Feast of Burden

If you are a developer adding to the city’s skyline, make sure you have the design complete before you go meet with our rather powerful City Planning Commissioner, Amanda Burden.

Hines Interests, that Texas-based firm planning to build a tower next to MoMA, tried to sneak an unfinished plan by Ms. Burden, and it didn’t go particularly well.

“They hadn’t finished the design.” Ms. Burden tells Eliot Brown in a long profile in today’s Observer. “They were asking special permission to penetrate an iconic zone of the skyline, and they hadn’t finished the design. I was stunned.”

She goes on: “It was an A-frame with a mechanical box in it,” she said of the tower’s top. “And I’m championing this building, and I’m telling everybody this is just thrilling, it’s my favorite building, it’s exciting, and then this is what we saw. And I told them, ‘You want special permission to break the skyline. I applaud that. But with what?’”

Ms. Burden later erased 200 feet from the tower’s height–knocking it down from 1,250 feet to just 1,050–and sending acclaimed architect Jean Nouvel to plead his case before the City Council, hat in hand.

Such is the wand that Ms. Burden wields over the city’s skyline. She’s a fascinating woman, as Eliot points out. Not only is she the protector of the public aesthetic, she’s descended from Standard Oil money, related to Topper Mortimer, and dates Charlie Rose.

“When they talk about society in New York,” David Patrick Columbia, founder of the New York Social Diary, tells Eliot, “Amanda is the real thing.”

Read the piece here.

Feast of Burden