Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Urban Chickens in Albany

We've posted a few times about the curious topic of urban chickens.  The issue really crosses a lot of lines between the public-health origins of zoning; class; sustainability; and modern trends like local food

Local chickens are being debated in my hometown of Albany.  Here is the story from the Times Union: Chickens Join City's Urban Sprawl.  Apparently it's up to the Mayor now.  The reporter also has a blog post asking for feedback here

Thanks to Helen Festa for the link.  Interestingly, Albany Law's Patricia Salkin mentioned this controversy last week when she was telling me that out of all of her (many!) recent pieces, it is her article Feeding the Locavores, One Chicken at a Time: Regulating Backyard Chickens, that has gotten the most SSRN downloads.  There must be a lot of passion out there about urban chickens!

Matt Festa

May 11, 2011 in Agriculture, Food, Local Government, New York, Scholarship, Sprawl | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More on Practically Grounded

Just a quick follow up to Matt's post about the Practically Grounded conference last week.  This was the first time I've been to (or presented at) a conference of this type.  It was so interesting to hear how land use and environmental professors are really engaging their students in experiential and interdisciplinary learning in their doctrinal, clinical, and skills classes.  I learned so much!

It was also a historic moment in that there were three land use clinicians in the same room.  Michelle Bryan Mudd from University of Montana and Kat Garvey from Vermont joined us. There aren't many Land Use Clinics in the country, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk with them and get their perspective on running this type of clinic.  Who knows, this might even lead to some inter-state collaboration down the road?

Pace University Law School plans a follow up journal edition to this conference, so that folks who weren't able to attend will be able to read the preceedings.  Hopefully this is also the first of many conferences of its type to come.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 10, 2011 in Conferences, Environmental Law, New York, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NYU Furman Center's State of NYC Housing & Neighborhoods

Vicki Been and the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy have announced the release of their 2010 State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods report.  Here's the email announcement, posted with permission:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are pleased to present the 2010 edition of the State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods annual report. As you well know, this report is a critical resource for data on housing, demographics, and quality of life indicators for each borough and for the city’s 59 community districts.

This year, we examine multi-family rental properties, a critical source of housing for more than four in ten New Yorkers. We find that multi-family rental properties received more foreclosure notices in the last two years than any period since the early 1990s. The study finds that smaller multi-family rental buildings (5-19 units) are most likely to receive a foreclosure notice among the multi-family properties, while the largest properties (100 or more units) have experienced the sharpest uptick in foreclosures in the recent years. The report also finds evidence that renters experience deteriorating living conditions when multi-family rental properties fall into financial distress and foreclosure.

This year’s report also includes new chapters: Getting to Work in New York City, which presents an analysis of commuting patterns in New York City, and Public and Subsidized Rental Housing in New York City, which finds that nearly one in five residential units (18.4%) in the city is publicly supported.

A look at the trends in this year’s State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods reveals that the state of New York City’s housing market remains uncertain.  After dramatic declines in housing prices in 2008 and 2009, the prices of condominiums and multi-family buildings began to bounce back in 2010, but the prices of single-family and 2-4 family homes continued to decline. In Manhattan, where the market avoided the sharp declines of the outer boroughs, housing prices are down only 9.9 percent from their peak, compared to 27.8 percent citywide.

Mortgage lending remained low in 2009, but the number of refinancing loan originations jumped as homeowners took advantage of historically low interest rates. While the housing crisis has been felt across the city, it has had a disparate impact on different racial and ethnic groups. Homeownership grew more quickly among white and Asian families in the last decade than Hispanic or black households, and declines in home purchase during the recession were most dramatic among black and Hispanic borrowers.

Despite the recession, most of the city’s social and economic indicators have improved in the last decade. Median inflation-adjusted incomes increased about five percent between 2000 and 2009. Poverty declined citywide, falling from 21.2 percent in 2000 to 18.7 percent in 2009. The population has continued to grow, led by the Asian population, which increased by 32 percent between 2000 and 2010. Health and quality of life factors have improved since 2000, and the city has experienced overall reductions in asthma hospitalizations, infant mortality and crime.

As always, we eagerly await your comments and feedback. If you would like to receive a hard copy, please email

Vicki Been, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Sarah Gerecke

Fascinating information; you can download the full report at the link.

Matt Festa

April 12, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Housing, Local Government, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, New York, Planning, Property, Race, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Columbia Conference on Sea Level Rise

From Michael Gerrard at Columbia Law:

Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School and The Republic of the Marshall Islands
invite you to attend an international academic conference:


May 23 - 25, 2011
Columbia University
New York, New York


Scientific summary: How much time do we have?
Statehood and statelessness
Preserving marine rights: Fishing and minerals
Legal remedies


Resettlement and migration issues
Existing legal structures
A new international convention?


Engineering for the future
Law and policy choices

[Visit this link for] Further information, and registration to attend conference or to view live webcast.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 6, 2011 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, New York | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2011

[This is a reprise of last year's St. Pat's post, plus a picture from 2011--MJF]

Now it's time to try and make a land use-related post about St. Patrick's Day.  First of all, the legend of St. Patrick has it that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  If that isn't an awesome land use regulatory feat, then nothing is!     

St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and the Church played a major part in land control over the centuries.  Later on in Irish history, the Catholic-Protestant struggle had a great deal to do with English land ownership and the relationship of the Irish people to the land.  Even until recent years, the symbol of St. Patrick has been part of the controversy over the IRA and Northern Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day has spread throughout the Irish diaspora worldwide.  In the U.S., St. Patrick's Day has, of course, served as a semi-official Irish-American holiday.  Irish immigrants moved throughout the country, but are particularly known for rising to political power in the cities.  Anti-Irish/Catholic prejudice loomed over the Gilded Age ("no Irish need apply") and the Progressive Era (multifamily housing (the "pig in the parlor") associated with immigrants).  Irish Catholic churches played a major role in urban affairs and continue to have a presence in First Amendment and RLUIPA issues.  After attaining some political power in urban political systems such as Tammany Hall, Irish-Americans have played a central role in city governance for over a century.  My undergrad alma mater, Notre Dame, served as a source of pride for Irish-Americans for its competitiveness in that land-use struggle known as football, and later in academics.  When John F. Kennedy was elected President, it seemed to many Americans of Irish extraction that they had finally become accepted into the American Dream. Img_0390

In the last few decades, St. Patrick's Day has continued to influence American land use issues.  Major celebrations take place in many U.S. cities, and places like Chicago, most famously, and Savannah dye their rivers green for the occasion.  [ancillary question: is being "green" a good thing, in this sense?]  In some American cities the St. Patrick's Day parade has become one of the most important political events of the year, which has led in turn to protracted litigation over the question of who gets to decide who marches in privately-organized yet publicly-sanctioned St. Patrick's Day parades.  The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the matter in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557 (1995).  Justice Souter's opinion for a unanimous Court upheld the First Amendment associational rights of the parade organizers to exclude an Irish-American GLBT group (would the case come out the same way today?). 

St. Patrick's Day has a lot of cultural significance and a little bit of land-use significance too.  So hoist a green beer and celebrate.  [And in 2011, Jim and I are hoping that the luck of the Irish works all the way to Houston for the Final Four!]

Matt O'Festa

March 17, 2011 in Chicago, Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Downtown, First Amendment, History, Houston, Humorous, Local Government, New York, Politics, Supreme Court, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Introducing Jonathan Rosenbloom

RosenbloomJonathan We've had some really terrific guest bloggers here lately at the Land Use Prof Blog, giving us great contributions and ideas in a number of different areas of land use law.  We now have the privilege of introducing Jonathan Rosenbloom, who will be joining us for March.

Jonathan is an Assistant Professor at Drake University, where he teaches and researches in the fields of Sustainability, Environmental Law, State & Local Government, and Property.  His current research looks at issues in local government law with regard to sustainability.  Jonathan previously taught as a visitor at Stetson, and he has substantial experience at the Center for New York City Law as well as in private practice and clerking.  Now that he's in Iowa, though, he might be our first Midwestern contributor.*  You can check out his bio page or vita, but more importantly, stand by to check out his contributions to the Land Use Prof Blog! 

Matt Festa

* With the possible exception of Tony Arnold.  When I lived in Kentucky I occasionally heard something to the effect that "Lexington is Southern; Louisville is Midwestern."

March 1, 2011 in Local Government, New York, Property, Scholarship, Sustainability, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jones on Garner v. Gerrish and the Concept of "Home"

Bernie D. Jones (Suffolk) has posted Garner v. Gerrish and the Renter’s Life Estate: Teaching a New Concept of 'Home,' Faulkner University Law Review, Vol. 2, pp. 1-44, 2010.  The abstract:

Property law scholars have been interested in Garner v. Gerrish, 63 N.Y.2d 575 (1984) because it presents a unique opportunity for discussing the boundaries of leasehold doctrine. As such, it is covered in various first-year property law textbooks. Its unusual fact pattern makes it useful as a means of helping students understand the differences among leaseholds for a term of years, the periodic tenancy, and the tenancy at will.

A landlord drafted a lease on a pre-printed form, writing in the terms of the lease, but without the advice of counsel. The lease had no end date and the tenant paid rent on a monthly basis. The landlord died within a few years of drafting the lease. In a dispute to determine the rights of the parties, the New York Court of Appeals held that since the tenant alone had the right to terminate, the landlord gave the tenant a determinable life estate. The tenant thus had a home for life, for which he need only pay the prescribed rent for as long as he chose to live on the premises. Though the case provided the basis for the Court of Appeals to modernize the tenancy at will in New York, I argue that it did not present the best fact pattern for doing so. Although the lease effectuated New York state rent control laws where they were not required by statute, it also indicates the possibilities to be found in disguised leasehold arrangements redefining the boundaries of “home.”

This article discusses the treatment of Garner v. Gerrish in typical first-year property textbooks. It explains and assesses the opinion from the trial court to the appellate decisions – the theories of the case developed by the parties, and the courts’ interpretations of landlord-tenant law. The article offers analyses of the archived records in the case that indicate the failures of the landlord’s executor to articulate the defenses of unconscionability and undue influence. It is unclear why the executor pursued this strategy.

Cases like these, where there are more questions than answers, present ideal opportunities for property law faculty to develop multifaceted pedagogical strategies. These might encourage students to think not only about doctrine but litigation strategies in the real estate context, and the perils to be found in flawed strategies that might result in decisions that go against them. In Garner v. Gerish, this meant a limited understanding of the case that coincided with prevailing pro-tenant sentiments in New York landlord tenant law.

I always enjoy teaching Garner v. Gerrish during the property course, and this article expands our understanding of the case from being a good example of certain issues with landlord-tenant law toward a larger commentary on the meaning of the home.  The article also looks like it will be another good addition to the increasing literature on the backstories of leading cases (exemplified by the Foundation Press Law Stories series and other articles).  Should there be a "Land Use Stories" volume? 

Matt Festa

February 27, 2011 in History, Housing, Landlord-Tenant, New York, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Teaching Outside the Box

We're now entering week 4 of the spring semester at Buffalo. I'm very excited about my classes this e. Both of which are firsts for me.

I am teaching Natural Resources Law. This is a fun course and I have a great group of students. I was a bit taken aback when I learned how many of my students are from Buffalo. Place matters for many reasons, but it is especially strange feeling to teach a public lands class without one person in the room from west of the Mississippi.

I am also teaching a distributed graduate seminar called Land Conservation in a Changing Climate. "A distributed what?" you say? Yep, a distributed graduate seminar. I believe it is the first seminar of its type in the legal academy. A group of eight professors at six different schools (Buffalo, Denver, Indiana,South Carolina, Stanford, Wisconsin) are all teaching a course with roughly the same title at the same time. We have similar but not identical syllabi and take slightly different approaches to our classes. Although law students probably dominate the classes, we have opened up our classes to graduate students in other departments. All students are examining case studies, collecting data, and inputting results of interviews and research into a joint system. At the end of the semester, both the faculty and students will have access to the collected data. I am excited about this project for many reasons. First, our students are learning how to work with social scientists and understand scientific reports and papers. Second, students are actually collecting data and interviewing people who are conserving land. Third, the data collection will enable us to think both about our own states and do comparative work. Studying conservation easements is often challenged by the lack of available data. We are specifically examining how conservation easements will react (or not) to climate change. I think this project will be good for the students of course, but I also hope they learn things that will help others.

I will be speaking more about this project in May at Pace's Practically Grounded Conference (and elsewhere). If any of you are engaged in (or know of) similar projects, please let me know!

- Jessica Owley


February 27, 2011 in California, Charleston, Climate, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Environmentalism, Land Trust, Lectures, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Atlantic Yards Movie

Perhaps I am late to the game on this one, but I just saw the trailer for a documentary about the Atlantic Yards controversy. The movie, called Battle of Brooklyn, tells the story of Brooklyn's use of eminent domain to build a sports arena. I am a big fan of eminent domain (hmm.. not sure if that is the right way to put it), but will likely see this movie that appears to focus on the protesters.

The main protester that the film follows actually agreed to a $3 million settlement and moved out. I wonder if they include that tidbit.

- Jessica Owley


February 17, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Community Economic Development, Constitutional Law, Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Environmental Justice, New York, Property Rights | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Are the most productive environmental law scholars writing about land use?

Bridget Crawford and Emily Waldman at Pace have been doing some interesting research (especially considering the fact that neither one is an environmental law or land use professor). They have put together a list of the most productive environmental law scholars at the top ten environmental law schools. It is admittedly a narrow list, and I am not sure what it can tell us. Perhaps it gives guidance to those of us hoping to get our environmental law programs into the top ten. If so, the message appears to be (1) write more or (2) hire Dan Farber.

What I found interesting about this list in reference to our earlier discussions (here and here) of land use versus environmental law, is that these non environmental law scholars did not appear to make such a distinction. Specifically notable, is the prolific John Nolon ranks number 2 on the list. He is undoubtedly  a land use prof and yet recognized in this study as an environmental law scholar. See we should all just be one big happy family.

 - Jessica Owley

February 13, 2011 in Environmental Law, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eagle on Urban Revitalization, Eminent Domain, and Jane Jacobs

Steven J. Eagle (George Mason) has posted Urban Revitalization and Eminent Domain: Misinterpreting Jane Jacobs, forthcoming in the Albany Government Law Review.  The abstract:

This article reviews the implications for land use policy of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Fifty years after its publication in 1961, Death and Life remains a clarion call for resistance to monolithic development and to the reigning paradigm of urban planning in the mid-20th century. The article asserts, however, that government officials and planners have learned the wrong lesson from Jacobs. Their emphasis on the top-down imposition of what purports to be varied development is evident in the growth of condemnation for retransfer for private economic redevelopment. Such policies are directly contrary to Jacobs’ insistence on bottom-up organic development.

The article further describes the muddled state of the U.S. Constitution’s Public Use Clause, evident in Kelo v. City of New London and in state cases such as Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. It asserts that judicial unwillingness to provide meaningful scrutiny to condemnation for private redevelopment is based, in part, on acceptance of the revisionist, and incorrect, reading of Jacobs’ work.

Matt Festa

February 12, 2011 in Eminent Domain, History, Housing, New Urbanism, New York, NIMBY, Planning, Politics, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fort on Laches and Indian Land Claims

Kate Fort (Michigan State) has posted Disruption and Impossibility: New Laches and the Unfortunate Resolution of the Iroquois Land Claims in Federal Court, 11 Wyo. L. Rev. ____ (forthcoming 2011). Here's the abstract:

That the law changes over time is no secret. That the law changes based on the parties involved is less obvious, but still no secret. In the case of the Haudenosaunee land claims cases, however, the law shifted dramatically and quickly based entirely on the identity of the parties. In less than five years, the federal appellate courts changed the law so drastically to all but end more than thirty years of modern litigation, reversing years of relative fairness at the district court level. These actions required a fundamental shift in the law of equity: the creation of a new equitable defense for governments against Indian land claims. How the courts accomplished so much in such a short amount of time requires a close reading of the cases and a few logical leaps.

The first part of this article will give a brief history of the New York land claims, focusing on the Oneida Indian Nation and the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York. While the tribes have been fighting the status of this land since the original agreements were signed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, this article looks to the modern era of land claims in the federal courts. The second part of this article will review how a decision in the Oneida claims case directly informed City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation. The third part will focus on the Cayuga Nation line of cases and how Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki changed the fundamental understanding of the equitable defense of laches into a new defense used to defeat tribal land claims. Finally, the fourth part of this article will look closely at the most recent loss, Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, where the court admits the creation of a new equitable defense. This defense, identified as “new laches” or “Indian law laches” is a defense that can prevent even the bringing of a land claim in the courts. The defense is no longer traditional laches, but rather an equitable defense that follows none of the rules of equity, and exists only in federal Indian law.

Jim K.

February 11, 2011 in Caselaw, New York, Property, Property Rights, Remedies, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fracking Conference

We've got a lot of exciting things going on here in Buffalo these days. At the end of March, we'll be holding a symposium and community forum on fracking. I hope to see some of you there!

- Jessica Owley

 Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy

March 28-29, 2011 at University at Buffalo School of Law

Buffalo, New York

On March 28-29, 2011 the University at Buffalo Environmental Law Program and the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy will host the conference: Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy.

Horizontal-gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking, and its potential effects is an important environmental and energy concern for the nation. This conference provides an opportunity for a scholarly exchange of ideas regarding the issue as well as a forum for community discussion.

We welcome submissions on any related topic, including the following:

  • Hydrofracking and Nuisance Law
  • Impacts on Tribal Lands
  • Administrative law and the EPA Rulemakings
  • Environmental Review Processes    
  • Application of federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act
  • Energy issues, in including the Energy Policy Act and DOE policy
  • Endocrine Disruption and Human Health Impacts

Authors will have an opportunity to publish their work in the Buffalo Environmental Law Journal. You are invited to submit a paper or presentation proposal for of no more than 250 words by Monday, February 21st to

For more information, contact Jessica Owley [ or 716-645-8182] or Kim Diana Connolly [ or 716-645-2092]

February 7, 2011 in Clean Energy, Climate, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Exurbs, Federal Government, Local Government, New York, NIMBY, Nuisance, Oil & Gas, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Days in Texas and Elsewhere

Today I am in my hometown of Albany NY, trudging through waist-high ramparts of plowed snow.  Much of the US has suffered tremendous snowfalls/blizzards in the past week.  Back in my current home of Houston, TX, my family and students are having a "snow day" because they anticipate maybe getting some white stuff.  Since the typical transplanted-yankee reaction is to scoff at the inability of southern cities to deal with snowy weather, I think it's worth editing and reprising this post from last year, where I defend the local government choice to take the occasional shutdown over the necessary land use investment for snow removal:

Snow Day in Texas

Hard to believe, but it might snow today in Houston. Such weather is pretty rare in Houston.  My law school has closed for the day in mere anticipation of snow.

I grew up in upstate New York [where I am today, in Albany], where the average January temperature is 22 F (compared to Houston's 55 F); average winter snowfall was 64" (compared to Houston's < 0.05").  Tennessee, where I lived for about eight years as an adult, is just far enough north to get some decent snowstorms each winter, but overall it has a much warmer, and shorter, winter.  Yet it seemed that in Tennessee the authorities were constantly cancelling school and shutting the city down.  Often the schools had to extend their year to make up for all of the snow days.  In New York we hardly ever lost a day of school due to snow; perhaps 0-2 per year.  Even a 12-inch snowfall was not a problem, while in Tennessee they would preemptively close for a forecast of snow.

Fellow northern transplants and I would snicker at all this.  You call this a snowstorm?  I chalked up the different approaches to the hardiness of our yankee constitutions.  But eventually I think I figured out what might be the biggest factor in the different regional reactions, and it's a land use & local government issue.  Albany County's snow removal budget for supplies alone (salt, fuel) is $1,217,500.  This doesn't include the operating costs for personnel, nor the capital outlays for the equipment; a new snow plow can cost a city around $200,000.  Chicago's total snow removal budget is $17 million

So while these types of expenditures are necessary in northern cities, it wouldn't make sense in warmer climes to purchase and maintain the equipment, supplies, and personnel necessary for snow removal capability.  In Houston a freak storm like today's doesn't happen often enough to remotely justify the expense.  It becomes a more difficult question for places in the latitudinal middle, like Tennessee and Kentucky.  One could measure the economic impact of lost school and work days and business in the area, and compare it to the costs of snow removal.  But even that would still need to make some predictive assumptions based on variance from year to year.  (Besides, why invest in a snow plow when Georgia will soon be underwater due to global warming?) 

Assuming rational actors, one would think we could draw lines between the places where it is more efficient as a matter of municipal policy to do snow removal, and those where it is more efficient to simply ride out the storms as they come.  Obviously there are a lot of other factors for planners in making this decision, including geography, the urban/suburban/rural character of the place, and other unique factors.  Plus there are the politics of snow removal (a blizzard is said to have altered the outcome of Chicago's mayoral primary in 1979). 

But obviously it would never make sense on the Gulf Coast, so we'll just hunker down as we watch the freak snowfall today (my three-year-old [now four, and still talking about last year's snow] has no idea what this stuff is).  But don't feel bad for me-- it will be back up to 74 F by Tuesday. 

So take that, yankees.  As Jessica points out, in Buffalo they make the social land use adjustments that are necessary, but they take a rational approach in Houston too.  I might reconsider this stance tonight after I freeze off my fourth point of contact. 

Matt Festa

UPDATE: No snow in Houston, but everything's frozen.  Contrast the icy fountain in front of my Houston apartment with the snowdrifts piled high in front of my childhood home in NY.  Yet the local government responses are as different as the respective amounts of frozen H2O. 

MJF 2-2011 113 Albany Feb 2011 017







February 4, 2011 in Climate, Georgia, Houston, Local Government, New York, Planning, Politics, Sun Belt, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One of the Many Reasons I Love Buffalo

While the rest of the country is reeling from the huge snow storms, it was just another winter day here in Buffalo. (Most of the schools were closed today, but the consensus seems to be that they shouldn't have bothered because the snow didn't arrive in the amount expected.) Buffalo has already surpassed 60 inches of snowfall this winter, but no one here is fazed by it.

Having grown up in Wisconsin, I am used to snow but I have been impressed with the snow culture here. In particular, I assumed that being a home owner in Buffalo meant buying a snow blower. However, in my neighborhood this doesn't seem to be the case. Only one or two people on each block buy a snowblower snow thrower and then those wonderful souls clear the snow for the entire block. We moved to Buffalo this past summer. When our neighbors told us not to buy a snowblower because someone else already had one, we thought they were kidding. We have two such snowblower owners on our block. One of them even took the time to do our entire driveway. I rushed out to thank our neighborhood snowblower owner one day last week. "Just being a good neighbor!" he said.

Thinking about land use and community here in Buffalo necessarily involves considering weather snow. Locations of public services, uses of public spaces, and protection of natural resources must be approached differently in a place where you can't see the sidewalks for three months. Sure lots of cities are walkable, but how many are cross country skiable? It is always interesting to move to a new city and learn about the different communities, traditions, and landscapes. Although Buffalo is beautiful in the summer (admittedly the best time to visit), you have to be here in the winter to understand how the community comes together.

- Jessica Owley

February 2, 2011 in Climate, Community Design, New York, Pedestrian, Property, Water | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Housing Fellowship Program in New York

Here is an announcement that may be of interest to your students:

HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program 2011-2013

The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards.  It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014.  Since the plan’s inception, a total of more than 108,600 affordable homes have been created or preserved.  For more information, please visit

The NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC)provides a variety of financing programs for the creation and preservation of multi-family affordable housing throughout New York City.  In partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HDC works to implement Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.  Since the plan launched in 2004, HDC has financed nearly 47,521 homes for low- , moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers.  The New York City Housing Development Corporation is rated AA by S&P and Aa2 by Moody’s.  For more information, please visit

The HPD-HDC Housing Fellows Program is designed to bring talented young professionals to HPD and HDC to expose them both to the inner workings of New York City government and to the field of affordable housing, with the goal of developing the next generation of affordable housing leadership.  The Fellowship provides a forum for the exchange of fresh and current ideas with those who shape the City’s housing policy through housing- and community development-related lectures, site visits, hands-on policy work and mentoring.

For more information:

- Jessica Owley

February 1, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Development, Historic Preservation, Housing, Local Government, New York, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Road running as a land use tour

IMG_0112 Today was the Houston Marathon, in which your humble blogger was joined by 26,000 others in self-inflicted pain and suffering.  It occurred to me--in between bouts of cursing my foolhardy decision to enter the race--that running is a great way to observe land use in a city or town.  It allows one to tour cities and neighborhoods more slowly than in a car, but faster than walking.  And a race as long as a marathon gives you the chance to visit several areas in a city and observe both the use patterns within each neighborhood and the differences between them.  The Houston Marathon course directs its runners through several of the more interesting neighborhoods in the city (albeit all in the "favored quarter").  The official race program describes several of the neighborhoods on the course:

Downtown. Downtown Houston is the seventh largest downtown business district in the United States and has the third most concentrated skyline after New York City and Chicago.  [I should also note that the race started and ended at Discovery Green, a new urban park generally thought to be a highly successful planning and local government accomplishment.] 

The Heights.  Founded in 1891, The Heights was one of Houston's first suburbs and is best known for its tree-lined streets, beautiful parks and assortment of new homes, Victorian-era houses, and Craftsman bungalows.  [One of the original "streetcar suburbs."  In the Unzoned City, HP is a big issue in The Heights as a way of controlling development.]

Montrose.  The Montrose area is considered one of Houston's most eccentric areas, and hosts a diverse community of young adults, business professionals, punk rockers and artists . . . . It is an area made for pedestrians where people can walk and cycle easily.  [The APA named Montrose one of America's Top 10 Neighborhoods].

Texas Medical Center/Rice University.  The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical district in the world, containing 42 medicine-related institutions.  [You may have seen in the news recently that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is now being treated here].

The Galleria.  The Galleria area, also known as Uptown, is Houston's best-known shopping district and second-largest business district.  [One unusual thing about Houston is that there are four or five disparate business districts that would each qualify as "downtown" or the CBD in most cities].

Memorial Park.  Opened in 1924 and covering 1,466 acres, Memorial Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

Just from these introductory descriptions, you can see how a comparison of one city's neighborhoods invokes both local and national land use issues.  Running through the city was a great way to get a tour of the visual characteristics on the ground.  At least that's what I'll be telling myself as I hobble to land use class in the morning. 

Matt Festa

January 30, 2011 in Downtown, History, Houston, Local Government, New York, Planning, Texas, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Panel on "Premature Subdivisions" for New Partners Conference

As I previously posted, the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is happening in Charlotte, NC February 3-5.  Here's an announcement from the Lincoln Institute about their panel at the conference.

Call them the new ghost towns - "premature" subdivisions that have been laid out in anticipation of a continuing housing boom and unfettered growth at the periphery. In many areas there is a large surplus of already platted lots, improperly located to foster smart growth. Teton County, Idaho has granted development entitlements in the rural countryside sufficient to quadruple their population. Most of these lots have non-existent or poor services.

Even in areas that expect large increases in population, these premature subdivisions are in the wrong location to foster smart growth patterns. In Arizona's Sun Corridor, approximately one million undeveloped lots, many not even platted yet, have been entitled and would lead to further sprawl.

The current economic downturn provides an opportunity to address past impacts, better anticipate and prepare for future growth and improve property values, says senior fellow Armando Carbonell, who will be moderating a panel, Reshaping Development Patterns, at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Charlotte Feb. 3.

Carbonell sees an opportunity to redesign communities to transfer development pressure from previously approved development areas to foster more sustainable development. For example, in the suburbs of the Northeast, there are projects that remake the suburban highway, turning "edge city" districts into compact mixed-use centers, and using green infrastructure strategies for shaping new communities at the metropolitan fringe."There's a sponge-like capacity to accommodate population growth without any further peripheral development," says Carbonell.

The panelists exploring these issues will be Arthur "Chris" Nelson, Metropolitan Research Center, University of Utah, on demographic and population trends; Jim Holway, head of Western Land and Communities, the Lincoln Institute-Sonoran Institute joint venture; and Thomas Wright, executive director of the Regional Plan Association of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

New Partners for Smart Growth this year marks its 10th anniversary as a collaboration of the Loal Government Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Premature subdivisions" aren't just a western or northeastern problem - we've seen a fair number of them here in Georgia as well.  If any of our readers attend this session, or any other session at the New Partners conference, please send us a report!

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 26, 2011 in Conferences, Development, Exurbs, Lectures, New York, Planning, Property, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Scouting, Walking, & Blogging New York

Among the many reasons that I am passionate about the subject of land use law, these three are among the most important: First, it is historical--studying land uses in our cities, towns, and rural areas gives us a sense of how we lived and how our places have changed over time.  Second, it is an essentially visual subject--to see the land and the built environment, whether in person or through pictures, is an important part of thinking about the effects of law and policy.  Third, and related to the first two, is that land use tells stories--whether over the course of time or within present-day issues and controversies, land use provides a narrative about how we live with each other in our communities and in society. 

That's a long-winded way of leading up to the observation that I really like two websites that I stumbled across recently and want to share with you.  Neither is written by a lawyer or a professor, but both involve the efforts of thoughtful and observant people to walk the streets, drive around the region, and post pictures, descriptions, and stories about the land, buildings, neighborhoods, and cities, both past and present.

The first is Scouting NY.  Its proprietor is a professional film scout, who describes his endeavor thusly:

I work as a film location scout in New York City. My day is spent combing the streets for interesting and unique locations for feature films. In my travels, I often stumble across some pretty incredible sights, most of which go ignored daily by thousands of New Yorkers in too much of a rush to pay attention.

As it happens, it's my job to pay attention, and I've started this blog to keep a record of what I see.

And we all benefit from that.  For an example, the current feature at the top of the blog is a collection of photos and descriptions of an abandoned mental asylum in Rockland County.  Creepy and fascinating. 

The second website I want to link to is Forgotten NY, run by graphic designer Kevin Walsh.  This one seems to be more focused on the city proper and its various neighborhoods.  The MO seems to be more about the street-level observation, by talking walks around the various parts of the city and reporting descriptions and photos, and giving us an insight in to the New York of the past through the evidence that still lingers today.  The current feature is "A Walk from South Williamsburg to Bedford-Stuyvesant," with copious photos.  This site looks like it's been around for about a decade and has a strong readership, but I never came across it until just recently.   

These two happen to be about New York.  I suspect that there are many more great blogs and websites out there, about New York and also about other places, which seek to illuminate, record, preserve, and tell the stories of our places, run by folks who are passionate about their communities past and present.  If you know of or would recommend any similar sites, I'd love to hear about them. 

Matt Festa

January 25, 2011 in Architecture, Historic Preservation, History, New York, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Connecticut vs. American Power

Kermit Lind just alerted me to a case the rest of you are probably already following, Connecticut vs. American Electric Power.  Following is a synopsis from the Climate Change and Clean Technology Blog.

On December 6, 2010, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, a federal nuisance case on appeal from the Second Circuit. Plaintiffs -- eight states, the City of New York and three non-profit land trusts -- seek abatement and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from defendants, who include some of the United States’ largest electric utility companies. The Second Circuit ruled that: (1) the case did not present a non-justiciable political question, (2) the plaintiffs have standing, (3) the plaintiffs stated claims under the federal common law of nuisance, (4) the plaintiffs' claims are not displaced by the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), and, finally, (5) the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”), a quasi-governmental defendant, is not immune from the suit. See Connecticut v. American Electric Power Co., 582 F.3d 309 (2nd Cir. 2009).

This is a case to watch out for during this Supreme Court term.

Read more here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 18, 2011 in Climate, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Industrial Regulation, Land Trust, Local Government, New York, Nuisance, Property Rights, State Government, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)