Property, Land Use, and Urban AffairsIntroduction:
New York University School of Law has the leading program in property, land use, real estate and housing law of the top U.S. law schools. The program offers students the opportunity to study and collaborate with an unrivaled faculty, whose members play a leadership role in cutting-edge legal and policy issues in New York City and throughout the United States. The program’s extensive courses, seminars, and colloquia, and its close ties to the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service and the Stern School of Business, provide Law School students in-depth grounding in housing policy, land use law, real estate transactions, real estate finance, community economic development, and urban policy. The program’s many opportunities for student/faculty collaboration and extracurricular activities provide a rich array of practical, hands-on opportunities for students to apply their classroom learning to important land use and housing problems in New York City and around the nation.
The Law School’s Curriculum:
All students are required to take the basic property course, but students may choose whether to take it in the first or second year. That course provides an introduction to the ways in which the United States allocates scarce resources (especially land) among competing claimants, by examining leading theories about what entitles claimants to use and exclude others from a resource. It examines how the rights and obligations recognized by property law compare with contract rights or the obligations tort law imposes. It surveys the estates system, by which the law classifies and cabins the variety of interests it will allow people to shape as property. It examines the law governing the relationships between landlords and their tenants, and explores what the development of that law reveals about the common law and regulatory processes. It assesses the market failures that may prevent efficient trades of property, and studies a variety of mechanisms the law uses to correct those failures and promote efficient bargains over resources. Students also examine the variety of regulatory and common law systems used to regulate land use, including zoning, historic preservation, private covenants and nuisance. Finally, the course explores the Fifth Amendment’s protections of private property.
Those students who plan to pursue studies in environmental law, land use, housing, intellectual property, or trusts and estates will have more flexibility to fit those courses into their schedule if they take property in the first year. While most of those courses do not explicitly require property as a prerequisite, students will benefit from the foundation of the property course.
Students interested in property issues also may elect to take a section of the Law School’s first year Administrative and Regulatory State course that focuses on environmental regulation. The course gives students a basic grounding in public law and regulation. A section taught by Professor Stewart uses environmental regulation as a lens through which to explore the interplay between the legislative process, administrative implementation of regulatory statutes, judicial review of administrative action, and statutory interpretation in the development and implementation of regulatory programs. For students with an interest in land use, housing or environmental law, Professor Stewart’s section provides an invaluable introduction to many of the important themes and issues in current U.S. administrative and environmental law.
Students interested in land use, real estate, and housing law may choose from a rich menu of courses. Foundational courses (Environmental Law, International Environmental Law, Land Use Regulation, Local Government Law, Real Estate Transactions, and Trust and Estates) typically are offered every year. Colloquia, seminars and more specialized courses vary from year to year.
Students interested in land use are advised to take Land Use Regulation, Environmental Law, Local Government Law, and one of the seminars related to housing development.
Students interested in real estate development are advised to take Environmental Law, Land Use Regulation, Real Estate Finance; Real Estate Transactions and Real Estate Deals. A seminar relating to housing development, and property taxation also would be helpful.
Students interested in housing policy should take Land Use Regulation, Local Government Law, and one or more of the seminars relating to housing policy. Real Estate Finance, Tax Policy, and the Seminar on Community Development also would be very helpful.
Students interested in intellectual property should take one of the seminars on property theory, along with more specialized courses in IP.
Advanced Property Law: Theoretical and Comparative Aspects
This course discusses several issues involving property rights – such as the good faith purchase doctrine, the numerus clausus principle, compensation for injuries to property, dead hand control, property exempted in bankruptcy proceedings and redistribution through rules of property law – from both theoretical and comparative perspectives. The theoretical analysis include subjective and objective theories of welfare (contrasting utilitarianism and preference-satisfaction theories with objective-list theories), economic analysis of law, the personhood theory, game theory, behavioral law and economics, and theories of distributive justice.
Climate Change Policy Seminar
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to climate change policy, with an emphasis on economic principles as an analytical framework and guide to policy. The course begins by reviewing the basic science of climate change and the economic theory of environmental policy. It then considers the damages of climate change and the costs of averting them. Next, it examines principles for designing policy, focusing on the case for “market-based instruments,” such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade policies, rather than prescriptive regulation such as performance standards. It also considers the political economy of environmental policy – that is, the features of different policies that make them more or less likely to be palatable to key interest groups and policy makers. The course closes by considering recent developments in the policy arena in the U.S. and internationally.
Colloquium on the Law, Economics, and Politics of Urban Affairs
This colloquium, taught jointly by professors from the Law School and the Wagner School of Public Service enables students to explore current debates about critical urban policy issues. Leading scholars from economics, law, urban planning, and political science present early drafts of new research, which students then critique and discuss. Faculty from other area law schools and urban planning and economics programs, government officials, and policy-makers from both New York City and Washington, D.C., also frequent the colloquium.
Environmental Governance Seminar
The seminar develops and evaluates innovative strategies for fundamental changes in US environmental programs, many of which are obsolete and performing poorly. In order to break current regulatory logjams, the strategies will emphasize openness on tradeoffs, decentralization, market-based incentives, cooperation, and new approaches (including information-based strategies) that crosscut the currently separate statutory programs. The instructors and guest speakers (leading scholars and practitioners of environmental law), present proposals to address problems including climate change, ecosystem and biodiversity protection, transportation, agriculture, hazardous wastes, watersheds, and the use of the public lands.
Environmental Law offers an introduction to the legal regulation of environmental quality. The course considers the theoretical foundations of environmental regulation, including economic and non-economic perspectives on environmental degradation; the scientific predicate for environmental regulation; the objectives of environmental regulation; the valuation of environmental benefits; the distributional consequences of environmental policy; and the choice of regulatory tools, such as command-and-control regulation, taxes, marketable permit schemes, liability rules, and informational requirements. The course also analyzes the role of the various institutional actors in environmental law, the allocation of regulatory authority in a federal system, and public choice explanations for environmental regulation. The course analyzes the principal environmental statutes, particularly the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Liability Act (the Superfund statute), the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act.
Global Environmental Governance Seminar
This seminar examines a select number of international environmental problems, the international and domestic responses to them, and the conflicts that sometimes emerge among nations because they respond differently to the same problems. The environmental problems considered include ozone depletion, climate change, forest conservation, overfishing and GMOs. The class is highly interactive, featuring guest lecturers and policy exercises in which students debate the merits of different policy responses to pressing environmental problems. International Environmental Law
International Environmental Law surveys the customary law and treaty-based principles, rules, and institutions whereby states cooperate on transboundary and global environmental challenges. After a general introduction, the course focuses on issues currently shaping international environmental law, including global warming, declining fish stocks, loss of biological diversity, the regulation of genetically modified organisms, and the potential clashes between environmental objectives and the rules and institutions of the World Trade Organization. The course combines lectures with interactive sessions in which students argue opposite sides of these controversial problems.
Land Use Regulation
Land Use Regulation examines how land use is shaped and controlled through government regulation. It begins by discussing the circumstances under which regulation might be needed to temper the private market ordering of land use patterns. It develops a typology of the kinds of regulatory and market-based tools that are available to control land use, and provides a framework for evaluating the appropriateness of alternative tools. It also explores the rights of an owner if a particular regulation of land is inefficient, unfairly burdensome, unfairly disruptive of the owner’s settled expectations, or an infringement on the owner's civil liberties. The course then examines the rights that those who oppose the landowner's plans may have to stop, or require modifications to, the plans. Finally, the course focuses on particular problems that plague the land use regulatory system, such as the financing of development, exclusionary zoning, the fair distribution of undesirable land uses, and "smart growth."
Local Government Law
This course examines the legal and political relationships that govern the provision of goods and services by state and local governments. It explores the relationships between localities and states, between localities and their residents, and between localities and their neighbors. In each case, it considers legal principles that address: 1) what services should a local government provide; 2) which residents should receive those services; 3) who should pay for the services provided; 4) who should decide the answers to the above questions? The course emphasizes and critiques the constitutional and statutory responses that various states and localities have given to these issues. Specific areas covered include the sources of local government power, incorporation and annexation, home rule, racial and economic implications of urban policy, state pre-emption of local ordinances, conflicts between cities and suburbs, property taxation, user fees, and municipal finance.
This seminar examines contemporary debates about property using a range of legal, historical, and philosophical materials. The seminar begins by considering four theoretical approaches to property law: the classic utilitarian justification for private property; the Lockean case for property; contemporary rights-based theories of property; and communitarian perspectives. Drawing on the four theoretical perspectives, the seminar then addresses a range of topics, including property and economic development, the tragedy of the commons, the limits of property rights and markets, social norms, takings, and reparations.
Property Rights In Changing Societies
This seminar investigates the role that property rights have played in a number of societies undergoing rapid change. Students explore how property rights, especially as enforced by legal institutions, influence the economic, social, and political development of these societies. The societies examined include England at the time of the enclosure laws, 19th Century America, colonial and post-colonial Africa, and contemporary Latin America and China.
Public Interest Environmental Law Practice
This course examines the practice of environmental public interest practice by environmental groups and governmental agencies in the United States and internationally. It explores issues related to the financing, strategy, accountability, and performance of such groups and agencies, and the role of the lawyer in environmental advocacy. Distinguished public interest law practitioners serve as guest speakers.
Real Estate Deals
This course uses case studies of recent real estate deals (involving such transactions as the Plaza Hotel condo structure; the purchase of land on the Upper East Side occupied by the Hunter College of Social Work and construction of a new building for the College; the rehab of a failing affordable housing complex; the conversion of 37 Wall Street from commercial to residential use; the creation of the HighLine park; and the lease of the Flushing Meadows park to the US Tennis Association) to explore common economic problems that underlie real estate transactions and analyze the advantages, disadvantages and risks of a variety of ways of responding to those challenges. Lawyers in the deals (and their clients) meet with the class to discuss their selection of strategies, what worked and didn't work, unexpected problems, and the success of the legal documents used to structure the deal.
Real Estate Financing
This course explores selected advanced topics in real estate finance, such as ground leases, construction financing, sale-leaseback transactions, commercial mortgage securitization, and junior lien and mezzanine financing.
Real Estate Transactions
This course examines key elements and players in a real estate transaction. Topics include the role of the lawyer; broker participation and responsibilities; the contract of sale and remedies; deeds and closing; the title system and title insurance; mortgages and foreclosure. Some advanced topics in commercial real estate deals also are covered including construction and permanent lending, ground lease financing, and the effect of environmental regulation on real estate transactions.
Seminar on Advanced Environmental Law
Advanced Environmental Law concerns prominent issues in environmental and natural resources law and policy in the United States and abroad. Topics covered include the ongoing debate about the use of such analytical tools as cost-benefit analysis and the precautionary principle in establishing environmental objectives; the factors governing the choice between conventional command-and-control regulation and economic incentives for achieving environmental objectives; interjurisdictional disputes over the allocation of water; current controversies in the regulation of fisheries and marine mammals; environmental issues specific to densely populated urban areas; and trade-environment disputes, such as the conflict between the United States and Europe about the regulation of genetically modified organisms.
Seminar on Community Development Law
This seminar introduces students to major policy and legal issues related to housing, economic development, and development finance activities of community-based organizations. In simulation exercises, students grapple with policy concerns raised in class as they negotiate community control of resources, draft restrictions on the use of housing, design and create corporate structures, deal with regulatory constraints, and debate adoption of various corporate forms. The seminar addresses basic policy questions pertaining to low-income housing development, economic development, and community development finance, and examines such recent legislative initiatives as creating empowerment zones, altering the Community Reinvestment Act, and capitalizing community development financial institutions, including community development venture capital funds.
Seminar on Environmental Values, Policy and the Law
Environmental law is the site of conflicting value perspectives. In addition to concerns about economic growth and quality of life for our contemporary compatriots, concerns about future generations, citizens of other countries and even non-human nature figure in our discussions and debates. This seminar focuses on the way these value questions emerge in discussions of global environmental change. Topics discussed include the growth of environmental concern in the post-World War II period, domestic and international regulation of DDT, the passage and implementation of the Endangered Species Act, the role of parks and preserves in environmental management, climate change, the management of African mammals, and the relationships between environment and development.
Seminar on Land Use, Housing, and Community Development in New York City
This seminar analyzes urban distress and federal, state, local and community responses, such as initiatives to build housing and commercial projects in low income communities. Students analyze housing/community development policy, real estate financing, subsidies, community participation, land use, environmental review and legal challenges to development. Students work in groups to research and analyze cutting-edge community development issues, such as the role of community benefit agreements in land use controversies, the efficacy of development incentives, the design of inclusionary zoning policies, or the effects of Bloomberg-era rezonings.
Taxation of Property Transactions
This course surveys several fundamental areas relating to the income taxation of property transactions. Topics include depreciation, the effect of debt on basis and amount realized calculations, limitations on loss allowances, like kind exchanges, the passive activity loss limitations, the at-risk rules, leasing, characterization and installment sales.
Trust and Estates
This course explores the doctrine, policy and theory of trusts and estates law. The course examines intestacy, will execution, amendment and revocation of wills and trusts, irrevocable trusts, revocable living trusts, powers of appointment, the rule against perpetuities, and the elective share.
Courses at the Wagner School of Public Service:
Students interested in land use, community economic development, or housing policy may be interested in a variety of courses at the Wagner School. Information about the courses is available at http://wagner.nyu.edu/urbanplanning/spec_housing.php
- P11.2140, Public Economics and Finance
- P11.2415, Public Policy & Planning in New York
- P11.2443, Financing Urban Governments
- P11.2445, Urban Poverty
- P11.2452, Transforming Urban Economies
- P11.2470, Transportation Policy
- P11.2620, Race and Class in American Cities
- P11.2621, Urban Economic Development: Theory and Practice
- P11.2622, Asset Formation in the U.S.: The Role of Public Policy in Shaping Wealth... and Poverty
- P11.2635, Community Equity and Wealth-Building
- P11.2638, Housing and Community Development Policy
- P11.2639, Real Estate Finance
- P11.2641, Urban Transportation Planning