• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: COVID-19 April 28, 2020

The Urban Law Bulletin is a bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting significant news and legal developments in the field of urban law. Below is a small selection of critical insights into the urban-legal dimensions of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to share similar stories as the situation develops.


Housing and Development #housing

How COVID-19 Is Changing Cities’ Approach to Homelessness

“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.”

AP Photo / Ben Margot


Urban Planning and Space #planning

America’s Biggest Cities Were Already Losing Their Allure. What Happens Next?

“The pandemic has been particularly devastating to America’s biggest cities, as the virus has found fertile ground in the density that is otherwise prized . . . [M]ajor urban centers were already losing their appeal for many Americans, as skyrocketing rents and changes in the labor market have pushed the country’s youngest adults to suburbs and smaller cities . . . One of the biggest questions for the future of cities is what becomes of low-wage workers, who are a big part of urban populations, but often work in jobs impossible to do from home.”

Lyndon French / The New York Times


Coronavirus Is Not a Good Reason to Abandon Cities

In response to the above New York Times article: “Much of [the] debate [about whether to leave a city] has centered on the question of ‘density;’ to what degree is it responsible for the coronavirus outbreak . . . .” However, “evidence for population density as the driver of coronavirus is quite slim.” Instead, “[t]he common thread here is not how many people live within a given area, but which governments acted quickly and decisively.” “[T]he debate ought not to be about density, but about whether our politicians. . . can handle the crisis and its aftermath competently . . . .”



City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

Reopening the Economy Under COVID-19: States Plot a Way Back

“State leaders are under pressure to cancel or revise shelter-in-place orders and allow businesses to reopen, workers to return to their jobs and customers to return to shops.” In Georgia, despite that shelter-in-place orders remain in effect until the end of April, the governor has “announced that businesses including gyms, barbers, cosmetologists and massage therapists would be allowed to reopen Friday, April 24 . . . A recent survey found that 80 percent of Americans say they will stay at home even if restrictions are lifted, at least until they are convinced that it’s safe to go out.”

Carl Smith, Ben Miller and Paul W. Taylor


The City Council introduced a broad virus-relief package

“The New York City Council . . . introduced a coronavirus relief package with measures to protect tenants, small businesses, essential workers and the homeless. . .[i]t includes a workers’ ‘bill of rights’ that requires paid sick leave for so-called gig workers and . . . would also give renters who have been affected financially by the virus and the shutdown more time to pay rent, and offer housing protection to essential workers.” This meeting “was the council’s first since the city shut down in the face of the outbreak” and streamed live here.

The New York Times


Other News #administration

Locals weigh in on new legislation regarding relocating, removing Confederate monuments in Virginia

“[On April 11, 2020], Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, signed. . . Senate Bill 183 and House Bill 1537 [which] . . . will overturn the Commonwealth’s prohibition on the removal of Confederate war memorials [and give l]ocalities . . . the ability to remove, relocate, or contextualize the monuments in their communities starting on July 1st of this year.” The proposed legislation also “removes certain criminal and civil penalties. Under current law, it is unlawful to disturb or interfere with these monuments or memorials . . . . ”

AP Photo / Stevel Helber


Scholarship Corner #scholarship

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

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. This book is available for pre-order from Routledge here.


We thank the Urban Law Center’s Urban Law Student Fellows for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin, which provides news in major areas of urban law, and categorizes the 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.

Subscribe to The Urban Law Bulletin here.

The Urban Law Center at Fordham University School of Law

Nestor M. Davidson

Faculty Director, Urban Law Center

Geeta Tewari

Director, Urban Law Center

Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors

Quinn D’Isa

Justin Meshulam

Haleigh Zillges