• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: COVID-19 May 18, 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 COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to share similar stories as the situation develops.


Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation

Seattle Will Keep Some Streets Closed Even After Coronavirus

“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.”

Getty Images


City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

This is Where all 50 States Stand on Reopening

States are reopening their economies and lifting stay-at-home orders, each issuing their own guidelines and plans. In New York, Gov. Cuomo presented a phased plan for different regions’ reopenings with “business-by-business analysis . . . that determines . . . overall importance and risk in reopening.” “[T]hree regions in the state – Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley . . . meet the metrics required to reopen May 15. In Pennsylvania, “phases will be broken down into three colors -- red, yellow and green . . . .” For counties in the red category, stay-at-home orders have been extended to June 4.



City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warns Auston, San Antonio, Dallas to loosen coronavirus restrictions

“Escalating tensions between Texas state officials and the leaders of some of the state’s biggest cities, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office warned officials in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio [last week] to roll back ‘unlawful” local emergency orders that impose stricter coronavirus restrictions than the state has issued — and hinted that there will be lawsuits if they do not.”

Laura Buckman / The Texas Tribune


Law and Justice #justice

COVID-19 Has Created A Legal Aid Crisis. FEMA's Usual Response Is Missing

“The Disaster Legal Services program is part of a larger suite of FEMA benefits known as individual assistance, which the governors of at least 30 states have requested in connection with the pandemic . . . Without FEMA funding, most states have been unable to offer legal hotlines, making it more difficult for people to get the type of help [one] New Orleans resident [facing eviction] received.”

Evan Vucci-Pool / Getty Images


Other News #technology

Google Sibling Abandons Ambitious City of the Future in Toronto

“‘It has become too difficult to make the 12-acre [Sidewalk] project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community,’ . . . the chief executive of [google’s] corporate sibling, Sidewalk Labs” announced earlier this month. Urban activists also argued that the project “would turn over critical decision making about the city to Google’s algorithms, when citizens and politicians should rightly make those choices.”

Ian Willms / The New York Times


Scholarship Corner #scholarship

“Approximately 880 million people live in urban slums in the developing world. To be sure, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in developing countries has decreased recently, from 46% in 1990 to 30% in 2014, but because of the massive migration from rural to urban areas in recent decades the total number has actually increased, from 689 million in 1990 to close to a billion people in 2014 . . . one of the most pressing policy challenges that governments confront today is how to accommodate all the people that need adequate housing in urban areas.”

Diego Gil McCawley, Law and Inclusive Urban Development: Lessons from Chile’s Enabling Markets Housing Policy Regime, 67 The Am. J. of Comp. L. 587, 588 (2019).


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.

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


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

Daniela Weinstein

Haleigh Zillges