Articles By Wladis Manager

NYSDEC Makes Major Update to State’s Environmental Quality Review Regulations


For the first time in more than 20 years, the State has made a major update to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQR”) regulations.  NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced on June 28 that his agency adopted a rulemaking package with changes intended to preserve the integrity of the regulations and streamline the environmental review process.  The updates go into effect on January 1, 2019.

The changes are meant to encourage sustainable development and renewable energy development within the State.

According to the Commissioner’s announcement, the updates will expand the number of existing Type II SEQR actions.  That’s big news for those who deal with SEQR.  Type II actions are actions that are deemed not to have significant adverse impacts on the environment, or are actions that are statutorily exempted from SEQR review.  Unlike other potential actions, they do not require preparation of an environmental assessment form, a negative or positive declaration, or an environmental impact statement (“EIS”), all of which can take time to consider and prepare.

According to NYSDEC’s press release, updated Type II actions will include:

  • green infrastructure upgrades or retrofits;
  • installation of solar arrays on closed landfills, cleaned-up brownfield sites;
  • wastewater treatment facilities, sites zoned for industrial use, or solar canopies on residential and commercial parking facilities;
  • installation of solar arrays on an existing structure not listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places;
  • reuse of a residential or commercial structure, or structure containing mixed residential and commercial uses;
  • acquisition and dedication of parkland;
  • land transfers in connection with one, two or three family housing; and
  • construction and operation of certain anaerobic digesters at operating publicly owned landfills.

Clarifying that these actions are considered Type II helps streamline their implementation because they will not require further review under SEQR.

The updates also will modify thresholds for SEQR actions deemed more likely to require the preparation of an EIS and require scoping of an EIS.  Additionally, an EIS may require consideration of measures to avoid or reduce an action’s impact on climate change-induced conditions such as sea level rise and flooding.

NYSDEC states that the final rules will be available on its website and noticed in both the Environmental Notice Bulletin and the State Register on July 18.  The agency also expects to release an update to its popular SEQR Handbook and SEQR workbooks later this year and plans to provide training for lead agencies regarding the updates.



New York Able Accounts Open For Business


State of New York has become the 27th state in the nation to launch an ABLE program. The New York ABLE Program, named NY ABLE, is administered by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, managed by Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, Inc. and backed by Vanguard, Sallie Mae and Fifth Third Bank. NY ABLE accounts are available to eligible New York residents with disabilities.

NY ABLE allows qualified individuals with disabilities to save up to $14,000 a year in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means tested benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. The funds in the account can be used for disability-related expenses that assist the beneficiary in increasing and/or maintaining his or her health, independence or quality of life. The maximum account limit for a NY ABLE account is $100,000.

Individuals with disabilities and their families are often relegated to a life of poverty as a result of not being allowed to build even the most modest levels of resources. Individuals receiving supports through Social Security, Medicaid and other publicly-funded programs are often disqualified from those programs if they have more than $2,000 worth of resources or assets. With the launch of ABLE programs nationwide, individuals with disabilities and their families will be able to allow the individual with a disability to grow their savings and not be subject to the embarrassment of poverty.

Like the other ABLE programs across the country, the NY ABLE program focuses efforts to ensure minimal costs associated with establishing and maintaining an ABLE account (which can be done online). There is a $45 annual fee payable quarterly at $11.25. If paper statements are selected, the fee increases to $13.75 per quarter ($55 annually). The NY ABLE program has a monthly maintenance fee of $2, which can be waived if the average daily balance is over $250 or by electing electronic statements at Fifth Third Bank. The annual investment fee is 0.40%.

In addition to NY ABLE, there are, as of the date of this blog, 26 other states that have launched ABLE programs: Alabama, Alaska, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia. Most of these ABLE programs are open to eligible individuals nationwide.

Eligible individuals and their families may consider looking at another State besides New York, if that state offers better benefits.  For instance, in Ohio, the ABLE program allows for a maximum balance of $445,000.00 for the accounts, while maintaining the federally mandated $14,000.00 annual limitation for deposits into the ABLE account.  This would mean a family could deposit the maximum amount of $14,000.00 for over 30 years before reaching the limit.

NY ABLE offers 5 account options for individuals that open an ABLE account.  There are four investment plans based on the level of risk one is willing to take, much like a 401k plan.  These levels are Conservative, Intermediate, Moderate, and Aggressive.  NY ABLE also offers a checking account option, allowing the account to have a debit card and checkbook associated with it.  The checking account could be very appealing to those families where the individual with a disability should experience handling a checkbook.  There is also the benefit of not having any risk, as these are FDIC insured accounts, through Fifth Third Bank.

For more information on the NY ABLE program and how to enroll, families can visit



Have a Project? Looking for a Grant? The Simplified Guide to New York State’s Consolidated Funding Application


In 2011, Governor Cuomo created 10 Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC). Their job was to develop long-term strategic plans to act as a 5-year road map in guiding each region’s efforts in stimulating economic growth. The Regional Councils are comprised of local experts and stake-holders from academia, business, local government and non-governmental organizations. The Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) was also created by Governor Cuomo to make it easier for businesses and other entities to apply for state funding. The CFA process offers up to $750 million in incentives and grants annually. Governor Cuomo took dozens of programs and condensed them into one easy-to-navigate online application. Now you can access multiple state agencies through one application, making the process of finding funding efficient and painless.

In the upcoming 2016 funding round, the CFA process will remain the primary portal to access state agency resources. In recent years, there have been more than 30 programs available through 11 state agencies.  Resources for these programs include; community development, direct assistance to business, waterfront revitalization, energy and environmental improvements, sustainability, workforce development, agriculture economic development and low-cost financing. Any of these resources can change from year to year, while additional resources may be added.

The Process

Funding typically occurs once a year. Funds are announced in the spring, applications are due 6-8 weeks later and the decisions are finalized by the State of New York in the fall or after. If your project is going to be funded in the CFA process, remember, it must lead to economic development within New York State and should align with your regions strategic plan.  Familiarize yourself with your region’s plans and goals. At this point you’ll need to fill out all necessary paperwork, surveys or pre-applications. It is recommended to attend the Council’s meetings, and if you have the opportunity, discuss your project(s) with members of the Council.

Once the CFA application is made available, you will need to register with an email address. You will then be given a “token” which will serve as your password for the remainder of the application. In the beginning of the application, you will be asked to answer a series of questions to establish what funding your projects are eligible for. IMPORTANT ADVICE: DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO APPLY! You may need to follow up with additional information/ documents.

Once your application has been submitted, continue to build momentum by obtaining letters of support, attending REDC meetings and keeping elected officials informed. The REDC then scores each application and determines how well your project fits within the regional priorities. Each application has the opportunity to score up to 20 points. Applications are then submitted to the appropriate New York State funding agency. The bulk of the decision comes from Albany, as they can award up to 80 points for one project.

Food For Thought

Although the method of finding funding in New York State has been simplified, filling out the CFA and the events leading up to the application can be a not-so-simple process.  Each agency administering funding has a limited amount to give out, so you want to make sure your application is filled out properly and accurately. Often, there are several meetings that need to be had; especially if you have multiple projects and need help prioritizing. You might be asked to provide documents or information that may take time for you to get your hands on. Be well versed on your project and have answers to specific questions prepared.  “Do you have an engineering report?” “Have you made a budget?” “How many jobs will this project create?”

If your CFA is completed correctly and aligns with the REDC’s priorities, the process could be very rewarding. Once you have received notification that your project will be funded, you can begin moving forward.


NYS Opportunity3

Going Through Probate of a Will

Last Will and Testament

You have been named Executor under your family member’s will.  Now what?  In order for you to have any authority as an Executor, you will need to obtain official authority from a Court appointing you Executor.  This authority will be granted by what are known as Letters Testamentary.  To get these Letters Testamentary, a petition must be filed with the Surrogate’s Court in the county where your loved one resided when they passed away.  This is ordinarily when you would contact an attorney to help guide you through the process.  Filing a petition for probate usually involves receiving the consent of every beneficiary under the Will and any possible distributee under New York State Law.  After the petition is filed and filing fees are paid, the Surrogate’s Court will ordinarily grant Letters Testamentary, if everything goes smoothly.

Now you have been appointed as the Executor of the estate. Maybe you have hired an attorney to assist with the estate or perhaps you are handling everything on your own. Either way, you will need to sort through the decedent’s affairs in a prompt manner.  Once you receive papers from the court stating you are authorized to act on behalf of the estate, you will be able to talk to many financial institutions and the like to gather information regarding the decedent.

Within six months of your appointment as Executor, an assets inventory must be filed with the Surrogate’s Court.  The inventory lists the date of death values of all probate and non-probate assets. The purpose of the assets inventory is to ensure the appropriate filing fee is paid and ensure that there are no estate taxes due.  If assets are discovered after this inventory is filed, the documents may be amended or supplemented.

How are you going to find this information? If you are not the spouse of the decedent, you may be unfamiliar with the decedent’s financial affairs.  Reviewing bank statements, checkbook registers, tax returns, credit card statements, and/or brokerage account statements that may be in the decedent’s possession will be helpful.  You should also contact the US Postal Service to have the decedent’s mail forwarded directly to you.  This will give you an idea of what accounts may have been in the decedent’s name. Tax forms that are mailed early in the year will also provide insight into where the decedent maintained accounts.

The Executor needs to ensure insurance is maintained for any real property that is in the Estate.  Insurance agents should also be contacted regarding automobile policies to ensure coverage is continued.  If the decedent owned a safe deposit box, the contents should be inventoried.  Finally, you may also search the decedent’s computer, address book, and email contacts.  Each email service provider will have their own process for accessing a deceased account holder’s information.  This will clue you in to any key advisors such as financial planners, accountants, or attorneys who worked with the decedent and might be familiar with existing accounts, insurance policies, tax information, and estate planning documents.

If you need assistance, an experienced attorney who is familiar with estate administration can help guide you through the process.  If you are in need of legal assistance regarding probating a Will and administering an Estate, the attorneys at the Wladis Law Firm are here to help.  Call us at (315) 445-1700 and we will be happy to assist you.