Listening to New York’s master builder Robert Moses speak is not the chore you might think it is. His language is often colorful. He’s sarcastic, cynical and witty. Even when you hear him talking about vast projects that would ultimately prove to help in the deterioration of New York City, you can’t help but recognize and perhaps even admire his unswerving over-confidence.
WNYC has a superb archive of audio clips of Mr. Moses as he speaks about some of his most controversial projects. The entire collection is fascinating indeed, although it might get your blood a’boiling.
Here’s a small sampling of some of the shorter speeches. You can check out the whole collection here.
Audio is courtesy of the New York City Municipal Archives, WNYC Collection
Robert Moses on Slum Clearance
“It is astounding that anyone in local elected or appointed office, anyone with capital and places to risk it, any cooperative group, any prudent conservative bank or loaning agency not compelled to do so, is willing to run the gauntlet and brave the brick bats, rotten eggs and dead cats on the way to slum clearance.”
Robert Moses defending the World’s Fair of 1964
In this clip, Moses is introduced as though he is on the same level as Pope Paul IV, Lyndon B Johnson and the Beatles.
Robert Moses complains about the early state of Central Park and how ugly the Guggenheim Museum is
At the dedication of the Delacorte Clock at the Central Park Zoo, 1963. He begins to speak at 5:00. “I devoutly believe in limited objectives, attainable in our time with the means and instruments at time. It is with public works and with decorating our city.”
On Mr. Delacorte: “He brings a smile to the expressionless countenance. He strikes the corpse of dead public art that leaps upon its feet.”
“At least I inherited no stabiles, trembling mobiles and pinheaded monsters…”
Robert Moses dedicates a terminal at La Guardia Airport
He begins speaking at 7:00. “Many of us here today have watched with fascination the emergence of a flying sky pattern, the advent of argosies of magic sails and pilots of the purple twilight.”
Robert Moses at the groundbreaking of the New York Coliseum
“Now if I understand the English language, [Senator Taft] said he wanted to get private capital into slum clearance after we had exercised the power of eminent domain to get the land…. Private capital was to provide not only housing but whatever was appropriate for the location.”
Robert Moses picture at top is courtesy the AP