Geeta Tewari ’05 was recently appointed associate director of the Urban Law Center. An experienced lawyer and prolific writer, Tewari is dedicated to effecting change in urban communities throughout the United States and around the world.
“There is no other center in the country quite like ours,” said Tewari, who brings to Fordham Law an interest in myriad social justice causes, including education availability, gender issues, and housing access. In her new role, she plans to increase the center’s collaboration with other members of the School’s A2J Initiative, including the Feerick Center for Social Justice and the Public Interest Research Center (PIRC). She also stressed the importance of the center’s international focus.
“Over 20 million people annually are displaced by natural disasters alone, and overwhelmingly, these groups migrate to cities,” she said. “Cities are in a unique standing to serve at the forefront of global challenges, to model a socially inclusive and equitable world.”
As part of her own global engagement, Tewari will travel in June to Brazil, where she will lead the Urban Law Center’s fifth annual International and Comparative Urban Law Conference. Conference topics, addressed by renowned urban law scholars, will include economic and community development; housing and the built environment; migration and citizenship; and urban equity, inclusion, and urban public health.
Tewari’s interest in cityscape civil service is long-standing. After obtaining her J.D. from Fordham Law in 2005, she committed to serving as a public interest attorney. From 2006 to 2008, she worked as assistant corporation counsel for the New York City Law Department’s Office of the Corporation Counsel in the tax and bankruptcy division. Tewari then moved to Washington D.C., where, from 2008 to 2010, she worked as assistant attorney general for the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General. In this role, Tewari ensured real estate developers complied with city environmental ordinances and addressed housing issues, ensuring the rights of low-income individuals to affordable housing.
Bringing her interest in housing rights to Fordham, Tewari has already begun to work on housing justice initiatives in New York City. She hopes to motivate students to work on such issues during law school and throughout their future careers.
During her first few weeks on the job, Tewari has also begun editing The Legal Power of Cities: Global Perspectives in Urban Law, the second volume in the Urban Law Center’s Global Perspectives Series. The work, which brings together articles written by international urban law scholars, will be published by Routledge Press later this year.
Tewari is not only an editor but, at the fore, a writer—and her literary interest extends beyond legal topics. While working as a lawyer in D.C., she began writing fiction and poetry. She signed up for collaborative workshops and, after moving back to New York, received acceptance to Columbia University School of the Arts, where she earned an M.F.A. in fiction writing in 2017. Over the last several years, Tewari has published four short stories and three poems. Her latest story, “Discipline,” was published by Granta, a world-renowned literary magazine. In the future, she hopes to publish a collection of her short stories.
Like her legal service, her creative work integrates ideas of justice; her stories tend to focus on the voices of minorities and the experiences of first- and second-generation Americans, offering readers opportunities to challenge and expand their perspectives. Hoping to inspire others to pursue creative writing, Tewari has taught the craft to students and alumni of Columbia University, and to New York City public high school students.
Tewari also engages in various volunteer and pro-bono work. She maintains a commitment to the New York Women’s Foundation, and is an active member of PEN America, an organization advocating free expression worldwide. She has volunteered in New York State Housing Court, providing pro bono assistance to physically or mentally impaired litigants facing eviction. Tewari is also busy raising three young daughters, whom she enjoys taking to arts programs at local museums.
In all that Tewari pursues, social justice figures prominently. This commitment will only strengthen Fordham Law’s service-oriented ethos.
“I am committed to creating change internationally, and as the new director of the Urban Law Center, in urban communities, inspiring students and community leaders to collaborate towards better policies, more resources, and equal access. I hope to inspire others to do the same,” she said.