Tag Archives: State-Craft

Power Broker by Robert Caro – Summary & Analysis of Chapter 37

Chapter 37 – One Mile

Robert Moses built six hundred and twenty-seven miles of roads in and around New York City. This is the story of one mile. It was part of the Cross Bronx Expressway and unlike most of Moses’s roads which carved straight lines through the city, it swerves and bulges. The key to why is in the apartment houses that are located in the route. By going straight on, the road would only have demolished a handful of apartments. By taking the route it eventually did, it destroyed a whole neighbourhood.

This was a poor area called East Tremont with a large, integrated immigrant community. There were few open spaces but there was a large popular park nearby, as well as the Bronx Zoo. There were bustling streets of shops full of small businesses. Many people worked in the garment industry. There were good schools with high standards. The apartments were old but roomy and the rent was low. There was a sense of community; of belonging.

Black and Hispanic residents started to appear after the war and by 1952 they represented ten per cent of the neighbourhood. They were also integrated with few problems. People with decent housing and low rents are more likely to adapt than move out.

In December 1952, letters started to arrive at the apartments, signed by Robert Moses, telling the residents that their home was to be demolished to make way for a new highway and giving them ninety days to vacate. The result was panic. When the residents found out about rent rates in other parts of the city, local committees began to form. They visited other sites where the highway had driven through apartments and saw the chaos it left behind. The city housing department had done little in terms of relocation. This was to be the future of East Tremont.

There was still hope in the form of the mystique of Robert Moses. The committee was sure that they could persuade Moses to change the route. They hired one of Moses’s engineers to plan a new route. By running the expressway through the nearby park, many of the apartments would be saved. But neither Moses or any of his aides would consider a change.

The committee formed into the East Tremont Neighbours Association (ETNA) and appointed a local housewife, Lillian Edelstein, as their head. They tried their arguments with other members of the city authority. They received support from their congressman and city officials. The borough president approved of the new plan, but Moses angrily threatened to remove funds and resign. At the first board hearing, Moses’s plans were denied, partly due to pressure exerted by one hundred East Tremont housewives including Lillian Edelstein. However, in the following board meeting Moses got his way and his destructive plans were waved through. Edelstein needed ten thousand dollars to mount a legal challenge and she worked tirelessly to raise it. Engineers worked on detailed plans for an alternative route which were sent to the press, but the press were of little help.

However, elections were due and the Association directly challenged the politicians. They had positive reactions from Mayor Wagner, who promised to vote for ETNA’s plan. After an intervention from Moses however, where he again threatened to withdraw funds, Wagner broke his promise. At the final board meeting, Moses assembled a group of his own engineers. The tenants had their own engineers and a reporter, who was ejected. ETNA walked out and in their absence Moses’s plans were approved.

So why didn’t Moses change the route? One story is that one of Moses’s connections had property in the area and the curve on the route was in order to avoid it. It could have been merely of whim. More likely, it was to avoid pulling down a bus terminal in which local politicians had an interest. Whatever the reason, once Moses had made a decision, any attempt to overturn it would be seen by Moses as a personal affront.

The final struggle for the residents was relocation. Despite promises from the Mayor, there was little or no provision for relocation and at best, residents were offered properties that were much smaller, much dirtier and much more expensive. Utilities were switched off at the condemned tenements. In mid-1953, the residents were sent letters giving them a month’s notice. By June, have the residents had left. Workers began tearing down the tenements while the remaining people were still living there. Vandals moved in and stripped the vacant properties. Fear would be the greatest relocator of all.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Eminent domain is a contractual weapon Robert Moses used to exact his vision….
  • Wagner had a change of heart and the project goes forward as the community goes up against Moses contra the Cross-Bronx Expressway and there was no reason to go through the East Treamont, Robert Moses didn’t care about the small people; Moses’ slum clearance committee didn’t help him out;
  • Robert Moses believes that if you build a park then you are on the side of angels. So of course the parks are the organic part of the project and the inorganic side was the infrastructure revenue generating tactic.
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 38

Chapter 38 – One Mile – Afterwards

The Cross-Bronx Expressway was not to complete development until 1960, five years after the residents had been evicted. To keep the Expressway level, the engineers had to blast through solid rock. Tenements nearby began to crumble. The noise was deafening from the constant drilling and the dirt and dust got everywhere. There were ten thousand people living near the development. They began to move out. New impoverished people, many of them poor blacks, moved in.

After completion, the Expressway caused new problems. The rise of carbon-monoxide from the six-lane expressway below was visible. The noise was constant. Most of the new residents shopped at their old neighbourhood. East Tremont began to die. The park became dangerous. People left faster and faster, and the decay became worse.

The remaining residents tried to work with the city to develop new housing projects. Robert Moses seemed to offer support, but delay followed delay. When they tried to protest, nobody listened. After a while only the very old still lived there. Everybody else had gone.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Cross-Bronx Expressway seems discrimination motivated but there are other factors at play, namely getting what Robert Moses wants done;
  • He used eminent domain to direct the bridge traffic through the Bronx. The controversy was massive, there had been urban renewal projects that hadn’t helped; the people who were cleared from an area had no where else to go, so Moses was the embodiment of this controversial strategy for clearing.
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 35

Chapter 35 – RM

Age had not slaked the appetite of Moses for work and power. Every morning a vanilla envelope would be ready to be picked up, bursting with Moses’s orders. He was still working long hours, many of them in his Cadillac cum office. Nothing seemed to deflect him.  His impatience was legendary. He would pace his office like a caged tiger and his treatment of anybody who displeased him was brutal.

His physical strength was awesome. He would swim daily, often for hours. He wrote a full-length novel at the same time as running eight departments. Work seemed to make him stronger. This work made him a lot of money, but he spent this money in an attempt to make more by buying influence. His bank account was often nearly empty.

He did however, divert enough Triborough funds to entertain on an epic scale. He had a number of dining rooms, fifty feet long, at a number of his properties. He entertained around one hundred and fifty times a year, with guests numbering between ten and fifty diners. All of the guests were people Moses needed something from.

As for his employees, all were on tenterhooks in case Moses needed their services. His aides referred to him almost as if he were a god. They nodded when he wanted them to nod. They laughed when he wanted them to laugh. They acted as functionaries for his many banquets and entertainments for clients, including lavish shows at the Long Beach Stadium.

For opening ceremonies for large projects, the feast provided, both of food and entertainment, were of a scale rarely seen in a democracy. Attendees were often in the thousands, including Moses’s own court, often flown out of town in a specially chartered plane if it was required. Moses used his hospitality as a subtle reward for services rendered.

Robert Moses held shaping power in New York for forty-four years. He changed the course of rivers. He reshaped the hills surrounding the city and the beaches. He created the parks and parkways. He altered the region’s skylines with his civic buildings and apartment houses.

Robert Moses believed his works would make his name immortal. Barring catastrophe, the works of Robert Moses will be part of New York for centuries to come.

But as well as being an elemental force, he was a blind force. His arrogance, gorged with power, became absolute. As he was above rules, he was above the law. His ego became as titanic as his imagination. His detractors compared him to Hitler. His supporters compared him to Lincoln. His most frequent pose was one of lofty indifference, his arms crossed with hands gripping the opposite bicep, his head tilted back, like an emperor surveying all his works. He surrounded himself with sycophants, the only opinions sought being confirmations of his own opinion.

Three aspects helped to sustain his myopia. Robert Moses had never driven a car, even though his mobile office was in one. His work however was devoted to highways and transportation. These plans had no basis in a lived reality. His work ethic forced him to create projects, not always for the benefit of the city, but to fuel his desire for work and power. And Robert Moses was going deaf. This deafness was partly symbolic, an inability to listen to anybody else. However later that deafness became a physical disability. Then, he couldn’t listen even if he wanted to.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses was a highly social animal. He would entertain guests 150 times per year;
  • He pushed for projects because he enjoyed it, the project would strengthen his power rather than the city needed it.
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 39

Chapter 39 – The Highwayman

In 1948, automobile production had begun and petrol ceased to be rationed. Traffic increased rapidly and soon New York had serious congestion problems. Moses hit the press with new plans for highways and river crossings. Existing highways and parkways were to be widened. The program announced was to dwarf all previous plans. However, there were increasing calls for a balanced transport system, not one obsessed with the automobile. Mass highways had to complement mass transportation facilities, not compete with them.

Highways influenced housing development differently from transport systems like the subway. Subways required concentrated housing to allow stations to be in walking distance to the stations. Highways served car-owning residents, allowing the development to be more spread out into suburbs further away from the city. But these drivers still needed to work in the city and they would travel there by car and find somewhere to park.

New York’s press was still enamoured with Moses and were failing to express alternatives to Moses’s plans. There were planners and others with more informed opinion who recognised the importance of a more balanced program, but the series of post-war Mayors continued to be persuaded by Moses.

Moses did not seem to be fully aware of the impact of his planning decisions. He was insulated from the people who had to use his highways and move to make space for them. He was especially blind to the poor who could not afford cars and relied on public transport to get to work and live their lives. Despite the clear evidence that more highways meant more traffic and slower progress, Moses continued his highway programs without change.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Paying attention to the poorest people seems to not be his priority….what did Jane Jacobs have to say about him? Oh!
  • Transit in subways was challenging and cars filled the express way.  The Lexington Avenue LRT line was an example of a crammed commuter struggling with a model of commuter transport that led to traffic jams. So turns out that they save money by doing fewer inspections in the transit system to save money so Robert Moses from 1934 to 1968 did not emphasize public transport. As a result, Robert Caro argues that the quality of public transport was in serious decline throughout with swearwords written in graffiti everywhere on the train system because they didn’t prioritize spending on mass transit. Instead New York prioritized upper middle class commuters who use the roadways;
  • Robert Caro (the author) believes that mass transit is the solution to all of New York’s transit problems. Bob Moses believes that investing in car pathways highways is the solution. There’s no clear answer for the time frame in question since the care was just starting to become mainstream when Moses was pushing for highways to cross over Manhattan but Caro has very strong inclination. So the biography of Bob Moses is fantastic detailed, amazing but of course there will be biases.
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 40

Chapter 40 – Point of No Return

By 1952, capital revenues from the highway and bridge tolls was half a billion dollars. Moses now had more money for development than the city. Allied to this, the U.S. government were proposing a new Federal Highways fund. Moses increased his plans to use up the money.

Only the Port Authority had more funds than Moses. Moses decided to cooperate with his old enemy in order to tap into their funds to carry out his new programs. The Port Authority realised they had an identification of interest with Moses. Both their plans could only be achieved by cooperation. They agreed to build three new bridges and a connected series of new expressways across the city and stretching out into the suburbs. The two authorities were to make vast profits out of the road tolls; in effect out of the traffic chaos they were creating. Behind Moses was the coalition of special interests: oil companies, the motor industry and politicians, known colloquially as “The Highwaymen.”

In 1955, the two authorities had combined funds of one and a quarter billion dollars, more than enough to create a mass transit system, serving the city into the future and removing thousands of cars from the choked roads. Instead, the two authorities spent their money on the automobile. Not a cent was spent of mass transportation.

Travel on the subways were inhuman. The crowds pushed and shoved on the platforms before being crammed like sardines into ageing trains. By 1965, crowds were being jammed into the trains just short of suffocation. Because of lack of ventilation systems, the subways almost too hot to bear. Trains were constantly breaking down. From being one of the safest subways in the world, the New York system had degenerated into one of the most dangerous.

The floors were filthy. Walls were covered in abhorrent graffiti. Trips into the city from the suburbs took more than an hour.

Railroads were in a bad way as well. Moses’s highways had sucked all the funding away, the highwaymen providing the lobbying and support. The railroads grew poorer and started showing losses. Fares had to be raised and services cut back. This pushed even more people onto the highways in their clean, air-conditioned cars rather than use the crushed, dirty carriages.

The total cost of Moses’s treatment of the railroads and subways needs to be measured in the effect on commuters’ lives. A new illness was diagnosed, “Commuter Stress Syndrome”, and one in four commuters suffered from it. The commute on the starved subways and railroads dominated peoples’ lives. Many considered it more taxing than their actual work. The lives of the residents of New York were being eaten up by the attempt to move from one place to another.

Another effect of the highways was the spreading out of New York into suburbs with spaced out housing but little local infrastructure such as stores and theatres. With this type of low-density housing, mass transit is un-economic. There would need to be a change to high-density housing to allow enough people to use the stations. Building expressways no longer make sense. Only mass transit – the combination of buses, railroads and subways – made any sense. Robert Moses was planning to build a new highway costing $500M. If only $20M were spent on a new railroad, the impact on reducing congestion would be far greater.

Robert Moses was not interested in mass transit. It would mean revising his plans. He quashed all discussion of rapid transit plans, even though they had been fully worked out. The highways and bridges went ahead and as each section opened the congestion got worse. In fact, the bridges had been deliberately built with such low clearance that buses couldn’t pass through as it would have ruined Moses’s original concept. One man’s dream had become a nightmare for generations to come.

Analysis & Key Takeaways
  • Moses loved power not to become wealthy because he was already wealthy for the most part. He wanted the grandeur of building amazing things. The Borough presidents are powerful at least they thought they were but they aren’t actually and so in the 1965; this turns out wrong under Moses; the board of estimate should have more power…borough courtesy was the logic that borough presidents should only push something that was approved by the borough mayor;
  • He was not beholden to public opinion; Moses used economic forces rather than political bias. Non Democratic forced was the machine.
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