From cleaning up Central Park, advocating for gender-affirming care, and studying neighborhoods in Chinatown, around 200 Fordham Law students spread across New York City for the school’s annual Public Service Day.
The event is an annual tradition at the law school that brings together first year and returning students to volunteer the Saturday before the fall semester begins and encourages them to live the school’s motto of working “in the service of others.”
“This year’s Public Service Day was absolutely fantastic, touching on various topics of public interest law and service,” said Mia Jackson-Rosenthal, a director for the Public Interest Resource Center (PIRC) at Fordham Law. “None of this would have been possible without our incredibly engaged student groups and the wonderful non-profits they partnered with.”
Held on Aug. 19 as part of first-year orientation, Public Service Day 2023 featured 10 individual projects led by students affiliated with PIRC and the Student Bar Association.
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Cleaning Up Central Park
More than 20 students gathered in Central Park, located just two blocks away from the law school, for a park clean-up event organized by the Environmental Law Advocates (ELA). Working in small groups, students began their day near Columbus Circle and walked across different areas of the park, picking up several bags of litter in just two hours.
“Public service is at the center of our focus for what our group does,” said ELA President Chris Freire ’25. Through various events over the year, including Public Service Day, ELA works to provide members with opportunities for members “to learn about the issues that are involved in environmental justice and provide a platform to pursue a career to help ameliorate those injustices,” Freire explained.
“Hundreds of [Fordham Law] students rely on the park as a little refuge from studying and a place to escape and get some fresh air,” added Freire. “The weather was beautiful, and the students got to know one another and began to form friendships before classes even started.”
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Tackling Land Use Issues in Chinatown
This year, Fordham Law’s Asian and Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) collaborated with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund on a pro bono project studying Chinatown neighborhoods across the East Coast.
After participating in an hour-long orientation at the law school, the group of approximately 20 volunteer students took the train downtown to New York City’s Chinatown to begin their survey. The survey will be part of a novel comparative study assessing decade-long changes in three of East Coast’s largest Chinatowns.
Students took notes on the features of various local properties to measure the impact of issues including zoning policies, real estate development, and the impact of the pandemic on businesses. Breaking off into pairs of two, students were then given assigned areas of four to six blocks and filled out their forms.
“Everyone was asking a lot of questions [throughout the morning]and was very involved,” said APALSA Co-vice President Heajin Kang ’25. “For us, this project was a really great way to continue having a public service-oriented mindset and being aware of our position within the community, while also creating a family-like group within Fordham APALSA.”
Advocating for Gender-Affirming Care
Fordham Law’s queer student affinity group, OUTLaws, and new student group, Advocates for Trans* Law Students (ATLS), brought together 15 students in an event that aimed to communicate directly with state and federal legislators on issues related to gender-confirming healthcare access.
Through phone banking and letter writing, students urged politicians “to resist pressures to push bills through that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to access gender-affirming care,” said ATLS Co-Founder Grey Berkowitz ’25. “This is a really pivotal point in the political legal moment, and we were super excited to have the opportunity to come together on this.”
With snacks and coffee in hand, participating students also spent the morning learning about issues affecting the trans community.
“1Ls now have this opportunity—that if they see each other in the hallway— they know that this fellow classmate showed up to this event and that they are a safe, welcoming person,” said Berkowitz. “I could see in real time these students coming together to know who their people are going to be at Fordham Law moving forward.”
Other Public Service Day projects this year included a legal observer training organized by the National Lawyers Guild, building back-to-school kits for recently arrived migrants organized by the Latin American Students Association and Immigration Advocacy Project, and a “legal literacy” project organized by the Fordham Suspension Representation Project.