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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Paperback – July 12, 1975
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One of the most acclaimed books of our time, winner of both the Pulitzer and the Francis Parkman prizes, The Power Broker tells the hidden story behind the shaping (and mis-shaping) of twentieth-century New York (city and state) and makes public what few have known: that Robert Moses was, for almost half a century, the single most powerful man of our time in New York, the shaper not only of the city's politics but of its physical structure and the problems of urban decline that plague us today.
In revealing how Moses did it--how he developed his public authorities into a political machine that was virtually a fourth branch of government, one that could bring to their knees Governors and Mayors (from La Guardia to Lindsay) by mobilizing banks, contractors, labor unions, insurance firms, even the press and the Church, into an irresistible economic force--Robert Caro reveals how power works in all the cities of the United States. Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He personally conceived and completed public works costing 27 billion dollars--the greatest builder America (and probably the world) has ever known. Without ever having been elected to office, he dominated the men who were--even his most bitter enemy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, could not control him--until he finally encountered, in Nelson Rockefeller, the only man whose power (and ruthlessness in wielding it) equalled his own.
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This was a tip from New York Magazine on "How to read 'The Power Broker'": Buy a cheap paperback version, tear it into thirds, read one third at a time. When you finish you will love this book so much that you will probably want to buy a hardcover version to have on your shelf.
What I found fascinating was Moses’ expert manipulation of the system of government in NY which gave him a stranglehold on power for years. His accomplishments cannot be denied. It is clear no one else had the capacity to build as many freeways, bridges and public works as he did in 44 years.
Ok, now to the book. Clearly Caro deserved a Pulitzer for this. The research and detail is masterful. Others may disagree but I found the book riveting and felt it only bogged down once in over 1000 pages. I would have liked more information about Moses’s family but it may have been trimmed since the book was whittled down considerably before publishing.
I now understand how our politicians can become so wealthy while in office. It’s all about the deals. A great look into power within the halls of government.
Happily, the book is available in audiobook form, and that's how I'm reading it. Despite some of the flaws identified in the 3 Star ratings below (which contain helpful reviews - worth reading despite the ratings) in my opinion this is a five star book. A five star book, to me, is one that I hesitate to put down and can't wait to take up again.
The audio version takes up nearly 60 hours. The narrator does a terrific job. But most people's normal reading speed is much greater than his narration speed, and in my view, a book this size should be read, not heard. If only as a public service, the publisher should Kindle this book.
If that was not enough, Robert Caro is a gifted and skilled writer and biographer. Moses is an interesting and important figure in New York history, but Caro's writing elevates him to an almost Machiavellian character. The sentences, pages, and chapters are beautifully written and are immensely gripping. This is both an academic study of a man
Caro has admitted that he wishes he made this book longer. His editors at the time thought no body would read such a long book so they cut several chapters, including Moses's battles with Jane Jacobs. Despite that, the book is great. For the battle with Jacobs, turn to the many other books and documentaries about her. She is worth your time.
I cannot recommend this book enough.