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

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Robert A Caro(Author)

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The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro is a riveting and timeless account of power, politics and the city of New York by ‘the greatest political biographer of our times’ (Sunday Times) – chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time and by the Modern Library as one of the 100 Greatest Books of the Twentieth Century. Now also a Sunday Times Bestseller.

The Power Broker tells the story of Robert Moses, the single most powerful man in New York for almost half a century and the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever once being elected to office, he created for himself a position of supreme and untouchable authority, allowing him to utterly reshape the city of New York, turning it into the city we know today, while at the same time blighting the lives of millions and remaining accountable to no one.

First published in 1974, this monumental classic is now widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest books of its kind.

"Simply one of the best non-fiction books in English of the past 40 years ... There has probably never been a better dissection of political power ... From the first page ... you know that you are in the hands of a master ... riveting ... superb ... not just a stunning portrait of perhaps the most influential builder in world history ... but an object lesson in the dangers of power" (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)"One of the great biographies of all time ... [by] one of the great reporters of our time ... and probably the greatest biographer. He is also an extraordinary writer. After reading page 136 of his book The Power Broker, I gasped and read it again, then again. This, I thought, is how it should be done ... said to be one of the greatest nonfiction works ever written ... Every MP, wonk and would-be wonk in Westminster has read [Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson], because they think it is the greatest insight into power ever written. They’re nearly right: it’s the second greatest after The Power Broker" (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times)"I think about Robert Caro and reading The Power Broker back when I was 22 years old and just being mesmerized, and I'm sure it helped to shape how I think about politics" (Barack Obama)"This is irresistibly readable, an outright masterpiece and unparalleled insight into how power works and perhaps the greatest portrait ever of a world city" (David Sexton Evening Standard)"A stupendous achievement ... Caro's style is gripping, indeed hypnotic, and he squeezes every ounce of drama from his remarkable story … Can a democracy combine visionary leadership with effective checks and balances to contain the misuse of power? No book illustrates this fundamental dilemma of democracy better than The Power Broker ... Indeed, no student of government can regard his education as complete until he has read it" (Vernon Bogdanor Independent)

2.4 (8350)
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Book details

  • PDF | 1246 pages
  • Robert A Caro(Author)
  • Bodley Head (4 Oct. 2018)
  • English
  • 4
  • History

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Review Text

  • By Scotchandwry on 7 May 2017

    Having read Caro's work on LBJ, I wasn't sure about reading an earlier work on a (certainly on this side of the Atlantic - at least I hadn't heard of him) public works planner, Robert Moses. And a book almost 1200 pages in length and first published in 1974 at that. I've just finished it, enjoyed every page of it, filled with rich anecdotes about Moses and NY in the 20th Century, how an urban bureaucracy can be hijacked by a well-oiled hidden political machine, the energy and dynamism of power - gained, won, lost. Power, corruption, lies. And everything Caro wrote about then is still ever so relevant today. A must-read for anyone interested in how democracy can be subverted by one man.

  • By patrick thomas horan on 10 March 2014

    I have never written a review for anything in my life but I will make an exception for Caro's epic. I have just finished it. It is brilliant.I must confess that as of three years ago, I had never heard of Robert Moses. This is a difficult confession to make for a person who views themselves as knowing more than most about history. The confession is all the more difficult when Caro lists, as he does in the preface, Moses' list of achievements: builder of the Triborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Veranzano Narrows Bridge, Jones Beach and their stunning Bathhouses, the United Nations building and the chicanery involved in bringing that prestigious organisation to New York, the Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone bridges, the Long Island Expressways and the complete opening up, to the poor of New York City, of the land and beaches of Long Island. Then there were the playgrounds, more than 250 of them, which Moses constructed in New York City alone.Who was this man? He was a Jew at a time when being Jewish meant being excluded (he was excluded from his university's fraternity solely on this basis) and being on the periphery of social acceptance by the aristocracy. He was extremely intelligent and a possessor of his mother's (and grandmother before her) fierce self-righteousness and self-belief. He alone knew what was right and he would make sure that what he thought was right for the city, what he was sure was right for the city, would be done come hell or high-water, over the heads of objecting home-owners (whom he derided as 'crackpots') or uneasy politicians (whom he advised to take up a new profession if their conscience worried them).But Caro isnt really interested in where Moses came from or even the character of the man, although he does not shy away from discussing either. He is interested in the sole concept of power. Who has it? Where does it come from? How does one get it? How does one lose it? Whats possible without it? What can be achieved with it?Moses, a Jew in an Irish-dominated city had no power. He came from a wealthy family but to realise his dreams, the dreams of taking the virgin lands of Long Island from the Robber Barons who lived there and hand them back to the poor people of New York, the poor who had no playgrounds worthy of that name to take their children to, and transform those pristine lands into beaches and parkland, the likes of which neither America nor the western world had ever seen before, would require power.And not just any sort of power, legislative power. And this is how a man with a great knowledge of local government but with no electoral power to realise his dreams, came to power. Moses offered to support Al Smith, New York's first Irish-American Governor, a man who famously declared that he had never read a book in his life, and give him parklands. In return for huge parks and the consequent massive public approval, Smith was reelected Governor twice. As a payback Smith agreed to Moses' wish to become Parks Commissioner.With power at last Moses built on a vast scale. Caro details Moses enormous capacity for hardwork. Quite frankly, Moses was a force of nature. He worked 15-16 hour days, seven days a week, was chauffeured to and from work in a car specially adapted with a table and chairs to use as a mobile office. He created the Long Island Expressways. This is hard to visualise but up to this point (c. 1926) Long Island was vast wilderness owned by the wealthy. Moses created laws effectively allowing him to compulsorily purchase their land and convert it, over their delirious objections, for the betterment of society's poorest. Caro rightly gives Moses credit for this. But there was the other side of Moses.As he got older he craved more power. Being put in charge of Parks in New York City under Mayor La Guardia allowed Moses to bring his magic to the City. And he did so. Beloved of the media (especially the New York Times whose owner was a devout conservationist) Moses ensured that he had an ally in the press whom he call upon if any politician refused to do what he wanted.And that became the nature of the man. Moses' connections amongst the City's architects, builders, engineers, lawyers, bankers and Wall Street financiers, all men who realised that Moses was a man, the only man, who could cut through red tape and 'get things done' gradually meant that nobody, no local politician, not even the Mayor or Governor, at the risk of being rounded on by the media and adoring public who saw Moses as a model public servant, felt that they were strong enough to oppose him.Moses crushed all of these men. Caro details in a poignant chapter how Moses' own brother, Paul, could not find a job in the City, because he had a disagreement with his famous sibling. Caro interviewed Paul Moses on a few occasions and mentions in the book that he died, in the top apartment in a downtown building, in virtual poverty. Robert Moses could have helped his brother. He chose not to.Moses throughout the 1950's and 1960's revealed a man whose gloss began to wear off for the public. Caro expertly pulls together all the various strings to the drama in East Tremont,a vibrant neighbourhood in North Brooklyn, a neighbourhood which was demolished when Moses ran the Cross-Bronx Expressway right through it. Why didnt the local politicans object? Because if they did, they'd have every engineer and union-man in the construction industry roaring at them down the phone. They'd be denounced as 'standing in the way of progress', of 'denying men a chance to work'. One politician wearily told Caro that this experience, of being denounced, of being screamed at and publicly vilified by organisations who needed work, was impossible to imagine, all the more so when one knew that Moses was behind the scenes orchestrating it.Moses was eventually removed from all power in 1968. Caro points out that it needed a man every bit as much a bully as Moses to do it, every bit the force of nature he was, and every bit as powerful. Nelson Rockefeller was Governor and he had heard all the stories about Moses. He had gotten used to the stories that Moses, throughout his 50 years in power, had routinely offered to resign if he didnt get his way. Every Mayor and Governor had always backed down when this threat was made. Rockefeller was different. Caro shows that Rockefeller didnt have to back down, didnt need to, because he himself had access to the sort of money that Moses would use to lord over lesser public officials. Rockefeller had huge power. Rockefeller took Moses's threat to resign and allowed him to do it. Too late, Moses realised his mistake.Through chicanery of a different type, through lies-lies that Moses had often barefacedly told himself to others down through the years- Rockefeller eased Moses out of power and once out, kept him out. This last part of Caro's book (a book which another reviewer, despite its size, rightly alluded to as a 'page-turner') paints a sad picture of this once mighty man. Able at one point to defy President Roosevelt himself, by 1972, out of power, this man who had once held 12 city and state jobs at once, a man who in his twenties Frances Perkins had described admiringly as 'burning up with ideas, just burning up with them', was confined to his home in Long Island, lashing out at the inequities that had befallen a man of 82 years of age, of the lies that had been told him to ease him out of power, of being forced to live out his life in relative obscurity while lesser able men, incompetent politicians eager to score political points, denounced him and all that he had achieved as 'all that was once wrong with this city'. Caro expertly paints a picture of not only a frustrated old man at the end of his life in public life, but of a sad man, just a man really, all alone, with no one to visit him, alone with his thoughts and pictures of the things he built.Robert Moses was a force of nature. Caro's magnificent book shows, if nothing else, how, despite all the nay-sayers and doom-mongerers, anything, absolutely anything, is possible. Robert Moses was proof of this.

  • By Hatty Oxfordshire on 10 September 2015

    Not as good as anticipated. For the UK reader, and after a gap of 40 years since first publication, would have benefited from: i) additional detailed maps of New York City and State at relevant points in the text; and ii) at the beginning and for reference while reading, lists of key characters in Robert Moses' life, key political figures (national and local), key dates, and acronym definitions. Would also have benefited from more rigorous editing / punctuation. Some of the sentences are far too long. Found the first three quarters of the book, which pretty much gives a chronological account of Moses' life, fairly gripping. However, the last quarter is more a series of essays and without a narrative driving things along becomes just too confusing and overwhelming for someone not familiar with the locations and losing track of who is who.


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