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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall…

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974)

by Robert A. Caro

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In the middle of New York City, a man sits on an island in the headquarters of a bridge and tunnel authority, collecting tolls without end from the drivers passing through, his vaunting dictatorial powers to build and regulate parks, roads and any facilities he pleases written into indefeasible bond contracts protected against interference from city or state by the US Constitution: a man who plotted with sociopathic genius his way to arbitrary power through the unsuspected minutiae of city government, to the point where NYC became his own Sim City.

This is a compelling study of the man who shaped New York's built environment. A domineering, misanthropic narcissist who used every trick in the book to "get things done", Robert Moses deployed corruption, abuse of power, blackmail, legal chicanery, slander and more to ensure he got his way as he constructed parks, highways, bridges, apartment blocks and prestige projects. His highways failed to relieve traffic; his improvements often systematically and maliciously neglected minority populations; he callously condemned natural areas and communities that got in his way to demolition or ruination; he left a trail of appalled and ruined people behind him while long garnering almost unwavering public and press support. It is really something to write a 1,100-page book about a city planner that reads as a thrilling page-turner: on every page the reader will find fascinating material about how one man, who was decisively rejected on the only occasion he sought an elected position, was able to do so much and amass so much power, what kind of character that took, and what it cost the people and the city around him. ( )
  wa233 | Apr 19, 2018 |
Great book about how Robert Moses used power and then overstepped and overreached. Interesting history of New York city and state. Learned much. An abridged version would have been better. The author was way too wordy. ( )
  ShadowBarbara | Jan 27, 2017 |
Totally absorbing book. The subject matter is riveting and the prose is top-shelf. Paints an at times depressing picture of how New York was (and likely is) governed. ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Jun 8, 2014 |
Caro's blistering bio of urban planner Robert Moses. ( )
  schmicker | Apr 19, 2014 |
Am immense work, delving into the life and work of one of NY's most powerful, somewhat behind the scenes, architects of the city we know today. Fascinating. Caro is a treasure, makes me want to start on his LBJ books. ( )
  reluctantacademic | Jun 19, 2013 |
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From time to time Mr. Caro feels that he ought to explain why Moses is what he is and his narrative is occasionally marred by vulgar Freudianisms in the Leon Edel manner. This is a pity because the chief interest of biography is not why men do what they do, which can never be known unless one turns novelist the way Freud did when he wrote Leonardo, but what they do. One does not want a theory explaining Moses's celebrated vindictiveness when examples of that vindictiveness are a matter of interesting record. For instance, after a run-in with Mayor Jimmy Walker, Moses tore down the Casino in Central Park because Walker had patronized it; yet the building itself was a charming relic of the previous century and the people's property. Prematurely, he razed a yacht club because the members "were rude to me." Shades of Richard Nixon! Petty revenge was certainly behind his desire to remove the Battery's most famous landmark-the Aquarium in the old fort known as Castle Garden...

Finally, in looking back over all that Robert Moses has done to the world we live in and, more important, the way that he did it by early mastering the twin arts of publicity and of corruption, one sees in the design of his career a perfect blueprint for that inevitable figure, perhaps even now standing in the wings of the Republic, rehearsing to himself such phrases as "law and order," "renewal and reform," "sacrifice and triumph," the first popularly elected dictator of the United States.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe New York Review of Books, Gore Vidal
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As The captain of the Yale swimming team stood beside the pool, still dripping after his laps, and listened to Bob Moses, the team's second-best freestyler, he didn't know what shocked him more—the suggestion or the fact that it was Moses who was making it.
You can draw any kind of picture you want on a clean slate and indulge your every whim in the wilderness in laying out a New Delhi, Canberra, or Brasilia, but when you operate in an overbuilt metropolis, you have to hack your way with a meat ax.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394720245, Paperback)

One of the most acclaimed books of our time, winner of both the Pulitzer and the Francis Parkman prizes, The Power Broker tells the hidden story behind the shaping (and mis-shaping) of twentieth-century New York (city and state) and makes public what few have known: that Robert Moses was, for almost half a century, the single most powerful man of our time in New York, the shaper not only of the city's politics but of its physical structure and the problems of urban decline that plague us today.

In revealing how Moses did it--how he developed his public authorities into a political machine that was virtually a fourth branch of government, one that could bring to their knees Governors and Mayors (from La Guardia to Lindsay) by mobilizing banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, even the press and the Church, into an irresistible economic force--Robert Caro reveals how power works in all the cities of the United States. Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He personally conceived and completed public works costing 27 billion dollars--the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever having been elected to office, he dominated the men who were--even his most bitter enemy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, could not control him--until he finally encountered, in Nelson Rockefeller, the only man whose power (and ruthlessness in wielding it) equalled his own.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Moses is pictured as idealist reformer and political manipulator as his rise to power and eventual domination of New York State politics is documented.

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