The NY Times has a nice profile of Amanda Burden, the influential Department of City Planning commissioner whose policies will shape the city for years to come.

Logo.jpgBurden boasts a quiet, behind-the-scenes role in development across the five boroughs, including large-scale projects like Ground Zero, the Atlantic Yards (she supported downsizing it) and the High Line. She’s also overseeing the largest planning push since 1961 - so far, City Planning has rezoned approximately 4,500 blocks, including areas along the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront.

Land use changes in that part of Brooklyn led one community advocate to describe her as the “Wicked Witch of the West” for not addressing the area’s loss of manufacturing jobs and displacement of residents. The complaint is that she doesn’t take into account the larger impact of a plan, for example how transportation, schools or sewer systems fit into the mix.

Burden has other critics. Developers say she’s too design-obsessed (her favorite architects are Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and Thom Mayne), that she micromanages how building angles sit in the skyline and that she’s attached to overpriced architects.

Here's Burden's take on design: “I think that it makes the city young and exciting to see aggressive and innovative architecture.”

No matter what you think of her policies, it’s admirable that she takes public service so seriously, given her elite background. She’s a descendant of John Jay, the nation’s first chief justice, and her father was an heir to Standard Oil fortune. She’s worth more than $45 million and lived in the Dakota but now lives near Mayor Bloomberg on East 79th Street.

We tend to think that if she’s being criticized both by developers and community advocates, she must be doing something right.

Here's an interview she did with Planetizen last fall.