• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: September 1, 2020

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


City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

America’s College Towns are Facing an Economic Reckoning

“Communities that rely on student spending and higher education jobs are struggling with fiscal woes and Covid-19 fears as the school year begins,” including “fears of a census undercount” and concerns about the “loss of international students.” At a National League of Cities (NLC) briefing in late July, “mayors and city managers from college towns . . . hope[d to] convinc[e] the federal lawmakers to provide $500 billion in direct flexible funds to help college towns fend off fiscal collapse.”

Melissa Sue Gerrits / Getty Images


City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

Three Small Cities that are Thriving Despite the Pandemic

Three cities – Owensboro, Kentucky; Logan, Utah; and Idaho Falls, Idaho – are prospering amid the pandemic. “Each [city] boasts anchor institutions that have spun off other businesses. All three learned from the last recession, sprucing up their downtowns and building a collaborative culture on the ground. Most importantly, they all have worked to diversify their economies, making themselves more resilient when economic winds shift due to outside forces beyond their control.”



City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

Who Gets to Tear Down a Monument?

“A growing chorus of Pittsburgh residents would like the statue [of Christopher Columbus] removed . . . . [while] support for leaving the Columbus statue alone is particularly strong among Pittsburgh’s Italian community, which sees him as a rich part of their history and legacy.” Confusion remains over whether the city’s arts commission has the power to remove the statue, or whether that decision rests on the mayor.

Brentin Mock / Bloomberg


City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

The Urgent Need to Rethink How We Fund Our Schools

When COVID-19 shut schoolhouse doors in March, it illuminated how vital our nation's schools are in providing not just academic learning but also services for our children's growth and well-being.” The pandemic hurt state revenues and education funding is at risk. “Congress must fund a new stimulus package . . . [but] we must recognize the finite resources the federal government has to expend, with many competing sectors lobbying for relief funds. States and districts need to be critical of their own spending, ensuring that funds are used efficiently and effectively.”



Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation

M.T.A. Warns of Doomsday Subway Cuts Without $12 Billion in Federal Aid

“Facing a staggering $16.2 billion deficit through 2024,” the Metropolitan Transport Authority has threatened to adopt “a doomsday plan . . . including slashing subway and bus service in New York City by 40 percent,” if it does not receive as much as $12 billion in federal aid. Back in March, the M.T.A. successfully secured $3.9 billion in the first federal stimulus package.

Earl Wilson / The New York Times


Housing and Development #housing

Want More Housing? Ending Single-Family Zoning Won’t Do It

Pandemic-driven budget cuts and unemployment have increased the importance of housing affordability, “but the path to housing abundance isn’t quite as easy as some recent reforms, narrowly focused on [single-family zoning]” have suggested. Instead, development of “missing middle” housing – townhouses and small walk-up apartment buildings – should be encouraged. However, these projects require the removal of obstructive building restrictions like “minimum lot size requirements, parking requirements, [and] height limits.”

Todd Webb/Hulton Archive


Scholarship Corner #scholarship

“The criminalization of homelessness is well-documented. Criminalization refers to the enactment and enforcement of laws and policies that effectively punish unsheltered people for surviving in public space, even when those people have no reasonable alternative but to do so. Examples of criminalization include laws that prohibit or severely restrict necessary, life- sustaining activities such as sitting, sleeping, receiving food, asking for help, or protecting oneself against the elements. Criminalization laws are proliferating across the country, and their popularity demonstrates how commonly cities pursue criminalization as a primary response to unsheltered homelessness. Indeed, the visibility of unsheltered people has generated a complex web of laws and enforcement techniques committed to rendering homeless people invisible.”

Sara Rakin, Civilly Criminalizing Homelessness, 56 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 1 (2020) (forthcoming publication).


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.

Subscribe to The Urban Law Bulletin here.

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