Brooklyn Heights

BBA honors four legal community stalwarts, spotlight on Avery Eli Okin Award

October 14, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) celebrated its annual awards ceremony on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights last Wednesday, Oct 11, when it honored four distinguished local legal professionals — Eric Newton, Tina Davis, Daniel Alessandrino, and Andrea Bonina — for their significant contributions to the community.

“The BBA plays a vital role in our community,” said BBA President Joseph Rosato. “Tonight, we’re recognizing key individuals who enable us to fulfill our core mission: administering justice and serving the greater good.”

From left: Gregory Cerchione, Andrea Bonina, and Joseph Rosato. Photo: Mario Belluomo

Eric Newton, chief supervising clerk of the Foreclosure Department of the Courts County Supreme Court, was presented the Nathan R. Sobel Award by Justice Lawrence Knipel, the administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term.

“He founded our Foreclosure Part, where he is head of our Foreclosure Division in the Supreme Court,” Justice Knipel said. “Foreclosures are one of our toughest assignments along with matrimonial and a couple other areas. It can be very challenging with a lot of complaints, challenges and scrutiny, and Eric handles it with aplomb.”

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Tina Davis, supervisor of the Guardianship/Adoption Department of the Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court, was honored with the Frieda S. Nisnewitz Award. Surrogate Court Judges Hon. Bernard Graham and Hon. Rosemarie Montalbano bestowed the accolade.

Daniel Alessandrino, chief clerk for criminal matters of the Kings County Supreme Court, received the newly instituted Avery Eli Okin Award. The award was presented by Hon. Matthew D’Emic, who praised Alessandrino’s five-decade career as “marked by hard work, high professionalism, and a humble attitude of public service.”

“He has been in the court system for 50 years, and I would call him an old geezer except for the fact that I graduated from Xaverian a year ahead of him,” D’Emic joked. He added, with a nod towards Charles Small, Alessandrino’s counterpart in the Civil Term, “I promised Charles that I wouldn’t say this, but he’s the best chief clerk in the court system and a dear friend.”

Andrea Bonina, a past president of the BBA, was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award. Presented by Cerchione, the award acknowledged Bonina’s mentorship and leadership within the BBA, especially following the stepping away of Avery Eli Okin as executive director.

“Andrea has distinguished herself in our community as a respected attorney who is known for her keen intellect, her grace, and her professionalism,” Cerchione said. “In all of the bar association activities, she has a reputation for being well prepared, staying calm and getting things done.”

A Special Focus on Avery Eli Okin

A special moment occurred that evening when attention shifted to the Avery Eli Okin Award, named after a towering figure in the history of the BBA. Okin, who dedicated over 30 years to the association as its executive director, was praised for his far-reaching influence. Okin retired in 2022, and this was the inaugural award given in his name.

“He not only ran the bar association with great ability and ease, he gave us prominence with all of the other bar associations in the state,” Rosato said. “He was our representative. He went around the state and everyone knew who the Brooklyn Bar Association was because of Avery Eli Okin.”

Lynn Okin, wife of the revered Avery Eli Okin, sits front row at the Brooklyn Bar Association building during the annual awards ceremony. Behind her, a packed crowd includes notable figures such as Hon. Frank Seddio, past president of the BBA, and Hon. Ellen Spodek, president of the Brooklyn Brandeis Society. Photo: Mario Belluomo

Alessandrino, the award’s recipient, was described as a worthy successor to Okin’s legacy. “We believe that we have found the same qualities tonight in the recipient of the very first Avery Eli Okin Award, Danny Alessandrino,” Rosato said.

Judge D’Emic also took the time to commend Alessandrino. “He’s the best chief clerk in the court system and a dear friend,” D’Emic declared.

Okin, whose health has been a concern, remains an enduring figure. “It is my hope and profound belief that Avery will be here next year to give out his own award,” Rosato added, extending warm wishes to the esteemed bar veteran and his wife Lynn Okin, who recorded the proceedings from the front row for her husband to watch afterward.

The ceremony not only celebrated present accomplishments but also served as a tribute to enduring legacies, none more so than that of Avery Eli Okin, whose spirit loomed large over an evening dedicated to justice and community service.

Tina Davis, court clerk specialist, accepting the Frieda S. Nisnewitz Award at the Brooklyn Bar Association. Photo: Mario Belluomo
From left: Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Eric Newton and Joseph Rosato. Photo: Mario Belluomo
From left to right: Andrea Bonina, Daniel Alessandrino, Tina Davis, and Eric Newton stand as the honored recipients of the Brooklyn Bar Association’s annual awards. The ceremony highlighted significant contributions to the Brooklyn legal community and introduced the inaugural Avery Eli Okin Award. Photo: Mario Belluomo
Eric Newton, recipient of the Nathan R. Sobel Award, with Domenick Napoletano, past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association and president-elect of the New York State Bar Association. Photo: Mario Belluomo
From left: Hon. Matthew D’Emic, Daniel Alessandrino, and Joseph Rosato. Photo: Mario Belluomo

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