Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Robert Moses -- The power broker and destroyer of New York

This is essentially a placeholder. Please note that you will need to understand the following to fully understand this post:
  1. I grew up in Manhattan
  2. I first read, "The Power Broker" when it was first published, in the mid-70's.
  3. There is a lot of discussion in this post about physical spots in NY.

This post will discuss Robert Moses, and the pulitzer Prize winning book, "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. (click HERE to buy at amazon now!)

Essentially, Caro's book is a very thorough biography and analysis of his impact on New York, and our country.

I feel that several key items regarding Moses's foibles caused a great deal of shame and problems for New York City, that remain to this day such as:
  • Mr. Moses was a racist.
  • Mr. Moses was an upper class slob.
  • Mr. Moses was class conscious
These three factors totally influenced how and where our City developed in his reign of terror and power in our city.

Mr. Moses specifically designed ALL of his parks, parkways, beaches and even highways so that blacks, lower class "masses", and others need not partake of his designs.
Upper Class
All of Mr. Moses's works were designed for access to cars. His parks, his roads, and even his bridges were built with a car in mind, and were designed to NEVER allow public transportation.
  • Bridges: All of Robert Moses' bridges were designed to be transit inaccessible. A specific requirement was that they NOT be adaptable to add RAIL lines on them.
  • Parkways were designed by Robert Moses to be TOO SHORT for public buses. The overpasses over the highway were built too low to accommodate busses.
  • The Van Wyck Expressway in Queens was built (deliberately) without a center median lane, because Robert Moses allegedly said, there will never be a rail line that could run down the median to the airport.

Imagine.... if...
  1. All of the Robert Moses Highways could accommodate buses.
    1. All people (even the poor) could have gotten into Jones Beach.
  2. All of the Robert Moses roads had space (or included mass transit/Rail tracks)
    1. Imagine a new commuter (subway, not commuter rail) transit system that went straight down the Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.).
      1. If there was a new mass transit line down the L.I.E. ,imagine how industry and housing on Long Island might have been changed. Instead of a totally commuter based (read Property-over-Taxed) infrastructure, there might actually be substantial manufacturing up and down the entire island.
      2. Reverse commuting might have brought thousands of under-employed and underpaid employees to the Long Island area.
      3. The industry and problems of the tax base we currently have in the NYC metro area would not be as bad, with a commerical tax base.
    2. Imagine a center median Rail line (such as Chicago has) that has a rail line from the airport directly to downtown Boston. If we had such a rail line going down the L.I.E., it could easily have met up and transfered into the Van Wyck Expressway line.
    3. Imagine that ALL of New York's (MTA) bridges had a built-in Rail line. Imagine the freight possibilities of cheaper goods, and less trucks into the area.

Essentially, I say that because of Robert Moses myopias, New York has stagnated, and been unable to break out of the "5 boroughs" mode that was set in the early 1900's.

Had he had a true foresight, our entire community and area would have a thriving commercial tax base, and we wouldn't have as much problems with property taxes today.

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