portrait of professor ross sandler

Ross Sandler

Professor of Law
Director, Center for New York City Law
Editor, CityLaw, CityLand and CityRegs Newsletters

Ross Sandler

Professor of Law
Director, Center for New York City Law
Editor, CityLaw, CityLand and CityRegs Newsletters

When Ross Sandler became the founding director of New York Law School’s Center for New York City Law in 1995, Crain’s New York Business applauded the choice, calling him “a good-government crusader.”

For Professor Sandler, it was the opportunity to bring together all his experience—as a legal practitioner, a New York City official, and an academic—in an exciting new enterprise.

“I felt that New York Law School had a unique opportunity to put its resources into a virtually ignored area—state and city government. Here we were, right in the center of everything happening in New York. We could make a real contribution,” he recalls.

Professor Sandler left Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, where he was a partner, to join New York Law School’s faculty and head the new center, which he suggested should specialize in city government.

“It was a very exciting time. We knew generally what we wanted to do, and we gradually created the structure you see today, which relies on publications like CityLaw, CityLand, and CityRegs, events like our CityLaw Breakfasts and conferences, and of course, on our courses to allow students to learn about the operations of urban government,” explains Professor Sandler.

Professor Sandler, who attended Dartmouth on a scholarship and then went on to New York University Law School on a Root Tilden Fellowship, came to New York Law School after a long and distinguished career in public service, in addition to his years of private practice. During the early 1970s, when he worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan as the chief appellate attorney and chief of the Environmental Enforcement Unit, he was on the cutting edge of environmental law. His office’s successful prosecution of Hudson River polluters led to the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Later, in the mid-1970s, as senior staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, he and his New York Law School colleague David Schoenbrod headed the Urban Environmental Unit, winning a pivotal Clean Air Act case.

Professor Sandler channeled his commitment to public service to the municipal arena in 1981, when Mayor Edward Koch appointed him to the newly created position of special advisor to the mayor, where his environmental law experience helped revitalize the city’s mass transit system. In 1986 he was appointed Department of Transportation commissioner and proceeded to reorganize the 8,000-person department with a program of maintenance and repair still in place today.

His decades of experience as a participant and observer of urban affairs have made him a familiar figure in New York City government circles, and the CityLaw Breakfasts have attracted many of the city’s most influential people.

“We’ve become an important forum,” says Professor Sandler of the Friday morning events, which regularly attract several hundred people, most of whom work in city government or the institutions connected to it.

Professor Sandler is an appointed member of the New York Procurement Policy Board. He is the author of numerous publications on environmental law, transportation, and government issues. In 2003, Yale University Press released his book, Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government, written with Professor David Schoenbrod. His book, Jumpstart: Torts: Reading and Understanding Tort Cases, was published by Wolters Kluwer in 2012.


Jumpstart: Torts: Reading and Understanding Tort Cases. (Wolters Kluwer, 2012).

Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government. (YaleUniversity Press, 2003) (with D. Schoenbrod).

A New Direction in Transit: A Report to Mayor Edward I. Koch from Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Chairman, City Planning Commission.City of New York, 1978 (with R.A. Chudd & D. Schoenbrod).


“Mass Transit.” Chapter 14 in Setting Municipal Priorities, 1986, at 443–466 (C. Brecher & R.D. Horton, eds.). New York University Press, 1985.


“Structural Balance and The New York City Financial Plan: An Intellectual History. (Symposium: New York City’s Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 1995).” New York Law School and The Center for New York City Law, 1994 (ed. with C. O’Cléireacáin).

“Traffic Rules and Regulations.” New York City Department of Transportation, 1988.

“49/50th Street Bus and Taxiway: Final Report.” New York City Department of Transportation, 1987.

“An Approach to Reducing Vehicle Congestion in New York City: A Report to Mayor Edward I. Koch.” New York City Department of Transportation, 1986.

“Recent Trends in Traffic Volumes and Transit Ridership.” New York City Department of Transportation, 1986 (with S.I. Schwartz & D. Gurin).

“Subway Scofflaws: A Proposal to Improve Enforcement Against Farebeating and Other Minor Offenses.” Natural Resources Defense Council, 1983 (with D. Schoenbrod).

“Reference Material on Public Transit.” New York City Department of Transportation, 1982 (with S. Jurow).

“The Hudson River Power Plant Settlement: Materials Prepared for a Conference Sponsored by New York University School of Law and the Natural Resources Defense Council.” New York University School of Law, 1981 (ed. with D. Schoenbrod).

“Reducing Crime in the New York City Subway System: Nine Recommendations.” Natural Resources Defense Council, 1977 (with D. Schoenbrod, E.A. Goldstein, S.M. Jurow & F. Harris).


Politics, Process, and Mayoral Power: The Story of Ed Koch and the Appointment of Frank Macchiarola as Chancellor of the New York City Schools (Symposium: Process, Powers, and Lessons for the Future: 25 Years of the New York City Charter Revisions), 58 NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL LAW REVIEW 19- 23 (2013-2014).

The Supreme Court, Democracy and Institutional Reform Litigation, 49 New York Law School Law Review 915-942 (2004-2005) (with D. Schoenbrod).

In Memoriam, W. Bernard Richland (1909–2003), 48 New York Law School Law Review 385–400 (2003/2004).

“Foreword: The One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Charter of the City of New York (Symposium: One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Charter of the City of New York: Past, Present, and Future, 1898–1998).” 42 New York Law School Law Review 689–692 (1998).

“Introduction (Symposium: Police Corruption, Municipal Corruption: Cures at What Cost?).” 40 New York Law School Law Review 1–3 (1995).

“Categorization of Chemicals Under the Toxic Substance Control Act.” 7 Ecology Law Quarterly 359–396 (1978).

“Introduction: Environmental Law Section, Second Circuit Review, 1974–75 Term.” 42 Brooklyn Law Review 1033–1040 (1976).


Editor, CityLand (Center for New York City Law at New York Law School, 2004– ).

Editor, CityLaw (Center for New York City Law at New York Law School, 1995– ).

The Dinkins’ Autobiography: Filling in a Missing Chapter, Book Review of David Dinkins’s with Peter Knowles, “A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic, 19 CITYLAW 93-94, 106-107 (SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013).

Commentary: Court of Appeals in CFE Case Invokes Deference: Avoids Confrontation, 13 CityLaw 2 (January/February 2007)

Appellate Div. Sends Message to Court of Appeals in CFE Case, 12 CityLaw 49-52 (May-June 2006) (with D. Schoenbrod).

Commentary: Con Edison to Build 17 New Substations Over the Next Ten Years, 3 CityLand 166 (December 2006).

Commentary: Former West Side Stables and Proposed East Side Tower Spawn Controversy, 3 CityLand 150 (November 2006).

DeGrasse’s New Clothes, New York Post (Op Ed), April 25, 2005, at 28 (with D. Schoenbrod).

After the Court’s Ruling: The CFE Case and Money, 11 CityLaw 26 (March/April 2005).

OMB and Agency Budgets: The Song of Innocence or the Rules of the Locker Room, 11 CityLaw 25,27-28 (March/April 2005).

The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Story of the Permit, CityLaw, (March–April 2004).

Newtown Creek Upgrade and IT Contracts on Top 100 List, 10 CityLaw 121–127 (November/December 2004).

Governance by Lawyers, National Law Journal A12 (January 20, 2003) (with D. Schoenbrod).

N.Y. Unbound, New York Post (Op Ed), March 15, 2003 (with D. Schoenbrod).

New York in Handcuffs, New York Post (Op Ed), June 15, 2003 (with D. Schoenbrod).

Schools in Handcuffs: How Courts (Mis)rule N.Y.C., New York Post (Op Ed), March 14, 2003 (with D. Schoenbrod).

Social Service Contracts Lead Top 100 Contracts for FY 2003, 9 CityLaw 121–126 (November/December 2003).

Council Raises Small Purchases Limits, Reduces Hearings, 8 CityLaw 73, 75–77 (September/October 2002) (with M. Stoller).

“After the Court’s Ruling – What’s Next for Schools.” 7 CityLaw 1, 2–4 (January/February 2001) (with D. Schoenbrod).

After the September 11th Attack on the World Trade Center, 7 CityLaw 98 (September/October 2001).

“Ethics Rules Trip High Officials: Gifts, Politics, & Consulting.” 7 CityLaw 25–28 (March/April 2001).

“Top 100 Contracts: A Courthouse, Children and the Environment.” 7 CityLaw 113–115 (November/December 2001).

“By What Right Do Judges Run Prisons?”Wall Street Journal (Rule of Law), at A19 (August 31, 1998) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“Innovative Agreement Ends Marisol Litigation.” 5 CityLaw 1, 3–5 (January/February 1999) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“In New York City, The Jails Still Belong to the Judges.” Wall Street Journal (Rule of Law), at A23 (September 10, 1997) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“City Parking Gods Smile on Clergy.” Daily News (Op Ed), at 39 (February 25, 1997).

Book Review of Environmental Law and Regulation in New York, by William R. Ginsberg and Philip Weinberg. 216 New York Law Journal 2 (November 29, 1996).

“The City Seeks to Regain Control Over Its Jails, and Receives Help from the Federal Court and Congress.” 2 CityLaw 49, 51–54 (June/July 1996).

“How To Put Lawmakers, Not Courts, Back in Charge.” 6 City Journal 61–67 (Autumn 1996) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“On the Road to Ruin.” New York Times (Op Ed), at A27 (December 11, 1996).

“Soundings: ‘Prison Break.’” 6 City Journal 13 (Summer 1996) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“Term Limits: Seven Ways to Leave Your Lover.” 1 CityLaw 49, 51–52 (June 1995).

“Are You a Lobbyist?” 1 CityLaw 1–5 (February 1995) (with S.P. Murphy).

Book Review of Whose Backyard, Whose Risk, by Michael B. Gerrard. 213 New York Law Journal 2 (February 21, 1995).

“Why City Law?” 1 CityLaw 2 (February 1995).

“Getting the Mayor Back in Touch.” 4 City Journal 78–84 (Winter 1994).

“Government by Decree.” 4 City Journal 54–62 (Summer 1994) (with D. Schoenbrod).

Book Review of Environmental Law Practice Guide: State and Federal Law, by Michael B. Gerrard. 210 New York Law Journal 2 (July 13, 1993).

“Quick, Before It Crumbles.” New York Newsday (New York Forum), at 56 (November 17, 1993).

“So You Want to Work for Rudy?” New York Newsday (New York Forum), at 50 (December 1, 1993).

“Where the Jobs Are.” 10(6) Environmental Law Forum 12–16 (November/December 1993).

“Courting Public Opinion.” 9 Environmental Forum 10 (1992).

“Air Quality.” New York City, The Livable City, Winter 1991–92, at 2.

“N.Y.C. Needs Tolls to Pay for Bridge Repairs.” Crain’s New York Business, at 10 (August 5, 1991).

“Pave the Way For Pedestrians.” New York Newsday (Viewpoints), at 52 (October 1, 1991).

“The Politics of Global Warming.” The Amicus Journal (Summer 1990).

“Spanning the 21st Century: Reconstructing New York City’s Bridges.” 20 City Almanac 3 (1988) (with S.I. Schwartz & M. Reuter).

Columnist, “Environmental Law Column,” Environment Magazine, (1977–1984).

“No Parking, No Standing.” Empire State Report, November 1984, at 11.

“Richard Ravitch, Transit Financing and Politics.” 8(2) New York Affairs 35 (1984).

“Subway Scofflaws: A Proposal to Improve Enforcement.” 8(3) New York Affairs 61 (1984) (with S. Reiss & D. Schoenbrod).

“Take Subway Scofflaws Out of the Criminal Courts.” Empire State Report,March 1984, at 45 (with S. Reiss & D. Schoenbrod).

“Kiley: The Light at the End of the Tunnel?” Empire State Report, December 1983, at 6.

“To Meet Transit Needs Here.” New York Times (Op Ed), at 23 (September 3, 1983).

“More Sub Than Way.” New York Times (Op Ed), at 31 (December 11, 1982) (with S.M. Jurow).

“Private Development/Public Transit: Using Transit’s Zoning Tool” 7(3) New York Affairs 114 (1982).

“Should We Scuttle the Shuttle?” 7(3) New York Affairs 43 (1982) (with S.M. Jurow).

“Serving Queens: Where We Are Now.” 7(3) New York Affairs 65 (1982) (with S.M. Jurow).

“Settlement on the Hudson.” The Amicus Journal (Spring 1981).

“Transit: Keeping the Customer Satisfied.” 6(4) New York Affairs 57 (1981) (with S.M. Jurow).

“For the Subways, A Vision of Survival and Service.” Daily News, at 20 (December 30, 1980).

“Westway, As Transit Crumbles.” New York Times (Op Ed), at A23 (September 5, 1980).

“Report on a New Direction in Transit.” Empire State Report, February 1979, at 26.

“Subways: Cash & Carey.” New York Times (Op Ed), at 15 (July 30, 1979) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“Tunnel Vision Too.” New York Times (Op Ed), at 18 (April 14, 1978) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“State Environmental Quality Review Act.” 49 New York State Bar Journal 110, 112–117 (1977).

Book Review of A National Policy for the Environment: NEPA and Its Aftermath, by Richard A. Liroff. 2 Earth Law Review 301 (1976).

“New York as a Cough-In.” New York Times (Op Ed), at 33 (August 28, 1975) (with D. Schoenbrod).

“The Refuse Act of 1899: Key to Clean Water.” 58 American Bar Association Journal 468–471 (May 1972).