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

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  14,006 ratings  ·  1,492 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, Vintage Books Edition, 1246 pages
Published July 12th 1975 by Vintage Books (first published September 16th 1974)
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Average rating 4.46  · 
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 ·  14,006 ratings  ·  1,492 reviews


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Jessica
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone in the goddamn world (especially New Yorkers)
This is definitely the greatest book that I have ever read.

Midway through adolescence, I began wondering a bit which life event would finally make me feel like an adult. Of course I had the usual teenaged hypotheses, and acted accordingly to test some of them out. Getting drunk? Having sex? Driving a car? Going to college? None of these things did make me feel grownup; in many instances, their effect was the opposite. I had a brief thrilling moment of maturity when I voted for the first time at
...more
Matt
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
“As the families drove, they could see on either side of them, through gates set in stone walls or through the openings in wooden fences, the beautiful meadows they had come for, stretching endlessly and emptily to the cool trees beyond. But the meadows and trees were not for them. The gates would be locked and men carrying shotguns and holding fierce dogs on straining leashes would point eastward, telling the families there were parks open to them ‘farther along.’ There was no shade on Northern ...more
BlackOxford
Before Trump There Was Moses

Want to understand the politics and the reasons why NYC is the way it is? Read it and weep.

Robert Moses was never elected to public office. Yet his power over public finance and social decision-making was greater than that of any elected official, including at times the President of the United States (His nemesis, however, was the president's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was also unelected to anything but just as crafty).

Moses created his power by creating the laws wh
...more
Jan-Maat
This is a book about power...And parks.

For forty-four years Robert Moses through the control of different institutions, often whose formal authorities he had designed and drafted into legislation, created a power base that enabled him to escape the constraints laid upon bureaucrats and elected officials and to stamp his vision upon the developing city of New York.

If the Bonfire of the Vanities is the shock book of 1980s New York then The Power Broker Robert Moses and the Fall of New York tells
...more
Brian
May 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In early 2012 on a business trip to NYC, I was driving on Long Island Expressway for the first time when an odd and seemingly unnecessary bend in the road got my curiousity. Searching for the answer later in the day brought me to Robert Moses, which then brought me to this book, and as much as I loved this behemoth, I'm still trying to figure out if I'm in a better place viz-a-viz humanity for having read it.

Want to read a good horror book? Forget the kings of the genre in fiction, Caro has serv
...more
Matt
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I am neither an urban planner, nor a New Yorker. With that cleared up, I can attempt to review this epic biography by Robert A. Caro, which has garnered a great deal of hype over the past 40 years. Caro takes the entire life of this man and puts it out for review, letting nothing escape his descriptive powers (though the book is a mere 1200 of the original 3000 pages Caro prepared). The book is so thorough and complex that the reader must digest a great deal of information to move through the se ...more
Roy Lotz
Many are concerned about the monuments of the West and the East—to know who built them. For my part, I should like to know who in those days did not build them—who were above such trifling.

—Henry David Thoreau

“Who’s Robert Moses?” I asked my brother, after he bought this book

To drive from my house to the city, you need to take the Saw Mill Parkway across the Henry Hudson Bridge onto the Henry Hudson Parkway. Those roads, and that bridge, were built under the direction of Robert Moses. If you hav
...more
Max
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
The ultimate in investigative reporting - a history so well written, so thorough, so deep and with so many takeaways that it is beyond thought provoking. It changes the way you perceive the world. Caro shows how money, politics and power work behind the scenes to determine events in ways we ordinarily never see. He meticulously details a half century of greed and ambition ever evolving to control government from one generation to the next, from one set of power brokers to the next.

We learn how
...more
Nancy
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Can a book be both endlessly enthralling and gratuitously tedious simultaneously? Apparently, it can.

They say that biographers identify with their subject, and Robert Caro was not untouched by the megalomania that drove Robert Moses. The worst problem was his tendency to belabor his points, as if his readers were slightly dim and couldn't be trusted to get a point the first time, or remember it. How many times should it be necessary to say that the West Side Highway would cut off New Yorkers' ac
...more
Christy
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moses was a horrifying example of the idea of "progress" gone stupid and taking advantage of a Manifest Destiny-like philosophy of urbanization. His tactics in NY and so many other cities severed people from each other with scalpel looking to exacerbate class divisions. So despicable that he deliberately build bridges too low to accommodate the city busses so that so the poor and especially the Blacks couldn't go out to the Long Island beaches. He advocated for a "White only" area of Stuyvesant, ...more
Susan O
Brilliant! I really don't know what to say about this book. It's monumental, brilliantly written and strangely enthralling. I would never have believed that a book about parks, highways, and bridges, many, many, of each, would be so interesting. Of course they all revolve around Robert Moses, who is fascinating and also despicable. He is however, an example of how to amass power, and how to use it, for better and for worse.

Caro is a brilliant writer. This is the 4th of his 5 published works tha
...more
Dax
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A biography, a history of mid 20th Century New York City politics and a study of the corruptive qualities of power. This is not my favorite biography I have ever read, but it might be the most impressive. For over 1,100 pages (with another 200 pages for notes and a bibliography), Caro is able to keep the narrative thread together despite a plethora of information and influential figures. “The Power Broker” requires a big commitment, but it was easily worth the two months of my reading time.
Anne
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Holy mother of all that is holy. If you've got any attachment to New York, any interest in city planning, and any stamina whatsoever, RUN (do not walk) to get your own copy and read, read, read!!!
Nicholas Sparks
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This biography of Robert Moses—the highly influential urban planner who shaped the modern city during the 20th century—was first published in 1975, during a period of prolonged urban decline, adding another layer of complexity for today’s reader.
Conor Ahern
It took me almost half of a year, but I did it--I finished "The Power Broker." In many ways, this book feels like the nonfiction "Infinite Jest," a rite of passage for all serious readers and a shibboleth of dilettante scholars of urban life such as myself. I feel accomplished!

Based on my reading history, it is not difficult to tell that I'm a bit of a mass transportation enthusiast. When I first moved to New York I lived on the Lower East Side, at the mercy of the unpredictable F and erstwhile
...more
Tony
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10-2009
A massive, magisterial work on the man who built the roads, parks, etc. in New York. I'd been meaning to read this book for a long time because the author's continuing books on Lyndon Johnson are superb. The Power Broker did not disappoint. At times this bordered almost on too much information and there were certainly some thematic redundancies. But these are mere quibbles. There is a real sense of 'being in the room' while events are occurring. Caro, likewise, is able to explain legal, structur ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a very long, thorough, exhaustive and phenomenal account of the man who made the public works systems and housing and parks in New York City what they are today. It deservedly won the author the Pullitzer for literature.

Are Moses' accomplishments good or bad?

Robert Moses grew up in a household run by his mother, who had fierce opinions about fighting for the underdog. She raised her children to think like her, at least she expected them to. Robert Moses did, his brother did not, the
...more
Mishka
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
i have never been afraid of hyperbole so here goes: i bow down before the greatness of this book. i can separate my 10 years living in new york as pre-caro and post-caro. every aspect of my life in new york, the subway, the roads, parks, politics (current and historical), every detail of mishka brown's highly anticipated treatise 'what i would do if i was in charge - the new york city edition' (yes, i talk about myself in the third person) is influenced by this book...this book is so vast, so fa ...more
Charles Gonzalez
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I have read some amazing books over the past 30 years. For a long time Neil Sheehan's "A Bright and Shining Lie" was my all time favorite because it grabbed me in a way that no other work had until then (1989). It unwrapped the Vietnam war in a way that had not been unwrapped for me until then, and Sheehan's story of his hero's personal struggles, his rise and fall is forever ingrained in me as a lesson in the interchange between man and war. Gibbons Rise and Fall, Thucydides, Halberstam's , "Th ...more
Jay Oza
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If there is one book you want read besides a religious book, I would make this that book.

We all have ideas, and very few of us ever even get to create a vision, but unless you have the power, it will go nowhere. For example, Steve Jobs didn't get Apple to be #1 because they out innovated others. It was because he had power. If you want to understand power, read this book, since it is so well written and researched. You get the feeling that Caro knew Moses better than he.


This book should be studi
...more
Jerry Raviol
Oct 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Although many folks know he is responsible for parks, bridges, roads, and tunnels - did you know that he reformed the budget system for the state of New York? Did you know that he was an Ivy League do gooder that never had a real paying job until he was more than 30 years old? Did you know that he spent his entire young adulthood trying to reform government? Did you know that the man most responsible for the highway, bridges, and tunnels of NYC, never had a driver’s license? He was chauffer driv ...more
Porter Broyles
What is America’s fascination with cars? With the exception of New Zealand, no country with a population of more than 50,000 people has more cars per capita than America. We have fifty percent more cars per person than France, Germany, Russia, or the United Kingdom.

So, what does this have to do with Robert Moses and New York City?

Surprisingly a lot!

Robert Moses was a failed politician who through legislative genius became one of the most powerful men in New York City during the 20th century. Mo
...more
Christopher Saunders
The Power Broker is Robert A. Caro's first book, and despite the brilliance of his Years of Lyndon Johnson series, it's still his best. Ostensibly a biography of Robert Moses, the building and public works commissioner of New York from the '20s through 1969, it's many things: a detailed account of urban planning and inner-city strife, a sweeping chronicle of New York politics and official wrangling, a study of the impact of indifferent government and careless bureaucrats on everyday lives. As wi ...more
Chad
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Took me five months (with other books in between) but I finished! 5/5
Aaron Arnold
This is a six star book. I read it after having hoovered up Caro's LBJ series, and while nothing to me can equal those for sheer writing power, this comes damn close. Like those books, this is exhaustively researched and sourced from an unimaginable number of archival documents and personal interviews. Like those books, it is the study of a man who loved power more than anything, and whose most minor whims have consequences that echo to this day. Like those books, its depth seems to encompass th ...more
Steven Peterson
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
1162 pages of well researched text is what Robert Caro uses to tell the story of planner and political power Robert Moses. Over decades of service, Moses reshaped New York (both the city and the state) and other public structures. He began as a reformer; over time, he arrogated more and more power to himself--and still remained rather out of sight as a figure. He used his power sometimes unconcerned about the implications for citizens. The Cross-Bronx Expressway, for instance, displaced many peo ...more
Mehrsa
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every New Yorker should read this book and everyone who wants to be a writer should too. Caro is amazing and Robert Moses--holy cow. This book is fantastic. It's worth reading--even if it takes a while.
Ben
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
An epic story of Robert Moses's career spent transforming the New York area, especially in parks, bridges, roads and housing. Moses built on an incredible scale. Certainly he made terrible, irremediable mistakes, but he did get things done, beyond what anyone else has done before or since.

The blow-by-blow details of how Moses got things done, accumulating and maintaining power, ensconcing himself as the unaccountable head of the Triborough Bridge Authority as well as around a dozen other city a
...more
Aaron Million
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Monumental work by Robert Caro - now more widely known for his excellent (and still ongoing) series of biographies on Lyndon Johnson. But this book launched his career, and reading it allows one to see why. Exhaustively researched, Caro leaves no stone unturned in his dual biography of Moses and New York City from the 1920s-1960s. As he has done with the LBJ books, Caro interviewed everyone that he could find who was remotely affiliated with, or affected by, Moses in any way. The result is a mas ...more
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A former investigative reporter for Newsday, Robert Caro is the author of The Power Broker (1974), a biography of the urban planner Robert Moses which he won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize. President Obama said that he read the biography when he was 22 years old and that the book "mesmerized" him. Obama said, "I'm sure it helped to shape how I think about politics."

Caro has also written four biographies
...more

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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
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“Hospitality has always been a potent political weapon. Moses used it like a master. Coupled with his overpowering personality, a buffet often did as much for a proposal as a bribe.” 8 likes
“...his success in public relations had been due primarily to his masterful utilization of a single public relations technique: identifying himself with a popular cause. This technique was especially advantageous to him because his philosophy--that accomplishment, Getting Things Done, is the only thing that matters, that the end justifies any means, however ruthless--might not be universally popular. By keeping the public eye focused on the cause, the end, the ultimate benefit to be obtained, the technique kept the public eye from focusing on the methods by which the method was to be obtained.” 7 likes
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