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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
  •  
    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
  •  
    Carlyle Smith 09-25-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Excellent "

    A true investment of time that is well worth every moment. An astonishing work on a complex man.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Kerry M. Dupree Atlanta GA 09-14-17
    Kerry M. Dupree Atlanta GA 09-14-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Not for me"

    I tried. It's just so boring. Was looking for another book like New York. This is not it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    W Scott Plymouth, MN USA 08-10-17
    W Scott Plymouth, MN USA 08-10-17
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    "Robert Moses and the fall of NY"

    Very detailed and interesting story about a man and his lasting effect on the city of NY.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Turner 07-02-17 Member Since 2017
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    "great book.
    "

    great book. well worth the money spent. many lessons to be learned. f I v e stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anonymous 07-01-17
    07-01-17
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    "Fascinating life story"

    Hard to imagine a more interesting non fiction book. This is a must listen for anyone interested in building, politics, New York, or American history of the 20th century. I've listened to this audio book several times now still great every time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nat M. Zorach Detroit, MI 06-29-17
    Nat M. Zorach Detroit, MI 06-29-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Great narration, and a truly incredible story"

    Robert Caro's epic biography, chronicling The Life and Times of America's greatest probably most problematic city planner and builder, reads like a novel-- building on hundreds of interviews, historical documents, and balance sheets, Caro tells the tale of a city that squandered unspeakable sums of money based on the direction, more or less, of one man in his quest for power, and of the people he roped into his Empire.

    Covering everything from transportation planning to slum clearance to the origins of Robert Moses in the Long Island Parks Commission and his fall from grace as an early idealist and reformer in the 1920s, Caro takes us on a three quarters of a century tour of American urbanism, municipal governance, and one man's life-- that makes you feel like you're watching a film rather than reading a book.

    Robertson Dean's narration is excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Rockwell 06-18-17 Member Since 2015
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    "A window to power"

    The Power Broker is a deeply researched and brilliantly written book about Robert Moses' road to power and the compromises of principle he made along the way. Instructive and cautionary.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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