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Amanda Burden on urban planning that puts people first

Former New York planning commissioner Amanda Burden.

New York City faced a conundrum under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. How to squeeze another million residents, many of them immigrants, into a city already tight on space. Fortunately, he tasked Amanda Burden, his planning commissioner, with finding the solution.

She concluded that if the city couldn’t spread out, it would build up in places where people could live without cars, she recalled during a recent TED presentation. “If we were to channel and redirect all new development around transit, we could actually handle that population increase, we thought,” she told the audience. What followed were rezoning efforts that promoted housing accessible to mass transit.

Burden thinks urban planning shouldn’t end with skyscrapers and infrastructure. “When I think about cities, I think about people,” she said, adding that “lively, enjoyable public spaces are the key to planning a great city.” The urban strategist recounted her many battles with commercial interests over the now successful High Line, a park along elevated train tracks in Manhattan. “Public spaces always need vigilant champions,” she declared.

Access the full transcript here.


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