The Preservation Foundation

Gruss Lecture with Amanda Burden attracts large audience
Posted Date 03/14/2008

Over 175 people attended the fifth annual Gruss Lecture on March 14th, 2008.  Amanda Burden, the director of the New York City Department of City Planning and chair of the City Planning Commission was this year’s lecturer, speaking for a little over an hour.

A recipient of numerous architecture, civic and design awards, Burden discussed in detail how she has spearheaded New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's economic development agenda with comprehensive urban design master plans and new initiatives.  It is the city’s biggest planning effort in over 45 years, involving approximately 7,000 blocks. 

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The Gruss lecture series was established in 2004 through the generous sponsorship of long-time Foundation members and benefactors, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Gruss.   The series had previously brought four world renowned architects to Palm Beach – Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Robert A. M. Stern, Jaquelin Robertson, and Richard Meier.  With town design such a growing issue in Palm Beach, the Foundation now believed it right to spotlight an urban planner.

From 1983 until 1990 Burden was Vice President for Planning and Design of the Battery Park City Authority. She was responsible for the development and implementation of design guidelines for the 92-acre site as well as for overseeing the design of all open spaces and parkland, including the waterfront esplanade.  In 1990, she joined the City Planning Commission and then became chair in 2002.

She outlined her rezoning plans noting, “there is no ill will to previous administrations but on average they might have handled 12 rezonings while we have taken on 79, which is to say 1/6th of the city.”

Burden joked that when taking office, “I was asked to create a strategic plan for what I wanted to do.  The deputy major suggested I create a power point presentation.  I didn’t know what a power point was or a strategic plan.”  An evolved version of that very power point presentation she was asked to put together is what Burden treated guests to at the lecture.

“New York is now a global city.  It no longer just competes with Chicago and San Francisco but Shanghai and London as well,” she said. This was the first of her six principles for the city; that it is a city of world opportunity and must remain so.  Second, she requires that the city must be sustainable and self-renewing.  Third, she feels the city should be treated as a city of neighborhoods, not all just one big living area in which everyone is centered towards and subsidiary to the island of Manhattan.  To the preservationist’s end, “we must protect neighborhood’s characters,” she said.  Fourth, there must be comprehensive planning for significant sites.  Speaking of her fifth principle she quoted from her mentor Holly Whyte that “you can measure the health of a city by the vibrancy of its streets.”  Public open spaces and vibrant waterfronts must be cultivated and encouraged.  Finally, developers musty be held to stricter designer standards.  All in the urban environment deserve design excellence so that the whole city remains a place beauty.

She also discussed her favorite project known as the High Line.  This is an old piece of elevated railway line which used to move meat from the port to the city for dispersal to restaurants and others.  Burden has helped to develop the idea of turning the High Line into an elevated park and public space for downtown New York.  She calls it a “magic carpet in the sky” and it is set to partially open later this autumn.

Among the rest of her speech were such town planning tidbits as “invest in public space: it creates vitality” and “make sure you don’t have uniform homogenous anything.”


 

 

 Trustee Audrey Gruss and Amanda Burden

 

To visit Amanda Burden's webpage at the New York City Department of Planning, please click here.

To read a July 16, 2007 interview with Amanda Burden from City Hall News, please click here.

To read the New York Daily News' May 30, 2007 profile of Amanda Burden, please click here.

To read the New York Times' January 15, 2007 profile of Amanda Burden, please click here.

To read an October 9, 2006 interview with Amanda Burden by Plantizen, please click here.

To read New York magazine's profile of Amanda Burden from their May 13, 2002 issue, please click here.

To download and listen to a 7MB podcast interview of Amanda Burden by BusinessWeek from April 4, 2006, please click here.