• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: August 4, 2020

The Urban Law Bulletin is a bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting significant news and legal developments in urban law.


City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption

The Battle for Local Control is Now a Matter of Life and Death

“Across the nation, and in particular the South and the Sun Belt, there have been a string of skirmishes . . . between local and state governments” regarding mask mandates. “Typically, Republican governors have couched their crackdowns on strict city ordinances as a defense of liberty and personal responsibility: They want people to wear masks, but believe that mandating it oversteps government’s bounds.”

Katie Martin / The Atlantic


City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption

America's Governments Are at War with Each Other

The COVID-19 health and economic crises and the racial equity protest movement have seriously tested the country’s model of cooperative federalist governance, with internecine conflict erupting between states, localities, and the federal government over issues such as the violent actions of federal officers in cities and local enforcement of health and quarantine orders.



City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

With Colleges Closed, College Towns Can’t Pay Their Bills

“College towns are confronting a unique set of challenges” after in-person instruction was suspended due to COVID-19. “In many cases, half or two-thirds of their population [have] abruptly packed up and left” . . . [causing] a drop in sales tax revenue, utility fees, transit ridership, and the “dreary prospect of watching their dominant employer at risk.” Long-term concerns include “capital projects . . . being put on hold as universities, cities and utilities all shift funds to make up shortfalls.”



Housing and Development #housing

Covid-19 Is Killing Affordable Housing, Just as It’s Needed Most

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in “a brutal convergence of factors” – such as budget shortfalls, construction slowdowns, and materials shortages – that stand to “exacerbate the nation’s sizable affordable housing shortage” by crippling production and upkeep, just as waves of evictions potentially loom.

Al Bello / Getty Images


Law and Justice #justice

The Imprisoner’s Dilemma

The American criminal justice system holds approximately 2.3 million people behind bars and has been “a deadly point of pandemic vulnerability [with m]ore than 6% of the California prison population . . . test[ing] positive for the coronavirus.” Prison outbreaks have brought to light “America’s mass incarceration complex” and prison overcrowding and have led states, including California, to release those eligible for expedited release.

David Paul Morris / Bloomberg


Urban Mobility #mobility

Has COVID-19 and Its Accelerated Work-From-Home Experiment Permanently Changed the Future of Cities?

“Covid-19 and its forced work-from-home experiment may have permanently changed the future of cities as the epicenters of the economy.” This shift is slowly becoming more of a reality “as the U.S. Senate’s $1 trillion HEALS Act currently includes no further Covid-19 relief aid for transit systems.” As preparation, certain cities are “launch[ing] initiatives to ban cars from certain streets” for additional outdoor space.

Getty Images


Scholarship Corner #scholarship

“Faced with the likelihood that market incentives will nevertheless promote the continued expansion of smart city technologies, Givens and Lam urge wealthy liberal democracies to work concertedly and in coalition to pioneer a set of good digital practices for smart cities. Citing Chinese cities as a cautionary example, they posit that these sorts of exercises in standard-setting and international peer pressure might be effective in steering the development of smart cities away from the endpoint of an Orwellian surveillance state. This Essay responds to Givens and Lam by suggesting that such standards already exist in widely accepted human rights norms Instead of duplicating these existing norms with a new set of standards, I argue that what is missing in smart cities gone awry is the recognition that human rights standards apply to local governments as well as nation-states, and the understanding that technology agendas are not exempted from the application of human rights.”

Martha F. Davis, Get Smart: Human Rights and Urban Intelligence, 47 Fordham Urb. L.J. 971 (2020).


Law and the New Urban Agenda (Nestor M. Davidson & Geeta Tewari eds., Routledge 1st ed. 2020). #international

Given COVID-19’s impact on cities globally, it is more important than ever to highlight the significance of urban law and policy for students. Law and the New Urban Agenda examines the legal dimensions of the United Nations' New Urban Agenda (NUA), a globally shared understanding of the vital link between urbanization and a sustainable future.

Law and the New Urban Agenda underscores the value of urban law as a discipline in supporting the healthy development of inclusive cities for all. This timely volume sheds light on the many complex challenges that urban growth poses for legal systems around the globe, and I commend this eclectic group of scholars for their engagement with the New Urban Agenda.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, UN-Habitat

This book is available from Routledge here.


We thank the Urban Law Center’s Urban Law Research Fellows for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin. The Bulletin categorizes stories as follows:

· City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

· City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption

· Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality

· Environment and Sustainability #sustainability

· Housing and Development #housing

· International/Global Urban Law #international

· Law and Justice #justice

· Public Health #health

· Technology #technology

· Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation

· Urban Mobility #mobility

· Urban Planning and Space #planning

If you have an article, legal decision, or commentary that you would like to share in an upcoming Bulletin, please email it to urbanlaw@fordham.edu.

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The Urban Law Center at Fordham University School of Law

Nestor M. Davidson, Faculty Director

Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors

Quinn D’Isa

Justin Meshulam

John Planamento

Daniela Weinstein

Haleigh Zillges