• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: March 18, 2019

This week's Urban Law Bulletin highlights legal updates on issues including justice, housing, and sustainability.


Law and Justice #justice

As More Cities Ban Cashless Businesses, New York Wants to Follow

During a February 2019 New York City Council session, Council-member Ritchie Torres introduced legislation prohibiting retail establishments from refusing to accept cash payment. The bill would protect low-income individuals and undocumented immigrants who are disproportionately affected by cashless establishments. New York City would be joining a number of cities introducing legislation to protect the unbanked population from discrimination. The Federal Civil Rights Act bans discrimination against individuals based upon race, color, religion, or national origin. It disproportionately affects people of color. However, being underbanked, like other indicators of economic ability, is not a protected status. If challenged, the Supreme Court would likely overturn any ban on cashless establishments without a more concrete argument as to why these laws might violate the Federal Civil Rights Act’s guarantee of equal access to enjoyment of goods and places of public accommodation.

The exterior of a Sweetgreen in New York City. An American fast-food chain selling salads and grain bowls, Sweetgreens do not accept cash unless city or state regulations mandate that they do. Rebecca Bellan/CityLab


Housing and Development #housing

A Major Chicago Public Housing Lawsuit is Wrapping Up. The Segregation it Fought Against Lives On

After forty-three years, a federal judge has finally issued a final settlement that would relieve the Chicago Housing Authority (“CHA”) of its court-ordered duty to “offset the impacts of racial segregation.” This settlement would bring an end to Gautreux v. Chicago Housing Authority, which found that the Chicago Housing Authority had “engaged in systemic racial discrimination in its housing policy.” But in order to be relieved of its court-mandated duty, for the next five years, the CHA must continue programs that address public-housing segregation. Although the Gautreux case resulted in housing vouchers that helped many low-income families move to the suburbs, housing advocates in Chicago still find that black-white racial segregation has barely changed over the last forty years. Moreover, some of the units demolished as part of Gautreux have yet to be reconstructed. As a result, there has been a massive displacement of Chicago’s black population, and questions remain as to how the CHA will address this or what the best strategies are for ending this displacement.


Environment and Sustainability #sustainability

Why Toledo Just Gave Legal Rights to Lake Erie

This month, Toledo residents voted in a special election to give Lake Erie the right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” The “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” gives community members the ability to sue polluters on behalf of the lake. Rather than require a person be injured by pollution to create the legal “standing” to sue, the law aims to make it possible for the Lake itself to have that standing. The bill was adopted as a novel way to protect the lake, which is a source of tap water for 11 million people. In 2014, Ohio declared a state of emergency after it was discovered that the water in Lake Erie had unsafe levels of algal toxin, leaving nearly half a million people without tap water for three days. Much of the pollution in Lake Erie is the result of runoff, such as excess fertilizer washing off of farmland, which is not currently addressed by the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The City of Toledo water-intake crib in Lake Erie surrounded by algae, August 3, 2014. Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP


Scholarship Corner #scholarship

A number of states have enacted laws to preserve affordable housing within their jurisdictions by granting tenants, non-profit groups, and local housing agencies the right of first refusal to purchase and maintain affordable housing developments in the event that an owner endeavors to convert a development to market rate housing. Where state legislatures have failed to act, various municipalities have adopted ordinances at the local level, aimed at preserving affordable housing in the event that an owner intends to convert the development into market-rate housing.”

Maria Anderson & Paula Franzese, Solutions To the Crisis in Affordable Housing: A Proposed Model for New York City, 1 Rutgers J. L. & Urban Pol. 84 (2019)


Now Available: Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities

Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities is a collaborative scholarly focus on comparative and global perspectives in the growing field of urban law. This brand new volume offers diverse insights into urban law, with emerging theories and analyses of topics ranging from criminal reform and urban housing, to social and economic inequality and financial crises, and democratization and freedom for individual identity and space. Particularly now, social, economic, and cultural issues must be closely examined in conjunction with the rule of law not only to address inadequate access to basic services, but also to construct long-term plans for our cities and our world. The book is now available from Routledge here.

Global Perspectives in Urban Law: The Legal Power of Cities (Nestor M. Davidson & Geeta Tewari eds., Routledge 1st ed. 2018) #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 e-mail 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

Associate Director, Urban Law Center

Urban Law Student Fellow Lead Contributor

Thomas Lloyd

Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors

Brittany Armstead

Steven Stern

Shirley Ureña