Statement on Cities, Law and Racial Justice
For days after the senseless torture and killing of George Floyd, we at the Urban Law Center have found ourselves overwhelmed by this loss, and also so moved by the courageous women and men across the United States protesting police brutality and racism in America’s cities. Senseless is not the correct word, though, for the injustice inflicted on George Floyd and on so many other black lives. In its least harmful meaning, senseless means stupid or foolish, or at most lacking perception. The brutality against Black Americans we have witnessed are none of these; instead they are products of institutionalized and internalized racism, discrimination, and inequality, which we are all obligated to confront.
As the Urban Law Center’s mission is to seek ways to build better cities through interdisciplinary collaboration and research, we call on local governments to do the hard work necessary to be places of trust and support in a moment of crisis. As an academic center, it is our responsibility to provide the research, programming, and mentorship to help, in our own small way, chart paths to overcome the devastation and injustices we are experiencing in these dark times. Cities are not only governmental entities or the buildings and parks we use; they are the people and their hearts, minds, fears, and dreams. Cities, our legal system, and our whole society must recognize, as we have never truly done, that the lives of our most marginalized must be at the center of the work to make cities places of justice, and we commit ourselves to that task.
Professor Nestor M. Davidson Geeta Tewari
Faculty Director, Urban Law Center Director, Urban Law Center
The Urban Law Center is a research center focused on the role of the law in contemporary urbanism, advancing our understanding of the most pressing legal, policy and governance challenges facing cities and their metropolitan regions.
The New Urban Agenda (NUA), adopted in 2016 at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, represents a globally shared understanding of the vital link between urbanization and a sustainable future. At the heart of this new vision stand a myriad of legal challenges – and opportunities – that must be confronted for the world to make good on the NUA’s promise. In response, this book, which complements and expands on the editors’ previous volumes on urban law in this series, offers a constructive and critical evaluation of the legal dimensions of the NUA. As the volume’s authors make clear, from natural disasters and resulting urban migration in Honshu and Tacloban, to innovative collaborative governance in Barcelona and Turin, to accessibility of public space for informal workers in New Delhi and Accra, and power scales among Brazil’s metropolitan regions, there is a deep urgency for thoughtful research to understand how law can be harnessed to advance the NUA’s global mission of sustainable urbanism.
It thus creates a provocative and academic dialogue about the legal effects of the NUA, which will be of interest to academics and researchers with an interest in urban studies.
The Urban Law Bulletin: COVID-19 April 28, 2020
“The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance saying that cities should not clear [homeless] encampments unless individual housing is available.” In response, “a number of cities have begun securing hotel space for people experiencing homelessness.” As one example, San Francisco has “introduced emergency legislation to force the city to acquire and provide more hotel rooms after a number of shelter residents had tested positive for the virus.”
The Urban Law Bulletin: COVID-19 May 18, 2020
“Nearly 20 miles of Seattle, Wash.[sic] streets will permanently close to most vehicle traffic by the end of May,” the city’s mayor recently announced. Streets had been temporarily closed to “provide more space for people to walk and bike at a safe distance apart due to [COVID-19].” The Seattle Department of Transportation may close other streets, “in the coming months, depending on community demand.”
The Urban Law Bulletin: March 10, 2020
This past month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit “affirmed a landmark 2018 decision awarding street artists $6.75 million in damages for the willful destruction of 45 works of aerosol art in Long Island City, Queens that were displayed on the walls of a building known as 5Pointz . . . The artists’ victory was considered a big win for graffiti, not only legally. It was irrefutable evidence that the form had graduated, achieving stature as high art.”
The Urban Law Bulletin: COVID-19 April 8, 2020
As cities in South Carolina have begun issuing “‘stay at home’ orders to . . . reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus”, Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that “local governments do not have the authority to exercise emergency powers that are delegated to the Governor by state lawmakers.” In support, Wilson cited a 1980 state government opinion, which concluded that “the Governor’s emergency powers preempt those of counties and municipalities under [SC Code §] 25-1-440 . . . .”