Hastings Law Journal


Scholars have become increasingly interested in facilitating improvement in environmental and public health at the local level. Over the last few years, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council have proposed and adopted numerous environmental and public health initiatives, providing a useful case study for analyzing the development and success (or failure) of various regulatory tools, and offering larger lessons about regulation that can be extrapolated to other substantive areas. This Article, first, seeks to categorize and evaluate these “New York Rules,” creating a new taxonomy to understand different types of regulation. These “New York Rules” include bans, informational regulation, education, infrastructure, mandates, standard-setting, and economic (dis)incentives. In particular, this Article focuses on urban transportation and food systems, including the failed market-based congestion pricing plan for Lower Manhattan; the Citi Bike infrastructure; the proposed “Sugary Drink” ban; informational calorie labeling on food menus; and the emerging compost pollution prevention plan. This Article provides insight into the challenge of matching the proper regulatory tool with any environmental and public health problem, suggesting that certain approaches are more appropriate than others. In general, society requires more forceful nudges than seen to date and, where this kind of push is not possible, policymakers should proceed to lay the groundwork with norm-shifting regulation. Infrastructure shifts are also a successful type of intervention when more intrusive regulation fails. In summary, law proves to be a workable tool to change individual behavior, and major government action can influence social norms and create improved infrastructure.

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