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.
Professor Sandler left Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, where he was a partner, to join NYLS’s faculty and head the new center, which he suggested should specialize in city government and its operations. He went on to create the structure for the CityLaw, CityLand, and CityRegs publications and events like CityLaw Breakfasts.
Professor Sandler came to NYLS after a long and distinguished career in public service, in addition to his years of private practice. During the early 1970s, he served as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he was chief of the Environmental Enforcement Unit and worked on the cutting edge of newly emerging 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 NYLS 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 for public transportation. In that position his environmental law experience helped revitalize the city’s mass transit system. In 1986, Mayor Koch appointed him as commissioner of the Department of Transportation where he 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, which have attracted many of the city’s most influential people.
Professor Sandler 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.