a CLE and networking event entitled “Trends in Long Island Real Estate Development – IDA Zoning and Land Use.” Over 60 attorneys and real estate professionals were in attendance. The event was held at the Omni Building in Uniondale and was co-sponsored by AABANY, KALAGNY, Forchelli Deegan Terrana, Flushing Bank, and Big Apple Abstract Corp.

The panelists were:

  • Margaret Ling, AABANY Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair
  • Daniel Deegan, Partner at Forchelli Deegan Terrana
  • Kathleen Deegan Dickson, Partner at Forchelli Deegan Terrana
  • Rose Liu, Director of Finance & Research at Colliers International
  • Herbert Agin, CEO of Colliers International

The speakers led an insightful discussion on the following topics: title insurance, the key facets of Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) in Nassau and Suffolk County, zoning, variances, and municipal regulations in Long Island and how they have a significant impact on the success of real estate projects.

In addition, Rose Liu discussed the latest statistics involving real estate development projects in Long Island and Herbert Agin shared the latest updates on the Lesso Holdings development project in Westbury, Long Island.

The key takeaway of the event was that there are a lot of real estate development opportunities for investors in Long Island, but for the project to be successful, you need to have the right people on your team to navigate the rules and regulations surrounding real estate developments.