Conversations on New York
New York City Commissioners Adrian Benepe, Amanda Burden, and David Burney, in conversation with Paul Goldberger
Recorded: July 20, 2010
More than any city administration since John Lindsay’s, the Bloomberg administration has made improving the physical city—and an emphasis on high quality in architecture and landscape design—an important focus of its agenda. The most visible impacts of this focus have come through the work of the New York City Departments of Parks & Recration, City Planning, Design and Construction, and Transportation. In the third in our series of Conversations on New York, Paul Goldberger, architecture critic of The New Yorker, engaged commissioners Adrian Benepe (Parks & Recreation), Amanda Burden (City Planning), and David Burney (Design and Construction) in a discussion about how they made design integral to the work of their departments; what today’s stringent fiscal constraints portend for the continuation of their efforts and the preservation of what they have already created; and what their agendas promise for the mayor’s final term.
Both Adrian Benepe at Parks & Recreation and Amanda Burden at City Planning have served as the commissioners of their departments since the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg’s first term in 2002. Benepe’s history with his department goes back to 1973, when as a teenager he was hired as a seasonal helper in parks on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He served in various other positions in the department after graduating from college, including as a member of the first corps of Urban Park Rangers in 1979, and subsequently as Director of Natural Resources & Horticulture, Director of Art & Antiquities, and Manhattan Borough Commissioner. Amanda Burden served as a member of the Planning Commission, as the appointee of the Public Advocate, from 1990 to 2001. Prior to her appointment as Chair of the Commission, she was Director of Planning for the Center for Court Innovation, Vice President of Panning and Design at the Battery Park City Authority, and Vice President of Architecture and Design at the NYS Urban Development Corporation. David Burney was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction in 2004, after serving for a decade as Director of Design and Capital Improvement at the New York City Housing Authority. An architect, Burney worked for Davis, Brody & Associates after immigrating to the United States from England in 1982.
Paul Goldberger has been the architecture critic at The New Yorker since 1997. His two most recent books are Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture, and Why Architecture Matters. He holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at the New School in New York, where he was previously Dean of Parsons, the New School for Design.