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Samara Swanston

Visiting Assistant Professor


Samara Swanston has been engaged in the practice of Environmental Law for more than twenty five years. She served a two-year clerkship in the New York Court of Appeals where she worked on environmental cases. After the Court, she worked as environmental counsel to the Town of Babylon and the County of Suffolk where she litigated Long Island Pine Barrens v. Town of Brookhaven et al., the largest environmental lawsuit in state history, and was the first drafter of Article 57 of the Environmental Conservation Law creating the Long Island Pine Barrens Maritime Reserve Act and saving the globally rare dwarf pine forest.

She went to work for the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund attorney and led the creation of the Region 2 Environmental Justice Workgroup, helped draft the 1992 EPA Environmental Equity Report and was awarded the EPA Gold Medal, the highest agency honor. She spent three years working as a manager for the Superfund program of the Department of Environmental Conservation, ten years working as the Executive Director and the General Counsel of the Watchperson Project of Greenpoint-Williamsburg, a non-governmental environmental advocacy organization located in Brooklyn, and nine years as an Administrative Law Judge for the New York City Environmental Control Board.

She is currently the legislative counsel to the Environmental Protection Committee of the New York City Council and an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute Graduate School for Urban Planning and the Environment. Ms. Swanston has successfully litigated environmental cases, has written numerous law review articles and reports on Environmental Justice and has been extensively cited. Ms. Swanston makes a cameo appearance in the movie “Gasland”, winner of the Special Jury Prize 2010 Sundance Film Documentary and nominated for an Academy Award and the movie “Idle Threat” winner of the 2012 Woodstock Film Festival and Official Selection in the 2013 Environmental Film Festival in the nation’s capital.

Ms. Swanston also was the first drafter of the local law to require coordination between the state and city for construction projects that require state wetlands or coastal erosion hazard area permits, the New York City in-conduit hydropower local law, the local law to protect city wetlands, the New York City local law to promote the use of geothermal energy and solar thermal energy, the local law to require solar photovoltaic systems on city owned buildings, the New York City environmental justice law, local laws to promote the use of biofuels and thirty-nine other local laws. Ms. Swanston was the recipient of a City Council Proclamation for her environmental work in 2016. Ms. Swanston can be reached at

Ms. Swanston attended New York City public schools, York College of the City University, where she graduated Cum Laude and St. John’s University School of Law on a full tuition scholarship.