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Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 29

PART 6 – THE LUST FOR POWER

Chapter 29 – And When the Last Wall Was Down

Anxious as he was, La Guardia could not raise the funds he required to create a new system of highways and tunnels necessary for the Great Belt System city. When he went to Moses for the funds, Moses said he could only have it if Moses could be Chairman of the Tunnel Authority. La Guardia had no choice and acceded to Moses’s demand.

Moses started by changing the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into the Brooklyn Battery Bridge. This plan, for the greatest bridge in the world, provoked significant opposition due to its projected cost which some feared would bankrupt the city. It would take funds away for other essential developments such as schools and hospitals, subways and care centres. However, La Guardia supported Moses and the plans were approved.

What followed was a cry of outrage from some of the richest and most influential citizens of New York. The impact of the bridge on the surrounding landscape would be immense. Battery Park would be effectively destroyed. Local real estate would be devalued. Local office blocks would be blocked of light and air, and taxes would thus have to be reduced, causing a fall in city revenues.

Battery Park and the harbour of Lower Manhattan were of special historical significance to the Reformer aristocrats as being a key site during and after the Revolution, as well as being a haven of peace in the crush of concrete surrounding it. Through its winding lanes and under its trees, the city could be left behind. There were green lawns and wildlife with the lapping of the sea, and within it, the City Aquarium, built on top of Fort Clinton which protected the city during the War of 1812 and which provided the starting point for some of the city’s great parades. The new bridge with its highway would cast the park into shadows. The fight between Moses and the Reformers over the bridge marked his final break with his Reformer past.

Stanley Isaacs was a long time Reformer who in 1939 was elected Borough President. He had led his public life very much in parallel with the early Moses but had continued to keep to his principles. He had come to believe that Moses had abandoned his. Moses, now at the helm of the powerful Public Authority, did not need the support of the Reformers any longer and now turned his fire on them.

The reformers began by challenging Moses’s statement of costs for the bridge, saying that the costs had been grossly underestimated.  They claimed that Moses had not included the costs of the associated approach roads and the rebuilding of Battery Park, and that the Tunnel would in fact be cheaper. Despite the case presented by the Reformers, the bridge was approved as the only development which had the funding, from Moses, and Moses was unwilling to build anything else.

Stanley Isaacs had studied the bills and found that there was a clause that ensured that the city would in fact have to pay a vast sum towards the bridge. He attempted to delay the bill in order for other options could be studied. The Reformers started to drum up support from across the city, including artists and architects, to attempt to preserve Battery Park. The Committee to oppose the bridge also had the ear of the press, allowing much greater discussion. The tide of public opinion started to move against Moses. However, they did not understand how much power Moses had been given. Moses sent an ultimatum to La Guardia that if the Mayor wanted a Battery Crossing at all, it would have to be the bridge.

During the hearing to discuss Moses’s plan, the Reformers demolished the plans in terms of the proposed costs and the effect to Battery Park. When Moses rose to speak, he started by comparing the opposition to the Battery Bridge with the failed opposition to the Brooklyn Bridge. He then followed with a number of personal attacks. As for Battery Park, Moses said it wasn’t much of a park anyway. He said that the city could either have the bridge or not. There would be no alternative. The bill in favour of Moses was passed by the city and the Governor. Only approval by the War Department remained, and perhaps an intervention by the President’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.

In July 1939 the War Department mysteriously rejected the Bridge plan as an obstacle to navigation during war time as well as being a potential target. On top of this, the War Department loaned the city sufficient money to build the tunnel. Moses was never to forget this defeat and he always suspected Mrs. Roosevelt’s intervention with the President as the cause of it. The key point arising from the “Battle for Battery Park” however, was that it had taken the intervention of the President to stop Moses. The powers of the city government and the New York establishment had been powerless to stop him.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses engaged in revenge tactics; he couldn’t have the Brooklyn Battery Bridge so he tried to destroy Battery Park anyway, first by attempting to destroy Fort Clinton.
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

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 30

Chapter 30 – Revenge

After this defeat, Moses, with his power over parks, made plans to demolish the Battery Park Aquarium at Fort Clinton and replace it with a larger structure near the Bronx Zoo. Most contemporaries agreed that this was purely an act of revenge as it would effectively destroy Battery Park. Again, Moses cloaked his reasons for this development in false reports and surveys, as well as diminishing the value of the structure both aesthetically and historically.

In 1941, the aquarium and the Park was closed in order to start work on the tunnel.

As this was occurring during a Mayoral election, Moses began to pull political strings and threw his support behind La Guardia. The Mayor, once re-elected, felt bound to support him. A vote was cast in favour of demolishing the aquarium, but the fate of the underlying fort remained undecided. Moses stated that the fort had to come down as well as most of it had been largely demolished but upon inspection the fort was seen to be still there. There were moves in Congress to declare the fort a national monument. Moses moved quickly and prepared to demolish the fort, but an injunction arrived just in time to delay the demolition and allow time for the national monument bill to be passed.

The construction of the new aquarium however was to go ahead, not at the Bronx Zoo but at Coney Island. The cost, estimated by Moses as being $200M to be paid by the Zoo Authority, was on completion $11M to be paid for by the city. As the construction wasn’t completed until 1955, the cost of Moses’s revenge was not only in dollars, but also the removal of an aquarium facility for over a decade.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Monopoly power is best, especially if you are the monopoly owner; it doesn’t make it right, it just is.
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

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 31

Chapter 31 – Monopoly

Robert Moses still required power over the Tunnel Authority if his desires were to continue to be fulfilled. Moses asked that construction of the tunnel should stop for the period of the war as the steel linings to the tunnel would be required for war production, even though the linings were in fact cast iron and unsuitable for war production. Moses continued to lobby the La Guardia to hand the construction over to the Triborough Authority siting inefficiency. Moses also tried to smear the Ole Singstad, the Tunnel Authority’s Chief Engineer and Moses’s chief adversary over the Battery Tunnel, by attacking his brother-in-law, but a Port Authority hearing overruled him. Moses wrote directly to the Mayor. Eventually, Moses’s pressure won through and in 1945 the Triborough Authority took control of the Tunnel Authority. The tunnels and their revenues were now his. He now had a monopoly over all river crossings in the city, all future crossings and all of the combined revenues. Through all this the press had kept silent.

Although Ole Singstad was to design the Battery Tunnel, he had to hand the designs over to the Triborough Authority. Singstad was never to be given credit, and he was never to receive another commission from the city where he lived. Although Moses had deliberately underestimated the revenues to be made from tunnels during his fight with Singstad, Triborough was in a large part to be financed by the tunnels in the following years.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • La Guardia stood up to Moses. Moses was responsible for the Triborough Bridge so standing up to him was tough;
  • Don’t tell me, show me what your working with. Moses noticed that models of bridges had a superior way of manipulating people rather then telling them about bridges.
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

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 32

Chapter 32 – Quid Pro Quo

In early 1945 Mayor La Guardia was dying of cancer. Roosevelt was dead, and President Truman was not an ally. His popularity had waned. He announced in the spring that he was not going to run in the next election. The Tammany candidate, William O’Dwyer, despite Moses’s lifelong antagonism towards Tammany Hall, received Moses’s blessing and support. In a paid announcement, four days before the election, O’Dwyer said he was to create a new post to cover all major infrastructure developments in the city. He also announced that Moses had graceful agreed to serve. O’Dwyer won the election by a landslide.

Most people thought that Moses would not last long working with the corrupt Tammany Hall, but most people underestimated how much Moses had changed. He was no longer the Reformer and idealist, but a hard-nosed, power hungry politician. Mayor La Guardia in his last years regretted the amount of power Moses had been given. He thought that now he was gone, nobody would be able to stand up to Moses.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses’ reputation was very clean because he was relatively non-partisan and the general public thought he was the park manager for the most part;
  • Robert Moses knew how to work with Tammany Hall, not against Tammany hall which was an Irish catholic political machine in New York from 1789 to 1966. It was a political movement with ability to raise funds for candidates, coordinate voting blocks and retain a major controlling influence on the Democrat Party in New York. The organizations role evolved over its 200 year history. There were various bosses who ran Tammany Hall and directed political campaigns in order to extract move influence for the core cause of supporting new immigrants particularly new Catholic Americans which were the first non-England immigrant groups to define the New York culture and ambiance. In the Moses era, Tammany Hall was still very powerful although Mayor La Guardia became an new Italian centric political movement dissipating the political machinery of Tammany Hall. There were consistent concerns about corruption because the organization outvoted other coalitions within the Democrat Party to let your supporter know when the inspections is coming with a signal…corrupt. After the Lindsey mayoral election in 1966, Tammany Hall was no longer a factor in voting blocks, unions or otherwise.
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

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 33

Chapter 33 – Leading out the Regiment

After the war, the federal government became more involved in urban development. During the New Deal, most federal funds had been channelled through the city governments. Moses’s new role, as Construction Co-ordinator was seen by many as far too powerful, but O’Dwyer signed it into law. Hidden in the enabling act was a provision for the co-ordinator to negotiate with federal funding bodies, in effect becoming the main broker for the city over desperately needed funds. All roadbuilding in the city was henceforth determined by Moses.

In 1948, Moses was visited by an old Yale classmate, Robert A. Taft, who talked to him about a new concept called “urban renewal”. Moses was already pushing for large projects as head of O’Dwyer’s Slum Clearance Committee and so news that this would attract large amounts of federal funds meant that these plans could be made real.

Moses continued to foster close relationships with the city and state machinery, especially those areas with jurisdiction over his plans. Governors Dewey and Harriman, who ran New York in the post war years, provided little control over Moses, due to the many directorships Moses held and by his control of the city press and his continuing public adulation. Harriman found himself often influenced by expert opinion, many of whom were employed by Moses.

He had also, due to his reorganisation of the civil service years ago, a unique understanding of civil service machinery. Moses offered lucrative consultantships to civil servants to gain favour. Moreover, his control over the Department of Public Works meant he had a veto over all highway projects. When Nelson D. Rockefeller became Governor in 1958, he received a letter from Moses recommending one of his men to the DPW board, continuing his control. Moses would continue to have a stranglehold over the state and federal governments with regards to public works projects.

With the demise of La Guardia, the post war years saw the old Tammany Hall practices begin to take hold. Public office more and more became a means to private profit. Bribery, or the giving of “retainers”, “handling charges” and “fees” in exchange for favours was now back in fashion. Without these, no public work would be forthcoming.

Through his control of housing, roadbuilding and slum clearance, Moses was able to control the sum of three billion dollars in the fifteen post-war years. Most lucrative of all to Moses himself continued to be the Triborough Bridge Authority, which in the fifteen years after the war raised three quarters of a billion pounds independent of state authority.

Moses continued to have a smooth ride from the press. Many attempts to open and audit Triborough’s books was followed by a stern editorial in one of the city’s newspapers, asking why the reputation of the great man should be questioned. Moses carried on spending Triborough funds with complete discretion. The only criteria Moses had to consider when distributing the money at his disposal was how much influence an individual had, and how willing the individual was to use that influence on Moses’s behalf.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses’ reputation was very clean, the reality was less so: Moses was anti-union, pro-banks. Moses would work with a politician then get some incriminating misdeed on the man that is quantifiable and then leverage the threat of private or public exposure…Moses would have a politician do a favour for Moses. And then there would be a dossier. Moses also had private detectives and turned the dark secrets of men’s past. If you ever went out into the cold because Moses wanted these guys to be killed for life from politics. Moses was powerful and so were the banks and legal work as well. They can give you loans. Make them rich beyond their dreams…
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