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)
I re-read read sections again to refresh my memory, usually when I visit New York. But he tells the story so well there isn't really a great need to re-read.
The description of the making of the Long Island Expressway is fascinating, but there is so much more - Jones Beach, Central Park, including the the "mothers war" in the Upper West side of Central Park.
Not really a "character" book. But the performance is excellent.
The amount of research done for this book is mind-boggling. But what is more impressive is how the author turns all of this information into a riveting story. It's practically impossible to put down in the middle of a chapter or section.
Essential reading if you are at all interested in how the city of New York was built. Actually it's essential if your'e interested at all in how America works.
This book was brutal!! it reads more like a history book. May have been a good book if it wasn't so full of information that a reader doesn't need to know. I love long books so I gave it a chance... bad move. Couldn't even finish it... just way too much info not necessary to keep a reader reading.
This is the greatest book I've ever read. Wow, just wow. If you're worried about the time, don't be. For one, I only wish it were longer. For 2 the narrator reads at the slowest pace imaginable. I easily listened to this at 2x speed and wish it were faster. The book time can easy be pulled down to 33 hours.
How Robert Caro manages to keep one's attention through 63 hours of Robert Moses' life—especially given the fact that I really don't care all that much about New York—is the mystery of this excellent book. Fascinating and deserved the Pulitzer Prize it won.
This brilliant book not only explains the contemporary history of New York and presents the greatest character study I've read; it also acts as a guide to journalists everywhere on the ways in which we can be manipulated and, on the other hand, how our colleagues have succeeded in resisting that manipulation and answered the true calling of our profession.
This is a must read for every New Yorker who ever drove over a parkway or visited a park in NY. It was all done by Robert Moses and it's all explained in this book.
A classic biography that forever altered the genre into a narrative structure thanks to Mr Caro. Additionally a spectacular choice for a narrator.
Tomorrow isn't certain. Live today for Christ, so you may live in Him forever!
I never heard of Robert Moses before reading this book but after having gone through Carro's treatment of Lyndon Johnson I wanted to hear more. Man am I glad I did!
This is a fantastic important but you won't regret.
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