The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York / Edition 4

Overview

Part Three Of Three Parts

For almost half a century, Robert Moses was the single most powerful man in New York City. He shaped the city's politics as he did it physical structure. He attacked urban problems and politicians with equal delight.

Moses was an appointed official, not elected. Nevertheless he developed a political machine that brought mayors to their knees. He mobilized banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, the press and even churchs to get his way.

"The history of American cities in the 20th century begins with this extraordinary book." The New York Times

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Editorial Reviews

Philip Herrera
A study of municipal power that will change the way any reader of the book hereafter peruses his newspaper. —Time
Daniel Berger
One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This is definitive biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This is a study of the corruption which power exerts on those who wield it to set beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare and his kings. —Baltimore Evening Sun
Richard C. Wade
In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort. —The New York Times Book Review
Washington Post
The feverish hype that dominates the merchandising of arts and letters in America has so debased the language that, when a truly exceptional achievement comes along, there are no words left to praise it. Important, awesome, compelling—these no longer summon the full flourish of trumpets this book deserves. It is extraordinary on many levels and certain to endure.
Eliot Fremont-Smith
The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provacative book ever published about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political power in a democracy. A monumental work, a political biography and political history of the first magnitude. --New York Magazine
From the Publisher
"Surely the greatest book ever written about a city." --David Halberstam

"A masterpiece of American reporting. It's more than the story of a tragic figure or the exploration of the unknown politics of our time. It's an elegantly written and enthralling work of art." --Theodore H. White

"The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provocative book ever published about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political power in a democracy. A monumental work, a political biography and political history of the first magnitude." --Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York

"One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This is definitive biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This is a study of the corruption which power exerts on those who wield it to set beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare and his kings." --Daniel Berger, Baltimore Evening Sun

"Fascinating, every oversize page of it." --Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

"A study of municipal power that will change the way any reader of the book hereafter peruses his newspaper." --Philip Herrera, Time

"A triumph, brilliant and totally fascinating. A majestic, even Shakespearean, drama about the interplay of power and personality." --Justin Kaplan

"In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort." --Richard C. Wade, The New York Times Book Review

"The feverish hype that dominates the merchandising of arts and letters in America has so debased the language that, when a truly exceptional achievement comes along, there are no words left to praise it. Important, awesome, compelling--these no longer summon the full flourish of trumpets this book deserves. It is extraordinary on many levels and certain to endure." --William Greider, The Washington Post Book World

"Apart from the book's being so good as biography, as city history, as sheer good reading, The Power Broker is an immense public service." --Jane Jacobs

"Required reading for all those who hope to make their way in urban politics; for the reformer, the planner, the politician and even the ward heeler." --Jules L. Wagman, Cleveland Press

"An extraordinary study of the workings of power, individually, institutionally, politically, and economically in our republic." --Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

"Caro has written one of the finest, best-researched and most analytically informative descriptions of our political and governmental processes to appear in a generation." --Nicholas Von Hoffman, The Washington Post 

"Caro's achievement is staggering. The most unlikely subjects--banking, ward politics, construction, traffic management, state financing, insurance companies, labor unions, bridge building--become alive and contemporary. It is cheap at the price and too short by half. A milestone in literary and publishing history." --Donald R. Morris, The Houston Post

"Irresistible reading. It is like one of the great Russian novels, overflowing with characters and incidents that all fit into a vast mosaic of plot and counterplot. Only this is no novel. This is a college education in power corruption." --George McCue, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert A. Caro
Robert A. Caro, the prizewinning biographer of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses, has been running behind schedule for the last 30 years. It may just be the secret to his success -- that, and the fact that he thoroughly immerses himself in his subjects.

Biography

"I was never interested in writing biography just to show the life of a great man," Robert A. Caro once told Kurt Vonnegut, who interviewed him for Hampton Shorts. What Caro wanted to do instead "was to use biography as a means of illuminating the times and the great forces that shape the times -- particularly political power."

As an idealistic reporter for Newsday on Long Island, the young Robert Caro thought he understood how political power worked. He had written several prize-winning investigative pieces, including a series denouncing a bridge project proposed by public-works developer Robert Moses. When Caro's editor sent him to Albany to lobby against the bridge, he met with legislators and explained why the project was a terrible idea. The legislators agreed with him -- until Moses made his own trip to Albany and changed their minds.

"I remember driving back home that night and thinking that it was really important that we understand this kind of political power, and that if I explained it right -- how Robert Moses got it and what was its nature, and how he used it -- I would be explaining the essential nature of power," Caro told Vonnegut.

Caro left his job at Newsday to write a biography of Moses, a project he estimated would take one year. It took seven. During that time, Caro scraped by on a Carnegie Fellowship and the advance from his publisher -- an amount so small that he and his wife were forced to sell their house to make ends meet. But Caro persevered, constructing his story of back-room politics from scores of interviews and drawers full of old carbon copies. When his editor at Simon & Schuster left, Caro was free to seek a new editor, and a new publisher. Robert Gottlieb at Knopf shepherded The Power Broker into print in 1974. It would eventually be chosen by Modern Library as one of the best 100 books of the 20th century.

Caro then began work on his magnum opus, a projected four-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, spending years not only on the research trail but in the Texas hill country where Johnson grew up. The Path to Power, volume one of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, was published in 1982 to thunderous critical acclaim. Means of Ascent appeared in 1990, followed by Master of the Senate in 2002. Each successive volume has sent critics scurrying for new superlatives to describe Caro's "grand and absorbing saga" (Ron Chernow). "[Master of the Senate] reads like a Trollope novel, but not even Trollope explored the ambitions and gullibilities of men as deliciously as Robert Caro does," Anthony Lewis wrote in The New York Times Book Review.

Among Caro's fans are a number of politicians, including former Senate majority leader Thomas Daschle. "I think the thing you learn from reading that magnificent book is that every day, this body makes history," he told Roll Call after reading Master of the Senate. Even British politicians are hooked: one member of Parliament considered sending a note urging the author to speed up publication.

But time is an essential ingredient of Caro's work, whether he's wheedling an interview out of Johnson's cardiologist or writing and rewriting his chapters in longhand before banging out the final text on an old Smith-Corona. And he has no intention of expanding his research team of one: his wife, Ina. Readers eager for the final installment of the Johnson saga will simply have to follow Caro's example, and be patient.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 30, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Princeton University, 1957; Nieman Fellow at Harvard University
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Essential New York History

    The Power Broker is a must-read for anyone interested in New York City history. While I was reading it, I carried the book everywhere so I could read it every chance I could. Robert Moses was a fascinating person. He had so much energy and accomplished so much. Unfortunately, his vision of New York was car-centric. If only he had used his energy on Mass Transit projects instead. The author did a great job describing the changes in New York from the 1920's to the 1970's.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2007

    Too much

    The book is too vindictive, too angry, on two fronts: the subject matter himself and his treatment by the author. I unfortunately am like many people, not willing to endure an avalanche of angry news. For example: Robert Moses stole the glory of the Niagara State Park. He had the plaques with the founder¿s name removed, and had plaques with his own name put in. It is so sickening, so low, and so depressing, that I unfortunately stopped reading. Furthermore, the author is on a mission to destroy this despicable person, which, it too, is sickening. In some books, there is a turning point that stops me reading further. I did not have the stomach to read further about the ignominy of Robert Moses, or his line by line, page by page dragging through the mud. No doubt he was a great builder. I hope for the sake of those who continue reading that the author weighs Robert Moses¿ achievements with his iniquities, and makes them feel slightly better than the irate, bitter reader that I became. The author was simply too vindictive and resentful for my liking, and the subject too poisonous. Even Stalin, about who I was reading simultaneously, did not come across as such a ghastly person. And will someone please correct ¿insure¿ to read ¿ensure¿ in the next edition?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2014

    A must read for all seeking to understand public service. A def

    A must read for all seeking to understand public service.

    A definite must read for urbanites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Highest Recommendation - incredibly comprehensive and fascinating

    This may be the best non-fiction book I've ever read. Caro is an exacting researcher and excellent writer. The combination of his talents and the details of Robert Moses' life make for fascinating reading. After finishing The Power Broker, I'm chomping at the bit to read Caro's volumes on LBJ.

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  • Posted June 6, 2012

    Best book I ever read, and an absolute MUST for anyone with any

    Best book I ever read, and an absolute MUST for anyone with any connection to New York City. Read it and WEEP, WEEP, WEEP for the permanent destruction of your city caused by Robert Moses.

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  • Posted May 8, 2012

    Robert Caro's addiction to his subject matter makes incredibly c

    Robert Caro's addiction to his subject matter makes incredibly compelling reading! I used to live in New York and was always struck by Robert Moses' footprint on that great place. This book is simple awesome! (As are his LBJ books - can't wait to read the fourth volume!)

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  • Posted August 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderful book

    This writer really sets a high standard for writing and scholarshiop. I recently reread it and found it just as good as I remembered it. If you're interested in history and new york city you are bound to enjoy it.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    What are you waiting for?

    I am absolutely baffled whenever I meet a New Yorker who hasn't read this book. You will never look at the neighborhood that you live in, the roads that you drive on, the parks that you visit, or New York as a whole the same way ever again. An entertaining and revealing look at the fascinating, and often very disturbing, stories that lie beneath every inch of this great state.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    Great true story

    Well researched and exciting read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2006

    A must read book for all new yorkers

    I have to give credit to the author. A monumental task. A must read book for all new yorkers. For those who are easily affended be cautious. Overall Robert Moses has my respect for the contributions he made to New York City but he gets two thumbs down for handling people. Thanks Robert Caro.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2004

    Power, talent, no conscience

    After reading this book you might well wonder how this arrogant public servant escaped prison. You might want to petition to have every park and roadway that is named after him renamed! On the other hand Robert Caro makes the case for how and why Robert Moses was able to do what he did extremely understandable, and even, inevitable to a point. In the early years, as Caro rightly points out, Robert Moses' vision helped the city out of its doldrums of the Great Depression. He offered hope and a future when the present seemed so doubtful. At what point did Moses shift from a true visionary to a ruthless, megalomaniacal autocrat? To a neighborhood-squashing tyrant without conscience? There is no one event or series of events to explain this change, and Caro wisely avoids claiming there is. That is not his concern, anyway. What Caro does map out are the paths of destruction that Moses gouged through the metropolitan area. The interviews and extended quotations are very revealing, almost chilling. Moses's sang froid about New Yorkers--and how he cultivated it for half a century--defies reason. Yet this book, 'The Power Broker' is as close to an understanding of Robert Moses as we'll ever get.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Inftrastructural visionary

    Caro offers for the reader the political know-how of one of New York's biggest political figures. Mose's visions romanticize the developement of the NYC/Long Island region in a pre-computer age version of SIM city.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2001

    A Must-Read for Anyone Stuck in Traffic

    'The Power Broker' details New Yorker Robert Moses' slow rise to power as an idealistic Wilsonian Democrat fighting the entrenched power of corrupt Tammany Hall politics, his novel approach to parks planning (he invented the 'parkway,' for example), his massive public works (among them the Triborough Bridge and all of New York City's expressways), and his inevitable decline and fall after he refused to relinquish power in old age. As time wore on Moses became less and less the man of the people and more and more the man of the system of his own creation, and that system was the toll-gathering mechanism of New York's bridges and tunnels. He invented that peculiar institution, the 'authority' (as in Port 'Authority' or Tennessee Valley 'Authority') that is neither wholly governmental nor wholly private, and so lacks the restraints of either; Moses' cash cows kept him in power and gave him an antidemocratic arrogance that is truly breathtaking and, one hopes, will never be duplicated. Caro shows us the book's central irony--Moses came to power as an anti-Tammany reformer, then gradually became a stone-cold status quo icon who couldn't be budged. Ever wonder why New York City's expressways are so confusingly laid out? Could it have something to do with the fact that Moses had a Packard and chauffeur at his beck-and-call and never worried about driving? In the forties and fifties cities across the USA rushed to emulate New York (big city--big problems--big solutions). Now cities all over America are rushing to supplement or undo Moses' work, tearing down high-rise public housing in favor of garden apartments, refusing to widen the freeways knowing they'll just clog up again (sometimes they'll sell concession rights to private tollways, but those tollways are definitely not nickle-and-dime affairs), and of course beefing up commuter train and light-rail service. When Moses started ripping out streetcar lines in the late 1940s, he called it 'progress'. Since when is destroying your transportation infrastructure a sign of progress? This is an extremely long book and, though riveting, extremely 'wonky' in terms of detail. Politicos will love following the passage of laws in Albany and social-history buffs will be amused at Moses' choice of shirts (Brooks Bros.' until his fastidious boss gave him a whole box of Sulka). In the 1960s, the news that one track of a double-track railroad could carry more people than an eight-lane freeway was just an amusing point of trivia; now it's cause for revolt as hapless commuters beat their steering wheels in frustration, fix their faces, shave, change radio stations, imagine non-existent rapid transit lines running down the center median. When bureaucrats give us what they want us to have, not what we want to have, dislocations inevitably result. Read this fascinating book and find out how New York City and the surrounding area regrettably missed out on the opportunity to make itself a much more rational, orderly, livable place during the 20th Century.

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    Posted February 13, 2014

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