Robert Moses

Robert Moses
Robert Moses with Battery Bridge model.jpg
Robert Moses with a model of his proposed Battery Bridge
Born(1888-12-18)December 18, 1888
DiedJuly 29, 1981(1981-07-29) (aged 92)
Alma materYale University (BA)
Wadham College, Oxford (LLB)
Columbia University (PhD)
Spouse(s)
Mary Sims
(m. 1915; died 1966)

Mary Alicia Grady
(m. after 1966)
ChildrenBarbara and Jane
Notes

Robert Moses (December 18, 1888 – July 29, 1981) was an American public official who worked mainly in the New York metropolitan area. Known as the "master builder" of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester County, he is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann of Second Empire Paris, and was one of the most polarizing figures in the history of United States urban development. His decisions favoring highways over public transit helped create the modern suburbs of Long Island. Although he was not a trained civil engineer,[a] Moses's programs and designs influenced a generation of engineers, architects, and urban planners nationwide.[3]

Moses held up to 12 official titles simultaneously, including New York City Parks Commissioner and Chairman of the Long Island State Park Commission,[4] but was never elected to any public office. He ran only once, as the Republican nominee for Governor of New York in 1934, and lost in a landslide. Nevertheless, he created and led numerous semi-autonomous public authorities, through which he controlled millions of dollars in revenue and directly issued bonds to fund new ventures with little or no input or oversight. As a result of Moses's work, New York has the United States' greatest proportion of public benefit corporations, which remain the primary driver of infrastructure building and maintenance and account for most of the state's debt.

Moses's projects were considered economically necessary by many contemporaries after the Great Depression. Moses led the construction of New York campuses for the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs and helped persuade the United Nations to locate its headquarters in Manhattan instead of Philadelphia. Moses's reputation for efficiency and nonpartisan leadership was damaged by Robert Caro's Pulitzer-winning biography The Power Broker (1974), which accused Moses of a lust for power, questionable ethics, vindictiveness, and racism.[5] In Moses's urban planning of New York, he bulldozed primarily Black and Latino homes to make way for parks, chose the middle of minority neighborhoods as the location for highways, and specifically designed bridges on the parkways connecting New York City to beaches in Long Island to be low enough to prevent buses from the inner city to access the beaches.[6]

  1. ^ Goldberger, Paul (July 30, 1981). "Robert Moses, Master Builder, is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  2. ^ "Mary Grady Moses, 77". The New York Times. September 4, 1993. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference :0 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ Sarachan, Sydney (January 17, 2013). "The legacy of Robert Moses". Need to Know | PBS. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  5. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (October 23, 2015). "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro review – a landmark study". The Guardian. London, UK.
  6. ^ "'The Wrong Complexion For Protection.' How Race Shaped America's Roadways And Cities". NPR.org. Retrieved April 11, 2021.


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