“The Power Broker”

Book-wise, I will remember 2022 as the year I read (and listened to) Robert Caro’s massive and magisterial (and long-lauded) biography of Robert Moses, “The Power Broker,” first published in 1974. It’s not just the scale and depth of the research, but the skill with which Caro builds sentences and paragraphs that build his argument. For example:

To compare the works of Robert Moses to the works of man, one has to compare them not to the works of individual men but to the combined total work of an era. The yardstick by which his public housing and Title I feats can best be measured, for example, is the Age of Skyscrapers, reared up the great masses of stone and steel and concrete over Manhattan in quantity comparable to his. The yardstick by which the influence of his highways can be gauged is the Age of Railroads. But Robert Moses did build only housing projects and highways. Robert Moses built parks ane playgrounds and beaches and parking lots and cultural centers and civic centers and a United Nations Building and a Shea Stadium and a Coliseum and swept away neighborhoods to clear the way for a Lincoln Center and the mid-city campuses of four separate universities. He was a shaper not of sections of a city but of a city. He was, for the greatest city in the Western world, the city shaper, the only city shaper. In sheer physical impact on New York and the entire New York metropolitan region, he is comparable not to the works of any man or group of men or even generations of men. In the shaping of New York, Robert Moses was comparable only to some elemental force of nature.

Nature can be cruel. Moses could as well.

Stephen Schenkenberg @schenkenberg