Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 23

Chapter 23 – In the Saddle

Mayor La Guardia was now free to concentrate on the city.  He seemed to be everywhere, dominating the whole of his domain. He slashed all non-essential jobs and reduced overall the city payroll. All eyes however were on the relationship between him and Moses.

La Guardia had the reputation of treating all his public servants like dogs. The turnover of his senior staff was high. However, his relationship with Moses was different. Moses often kept him waiting and would not cower in his presence, usually giving as good as he got. Moses’s threats of resignation as a weapon returned frequently and successfully. La Guardia eventually countered this ruse by treating all the resignations as a joke, which reduced their occurrence without fully eliminating them.

In July 1936, La Guardia decided to recommission the Triborough Ferry, drawing traffic away from the new bridge. He was supported by regular users and further bolstered by a new development nearby which could use the ferry. Moses attempted to use his construction plans to block the ferry by removing one of the piers. The Mayor sent the police to try to keep the pier open, but the construction crew refused to stop the destruction. The police removed the crew by force and the pier was replaced. However, Moses wrested control of the ferry and continued the removal of the pier and the shutting down of the ferry.

Another battle followed. To reduce the payroll, La Guardia ordered Moses to reduce staff. In reply, Moses removed all the playground attendants, effectively shutting them down. After public uproar, funds were restored.

Despite their disagreements, both men were so driven by public works that their hostilities could soon be forgotten. They both seemed to understand that they were kindred spirits; both were dreamers. Apart from that, La Guardia soon realised that the reason New York was getting one sixth of the PWA funds for the entire country was because of Moses’s attention to detail and expertise with bureaucracy. However, Moses paid back by ensuring that La Guardia was kept centre stage in all the major developments and allowed to accept the plaudits in the middle of grand ceremonies. In 1936, Moses opened ten swimming pools in ten weeks, using all the latest developments of lighting and pool chlorination. One of the pools was called the finest pool in the world. It was La Guardia who pulled the switch that turned on the lighting.

Moses continued to cultivate the press, charming the press barons with lavish banquets. He met the owners outside of business hours to plant headlines and editorials. Moses had an especially close relationship of the New York Times whose owner, Iphigene Salzburger, was a particularly vocal supporter of parks. Until the end of her life she was to call Moses the greatest of public servants. Moses cultivated this relationship by involving her at early stages of his plans. Despite some disagreements – she was a conservationist – she was in the end always supportive of Moses’s grand scheme for parks. Moses was becoming too big, and his accomplishments too successful, to fire. Moses’s parks projects began to succeed to the detriment of more important infrastructure vital to the city. Moses’s plans had become separated from the public will.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses and La Guardia had a very tumultuous relationship. Moses threatened to resign many times which was apparently a trump card since La Guardia needed Moses for support, running the government: could Moses have over played the value of his hand?
  • Moses and La Guardia fought over a pier; it is actually the stuff a great movie script;
  • Moses pulled the playground attendants in response to La Guardia’s strategy of cutbacks: Moses used the public outcry to control La Guardia;
  • Both Dreamers; cannot fire each other as kindred spirits;
  • Wining and Dining the Press: obviously a great way to get their attention. In hospitals, the Pharmaceuticals treat Nurses to informational seminars which include free delicious food. Do the Nurses complain? Not all of them, after all the hours are tough. In Moses’ world, the press barons were very powerful and gaining favour with them meant distorting reality.
The Power Broker is a Pulitzer Prize Winner
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3
Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6
Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9
Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12
Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15
Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18
Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21
Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24
Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27
Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30
Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33
Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37
Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40
Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43
Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46
Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49
Chapter 50

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