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

by Robert A. Caro

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2,214345,385 (4.58)59
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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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Amazing book. Incredibly detailed and thorough. Robert Moses was the textbook definition of megalomaniac. There is no doubt that he did some things that were positive and he was ahead of his time when it comes to the idea of urban planning. But the plans he devised and executed, and the large number of people he ran over a discarded as so much detritus makes those positive things seem minute in comparison.

Given his impact on urban planning throughout the U.S. and the world, I think you could reasonably say that he had a significant role in enhancing the climate crisis. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 5, 2021 |
I held onto this book for a long time before reading it so I am pretty late to the party. Nonetheless, it was worth the time invested, explaining a lot of the history of the NYC area, preceding and overlapping the years I grew up there. The writing style is dated in that the author subscribed to a "repeat ad nauseum" habit to drive home important points, a characteristic of the time that thankfully has died out. The book could have lost 2-300 pages without affecting its important message. Still, the insights into the politics of the twentieth century, especially the first half, the problems NYC encountered in becoming NYC, all worth knowing, at least for me. ( )
  Cantsaywhy | Jul 23, 2021 |
This was a big time reading commitment, not only because it's 1,160 pages, but also because it's dense with facts and thorough in telling Moses' and New York's 20th Century history. After nearly a month, I reached the finish line, and now I miss it already.

Moses was a pompous, power-voracious autocrat. (Steve Jobs comes to mind.) His achievements were great, but his failures tragic. Caro treats both openly and with care. ( )
  markburris | Jul 11, 2021 |
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro (1975) ( )
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
This is a six star book. I read it after having hoovered up Caro's LBJ series, and while nothing to me can equal those for sheer writing power, this comes damn close. Like those books, this is exhaustively researched and sourced from an unimaginable number of archival documents and personal interviews. Like those books, it is the study of a man who loved power more than anything, and whose most minor whims have consequences that echo to this day. Like those books, its depth seems to encompass the whole world, with innumerable fascinating asides and brief sketches of tangents that could be turned into book in themselves. Like those books, it is incredibly well-written; the cause of many sleepless nights trying to get in "just a few more pages". I'll say that while it took a bit longer to get sucked into the Northeastern world of this guy who built bridges and parks than it did into the more familiar Texas of LBJ, Caro is such a great writer that I was glad I stuck with it. There are so many great themes at work here: the power of will and determination and genius in a world of mediocrity, the conflict between democracy and "getting things done", the effects of power on the powerless, the sad longing for (literally) roads not taken, the difference between Carlyle's and Hegel's versions of history... it's the story of how America became the car-addicted, sprawl-infested society we are today and what happens to little people when powerful people treat their homes and their lives like Monopoly pieces. This is one of those books that takes such a deep look at society that no matter what you thought about our country before, you'll think something different after you're done. This is the book to read if you're interested in Robert Moses, the history of New York City, or of urban planning, or the creation of the idea of suburbia, or a million other details of life in the first half of the twentieth century, when the whole world looked to New York as the place where the future had just arrived ten minutes ago. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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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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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