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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 (515 )
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  •  
    William Tutt 07-08-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Best biography likely ever written"

    A classic biography that forever altered the genre into a narrative structure thanks to Mr Caro. Additionally a spectacular choice for a narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan Mitchell Englewood, Fl United States 06-17-15
    Jonathan Mitchell Englewood, Fl United States 06-17-15 Member Since 2015

    Tomorrow isn't certain. Live today for Christ, so you may live in Him forever!

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    "Another fantastic volume from Caro"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James750 Boston 05-25-15
    James750 Boston 05-25-15 Member Since 2014

    Non Fiction Listener but huge Liar in my regular life

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    "Read the book 15 years ago and still got Audiobook"
    What made the experience of listening to The Power Broker the most enjoyable?

    The most thoroughly researched book I have ever read. The idea that someone was able to sit down and write it feels like a superhuman task. The story of a civil servant shaping a city and its history, though he was so much more, really demonstrates how history told from various view points gives the listener a better sense of the true history of the time


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Robert Moses


    Which scene was your favorite?

    His friendship with Al Smith, his opposite in every way


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

    Hollywood doesn't have the depth to turn this in to a movie and if they did they would butcher it. This is a audiobook for a person who is patient enough to get through a long detailed story


    Any additional comments?

    Don't be put off by the size, the chapters are pretty self contained and you won't have to wait 20 hours for the payoff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Braunstein Levittown, NY United States 05-08-15
    Jim Braunstein Levittown, NY United States 05-08-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Simply fascinating"

    As a native New Yorker who has spent an off a lot of time on the highway's bridges and arterial roadways of the metropolitan area I have often marveled at what must've gone into the design, planning and construction of these structures I couldn't help but wonder what kind of mind was behind all of this. After reading this book I have a pretty good idea of the mind of the man who made this all happen...often at the detriment of the public that these projects would ultimately serve.

    This book, which must've been an undertaking of monumental proportion, was fascinating from beginning to end. Often, books of this links and subject tend to be a bit dry. However, the author made this story of this extraordinarily complex and fascinating man absolutely riveting! I have read many books in my life…but this book very well might be one of the best I have ever read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 05-06-15
    David 05-06-15
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    "Lengthy, Detailed, and Brilliant!"

    Rarely do books this long hold my attention, especially if I was reading it in print. However, this book is a brilliant expose on the history of New York City through the life and work of Robert Moses. Robert Caro's exhaustive attention to detail makes this book a classic worthy of attention and reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LMS Los Angeles, Ca United States 04-24-15
    LMS Los Angeles, Ca United States 04-24-15 Member Since 2015
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    "One of the best books I have ever read"

    Just a fantastically broad and entertaining and insightful book. You will learn a lot, you will be furious at the man, you will even feel sorry for him. It's like a Shakespearean play but true.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ricardo Ernst 04-17-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Where are the Robert Moses of the 21st Century?"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Definitely. If you ever want to know the meaning of the word POWER, you found it. This is a book where writing a long story rather than a short one was worth every word! Not only will you revisit history (in a lot of detail) but more importantly, will see the implementation and execution of power in a non-traditional environment.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Moses, no doubt!


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

    He is able to incorporate "life" to an already well written book.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    Persevere to triumph!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucian of Samosata 04-08-15

    N/A

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    "Good, but too long"
    What made the experience of listening to The Power Broker the most enjoyable?

    Basically, if you love Caro's LBJ's books, you'll love "The Power Broker" (and vice versa). Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson's backgrounds were completely different, but both men wielded power in similar ways -- ruthlessly and effectively. Both were capable of great compassion and great cruelty. People who tried to stop them were crushed. And the press excused them over and over again until their destructive ways could no longer be excused or concealed. Caro is brilliant, but he really doesn't know how to edit information. The book was 1,300 pages (66 hours) but even that was cut down from its original 1,700+ pages, and you get the distinct impression that it could have been 3,000 pages or more if Caro could have sold a book that long. Caro, like this book's subject, doesn't really know when to stop. While I appreciate all the detail, the slow pace gets tiresome after awhile. Like most people, Moses's most interesting years were the early ones. As the story goes on, he simply acquires more and more power as he transforms from an anti-corruption idealist to a thoroughly corrupt demagogue of the worst kind -- the kind who cannot be voted out of office. The last 20 hours or so are simply painful to listen to. Moses's claims to be apolitical and always acting in the interest of the taxpayer is revealed to be, in Caro's devastating introduction, "a gigantic hoax."The book is basically an indictment of American journalism for naively believing all the lies and deceptions that people in power like Moses yield. It was only when younger reporters actually started taking a critical view of Moses's activities in the late 1950s that his reputation started to take some well-deserved hits. But Moses had been raping the taxpayer without their knowledge for 30 years by then. "The Power Broker" will make you look at your city's roads, bridges, and freeways in a different light, and make you wonder what the "Parks Commissioner" in your town was really like.


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

    The reading by Robertson Dean was superb.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Lansen, MD Naples, FL, USA 03-05-15
    Thomas Lansen, MD Naples, FL, USA 03-05-15
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    "Monster"
    What did you love best about The Power Broker?

    The meticulous detail and exhaustive research that is evident in Robert Caro's book, as in his LBJ series, is phenomenal. The story engenders both anger and sadness -- a brilliant man so narcissistic that his literal and figurative deafness to the ideas of others ruined America's greatest city.


    Would you recommend The Power Broker to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes, with the caveat that reading through the minutiae of four decades of New York politics is very tedious.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The revenge of the people, in the person of Nelson Rockefeller, against this spoiled manchild.


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

    A Study in Narcissism


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine 02-28-15
    Katherine 02-28-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Endlessly fascinating"

    This is a masterpiece: at once a brilliant biography; a primer on 20th century NY city and state politics; and an introduction to urban planning and traffic engineering. Caro offers a fascinating object lesson on the dangers of hero worship, and how much a democracy loses when the press falls down on the job. Robertson Dean's excellent narration kept my interest throughout this very long, but extremely rewarding, book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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