For the sheer magnitude, depth and authority of its revelations, The Power Broker stands alone - a huge and galvanizing biography revealing not only the virtually unknown saga of one man's incredible accumulation of power, but the hidden story of the shaping (and mis-shaping) of New York through the past half-century.
Robert Caro's monumental book makes public what few outsiders have known: that Robert Moses was the single most powerful man of our time in the City and in the State of New York. And in telling the Moses story, Caro both opens up to an unprecedented degree the way in which politics really happens - the way things really get done in America's City Halls and Statehouses - and brings to light a bonanza of vital new information about such national figures as Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt (and the genesis of their blood feud), and about Fiorello La Guardia, John V. Lindsay, and Nelson Rockefeller.
But The Power Broker is first and foremost a brilliant multidimensional portrait of a man - an extraordinary man who, denied power within the normal framework of the democratic process, stepped outside that framework to grasp power sufficient to shape a great city and to hold sway over the very texture of millions of lives. We see how Moses began: the handsome, intellectual young heir to the world of Our Crowd, an idealist. How, rebuffed by the entrenched political establishment, he fought for the power to accomplish his ideals. How he first created a miraculous flowering of parks and parkways, playlands and beaches - and then ultimately brought down on the city the smog-choked aridity of our urban landscape, the endless miles of (never sufficient) highway, the hopeless sprawl of Long Island, the massive failures of public housing, and countless other barriers to humane living. How, inevitably, the accumulation of power became an end in itself.
Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He was held in fear - his dossiers could disgorge the dark secret of anyone who opposed him. He was, he claimed, above politics, above deals; and through decade after decade, the newspapers and the public believed.
Meanwhile, he was developing his public authorities into a fourth branch of government known as "Triborough" - a government whose records were closed to the public, whose policies and plans were decided not by voters or elected officials but solely by Moses - an immense economic force directing pressure on labor unions, on banks, on all the city's political and economic institutions, and on the press, and on the Church. He doled out millions of dollars' worth of legal fees, insurance commissions, lucrative contracts on the basis of who could best pay him back in the only coin he coveted: power. He dominated the politics and politicians of his time - without ever having been elected to any office. He was, in essence, above our democratic system.
Robert Moses held power in the state for 44 years, through the governorships of Smith, Roosevelt, Lehman, Dewey, Harriman, and Rockefeller, and in the city for 34 years, through the mayoralties of La Guardia, O'Dwyer, Impellitteri, Wagner, and Lindsay. He personally conceived and carried through public works costing 27 billion dollars - he was undoubtedly America's greatest builder.
This is how he built and dominated New York - before, finally, he was stripped of his reputation (by the press) and of his power (by Nelson Rockefeller). But his work, and his will, had been done.
©1975 Robert A. Caro (P)2011 Random House Audio
"Surely the greatest book ever written about a city." (David Halberstam)
"A masterpiece of American reporting. It's more than the story of a tragic figure or the exploration of the unknown politics of our time. It's an elegantly written and enthralling work of art." (Theodore H. White)
"The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provocative book ever published about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political power in a democracy. A monumental work, a political biography and political history of the first magnitude." (Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York)
Anyone with a passing interest in politics, power, the development of modern day New York City, or just a great biography needs to listen to this book. Yes, it is long (66 hours), but that only means you get more bang for your buck.
A truly wonderful book to
It showed how Robert Moses obsessively gained power and welded it for decades while building much of modern New York. Do you think that if Robert Moses was alive now that it would have taken a decade to rebuild the World Trade Center?
How his absolute power corrupted him. No one should have this much influence. On the other hand, New York probably would not work nearly as well today if this tyrant hadn't built it so cohesively.
How to Bankrupt a City in 6 Easy Decades
Probably among the top two or three. It does all that I ask of audiobooks. It permits me to read long books that I don't have time to read otherwise; keeps me intellectually engaged; and provides a narrator whose grasp of the material is reflected in the nuanced way in which he or she reads.
Robert Moses literally shaped New York City's 20th and 21st century destiny. Robert Caro pieces together the story of how and why Robert Moses did so to weave a universal story of power and how it is acquired and maintained, a personal story of a man of greatness and severe deficiencies, and an essential study of urban planning and government, and their ways, means, and impacts.
Robertson Dean's straightforward, intelligent, heartfelt, measured performance was incredible. He seemed to fully understand all that he was reading -- familiar with all the names and ideas found there -- and I wondered how many times he had read the text before the performance. His pacing was also perfect -- not too fast, not too slow.
It made me furious. I hadn't realized that the lack of amenities -- park areas, playground areas -- in Harlem and other principally black neighborhoods was not the result of benign neglect but of active racism. Having grown up there and now being a mother myself, I now see that the teenaged boys who lived in cramped, unpleasant apartments had no other recourse than to hang out in the streets and expose themselves to bad influences and predators -- the odds were so stacked against them from that aspect of their existence alone. I also hadn't realized to what extent the funds that might have improved schools and hospitals -- facilities that were crumbling in the 1950s through 1970s -- were channeled instead to the highways and bridges that Moses masterminded. And I was inspired by those who successfully -- and unsuccessfully -- fought against Moses' incursions into thriving neighborhoods, and fascinated to see how Moses' power eventually and suddenly crumbled.
I don't know if this would be as compelling to the reader who isn't able to visualize the places under scrutiny -- Randall's Island, Triboro Bridge, Jones Beach. But if you are familiar with New York and don't really understand how this city became the way it is now, you must listen to this book. The story of Robert Moses is -- not at all metaphorically but in the most concrete sense -- the story of New York, the city and the state.
Husband, Dad, Principal, Adjunct prof, RC Deacon, radio co-host, story teller, NYer, walker, & occasional sipper of fine whisk(e)y,
Great look at a NY icon, or is it megalomaniac? A MUST for folks interested in Politics - especially New York Politics!
Master of the Senate - Lyndon Johnson
Robert Moses' character transition from ambitious park expander, to seeking power for the sake of power.
Beautifully written and read! Great character build-up makes it read like a political thriller!
One word summarizes my experience: rich. This book covers so many aspects of not just Robert, but of New York history, American history, American politics, the mechanics of achievement, morals, public opinion, the human psyche, and of course transportation.
The reader finds himself drawn to Moses, then repelled by him; rooting for him, then anticipating his downfall; marveling at his unshakable faith in his own ability, then wishing for his detractors to put a stop to his bruising our city.
There are 30 minute passages in this book that read as completely life-like descriptions of life in the tenements, the general state of disrepair of New York's parks pre-Moses, his genius in scraping together, almost dollar by dollar, the financing for the Henry Hudson Highway, the inexorable destruction of a Bronx neighborhood, and more; passages you will bookmark and return to.
I cannot imagine a person who would not find this incredibly valuable. I certainly do.
I love how long and detailed it is. I felt like I lived this book more than read, or listened to it. If you believe that we create our own reality by what we give thought to, a powerful testament to how gripping this book is that after finishing it, I saw that the author is due to speak at my university in a couple of months.
A sense of drama and ease of narration. He makes the waves go deeper, and higher, than I have experienced in a long time.
The description of the lack of recreational facilities for the city dwellers, is very powerful. The reader knows that Moses will fix the picture, or dramatically improve it, but no mention is made of him for about 30 minutes, as the horrible reality pre-Moses, is described in vivid detail.
Parts of this book are very uplifting, as Moses was a man who, for a long time, did many good things for the city's poor. Other parts makes the reader cringe. Whatever the final verdict on Moses is, and it is a very negative one these days, I find it uplifting to dwell on the positives. There are many, and they are magnificent.
This book will make you interested in many subjects, so be ready to become a (more) voracious reader.
Wonderfully written history of a man who truly was a powerhouse. An excellent narration as well! To paraphrase the "great" man Moses, "You either do it my way AND take my highway."
This audiobook is one of the best ever. The narrator was simply wonderful. I listened at 1.5x playback speed, which for me was perfect.
There is simply nothing better than a great narrator reading a wonderful book to you!
Robert Caro is a master author.
This book should be required reading in college political science classes as a classic study of political power. Moses' life spanned decades during critical development of NYC. Moses was good and bad.
If you are a New Yorker or visit New York City often, this book is a must. And, if you just like a damn good story, this is it.
I purchased this for my husband because he has always been interested in history. He had just finished the book by the same author, Robert Caro, about Lyndon B Johnson....not someone he cared for. He found this very interesting also and thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. Definitely would recommend this book.
This is a brilliant book, and I can't stop quoting it. I've learned something about every possible topic as well. The narrator's delivery was great, authoritative like Robert Moses himself.
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