Containing Multitudes Since 2004
The man who built Long Island...but destroyed New York City in the process. Moses stymied the growth of mass transit (he's the reason there is no subway crossing to Staten Island, when one could have easily been constructed as part of the Verrazano Bridge), making sure bridges over his Long Island parkways would be built too low for buses to use them. His stubbornness in trying to get the Brooklyn Dodgers to play in Flushing Meadows, Queens instead of a site near the LIRR Atlantic Avenue terminal led Walter O'Malley to throw up his hands and move the team to Los Angeles. And let's not forget the expressways that tore apart neighborhoods in the Bronx and elsewhere.
And the man who destroyed Coney Island with his determination to eliminate "tawdry amusements" and replace them with soulless low income housing. Moses did far more harm than good.
My folks grew up in Queens and knew many friends and relatives who lost homes in Fresh Meadows to the LIE, Moses and Eminent Domain. The reason why the LIE, Southern State, and Northern State (i.e., Grand Central Parkway) wind and twist so much is that Moses routed it to go through Working Class neighborhoods to avoid disturbing the rich and having to pay top dollar for Eminent Domain claims. The roads had to be built, but at what cost? At least out by me in Plainview, the roads when built were mostly over farmland and are fairly straight. As for New York City, his inflexibility (he was insistent on turning Houston Street into a Super Highway and met community resistance) doomed any chance to build a real underground roadway that trucks and drivers could use to avoid driving through NYC streets to get from NJ to Long Island. His arrogance and inflexibility created the problems that today make a 15 mile drive from LI to NYC last an interminable 2 hours during rush hour.
I saw Moses way after your "after" photo, when I was a busboy at the Jones Beach Boardwalk Restaurant in the 1970s. (An incredibly well-paying job for a teenager, at least back when diners knew how to tip.) His lunch was usually the same, a flounder filet, mashed potatoes and peas all pureed for his toothless consumption. NOT a pretty sight.
Okay, Im moving Caro's book up to the top of my list.
Caro has Moses' number, that's for certain. His portrayal of Moses's destruction of the Bronx alone is a tour de force. Seems M. justified the destruction of entire relatively stable neighborhoods on the basis that NYC needed modern highways to move military vehicles in the event of atomic attack. Like the LIE, the Cross Bronx was obsolete before it was even finished, woefully inadequate in a dawning era of modern super highways but a testament to the Power Broker's (lack of) vision. In short, like the LIE, the Cross Bronx is always crowded--at least when people want to use it most. And the Bronx has suffered some of the worst urban blight in modern times ever since.It was only when Moses turned his sights on downtown Manhattan (the 250+ families evicted for the Lincoln Center Project having proved expendable and unlamented, ater a futile battle in the courts) that he was finally stopped. He'd gone too far. And his timing could not have been worse, coming on the heels of the desecration of the original Penn Station--"this monumental act of vandalism" as a NY Times editorial described it. Moses harbored a delusion that he could play with Manhattan as he had the "outer boroughs" and Long Island. Amazingly, Moses never held elected office but his reign spanned decades.
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