Equal parts aristocrat and technocrat, Burden is both an heiress and the head of New York City's planning commission.
Burden has the most impressive social pedigree of any wonk currently in the employ of the City of New York: Babe Paley, her mother, was a legendary socialite; Stanley Mortimer, her father, was heir to the Standard Oil fortune; and Bill Paley, her stepfather, was the founder of CBS. After flirting with a career in zoology, she joined the architecture studio Gruzen & Partners before earning a graduate degree from Columbia in urban planning. During the early 1980s, she headed up the city's efforts to build public spaces in Battery Park City; she later spent a decade as a member of the city's planning commission before Mayor Bloomberg appointed her director of the department in 2002.
New York City has more planning development in the work than at any time since the Robert Moses era forty years ago—and Burden's office has a hand in every project, from the massive Atlantic Yards and Moynihan Station projects to the High Line to the most obscure Staten Island rezoning bid. It's a big job and while her work has earned praise from her planning colleagues, many big-name real estate developers aren't quite as complimentary: Burden has raised hackles by involving herself in minor structural issues—like what angles buildings should sit at—and demanding that developers rely on famous (and overpriced) architects.
Burden is a serial dater of rich, rich men. Her first husband, Carter Burden, a Vanderbilt heir, was a city councilman and one-time Village Voice owner. After their divorce, she married Steve Ross, then the head of Warner Communications, the company that would later become Time Warner. Most recently, Burden's been in a decades long, on-and-off-again relationship with the boozing, lady-lovin' TV man Charlie Rose. She has two adult children from her first marriage, Carter Jr. and Belle. [Image via Getty]