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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York | [Robert A. Caro]

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

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (438 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Rose Marie Holt Nampa, ID USA 03-12-14
    Rose Marie Holt Nampa, ID USA 03-12-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "Mercilessly comprehensive"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Like Caro's books on LBJ this book provides context by essentially giving us a history of New York as well as an apparently unbiased complete biography of someone who basically created New York City.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I'll never have to read about Moses again except to reread this


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Nothing


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Robert Moses, the most important man you'Ve never heard of


    Any additional comments?

    I want to go back to New York for the month it would take to do a Moses themed tour.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Casper Paludan New York 11-30-13
    Casper Paludan New York 11-30-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Cannot say enough positive things aboit it..."
    What did you love best about The Power Broker?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A sense of drama and ease of narration. He makes the waves go deeper, and higher, than I have experienced in a long time.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas 11-18-13
    Thomas 11-18-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow. Just wow."

    How had I gone 51 years of voracious reading and never even heard of this book? Yikes, it's scary what we don't know. Anyway, The Power Broker is right up there with the very best history/biography books I've ever read. I'd place it right up there with William Manchester's "The Last Lion" and "American Caesar, and that's a pretty high standard.

    The book is so great that I won't get into detail on how or why it is great. It's just great.

    A few observations:

    The narrator's voice is fine, it really is, but his voice is right there on the edge where it can be almost annoying. I'm not saying it crosses that line, but it's close. There's such a thing as having too deep and too rich of a voice. The narrator's voice almost sounds like it's on slight slow-motion sometimes. But I got through 61 hours of his voice and there was no point where I even didn't like his voice. But I didn't love it, either.

    One part of the book that surprised me a little was how little Robert Caro got into the deep psychology of Robert Moses. Maybe Caro consciously chose to avoid psychology, thus avoiding a trap common to biographies. But Robert Moses showed such clear and overwhelming signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and I mean a REALLY EXTREME case of NPD.

    And one last thing... I'm glad I listened to all 61 hours of this book, but after having gotten through it, I would love to read an abridged version and see how well all of Caro's main points could have been made in half the pages. This unabridged version does go on and on and on and really makes it's point no matter how long it takes. If Robert Caro wants to make a point, he will front-load it and back it up and fill in the background no matter how long it takes. If it takes 45 minutes to document one seemingly minor point, Caro will take that time. It would be interesting if I could get as much out of this book in half the pages. Maybe I could, and maybe I couldn't, but it would be nice to find out, because this book is a commitment.

    That's about it. If you enjoy history, this book must go to the top of your wish list.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Lindenhurst, NY, United States 08-25-13
    John Lindenhurst, NY, United States 08-25-13

    i like books.

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    "The best biography I have ever heard."
    What made the experience of listening to The Power Broker the most enjoyable?

    I cannot believe that a story of this magnitude and importance has never gained prominence on a popular level.


    What did you like best about this story?

    What I loved about this story is the fact that it is about how one man, an (unelected) public official, changed the face of New York politics and civil engineering, and in the course of this pursuit, changed the face of how America's roads are conceived and built. So much of how we live is dependent on the roads that surround us, and, on Long Island especially, Robert Moses is the single unifying figure in the formation of our modern highway system.


    Have you listened to any of Robertson Dean’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have never listened to the man before, but his narration was efficient and excellent.


    If you could give The Power Broker a new subtitle, what would it be?

    The most important story that no one ever talks about.


    Any additional comments?

    Jesus Christ this book is good. At certain points you can feel yourself slipping into disbelief, but Caro backs all of his assertions up with cold hard facts. Granted, I haven't done the independent research, but I have to assume that a book as heavily annotated as this is as accurate as it can possibly be. This should be required reading for students in any number of disciplines from political science to history to engineering. A truly ground-shattering work of genius.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald Logan 07-29-13
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    "Excellent History of New York (City)"

    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."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roy BOISE, ID, United States 07-02-13
    Roy BOISE, ID, United States 07-02-13 Member Since 2013

    Roy-in-Boise

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    "A Poli-Sci Classic"

    Moses may have been one of the most powerful unelected politicians in American history. His career transcended generations of administrations on the local, state and federal level plus he facilitated the building of the UN Headquarters in NYC. Robert Caro provides a meticulous chronically of the life and times of a man who's influence not only changed the face of NY but of a nation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Baomin 04-03-13
    Baomin 04-03-13
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    "One of the greatest biography of all times"
    Would you listen to The Power Broker again? Why?

    Absolutely! great writing and great narration.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Power Broker?

    Robert Moses from an idealist to a power monger.


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He brought life to the characters in the book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arnold toronto, ON, Canada 04-01-13
    Arnold toronto, ON, Canada 04-01-13
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    "Autobiography of Robert Moses and New York City"

    Great man doesn't mean nice man. When I finished this book (66 hours but never boring) I was left with the impression he was like Lance Armstrong, hugely driven and talented but a sociopath if you get in his way. One of those people you'd rather read about than meet. He did remake the face of New York in many ways and he never held office. Makes you wonder how the raw politics work in your own city.

    The history was fascinating as well. You'll learn about everyone from Al Smith up to Nelson Rockefeller and everyone in between. Plus how he won a feud with Roosevelt when he was President.It's about Tammany politics and the history of New York from the 1890's up to the 1970s. The reader had a nice even voice too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter United States 03-11-13
    Peter United States 03-11-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Truely A work of art"
    Would you listen to The Power Broker again? Why?

    with out a doubt.- Caro is at his peak in this intese study of a complex man who live only for power. He is both good and evil


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    the complexity of moses


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He heeps you interested


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The central park incident


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MN Topsham, ME, United States 03-04-13
    MN Topsham, ME, United States 03-04-13 Member Since 2014
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    "An Incredible Work of History"
    What did you love best about The Power Broker?

    To call this a work of history does not do the author justice. The book will also be of interest to students of political science, urban planning, law and legislative drafting, finance and engineering. While the length of the book may be daunting, I found myself caught up in drama and the tragedy of the story. "The Power Broker" equals if not surpasses Caro's multiple volume biography of Lyndon Johnson-high praise indeed.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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