Students from Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University Lead Research Project Supporting New State Legislation for Village Incorporation

June 8, 2023
Photos of 3 students

Report Presented to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Legislators to be Used as a Basis for Reform

A team of students from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, supported by expert faculty, were commissioned by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to lead an indepth study of New York State law surrounding the village incorporation process. Their report, Incorporation in New York: Legislative Options for Reform, was presented to the Senate Majority Leader along with more than 20 Senators, Assemblymembers and legislative staff from across the State who were eager for the information and discussion regarding the proposed solutions.

Over the past several years, New York State has taken considerable steps to eliminate or reduce the number of local governments — streamlining the law to make it easier for citizens to undertake the process as well as providing financial incentives for communities that undertake consolidations and shared services. Yet, in Westchester County residents in the census-designated area of Edgemont have been seeking to become an incorporated village since 2019, citing land use decisions and costly settlements by the Town of Greenburgh. The ongoing debate has led to a broader dialogue on the subject among government leaders and cause to seek an outside perspective on the efficacy of New York State’s current incorporations laws.

Last year, Senator Stewart-Cousins, a proud alumnus who holds both a Bachelor’s Degree and Masters of Public Administration from Pace University, reached out to Haub Law Dean Horace E Anderson, Jr. to see if the Law School could help in the endeavor.

“The study came out of the State’s desire to ensure that the right formula for growth is in place for those villages seeking incorporation, taking into consideration a broader scope of issues than has been the case historically,” said Dean Horace E. Anderson, Jr. “This project was a great example of how our students experience law beyond the classroom. At Haub Law, we are not just training our students to be lawyers, but also to have an impact on their communitites.”

Drawing upon it’s national reputation in land use law, Haub Law assembled a research team comprised of upper-level students Hailey Pedicano, Carly Hopkins, and Mia Petrucci, led by former Adjunct Professor Lester Steinman, a founding partner of the Municipal Law & Land Use group at McCarthy Fingar LLC, one of the most respected authorities on municipal law matters in the Lower Hudson Valley region. Research and data collection was supported by Jessica Bacher, Executive Director, Pace Land Use Law Center, Deborah L. Heller, Assistant Dean of the Law Library, and Vicky Gannon, Head of Collection Services/Reference Librarian.

The Haub Law team examined the incorporation procedures and requirements set forth in Article 2 of the Village Law and compared them with other states’ laws and New York law on annexation and dissolution. A 2020 Rockefeller Institute study served as the report’s research foundation and case studies and other literature on village incorporation were reviewed to better understand the reasons that motivate people to petition to incorporate. Bill research analysis further illuminated the rationale behind prior, unsuccessful efforts at legislative reform of the village incorporation process. The report concluded with research outcomes and several proposed options for legislative reform.

"I couldn't have received a better, more thought out, and data driven report," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "Pace's recommendations are specific and include the rationale behind them. They provide a great roadmap as to how the current law, which is over 100 years old, should be updated. Several years ago we updated the state law on government consolidation, but we never updated the incorporation law. We now have a starting point, and I am pleased to say that the State Senate has just passed legislation incorporating several of their recommendations. My thanks and appreciation go to Dean Anderson, Lester Steinman and especially to the students, faculty and staff of Pace Law School. "

Since its release, the Senate and Assembly have already passed two bills based on findings from the report and Governor Hochul is expected to vote on the new legislation in the coming weeks.

Read the report, Incorporation in New York: Legislative Options for Reform.

About Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law offers JD and Masters of Law degrees in both Environmental and International Law, as well as a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law. The school, housed on the University’s campus in White Plains, NY, opened its doors in 1976 and has over 9,000 alumni around the world. The school maintains a unique philosophy and approach to legal education that strikes an important balance between practice and theory. Haub Law launched its Environmental Law Program in 1978, and it has long been ranked among the world’s leading university programs, with a current #1 ranking by U.S. News & World Report.


You May Also Like