Extra Burden

Planning geeks have lamented the fact that Atlantic Yards won’t go through the city land use review process–which requires the City Council and City Planning Commission to approve zoning changes–but it seems like city Planning Director Amanda Burden is still getting to have her say. At a presentation before the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects tonight, both architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin intimated that she had been needling them even if she has no power over their decisions–and in such a way that they did not seem rehearsed.

“City Planning is really on this one,” Gehry said. “Amanda Burden is really working us and we believe in what they want but the idea of creating storefronts on Atlantic Avenue–there’s not much depth to deal with.”

Burden, a committed urbanist and acolyte of Holly Whyte, is also apparently concerned about eliminating Pacific Street and forming one superblock out of two already long city blocks. “One of the concerns that City Planning had and we of course share was if you come off of the streets, say Pacific, and walk into a space, what can you see?” Olin said. He then turned to a slide that showed how much of the interior courtyard of that superblock could be seen from the street, which was pretty much, except for the areas hidden behind buildings. The problem, of course, is that those hidden spaces are potentially dangerous, and the idea of irregularly shaped, privately owned greenery open to the public makes urbanists squirm with the ambiguity of it all. Burden says she is happy with the project as a whole, but what she would do to it if she had veto power is another matter.

-Matthew Schuerman Extra Burden