The Power Broker

I have just finished readind Robert Caro’s outstanding book called “The Power Broker”, a biography of master builder Robert Moses. After I had posted on another Caro book on LBJ Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini suggested that I read this book. I highly recommend this book for all, but especially for planners and political science types. Moses built most of the infrastructure of New York as Parks Commissioner and construction czar of New York City. But this book is about more than planning and building. It paints Moses as a true master at building and expanding his base of power, and shows his skills at manipulating some of the major political figures in New York over a period from 1930-1968. His interactions with Fiorella LaGuardia, Franklin Roosevelt, Al Smith and so many others are detailed extensively, as are his myriad of accomplishments. I was astounded by what this man built, and how he “got things done.” Naturally when you build the monumental things that Moses built there will be opposition. He rolled over that opposition ruthlessly, evicting thousands through eminent domain procedures. Caro’s take, while admiring of Moses in many respects, ultimately is a negative assessment of his overall impact. The most obvious criticism deals with the resource allocation towards highways rather than mass transit. It is not the only criticism, and Mayor Fiorentini correctly points out that the Moses reputation was severly tarnished by the Caro book. Caro is a great writer, and whatever opinion you ultimately end up with this book is a must read for those trying to understand how government worked in the past (and present?).

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