Monday, January 15, 2007

New York's Burden

In today's NY Times the inimitable Diane Cardwell profiles the work of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden. The lengthy piece doesn't do real justice to Amanda's essence as a city planner: a complete lack of any concern for the real world of people. The article's opening, though, does manage to give us a glimpse of where her concerns lie: Talking about the steps leading into Paley Park (Paley was her stepfather) she rhapsodizes, "Those steps 'are just perfect'...It makes you want to skip into the park.'"

Now we have had our own run-ins with Burden over the BJs project in the Bronx and the Gateway Mall at the Bronx Terminal Market. Her patrician haughtiness actually worked in our favor when she inappropriately closed a hearing on us and we parlayed her peremptory demeanor into a City Council vote against BJs on Brush Avenue. What strikes us most is that her obsession with aesthetic detail is in inverse proportion to any awareness or concern for the fate of businesses and residents in the path of development.

This is captured by Cardwell when she quotes someone from a Brooklyn civic group who describes Burden as the "Wicked Witch of the West" for her blithe lack of concern for "residents who have been displaced, {and} viable manufacturing jobs {that} have been lost." Her concern for city planning issues remain on an abstract level and you get the impression that for this Amanda, people are a real burden.