Brooklyn Bar Association honors Avery Okin and others on 150th anniversary

The Brooklyn Bar Association held its 150th anniversary celebration where it honored outgoing executive director Avery Eli Okin (pictured left with Gregory Cerchione), Steven Cohn and its past presidents Thursday night at El Caribe in Mill Basin. Photos by Mario Belluomo.

It was a celebration of 150 years in the making!

The Brooklyn Bar Association hosted a 150th anniversary dinner Thursday at El Caribe at Mill Basin, where it honored Avery Eli Okin, Steven Cohn and their past presidents.

It was the biggest legal event in Brooklyn since 2019 as nearly 350 people attended the rally. The audience was made up of more than 50 judges, including the Hon. Hector LaSalle, Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division, Second Department, together with several of his colleagues on the bench, Justices of the Supreme Court of Kings County, the Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix of NYC Corporation Counsel and Frank Carone, former President and Chief of Staff to Mayor Eric Adams.

Sesquicentennial Presidents Armena Gayle and Richard Klass, along with the Hon. Barry Kamins, Executive Chairman of the 150th Anniversary Committee, conducted the ceremony. Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik, who sits on the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term – previously the youngest president in BBA history – gave a presentation to past presidents.

Chairman Richard Klass presented Steven Cohn with his award – the Lifetime Achievement Award – and Gregory Cerchione presented Avery Okin with the Distinguished Service Award after leading the BBA as Executive Director for the past 36 years.

Cohn, a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, was president of the BBA from 1999 to 2000 and still chairs its continuing legal education committee. He is a local district leader and an advisor to many members of the legal and political communities.

“I first met Steve when I became a lawyer on Court Street 30 years ago,” Klass said. “I saw how caring and dedicated he was to others, including helping countless people in all kinds of ways. I can vouch for the many times Steve gave money to people waiting in line on his doorstep, secured jobs for people and performed mitzvahs for others without them even knowing it – the highest form of charity.

Okin is a third-generation graduate of Brooklyn Law School. He briefly worked for an insurance defense company out of law school and served a year as legal assistant to the Hon. Ira Harkavy. Okin got his start at the BBA when he started volunteering on CLE programs and selling ads in the Brooklyn Lawyer.

Okin took over as executive director in 1987, and in 1991 received the designation of Certified Association Executive from the American Society of Association Executives.

“Avery, you have been a true friend, mentor, role model, counselor and adviser,” Cerchione said. “You administered and coordinated day-to-day operations, employees, accounting and association matters, continuing legal education, pro bono attorney project, attorney referral service, Part 137, and managed the daily schedule of events and meetings with trademark punctuality and meticulousness. Avery, you have made the position of Executive Director easy.

As its way of honoring the past, the BBA decided to take a moment to honor all of its past presidents. On Thursday evening, everyone who attended received a medallion to commemorate the occasion.

President-elect Richard Klass, former President Steven Cohn and President Armena Gayle.
Past Presidents from left to right: Andrew Fisher, Hon. Frank Seddio, Gregory Cerchione, Hon. Nancy Sunshine, Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine and Ethan Gerber.
Past presidents from left to right: Larry DiGiovanna, David Chidekel, Domenick Napoletano, Barton Slavin, Mark Longo and Diana Szochet.
Past Presidents: Andrea Bonina (left), Arthur Aidala and the Hon. Miriam Cyrulnik.
From left to right: Ray Ferrier, Hon. David Vaughan, the Hon. Mark Partnow and the Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Administrative Justice of the Supreme Court of Kings County, Civil Warrant.
In the photo, from left to right: Richard Klass, president-elect of the BBA, the Hon. Joanne Quinones, Paula Edgar and Carl Forbes Jr., president-elect of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.
Charles Small, Chief Clerk of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Warrant and the Hon. Lara Genovesi.
From left to right: Xavier Carr, Hon. Reginald Boddie and the Hon. Larry Martin.
From left to right: Hon. Wavny Toussaint, Hon. Lisa Ottley and the Hon. Genin Edwards.

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