Faculty Focus

Professor Shelby Green

Professor Shelby Green is the Susan Taxin Baer ’85 Faculty Scholar at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. She joined Haub Law in 1991 and teaches Property, Real Estate Transactions and Finance, Advanced Real Property, Historic Preservation, and Housing Development and Discrimination. In this edition of Faculty Focus, she talks about the many facets of property law and gives advice on staying positive in a polarized world.

Can you tell me about your recent work?

I’m preparing for a few symposia. I’m preparing for the 2022 Arkansas Law Review Symposium – Construction Law In The Legal Academy on March 12th. I’ll be on the Design Liability: Professional Responsibility, Safety, and Social Justice panel. On that panel, I will talk about the effect of new construction inventions on the cost and supply of housing construction.

I’m also preparing for the Seton Hall Law Review Symposium – American Cities Struggling with Economic Justice Reform on February 25th. I’ll be on the Reinventing Cities to Create Opportunities for Affordable Housing panel. I plan to talk about rethinking zoning, adaptive rezoning to promote greater affordability and availability of housing. Adaptive rezoning means moving away from Euclidean zoning. Euclidean zoning makes sense on the fringe, keeping factories away from where people live, but it doesn't make sense to keep a school out of a place where people live. Adaptive rezoning means allowing for infill, all kinds of housing – like tiny houses, adaptive reuse, and changing height, space, and parking requirements. And it means being adaptive towards creative design with issues like climate change. For example, how we orientate houses. 

I am also the Editor of Keeping Current Property column in Probate & Property Magazine. It’s a bi-monthly magazine and the column summarizes cases of note from all across the country, new legislation, and what academics in the field are writing about.    I am also working on an article with Bailey Andree, a 2L and research assistant to Professor Emeritus John Nolon and a Land Use Law Center Scholar, on state control of land use policy, which we hope will be published by the magazine.

I am the Chair for the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section of the American Bar Association’s Legal Education Group, which among other things offers the  “Professors’ Corner”, a monthly webinar on current topics. The hour long discussions recently covered a book called “Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives” that talks about how we may think we own something, but there are all kinds of limitations. For example, you see people lined up for the Supreme Court and they look like regular people, who want to see the actions, be there for the discussions, but they’re just paid to stand there and are replaced by people in business suits who had them hold the spots. Do those people own the line space? Next month we’ll talk about purpose trusts, which are just trusts set up for a particular purpose, and how to draft them so they’re properly carried out. We’ll be discussing monuments in April. The statue of Teddy Roosevelt was just removed from the Museum of Natural History; next to the image of Roosevelt, stood one of an Indigenous person and a shirtless black man, implying subservience from both. What do these silent monuments say in these public spaces? 

​​I’m also co-counsel at the Land Use Law Center with Professor John Nolon. We’re working on a project to help small commercial tenants navigate the effects of the pandemic. The eviction moratorium applied to them as well, but many had to close. We’ve been working on a recovery lease for small businesses that keeps tenants in and helps the landlords avoid vacancy. 

How do you find teaching in today’s climate? 

Teaching is always challenging, all the issues happening that you have to think through. The polarized nature of society is disturbing. People are too mean and not reticent to express that meanness. I have hope in your generation, though - I hope you will be calm, gentle, and caring because my generation certainly hasn’t always been. I try to engage in discussion in class that isn’t too political, but it’s hard because everything is polarized. I see a lot of students that care about society and the world, despite the media being so overwhelming with negativity. 

How did you become interested in law?

I’m not sure, in undergrad I studied sociology. There are a lot of political and social issues raised and pondered. Research is fundamental, but law allows you to be out there making direct and immediate impact. I think back to the Brown v. Board of Education strategy, where they had sociologists talking about the impact of segregation on the intellectual development of young minds. It was really interesting. I don’t discount sociology at all, but lawyers make so much impact. They get the courts to say those things are wrong. 

What keeps you interested in property law? 

Property is the world. It involves everything – where we can go, housing, assets, including intangible assets, access to water. What happens when the Colorado river drops another 10ft? Even criminal law has origins in property; trespass was a crime. . All about jockeying for control, it interests me. 

A current issue that interests me is allocating the burden of tenants that can’t be evicted because they can’t pay their rent. Mega landlords can’t evict a handful temporarily, and although the landlords probably can't ever collect the rent, it's a risk they may have to take to enter the business. However, most landlords are small and need food for their families. I think the government should provide financial assistance to tenants to pay, which has happened. 

With the 2019 tenant landlord law, they were worried about small landlords going into bankruptcy and the big ones waiting to take those buildings. Buildings were already under rent control, so the law just added more procedural protections, rights to more notice prior to eviction proceedings and limited the use of self-help – which I think is wise. Tenants can also seek stay against eviction in case of hardship. 

What advice do you have for students interested in real estate and property law?

Just to keep being curious, keep reading and thinking about the larger issues and what it means for society – like ensuring housing is available and accessible, rethinking what homeowners and property owners can do, how we further limit rights, as we have done from the beginning of time, how governments need to think about what communities should look like. 

Pay attention to stories. I heard one about a tenant that toured an apartment and the broker asked him if he noticed anything in the bathroom missing. He said no, but there was no toilet, you had to use a shared one down the hall. Does that meet the building code? Who alerts the inspectors? Someone rented it eventually. Pay attention to stories like this. 

At Haub Law, we have a path to practice in Real Estate and Land Use. There’s an externship as well. Students are placed in firms, title companies, etc. where they get guidance and experience. The Land Use Law Center is also a great resource and place to gain experience. 

Can you tell me about a non-academic interest or hobby you have? 

I love hiking. My husband and I go to Colorado often in the summer. Connecticut has nice places as well. Recently, we braved the frigid temperatures and set out on an icy trail. My husband wore cleats, I only had normal hiking shoes on, so at a certain point we had to turn around. We want to go to Glastonbury State Forest next. Sometimes I play the piano. I keep buying leisure books, but don’t have time to read them, so they keep piling up!

Learn more about Professor Green.

Gabriella Mickel, a 2023 JD Candidate at Haub Law, authored this faculty Q&A. Gabriella is a Land Use & Haub Scholar, the President of the Environmental Law Society, a Junior Associate on Pace Environmental Law Review, and on the E-Board for NLG, Lambda, and ACS. Outside of school, she owns three sports supplement stores and is the co-editor of the Law Student Corner section of the NYSBA EELS Journal.