Fordham Law

Fordham Urban Law Journal Celebrates 40 Years of Publishing

March 11, 2013

Affordable housing, environmental degradation and consumer protection were all hot topics 40 years ago, when Fordham Law’s Urban Law Journal published its first issue.
Urban Law Journal Editor-in-Chief Joanna Zdanys '13 welcomes attendees to the symposium. Photo by Patrick Verel.

Gauging from the turnout of the journal’s symposium on Feb. 28, they’re still conversation starters.

The daylong symposium at the Law School’s McNally Amphitheatre brought together a panoply of experts to tackle the same issues that the journal addressed in its inaugural 1983 issue. Befitting the wide-open nature of the specialty, the final panel of the day was simply called  “What Is Urban Law?”

Constantine Katsoris '57, the Wilkinson Professor of Law and one of the journal’s founders, joined journal editor Joanna Zdanys '13 in welcoming attendees, and marveled at how far the journal has come.

He noted that the legendary Louis Lefkowitz ’25, who was New York State Attorney General for 22 years, wrote the ULJ’s very first article—on the challenges facing the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

“I am very proud of what the ULJ has accomplished all these years, but I’m not surprised at its accomplishments, most notably that it is the second-most-cited student-edited public journal, and it is the ninth most-cited student-edited specialty journal in the nation—and climbing,” Katsoris said.

The morning panel, “Exclusionary Zoning and Housing in Urban Planning,” touched on everything from the impacts of historic districts on housing, to the deficiencies of the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which requires New Jersey municipalities to use zoning to provide space for affordable housing.

Christopher Serkin, professor of law at Brooklyn School of Law, challenged the standard notion of affordable housing as a LULU, or a Local Unwanted Land Use, that is regionally necessary but vociferously fought. Exclusionary zoning is traditionally understood as rules that prohibit building on small lots, and thus make affordable housing unfeasible for developers. But there are other ways to exclude the poor, by only providing superior public services in neighborhoods they can’t afford.

Think about the ways in which Americans traditionally move from low wage areas of the country to high wage areas like New York City, he suggested.

“This kind of interregional mobility is slowing, and access to higher-wage regions is diminishing because of land use controls,” he said.

“There’s no economic advantage anymore of moving to a high-wage region if you’re going to have to spend that full increase in wages on your housing. Welcome to New York. This is a familiar argument to all of us, right?”

J. Peter Byrne and Rick Hills
Photo by Patrick Verel
The same dynamic can be seen at the neighborhood level.

“Protectionist zoning restrictions can so restrict supply in a neighborhood that, again, house prices in that neighborhood come to fully capitalize the value of the public services that people are trying to access, [until] there’s no longer an advantage to move into these neighborhoods with better services,” he said.

He advocated that the quality of public services, such as schools and police protection, be more evenly distributed throughout cities, to help control rising housing prices and exclusionary zoning restrictions.

“Even though a municipality may be bearing in its fair share of regional housing needs, it may still be engaging in exclusionary housing if it prevents low income families from accessing its high quality local services.”

The panel, which was moderated by Annie Decker, Visiting Professor of Law at Fordham Law, also featured J. Peter Byrne, associate dean and professor of law at Georgetown Law School, Rick Hills, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, Matthew Parlow, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Law at Marquette University School of Law, and Stephanie Stern, the Irving S. Ribicoff Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Contact: Patrick Verel