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The Power Broker Audiobook

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

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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

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  •  
    Ross Silverman 01-02-17 Member Since 2016
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    "The best book on political power ever written"

    Caro's The Power Broker, which traces the life of "Master Builder" Robert Moses, is a master class on the acquisition and use of political power in American politics. The subject's authoritarian approach to undertaking public works, and to (metaphorically and sometimes literally) bulldozing through opposition to get his way, resulted in the reshaping of New York City, Long Island, and became a road map for the development of major public works like the US interstate highway system as well.

    Caro does a brilliant job not only of describing in full a man who would only tolerate hagiography and blood oath loyalty from those with whom he surrounded himself, but also, through in depth exploration of those affected by his public projects, we get to see the terrible human costs wrought by a man obsessed with progress that he could only measure in dollars and miles of concrete and steel.

    An important book for anyone interested in US public policy in 2017 to read.

    Robertson Dean does an excellent job of narrating the audio book, bringing subtle variety and humanity to his portrayal of the many characters in the biography. The book is a massive one -- more than 66 hours long -- and I found Dean's delivery at 1x speed, while resonant, a bit laconic, and would recommend listening at either 1.5x or 2x speed. The clarity of Dean's narration remains even at this faster pace.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mario Nicolais 06-04-15 Member Since 2015
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    "MAGNIFICENT!!!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Power Broker the most enjoyable?

    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


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris P. Pasadena, CA United States 03-30-15
    Chris P. Pasadena, CA United States 03-30-15 Member Since 2005
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    "How to Accumulate Power"
    What did you love best about The Power Broker?

    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?


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    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.


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

    How to Bankrupt a City in 6 Easy Decades


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin 04-15-14
    Kevin 04-15-14 Member Since 2010

    Husband, Dad, Principal, Adjunct prof, RC Deacon, radio co-host, story teller, NYer, walker, & occasional sipper of fine whisk(e)y,

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    "wow! still interesting after 35+ years"

    Great look at a NY icon, or is it megalomaniac? A MUST for folks interested in Politics - especially New York Politics!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RH Beirut 03-23-14
    RH Beirut 03-23-14 Member Since 2012

    ahleeeen

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    "True Power Broker!"
    Where does The Power Broker rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 5


    What other book might you compare The Power Broker to and why?

    Master of the Senate - Lyndon Johnson


    Which character – as performed by Robertson Dean – was your favorite?

    Robert Moses


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

    Robert Moses' character transition from ambitious park expander, to seeking power for the sake of power.


    Any additional comments?

    Beautifully written and read! Great character build-up makes it read like a political thriller!

    1 of 1 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.

    1 of 1 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."

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cranky Greg 08-22-12
    Cranky Greg 08-22-12
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    "Simply Outstanding - Long, But Worth Every Minute"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellanora Titusville, FL, United States 03-25-12
    Ellanora Titusville, FL, United States 03-25-12 Member Since 2017
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    "VERY INTERESTING BOOK"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Raleigh greensboro, NC, United States 07-24-15
    Raleigh greensboro, NC, United States 07-24-15 Member Since 2009
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    "the imperial son of the empire state"

    ? do non-fiction books over 1,000 pages normally intimidate you
    ? do you ever wonder why NYC can be such a dehumanizing and grim place
    ? do you every ask whose fingerprints are all over the structure of the city

    robert caro has written an exhaustive book to try to answer those questions
    robert moses was truly a perfect and hard reflection of the character of NYC
    his strengths, energy, weaknesses, abilities and arrogance were those of his city

    moses' parents were not starving immigrants / they were jewish merchants
    the economic climate in NYC, after the american civil war, was to their liking
    they prospered in this new land and expected their son to do the same

    from the moses' perspective, a life in civil service was not a path to riches
    but it delivered something even more precious; control over the lives of others
    it is stunning how well moses achieved that goal, without ever winning an election

    as you'd expect it's a sad personal story / the power hungry aren't a happy bunch
    but now when i visit NYC, the roads and bridges and tunnels have a new meaning
    in the layout of the city, for good and for bad, i now see the imprint of one man







    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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