Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York

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A fresh look at the greatest builder in the history of New York City and one of its most controversial figures.
“We are rebuilding New York, not dispersing and abandoning it”: Robert Moses saw himself on a rescue mission to save the city from obsolescence, decentralization, and decline. His vast building program aimed to modernize urban infrastructure, expand the public realm with extensive recreational facilities, remove blight, and make the city more livable for the middle class. This book offers a fresh look at the physical transformation of New York during Moses’s nearly forty-year reign over city building from 1934 to 1968.It is hard to imagine that anyone will ever have the same impact on New York as did Robert Moses. In his various roles in city and state government, he reshaped the fabric of the city, and his legacy continues to touch the lives of all New Yorkers. Revered for most of his life, he is now one of the most controversial figures in the city’s history. Robert Moses and the Modern City is the first major publication devoted to him since Robert Caro’s damning 1974 biography, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.In these pages eight short essays by leading scholars of urban history provide a revised perspective; stunning new photographs offer the first visual record of Moses’s far-reaching building program as it stands today; and a comprehensive catalog of his works is illustrated with a wealth of archival records: photographs of buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes, of parks, pools, and playgrounds, of demolished neighborhoods and replacement housing and urban renewal projects, of bridges and highways; renderings of rejected designs and controversial projects that were defeated; and views of spectacular models that have not been seen since Moses made them for promotional purposes.Robert Moses and the Modern City captures research undertaken in the last three decades and will stimulate a new round of debate.

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Editorial Reviews

Florida InsideOut
“Essential reading for urban planners, and a refutation of Robert Caro's great 1975 book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.”
Bpd: Blueprint Directory
“[S]mart, insightful essays offering new perspectives on Moses's legendarily ambitious aims and the politics of city building.”
Howard Kissel - New York Daily News
Wall Street Journal
“[E]xcellent book of essays.”
The New York Times
“[A] wonderfully insightful new book.”
Sandy Isenstadt - ART Bulletin
“[S]uccinct, well-illustrated essays, an impressive catalog of projects, a bibliography, and a series of newly commissioned photographs…”
Alastair Donald - Urban Design
“The considerable research that has gone into producing this book pays dividends in the fascinating detail and images.”
R. Longstreth
“[A]ffords new insights into a stunning and complex career but does not gloss over Moses's shortcomings.”
Bob Hoover - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Those who care about urban life and its American history will find [this book] an essential source of…information and pleasure.”
The New Republic
“[A] responsible effort to place Moses in his time, to record all of his work in New York City carefully and critically.”
Church Building Magazine
“A fresh look at the physical transformation of New York during Moses' 34 year reign.”
Journal of Design History
“[A] stunning portfolio of over 50 pages of large color photographs….seven excellent essays on various aspects of the Moses extensive catalog of specific Moses projects, a few never built, including photographs and detailed text focused on site planning, architectural design, and construction history. Urban scholars will be well served by the extensive reference notes, bibliography, and index….This important book deserves a wide audience among urbanists.”
Marshall Berman - The Architect's Newspaper
“[B]eautifully illustrated. . . . with Andrew Moore's delicious portfolio of large color photos.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393732436
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/17/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 364,846
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Hilary Ballon is an architectural historian and professor at Columbia University. She is the curator of “Robert Moses and the Modern City,” the 2007 exhibition concurrently at the Queens Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery of Columbia University. She is the editor of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Her previous books include New York’s Pennsylvania Stations; The Paris of Henri IV: Architecture and Urbanism, which won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for the Most Distinguished Scholarship in the History of Architecture; and Louis Le Vau: Mazarin’s Collège, Colbert’s Revenge, which received a medal from the Académie Française.

Kenneth T. Jackson is the Jacques Barzun Professor of History at Columbia University and a former president of the Urban History Association, the Society of American Historians, the Organization of American Historians, and the New-York Historical Society. His many books include Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States; The Encyclopedia of New York City; Empire City: New York Through the Centuries; and The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915–1930. In addition to the Francis Parkman and Bancroft Prizes and four honorary degrees, he is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2001 he served as New York State Scholar of the Year. His famous all-night bicycle ride through the city has been an annual event at Columbia since 1975.

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Table of Contents

Robert Moses projects : a portfolio Andrew Moore Moore, Andrew 7

Robert Moses and the rise of New York : the power broker in perspective Kenneth T. Jackson Jackson, Kenneth T. 67

Equipping the public realm : rethinking Robert Moses and Recreation Marta Gutman Gutman, Marta 72

Rebuilding New York in the auto age : Robert Moses and his highways Owen D. Gutfreund Gutfreund, Owen D. 86

Robert Moses and urban renewal : the title I program Hilary Ballon Ballon, Hilary 94

Robert Moses, race, and the limits of an activist state Martha Biondi Biondi, Martha 116

Revolt of the urbs : Robert Moses and his critics Robert Fishman Fishman, Robert 122

Robert Moses and city planning Joel Schwartz Schwartz, Joel 130

Catalog of built work and projects in New York city, 1934-1968 134

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