Gehl himself famously walked around Downtown Brooklyn on a cold morning in November 2005, expressing dismay at the sterility of Forest City Ratner's MetroTech and skepticism about the developer's plans for Atlantic Yards.
Ezra Goldstein of the Park Slope Civic Council's Civic News did a good job of capturing Gehl's take, in an article headlined Plan for Life. The Gehl formula quoted differs from the sequence behind Atlantic Yards:
Instead of planning large buildings and then working down, he said, “you look first at the space you want to develop and ask what kind of life can be envisaged there. Then you ask what kind of public space will create that life. And only then do you design the buildings that create the public space you want.
(More, including photos and quotes, from DDDB.)
Gehl 2005 New York visit had been hosted by Transportation Alternatives. So his hiring seems another example of the startlingly progressive moves by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who has also hired Andy Wiley-Schwartz from Project for Public Spaces, Jon Orcutt of the Tri-State Transportation Council, and transportation consultant Bruce Schaller.