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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York [Paperback]

Robert A. Caro
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 12 1975 Vintage
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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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York + The Death and Life of Great American Cities
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Review

"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

"One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This is definitive biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This is a study of the corruption which power exerts on those who wield it to set beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare and his kings." --Daniel Berger, Baltimore Evening Sun

"Fascinating, every oversize page of it." --Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

"A study of municipal power that will change the way any reader of the book hereafter peruses his newspaper." --Philip Herrera, Time

"A triumph, brilliant and totally fascinating. A majestic, even Shakespearean, drama about the interplay of power and personality." --Justin Kaplan

"In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort." --Richard C. Wade, The New York Times Book Review

"The feverish hype that dominates the merchandising of arts and letters in America has so debased the language that, when a truly exceptional achievement comes along, there are no words left to praise it. Important, awesome, compelling--these no longer summon the full flourish of trumpets this book deserves. It is extraordinary on many levels and certain to endure." --William Greider, The Washington Post Book World

"Apart from the book's being so good as biography, as city history, as sheer good reading, The Power Broker is an immense public service." --Jane Jacobs

"Required reading for all those who hope to make their way in urban politics; for the reformer, the planner, the politician and even the ward heeler." --Jules L. Wagman, Cleveland Press

"An extraordinary study of the workings of power, individually, institutionally, politically, and economically in our republic." --Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

"Caro has written one of the finest, best-researched and most analytically informative descriptions of our political and governmental processes to appear in a generation." --Nicholas Von Hoffman, The Washington Post 

"Caro's achievement is staggering. The most unlikely subjects--banking, ward politics, construction, traffic management, state financing, insurance companies, labor unions, bridge building--become alive and contemporary. It is cheap at the price and too short by half. A milestone in literary and publishing history." --Donald R. Morris, The Houston Post

"Irresistible reading. It is like one of the great Russian novels, overflowing with characters and incidents that all fit into a vast mosaic of plot and counterplot. Only this is no novel. This is a college education in power corruption." --George McCue, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

From the Back Cover

"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

"One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This is definitive biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This is a study of the corruption which power exerts on those who wield it to set beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare and his kings." --Daniel Berger, Baltimore Evening Sun

"Fascinating, every oversize page of it." --Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

"A study of municipal power that will change the way any reader of the book hereafter peruses his newspaper." --Philip Herrera, Time

"A triumph, brilliant and totally fascinating. A majestic, even Shakespearean, drama about the interplay of power and personality." --Justin Kaplan

"In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the twentieth century will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort." --Richard C. Wade, The New York Times Book Review

"The feverish hype that dominates the merchandising of arts and letters in America has so debased the language that, when a truly exceptional achievement comes along, there are no words left to praise it. Important, awesome, compelling--these no longer summon the full flourish of trumpets this book deserves. It is extraordinary on many levels and certain to endure." --William Greider, The Washington Post Book World

"Apart from the book's being so good as biography, as city history, as sheer good reading, The Power Broker is an immense public service." --Jane Jacobs

"Required reading for all those who hope to make their way in urban politics; for the reformer, the planner, the politician and even the ward heeler." --Jules L. Wagman, Cleveland Press --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ROBERT MOSES was born on December 18, 1888. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let them eat highways May 16 2004
Format:Paperback
After reading this book you might well wonder how this arrogant public servant escaped prison. You might want to petition to have every park and roadway that is named after him renamed! On the other hand Robert Caro makes the case for how and why Robert Moses was able to do what he did extremely understandable, and even, inevitable to a point.
In the early years, as Caro rightly points out, Robert Moses' vision helped the city out of its doldrums of the Great Depression. He offered hope and a future when the present seemed so doubtful. At what point did Moses shift from a true visionary to a ruthless, megalomaniacal autocrat? To a neighborhood-squashing tyrant without conscience? There is no one event or series of events to explain this change, and Caro wisely avoids claiming there is. That is not his concern, anyway. What Caro does map out are the paths of destruction that Moses gouged through the metropolitan area. The interviews and extended quotations are very revealing, almost chilling. Moses's sang froid about New Yorkers--and how he cultivated it for half a century--defies reason. Yet this book, "The Power Broker" is as close to an understanding of Robert Moses as we'll ever get.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Power corrupts . . . March 20 2004
Format:Paperback
The Power Broker by Robert Caro deftly weaves together a myriad of stories, histories, biographies and sociological trends into a fascinating narrative on the development of New York City and the man who guided, controlled and ultimately placed an indelible stamp on the physical layout of modern world capital.
Robert Moses, a man of considerable intellectual capacity and enormous energy, demonstrates also an insatiable appetite for political power. His flaw is his fundamental dislike for the people he serves. The type of power he seeks is not that based in electoral competition and consent of the governed but that of bureaucratic power in the service of the most powerful segments of society. Having once attained power, he employs all of the tools at his disposal to become the indispensable man, repeatedly challenging his politically elected, nominal bosses to fire him. His ability to continue in office through repeated changes in leadership is a testament to his tenacity and ruthlessness. He then uses the appointed positions he has attained to acquire others.
One of his early positions is as an aide to Al Smith in the New York Legislature. Here he learns to write laws and, using his considerable talents masters the arcane art of drafting legislation. This serves him well in later years as he cajoles and bullies legislators to create special districts, which have as the head of the district whoever is currently the head of the Long Island State Parks Commission. Who might that be? You guessed it.
His power continues to grow through the century and his influence on the growth of New York is inescapable. That he may have done a lot of good is a question open for debate. Are the results of an undemocratic and in many ways authoritarian process good?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Burns Dec 31 2003
Format:Paperback
Many years ago a power-hungry man, with the biggest ego ever seen in recent times, decided to build a freeway (the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway) right THROUGH my neighborhood. This was done to many dozens of other little enclaves all over New York City. He ruthlessly ordered many people to move-out so that his highways could be built and he destroyed many communities by spliting ethnic enclaves right in two. He also had the audacity to build his highways all along the waterfront just because of his own strong opinion that the picturesque scenery of the rivers surrounding NYC should be seen by people driving by and NOT by the pedestrians who actually live nearby. That's because he was always driven everywhere he went, and never learned to drive! (This is revealed in the book) The man was absolutely rude.
The image that will spring to mind while your reading is one of Mr. Burns from "The Simpson's" being in total control of Springfield.
In short, this humongous book tells of the story of what happens when there are no laws limiting the power any individual should have. I gave it only 3-stars because the author documents much more than is necessary and that increases the size of the book, which in turn discourages the average person from undertaking the serious task of reading it from cover to cover.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful blend of writer and historian -- Oct. 5 2003
By Majted
Format:Paperback
While Robert Caro's biographical works are voluminous, he is a spellbinding storyteller and consummate historian -- all of which leaves the reader wanting more! The excitement and wonder of his personal journey of discovery is evident to the reader. His thorough and meticulous research (with his bride Ina's able assistance) enables him to weave apparent isolated insignificance into a cohesive study of his subject's psychological formation and its effect upon the subject's gaining and wielding of power.
This same rigorous, precise and professional methodology has been applied to his first three (of four intended) volumes of LBJ's biography - leaving the reader anxiously awaiting the study's capstone volume.
With the wordcraft precision of a Lincoln, historical accuracy of Will & Ariel Durant and the captivating storyline of a Dickens, Caro is, I believe, one of the finest living historians and superb writer.
So --- don't let volume put you off! Good things may come in small packages -- but -- just occasionally -- GREAT things come in big ones!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast shipping, condition as advertised
The book was shipped immediately and arrived within a short time frame. The condition of the book was good, as advertised by the seller.
Published on Dec 26 2011 by maya
5.0 out of 5 stars Oustandingly Thorough
One of the best biographies I've ever read. Very well-written, informative and manages to create a great narrative that combines Moses' life with that of the city around him.
Published on Feb. 19 2009 by Tsq_Bone
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, but imbalanced
Although this book is over 1300 pages, Caro does an extraordinary job chronicling the life of Robert Moses. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by Alvin Wong
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best
One could go on and on about this book. Simply stated, it's the best non-fiction book of the 20th Century. It's a must read for anyone interested in American civilization.
Published on Jan. 31 2004 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and immensely detailed tome
The Power Broker sits at the top of the list of histories and biographies of New York and its people. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004 by Michael Degnan
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: THE POWER BROKER
Having read thousands of other books since reading and re-reading THE POWER BROKER has not dulled my glowing enthusiasm for nor vivid memory of this gem of a biography. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2003 by Richie Partington
4.0 out of 5 stars Long, but good
Makes me hate politics and New York City even more. A long, depressing but important read, especially if you're in to politics, cities or power.
Published on Aug. 2 2003 by Obie's Mom
5.0 out of 5 stars Manual for Aspiring Dictator In A Liberal Democracy
Robert Caro illuminates a man and a city.This book works on a number of levels. It is a story about Robert Moses' accumulation of power and the greatest engineering desiger since... Read more
Published on July 17 2003 by Soignee77
5.0 out of 5 stars Power like Money can be a scourge
Took me only 10 days to read. I found it very hard to put down and literally raced to the end. No question in my mind that Robert Moses was an abuser of power and that the heart... Read more
Published on June 25 2003 by E. William Clark
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