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)
Comprehensive and full of details about the inner workings of city, state and federal government. Robert Moses remains a polarizing historical figure, however I cannot imagine what NYC, LI and Westchester would look like without his vision and determination.
This was such a wonderful story told about the man behind many of the public works in the NYC-Metro area, which I use every day without giving a second thought to there origins or the man behind it. Robert Caro is easily the greatest biographer I've ever read!
Detailed research that the writer translates into masterful story telling.
He has a soothing, easy voice, and yet is able to change when appropriate for effect.
66 hours and change? No way would I want to listen to in one sitting. I wouldn't be able to stand again!
A wonderful read for anyone who lives in the tri-state area, and especially, for those who go through the daily grind of commuting for work in that area. It's an eye-opening read!
phenomenal writing, in depth, well researched and full of character and humanity. achievements on this scale don't seem to happen in the west anymore or are more virtual than bricks and mortar. in the east, where such things happen, it is too often by committee, behind the veil of the communist party or gulf state gerontocracies, and financed by mountains of cash. nothing compares to the circumstances that coincided with Moses's achievements: the depression and WWII! an impressive man, but sadly also such a deeply flawed one too.
An astonishing and and deep understanding of the evolution of New York City and how Moses shaped it. Caro paints a detailed portrait.
Well worth the listen
The audible iOS app is not equal to the task of keeping me oriented in this large book. Instead the experience became a maze of
- Book chapters,
- "Parts" in the text (of which there are seven),
- Audible download units (of which there are ten), which are also called "Parts" and
- Audible seekable bookmarks, which are also called "chapters". I think there are anywhere between 1-3 audible chapters per book chapter, but I'm not sure.
There are also important maps and illustrations in this book that don't seem to be available to the audible listener in any way. Unless you have commuted New York City all your life, you're going to need those maps.
Just a regular guy that really likes audio books
The book was recommended by a friend and it was absolutely great. This is not for the light weight skimmer it has details and by the truck load it literally takes you to the era and carries you from year to year!
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.
If you are interested in the history of New York's parks and roads this tells the epic story of the single person who had the most influence over those public works for nearly 50 years with so much power and authority in a way that will likely never be possible again. It is a story of a remarkable person both good and bad. The accomplishments were amazing and so were the casualties of those accomplishments.
This tome is no small task, so be prepared to sink a significant amount of time into this.
One of the greatest books I have ever read and will ever read.
Pro tip: Listen to the audiobook while reading a physical copy of the book. I found it helps.
And I am so glad. As a person who works with state and city governments. And as a student of public policy. And a witness to power and influence, this is an indispensable book. As a former resident of New York City, this book is a triumph of historic biography, urban history, policy history. Truly amazing. The things this man created. The way he maneuvered, good and bad. Truly a powerhouse.
So proud to finish! Worth every minute!
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