Books: Robert Moses and "A Geography of Time"

Robert S. Thau (
Sat, 13 Jun 1998 23:31:44 -0400 (EDT) writes:
> _The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York_
> Robert Caro, 1974, Random House, $24 (reprint)

*Excellent* book, richly deserving of the Pulitzer. And not just for
its portrait of the central character, but for its scenes from New
York politics over the decades of Moses' career --- his account of how
the stunningly vapid Vincent Impellitterri wound up as Mayor of New
York City is by itself worth the price of admission.

> "six decades of backroom urban politics in all their venal glory." Even
> that Scottish salt Mulholland can't hold a candle to his later avatar --
> Moses redesigned New York, practically created the Tri-State area, and
> stands in my book as one of the most fascinating acts of willpower in the
> engineering record -- and he didn't do it by merely spending his own
> fortune.

In fact, one of the most remarkable things about the whole Moses story
is how he managed to construct *legal* edifices which allowed him to
spend enormous amounts of public money, much of it going to patronage,
with little or no effective public oversight.

> I have a soft spot in my heart for Moses as an infra-junkie, but I suspect
> this volume might disillusion me of part of it -- but that only makes his
> reputation stronger, perversely.

Well, it really depends on how much you feel for the (mostly poor)
people who were displaced by Moses' various projects --- the
construction of the Cross-Bronx expressway, for instance, was
absolutely devastating to some neighborhoods within the Bronx, and
probably had a lot to do with the ruin of the South Bronx as a whole.

Though the accounts of his attitudes towards blacks and latinos aren't
terribly flattering either...