Monday, October 31, 2011

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

Robert Moses was smart and got things done. He showed extraordinary idealism in his early adulthood, and worked hard to apply his wealth, privilege, and considerable talents in hopes of making the world a better place. Over his lifetime, he mastered realpolitik and wielded considerable power; from his relatively modest nominal appointments, he dominated not only mayors of New York City but also the statehouse and in one conflict a sitting President of the United States. The legacy of his most effective decades using billions of dollars to remake the neighborhoods of New York City and establish the pattern of development for Long Island will persist for centuries, to the chagrin of many.

Fittingly, this is a monumental biography with 1162 pages of main matter and followed by 84 pages of notes and references. It is occasionally indulgent, but on the whole I think it was well-edited. Moses was deeply flawed and immensely capable and driven; it is interesting to learn about how he amassed, used, and lost influence over his lifetime.

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