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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

Critic Reviews

"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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  • Raleigh
  • greensboro, NC, United States
  • 07-24-15

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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Important book: BORING BOOK

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If you live on the east coast and have worked or lived in New York city, this book is an incredible historical accounting of a man who really changed the landscape and moved this city forward. It's INCREDIBLY LENGTHY. And at times the narration can feel a bit monotonous. That's not the narrators fault. This piece at times reads like a love letter to a man who morally made a LOT of questionable decisions and was absolutely a racist, sexist, bully. He did know how to intimidate and work the system to his advantage. Learning about how some of the most important places in New York city were built was incredibly enlightening. But if you are looking for something to be really engaging, this book calls for a VERY LONG ATTENTION SPAN.

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Greatest Biography Ever Written

Would you consider the audio edition of The Power Broker to be better than the print version?

YES

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

The entire book is amazing.

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

No

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

His battles with FDR

Any additional comments?

One must wonder where he keeps his information.

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Wonderful Biography

Caro is a genius writing about a genius. Insightful, disciplined, and creative. These adjectives apply to both the author and his subject. There is much to be learned also about NYC. Only drawback is it’s a bit too long and too detailed.

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Devastating

A devastating performance. It's difficult for me now to imagine the author producing such a close study of anyone other than Moses, this book is so empathic about him. But I understand he has done so.

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gripping

Very thorough and long, but hard to put down. Text book like material presented in a novel like format.

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Amazing. Worth the time.

A compelling man. I went in many directions when looking at his life and accomplishments. Well worth the time investment. Took a few weeks of gym and driving to get through it.

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The Man with all the Power and the will to Build !

Most enjoyable mammoth look at the history of New York City, New York State, and Long Island through the accomplishments and full contol jy Rober Moses," The Master Builder "

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Incredible works

Between the authors research and Moses' life, you'll be affected over it's impact on NYC.

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the story of one of the most powerful men in NYC

If you want to understand the power dinamics behind the construction of most of NYC, this is a must read. For me the book focuses too much on power and grief and puts aside a better explanation on the construction of the works. Some of the details on Moses biggest achievements like the construction of the UN Building and flushing meddows are incomplete.

Most of all, the story between the fight of Moses and Jane Jacobs is messing. Nevertheless, it is an incredibly detailed biography of Robert Moses and the New York of the early XX Century.