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Thread: The Legacy of Robert Moses

  1. #76


    We need a robert moses of the transit industry

  2. #77


    New York Post
    October 22, 2007



    Robert Moses shows a model of the proposed Brooklyn Battery Bridge.

    Love him or hate him, nearly every aspect of New York City has been shaped by this controversial but masterful builder.

    Robert Moses was not an architect, engineer, contractor or attorney. But this builder of public works changed the way America thinks about its cities forever.

    Robert Moses was born on Dec. 18, 1888, in New Haven, Conn., to Emanuel and Bella Moses. The elder Moses had earned millions in the department-store business and moved his family to New York City.

    Young Robert Moses attended private school and graduated from Yale in 1909. He received a Master's degree from Oxford in 1911 and a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1914.

    He went to work at the Bureau of Municipal Research, where he met and married Mary Louise Simms in 1915. The couple had two daughters, Barbara and Jane.

    His first foray in urban reform was a disaster. In 1914, Moses was pitted against the corrupt Tammany Hall bosses and unsuccessfully tried to reform the civil-service system that they controlled. Moses was soon out of a job. But Gov. Al Smith had plans for Moses, and a formidable partnership was formed.

    Moses proposed building a seaside park on Long Island and a system of landscaped parkways to get there - the world's first highway system. In 1924, Moses was appointed president of the Long Island State Park Commission - and the building of Jones Beach State Park began.

    On opening day, in the summer of 1929, more than 25,000 New Yorkers got in their cars and drove along the Southern State Parkway to Jones Beach State Park.

    It was the greatest seaside playground in the country. But you needed a car to get there, which left most poor New Yorkers out. Nonetheless, the beachfront playground was a huge hit, and Moses was on his was to becoming New York's Master Builder.

    Moses used the events of the Great Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal to his advantage. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed him commissioner of the New York City Parks Department. Moses had the power to control parks as well as transportation and public facilities. In a few months, 1,700 projects had been completed. These included parks, playgrounds and public swimming pools.

    Moses was criticized for ignoring poor New Yorkers. Of all the scores of parks built, none were in Harlem. Moses was adverse to pubic transportation, the only means of transportation for most New Yorkers.

    Although never learning to drive himself, Moses kept a staff of chauffeurs and spearheaded the massive construction of highways, making New York the nation's first city of the automobile age. New York would be wrapped in ribbons of highway - more miles than Los Angeles.

    The crowning jewel of Moses' highway projects was the Triborough Bridge, completed in 1936, linking Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens. His plan for a network of highways included the Cross Bronx Expressway, which displaced families and businesses and devastated the area, despite protests and a proposed alternative route that would have done less damage to the community.

    A similar plan for highways, which threatened the city's famed Greenwich Village neighborhood, was thwarted by a grass-roots protest movement spearheaded by Village resident, Jane Jacobs.

    Moses' last great accomplishment was the 1964 World's Fair.

    It was a financial failure, but the site, the Flushing Meadows in Queens, became a permanent park that's a haven to this day.

    The master builder does have a namesake park. The Robert Moses State Park in Massena, N.Y., near the Canadian border, includes a nature center.

    Robert Moses died on July 30, 1981, in West Islip, L.I., at age 92.

    Copyright 2007 NYP Holdings, Inc.

  3. #78
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2002


    Quote Originally Posted by BigMac View Post
    New York Post

    The master builder does have a namesake park. The Robert Moses State Park in Massena, N.Y., near the Canadian border, includes a nature center.
    Errr... he has two state parks - you'd think they would remember the big beach in Suffolk County named after him - its basically Jones Beach east. Guess eastern LI is more remote than the border of Canada for the Post...

  4. #79


    There is also a Robert Moses Playground. Does anyone else find it ironic that it is an unused, barren slab of concrete overlooking the FDR just South of the U.N.?

  5. #80


    He probably thought he was making the world a better place.

  6. #81
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    East Midtown


    a barren slab of concrete...sounds appropriate for him.

  7. #82

    Default There Are 3 R. Moses State Parks...

    ...within New York State.He dedicated each one himself.

  8. #83
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    On the Cross Bronx, Torture. On the Stoop, Entertainment.


    A study found that the intersection of the Cross Bronx Expressway and the Bronx River Parkway was the nation's worst bottleneck.

    Watching traffic may not be a spectator sport, but Harriette Moore concentrates on the action before her as if she were in the front row at Wimbledon.

    Mrs. Moore’s bedroom window, after all, does not frame just any traffic jam. Her home sits along the intersection of the Cross Bronx Expressway and the Bronx River Parkway — the single worst bottleneck in the country.

    For the tens of thousands of commuters who pass through the tangled crossing each day, the drive is a grinding torture. But for many of those who live alongside the Cross Bronx, the slow-moving river of traffic provides not only a steady soundtrack, but also entertainment, consolation and even wisdom.

    “I think the trucks up high with the lights all around them, they’re very pretty,” Mrs. Moore said, pointing to the headlamps glowing in the haze of the evening rush hour.

    Mrs. Moore’s neighbor Angelo Ramirez sees the highway as his therapist.

    Her daughter, Robbin, treats it as a diversion from her job search. A merchant they call Rug Man uses it as an arena to sell his wares. And Joe Nolan earns his living describing its troubles.

    Few roads in America have histories as tortured as the Cross Bronx Expressway. The master builder Robert Moses gouged the highway through crowded neighborhoods, displacing tens of thousands of people and, critics say, helping set the stage for the arson and crime that ravaged the borough for a generation.

    Today, the Cross Bronx is among the busiest roads in New York City, and its problems are legion. Of the four worst bottlenecks in the United States identified by Inrix, a traffic research company, three of them were on this highway.

    The Cross Bronx carries 184,000 cars a day, according to the State Department of Transportation, and Mrs. Moore’s intersection is congested 94 hours a week, with cars traveling at an average speed of 11.4 miles per hour at those times, according to Inrix.

    Long portions of the expressway have no shoulder, so even minor accidents can snarl traffic for miles. The lighting is poor, and exit and entrance ramps are too short. Most of the road sits inside a trench, leaving commuters to stare at concrete walls, longing for the distraction of scenery. After too long the trench can feel like a crowded coffin.

    In a city as densely packed as New York, residents have always had to accommodate unusual neighbors — elevated subway lines, highway overpasses, insomniac nightclubs.

    But when you live hard by the Cross Bronx, special compromises must be made. On Fteley Avenue, where Mrs. Moore lives, the children on her block know not to play past the stop sign where merging traffic lurks. But unlikely pleasures can also be won.

    Mr. Ramirez, a retired police officer, smokes a cigar every afternoon as he walks his dog, Peanut, on a patch of grass overlooking the highway intersections.

    “You think you’re the only person on the planet, but you come here and see all the people,” he said, gesturing with his cigar stub to a line of cars. “It clears my mind. I don’t feel alone when I come here.”

    “If I’m having trouble with my wife,” he added, “I come here and watch the traffic. I thought I had problems, but look at these poor people. They sit in this traffic every day. These people have it so bad compared to me.”

    A stocky man with a thin white beard, Mr. Ramirez has lived on this block for 20 years. As a young man, he drove a taxi across the city and along every highway, including the Cross Bronx. “So I know traffic,” he said. “But now this is my entertainment. I just look at it.”

    He hates the pollution, but the view from the banks of the highway? “That’s something that not everyone gets to see,” he said. “You don’t get bored.

    You always find something to look at.”

    Mrs. Moore’s title-holding intersection is an oddity in highway planning. The access road outside her bedroom window is a funnel for vehicles switching between the Bronx River Parkway and the Cross Bronx Expressway. Some cars veer left to head south; others veer right to head north; drivers brave, timid, cautious and reckless converge in a clamor of horns.

    Mr. Nolan, a traffic reporter for WPLJ-FM, has watched the Cross Bronx Expressway for 30 years. Of all the routes he monitors, few, if any, provide a steadier stream of news.

    “I absolutely, positively, completely, totally believe that that is the worst road in the metropolitan New York area,” Mr. Nolan said. “I can’t imagine there being a worse road anywhere.”

    He has had holidays ruined by the Cross Bronx — he still gets angry describing the Thanksgiving dinner that was delayed for nearly two hours because relatives were stuck in Cross Bronx traffic.

    “I go as far out of my way as I possibly can not to have to take the Cross Bronx,” he said. “I avoid it at all costs to the point of adding 20 or 30 miles to a trip I’m taking.”

    Mrs. Moore, 70, and her daughter, Robbin, 45, are still getting used to life by the highway. They lived for decades in a house three miles away in the Claremont section of the Bronx before a fire in November forced them to move.

    At their old house, Mrs. Moore said, she watched blue jays and cardinals fly past her back porch. Now, she watches trucks. On a recent afternoon, she pointed to a yellow ShopRite truck and sang the company’s advertising jingle: “ShopRite has the answer!”

    She can mark the change of seasons by the traffic. Spring is coming, she has learned, when the motorcycles come out.

    Mrs. Moore’s daughter, a graduate of Cornell University, has been out of work for two years, and she spends her time on the computer looking for a job, not watching traffic. Still, she has found her own highway raison d’être: she badly wants to see an accident. Whenever she hears brakes screeching or sirens howling, she rushes to the window in hopes of a show. She has yet to see a crash of note.

    The mother and daughter monitor the intersection’s entrepreneur, a burly man who sells rugs along the service road. Every day, Rug Man, as they call him, drapes his rugs over a fence and waits for highway refugees to pull up. Rug Man, who declined to comment or give his name for this article, waves customers to a side street, but cars that stop to ask for prices only make traffic worse.

    Robbin Moore has learned tricks to navigate the traffic: avoid rush hour, Fridays and the rain. Stick to side streets, and steer clear of “weekend drivers.”

    “It’s skill and intuition,” she said. “You become one with the traffic.”
    For Mrs. Moore, the highway offers unexpected Proustian moments. As a White Rose truck drove past, she remembered seeing grocery store shelves filled with White Rose products when she was a girl. “We don’t shop anywhere where they carry White Rose anymore,” she said, a note of wistfulness in her voice.

    She lit a cigarette, leaned back, and settled in to watch the chaos.

  9. #84


    Don't know why I never posted these here. They've been around for a bit so some of you may have seen them.

  10. #85


    Thanks, van, really interesting maps. Are there more, e.g. Westway?

    Did you create these maps yourself? Holy Moses, what an achievement!

    These highways would have pretty effectively prevented the Manhattan that subsequently evolved, and that we love so much.

  11. #86


    I was/am working on a map of the entire city with all the highways he built but it is on the back burner so to speak. It wasn't that hard to draw it, actually. I am also working on a version which is an altered satellite image with the highways drawn in which I plan on selling as prints/posters (I'd sell these but Google says that's a no-no).

  12. #87


    Quote Originally Posted by vanshnookenraggen View Post
    It wasn't that hard to draw it, actually.
    Don't be modest; I'm sure the research took you hours and hours.

  13. #88


    The amount of noteworthy buildings we would've lost would have been disgusting. Marble Collegiate Church would have been razed for one.

    Maybe we should just build a bridge directly from Jersey to LI and ban most vehicular traffic from the interior of Manhattan altogether.

  14. #89
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Answers About the Legacy of Robert Moses

    Following is the first set of responses from Roberta Brandes Gratz, who is responding to readers questions about her book, “The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs,” which looks at New York’s urban recovery from the 1970s through the lens of the clashing visions of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.

    What did Jane Jacobs ever build?
    — Posted by Bruce Atlas

    I actually never thought the experience of “building” something should be a qualification for observing and gaining wisdom about how cities work. If that were the case, urban and architecture critics like Lewis Mumford, Ada Louise Huxtable, Paul Goldberger and, indeed, me (although I did build a house) would be disqualified.
    What Ms. Jacobs built was actually much more important than any one building; she built an understanding of how cities really function versus theories about how they should function. That understanding starts out on a single street, in a single public space or in a single business but then extends out like rolling waves until it all comes together in an holistic view of a city or community as a web of endless interdependent parts.
    Thus what she “built” was an insightful collection of observations of and precepts about cities that continue to resonate and educate today.

    Could Robert Moses have prevented the Dodgers from leaving Brooklyn? Did he even try?
    — Posted by Eric Tremont

    According to Michael Shapiro’s fascinating book, “The Last Good Season,” Moses actually abetted the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers by denying Walter O’Malley an appropriate replacement site for Ebbets Field. Interestingly, O’Malley wanted the Atlantic Yards site where the arena is now going, but Moses wanted him to go to Bedford-Stuyvesant instead.

    New York City was not driven to decline in the 1970s by Robert Moses … it was a cocktail of various factors that led to the downward spiral. We have to remember that in the 1920s-30s, Robert Moses provided the necessary infrastructure in both New York City and Long Island to help grow. Today, his parkways and expressways serve as the only arterial corridors for commuting suburbanites, and regardless that the parkways were intended for that purpose or not, Robert Moses allowed for growth and expansion of not only New York City, but Long Island as well.
    Ms. Gratz, I am wondering how you feel about Robert Moses’ many contributions to the city and state park systems — do you think that these projects lead to the blight and chaos of 1970s New York City?
    Also — how do you feel about Robert Moses’ impacts on Long Island? Personally, I feel that many contributions go unnoticed on Long Island, and I am interested to hear your opinion.
    — Posted by Rich Murdocco

    Yes, New York’s decline was driven by a “cocktail of various factors.” But what I illustrate in the book is the many factors in that decline -– especially the displacement of probably a million residents and businesses — that are attributed specifically to Moses as part of that “cocktail.”
    But your assumption that Moses “provided the necessary infrastructure in both New York City and Long Island to help grow” is a puzzling one. “Infrastructure” is such a misleading term these days. It used to -– and should still –- mean the combination of essential citywide physical systems on which the functioning of the city depends, such as water, sewers, streets, utilities and public transit. But today it mostly just means “highways.” Highways should be only one piece of a balanced transportation system. Moses indeed built highways, but he starved mass transit and, in fact, the city’s mass transit system is smaller today than it was before World War II.
    As for your assumption that those highways helped the city and Long Island grow and expand, you are correct about Long Island, but the city shrank during the highway building and urban renewal days.
    And Robert Caro brilliantly shows in “The Power Broker” that New York State already had a great statewide park system started and increasing. The idea that this city and state could not have great parks without Moses is questionable at best. Again, read Mr. Caro’s book and wonder if those parks could not have been created without the antidemocratic and often destructive methods Moses employed.

    What is your opinion of the Moses biography “The Power Broker”? Do you think that presented a fair picture of Moses?
    — Posted by Dennis O’Connor

    “The Power Broker” is a thoroughly researched and brilliantly written book outlining the amassing of power on a scale never seen before or since in this country. It was published in 1974 and opened my eyes to how so much in this city happened under Robert Moses’ control. I had been a reporter for The New York Post for almost 10 years by then but was unaware of most of what Mr. Caro carefully reported.
    But my book is not about Moses or Ms. Jacobs per se, but about how their clashing visions shaped post-World War II New York and beyond. Mr. Caro’s book was critical to my research.

    Answers About Robert Moses, Part 2

    To the comment, “What did Jane Jacobs ever build?”
    Jane Jacobs built a growing movement of people who care about their cities and understand how to preserve and improve them, as well as a vocabulary of contemporary planning terms and economic theories that speak directly to the crisis of our time, to name a few things JJ built.
    What we build is not always measured with bricks and asphalt.
    — Posted by Stephen Goldsmith

    You have articulated perfectly the importance of Ms. Jacobs’s legacy, but what most people don’t realize is that it was that “movement of people” who initiated the regeneration of New York in the 1970s after the decades of Moses’ large-scale demolition projects disrupted and destabilized so much of the city. The tears in the urban fabric caused by the Moses big-project decades were huge and had a devastating impact on once-stable communities. In my book, I delve into this era in detail, illustrating how the city turned around from that low point.
    This Mr. Goldsmith’s comment that “What we build is not always measured with bricks and asphalt” is the kind of wisdom one would hope is shared by the “other” Stephen Goldsmith, who is the city’s new deputy mayor.

    Thank you, Robert Moses, for making sure I do not have the convenient rail access to the airports enjoyed by the residents of Rome, Paris, London, Frankfurt and now even Tel Aviv.
    — Posted by Eric

    Sadly, your observation is correct, because Moses ignored the strong advice of transportation planners and transit advocates and purposely refused to allow train lines to be placed parallel to the highways he built. The land was available and cheap at the time.

    Robert Caro concludes “The Power Broker” by writing that it’s impossible to say whether New York would have been a better city without Robert Moses, only that it would have been a far different one.
    Are you prepared to say whether, all things considered, Moses had a positive or a negative influence on New York’s development?
    — Posted by Ej

    Well, I do hope you read my book. I make the case that the overall influence was negative. It is ridiculous to think that we could not build highways, housing, parks and other things without Moses. But we could have built them without as much disruption of families, institutions and businesses, and we could have had a balanced transportation system instead of a car-dominant one. Since the 1980s, for example, we have been rebuilding the subway system Moses financially starved, and we still have a long way to go.
    The bottom line must be that Moses’ “public be damned” dictatorial methods are unacceptable in a democratic society. “If the ends don’t justify the means, what does?” Moses declared. Means are more important than ends; process is key. This is the fundamental contrast between Moses and Jacobs. She was about process, he about projects. They represent antithetical views. I use their clashing visions as a lens to look at and understand, perhaps differently, recent city history.

    I read in “The Power Broker” that the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and most of the later highways whose construction Moses oversaw were financed with federal funds. Do you think that if the federal government had mandated planning for public transportation as a condition of receipt of federal transportation money, the Verrazano and other arterial highways in metropolitan New York might have a rail line down their centers today? Or would Moses, who had an ideological aversion to mass transit, still have been powerful enough in the 1950s to get around combining roads and rails within the projects he managed?
    — Posted by Robert Hale

    What an interesting idea! Yes, the federal government should have mandated planning for public transportation. If the goal from the start was a balanced transportation policy, we would not be in the mess we are today. The federal government still favors highways over public transit and even airports over transit. The 20th century was the century of the automobile; the 21st will be of mass transit. It will take us decades to recreate the long- and short-distance rail lines we once had and need again.

    Jane Jacobs is spinning in her grave over “Atlantic Yards” and the use of public money to finance the taking of private homes for private gain; especially with “Atlantic Yards” cementing the footing for a Russian with blood on his hands. We will all be collaborators, with our taxes paying for it, too.
    — Posted by Bethrjacobs

    Atlantic Yards was unveiled before Jane Jacobs died, and she was quite appalled. She saw it as a real throwback to the Moses era.

  15. #90
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Sep 2003



    I think the best point made about what would have been a key change to his policies was the Mass Transit along the new highway routes.

    For a relatively small cost to impliment, we could have had a more complete rail service along the major corridors, allowing people in the city to be able to live just about anywhere w/o a car and STILL be able to get around.

    Would that have eliminated the need/use of cars? No. People still opt for their own personal transport when the means are available, but maybe it would have made for a nicer ride on the belt if not everyone and their mother was riding on it to get to Long Beach on Fridays!!!

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