Category Archives: Robert Moses

‘Citizen Jane’: A new film explores the legacies of Moses and Jacobs

FILM REVIEW The story of Robert Moses versus Jane Jacobs has grown to such an epic scale by this point that it scarcely represents reality anymore. Their legacies have taken on super heroic form — the Avengers of New York City history, if you will — representing the basic evils of corrupt government and the essential good of humanity in protecting its citizens from distress and exploitation.

Many might walk by a certain aspect of New York City life that remains troubling and may, to this day, immediately attribute it to Moses, while strolling through a bustling neighborhood and thanking Jacobs for her inspiration. These instincts aren’t wrong but they are reductive.

A new documentary seeks to keep Moses and Jacobs in the realm of the mythical. Citizen Jane: Battle For the City, about the critical fight against urban renewal in the 1950s and 60s,  plays out in New York City, of course, but its title pointedly leaves out the location. The movie is bookended (perhaps burdened) with a greater context — their fight now possibly reverberates into the struggles of all modern cosmopolitan life and even the fate of our planet.

You may be quite familiar with the main players and their biographies.  Moses, the city’s parks commissioner, began to amass great power and influence after World War II, using federal money and modernist ideas to develop urban renewal programs that would rewrite the landscape New York City. Jacobs, “just a housewife” as she was later described by Moses and his cronies, was a journalist and urban theorist who evolved the fight to save the integrity of her own Greenwich Village neighborhood into one to preserve the vital characteristics of the city.

Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images

Citizen Jane brings these stories alive using a wonderful assortment of film footage and interviews. Without a doubt, the greatest pleasures of this film are the actual voices of its two subjects.

Moses is at his most cantankerous here, often growling out the defense of his own plans. He describes slums as “a cancerous growth,” complains about people who don’t want to relocate, then labels his critics as in “opposition to everything that’s progressive.”

But Jacobs can be vitriolic herself of course. Fortunately there’s an abundance of interviews which the film uses to narrate Jabobs’ personal journey from a passive journalistic voice to a crusader against, in her own words, the “full flowering of the expressway power city.”

Rendering of the Lower Manhattan Expressway. Courtesy Library of Congress

The film, directed by Matt Tyranuer, makes bold and sometimes ominous choices of presenting the stark contrasts of changing urban life, building towards the ultimate confrontation — the development of the Lower Manhattan Expressway.

Even here, the director makes a wise decision to let original news and promotional film footage from the period speak for itself. While it is true that the central conflicts presented within Citizen Jane are truly modern and universal, there’s just nothing like hearing the voices of 1960s New Yorkers, complaining about Robert Moses and afraid of losing their homes, to help bring those points across.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
Directed by Matt Tyrnauer
Altimeter Films
Now playing in theaters and On Demand

 

 

In the words of Robert Moses: His weird, trippy speeches from the WNYC Archives

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

And Now … Two Christmas Poems By Robert Moses

My new column for A24 Films is up over on their 1981 site (in support of the film A Most Violent Year). 1981 was the year that Robert Moses died, and his death sparked new discussions into what his legacy to the New York City area truly was.  In a word: automobiles.  You can read my article here.

But that’s a little depressing. How about I tell you about the time that the New York Times published a couple Christmas poems written by Moses?

That’s right, the Santa Claus of Long Island, bearing gifts of bridges and highways, did occasionally get into the Christmas spirit, albeit dripping in vitriol and sass.


Moses in 1934 during his failed campaign for governor. (Courtesy New York Daily News Archive)

POEM ONE – ‘TIS THE NIGHT BEFORE ELECTION

This loosely poetic speech first manifested in print during the last gasps of Moses’ failed bid for New York governor in 1934.

As the Republican candidate running against incumbent Herbert H. Lehman, young Moses failed to connect with voters, and the experience soured him on elected positions. He was soundly defeated by Lehman, the investment banker-turned-politician aligned with new president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who had preceded Lehman as governor).

His final words as a candidate were spoken on radio station WEAF and printed the following day.  Those words paid an awkward homage to the great Christmas poem written by Clement Clarke Moore. Despite the fact that the election was in early November, his point in conjuring the visage of Old St. Nick would become clear.  It’s hardly rhythmic. Imagine this read in his gruff, determined voice:

“‘Tis the night before election, and nothing much is stirring throughout the state.

The stockings in Democratic homes are hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Jim Farley soon will be there.

The Big Bag Man is dressing himself up as Santa. He doesn’t really look the part, but that’s not important.

Neither is the fact that all the presents were bought on credit, and that Santa Claus is running up a tremendous bill.   

The important question is:  Has he plenty of presents to go around for the boys and girls who have been good?

Governor Smith expressed the fondest hopes of the Democratic party, and summed up the strategy of the whole Democratic campaign when he said that he thought the people would not shoot Santa Claus before a hard Christmas.”

Jim Farley (pictured at right, 1938) was considered a ‘kingmaker’ in Democratic politics, responsible for the election of FDR.  He would become Roosevelt’s U.S. Postmaster General.  The James A. Farley Post Office across from Madison Square Garden is named in his honor.

Using the Santa analogy, Moses was taking a dig at Democratic programs that would soon shape FDR’s New Deal.  Of course, as New York’s power builder, Moses would later benefit greatly from these programs so perhaps he shouldn’t have been complaining.

In 1948, Robert Moses received the very first honorary degree from Hofstra University, along with Robert Gannon, the president of Fordham University.  However, that year it would be a phony university that would inspire Moses to pen a sassy Christmas verse. (Courtesy Hofstra University)

POEM TWO: CHRISTMAS GREETINGS (LETTER TO THE CHANCELLOR)

Perhaps more unusual was the poem which ran the day after Christmas in 1948, an inside joke between men of influence.

By the late 1930s, Moses had amassed several positions of responsibility and power and had pushed through a great number of vast, expensive projects, including the Triborough Bridge. Moses had to routinely pitch these projects to the New York Board of Estimate — the men who held the purse strings — which included Henry M. Curran (Deputy Mayor), Newbold Morris (City Council President), and James Lyons (Bronx Borough President).

Curran was a bit of a grammar nerd — the kind who cringes at improper usage of words — and recoiled during debates when Moses (at right) and the others misused the English language.

According to the Times, Curran organized among the men a hierarchy of language correction, (jokingly?) referred to as Curran University.  One could only ‘graduate’ from this phony university by excelling in their verbal and written debates with grammatical aplomb.

During a board meeting where the fate of the old Claremont Inn was discussed, Moses used the phrase ‘coign of vantage’ which scandalized Curran but suggested that Moses’ verbal skills were improving.

Then, one day, Moses wrote a memorandum to Lyons using the phrase ‘high-falutin‘ as well an apparent mis-use of the word Aurignacian.  This threw his superiors into a light-hearted conniption.

“We tried to help.  But Moses has failed, flunked.  Up with the bars!  Let Mose wail — without — not within,” wrote Curran.

Moses, who would become more powerful than all three men combined, responded in an unusual way — he wrote a biting Christmas poem.  The following verse, penned by Moses, was delivered to Lyon, who “promptly converted it into a Christmas card — with embellishments — and passed it along to his superior officer.”  The poem, as published in the Times:

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
To Chancellor Henry H. Curran
Great Chancellor of Curran U
Greetings from Borough Hall and Zoo.
 
Assorted barks and roars and honks
From the four corners of the Bronx.
 
Gannon, Osborn, Robbins and Moses
Greet you with laurel, rhinos and roses.
 
Cheerios and loud hosannas
From Pelham Bay and the Bronx savannas.
 
Great critic of the spoken word,
Greetings with the proverbial bird.
 
From every coign and height definitive
We greet you with a split infinitive.
 
Signed, 
James J Lyons, Dean
Robert Moses, Sophomore Cheer Leader

So remember: the next time you have a friend correct your grammar, remind yourself, “Hey, I have something in common with the Power Broker!”

Below: A New Yorker cartoon from 1960, the year when his grammar pal Morris took the job of Parks Commissioner from Moses.

 





Robert Moses rejected this terrifying Margaret Keane painting from hanging at the 1964-65 World’s Fair

The World’s Fair of 1964-65 at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was a major American event forward-looking in its intent and, in many ways, backwards in its practice.  In particular, Robert Moses did not care for cheap carnival amusements, nor did he care for music or art that was particular edgy or controversial. Moses’ tastes ruled supreme over the Fair as he held veto power over any works that were in “extreme bad taste or low standard.”

There was no pavilion dedicated to art although several independent partners funded their own art displays.  The New York State Pavilion presented the work of brand-new pop artists; an objectionable piece by Andy Warhol entitled Thirteen Wanted Men was eventually painted over (although it was the governor Nelson Rockefeller who objected in this case).

Moses did eventually throw out one surprising piece of artwork — Tomorrow Forever by Margaret Keane.

The Keane painting was to have been displayed in this building at the fair.**

Keane was known for her bizarre and haunting images of children and animals with large empty eyes.  During the 1960s, her husband Walter Keane claimed to be the creator of her paintings.  It was he who was announced as the painter of this macabre work, chosen in February 1964 to grace the Fair’s Hall of Education.   The venue devoted to the future of schools would feature a scale model of an elementary school from the year 2000, a playground with “futuristic climbing structures,” and from the entrance way, the terrifying painting you see above.

The work by Keane, representing “something which would be symbolic for the aspiration of children,” was not exactly heralded as the pinnacle of artistic expression in 1964.

The New York Times’ art critic John Canaday could barely conceal his disgust at this “grotesque announcement,” adding, “Mr. Keane is the painter who enjoys international cele­bration for grinding out form­ula pictures of wide‐eyed children of such appalling sentimentality that his product has become synonymous among critics with the very definition of tasteless hack work.”   [source]

To be fair, Canaday had only seen a photograph of the painting, which depicts an endless sea of soul-crushing zombie children, rising out of a morose and barren wasteland. “That’s true,” he confessed to a Life Magazine reporter. “It’s normally a principle of mine never to judge just by a photograph, but in this case it didn’t matter.”

Moses seemed to agree with Canaday, demanding the Hall of Education cancel the planned installation before it was even mounted.  Thanks to Canaday’s protest, Moses’ office was inundated with letters from angry intellectuals and aesthetes. “[T]he perpetrators of this art burlesque,” wrote Joseph James Akston, “expose us to veritable scandal sure to incur ridicule and laughter of the whole civilized world with possible exception of Russians.” [source]

Keane, who of course didn’t paint the artwork attributed to him, nonetheless seemed to revel in the critical potshots.  The following year, he issued a press releases from San Francisco and Tahiti, declaring himself “the American Gauguin.”  Canaday would continue to take aim at Keane’s kitschy work.  Imagine how Canaday felt when he discovered that Walter hadn’t even painted the works he so deliciously despised?

Margaret eventually left her husband and sued for rightful ownership of her artwork.

Below: From a Life Magazine profile in August 1965:

NOTE: I’m being a little irreverent in calling the painting “terrifying” as the artist clearly intended the subjects to be starving, sad children.  However, the passage of time has been a little strange to Keane’s legacy.  She is perhaps more beloved than ever — there’s a new Tim Burton film coming out this year — but the flagrant sentimentality of the work has given way to their spectacular kitsch value.

** The Hall of Education picture courtesy the blog Little Owl Ski which has a few other nifty World’s Fair pictures.

 

Assorted mishaps from the 1964 New York World’s Fair — in its first month and before it even opened

Certainly Robert Moses expected there to be a few little problems to arise at the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair on April 22, 1964.  And for the most part, the most popular attractions launched without a hitch.  But a host of bad press on opening day and a litter of minor issues created a sense of unease among some organizers.

The fair was already a controversial venture by Moses — unsanctioned by the official World’s Fair organizers and sold wholesale to a bevy of corporations as a way to fund the hugely expensive endeavor.  Moses’ own reputation was on the wane by 1964; the fair would further tarnish it.  Whatever enthusiasm New Yorkers had for the fair in 1964 evaporated with its completion in the fall of 1965, with reports of ludicrous financial mismanagement and a gradual indifference by fair-goers to its line-up of generally un-amusing amusements.

So these first few mishaps from the months before and after opening, in retrospect, seem to be a harbinger for the greater fiascoes which followed.  Money issues, faulty machinery, injuries, lack of planning — welcome to the World’s Fair of 1964!

1) The World of Food never opens
With hundreds of new temporary structures going up, you wouldn’t think that a single building lagging behind would be much of an issue.  But the prominently placed World of Food  — standing 75 feet from the fair’s entrance — was one of the largest pavilions on the fair, and little work had been done on it since ground-breaking in January.

The building was to celebrate cooking and gardening, with weekly festivals devoted to a particular food (shrimp, apples), a rooftop ‘edible garden’ and a model kitchen with the most innovative home appliances.  A teen center on the ground floor would host cook-outs and clam-bakes with appearances by the hottest young stars of film and television.

It would have, that is, except the organizers ran out of money, and a large gaping construction site sat like an open sore marring the fairgrounds.  Moses and fair organizers wanted to level the site immediately, fighting it out in court with the World of Food organizers.  Finally, two weeks before the opening, the uncompleted venue was finally torn down.

But there was no time to fill the lot, so on opening day, an odd gap in an otherwise tightly organized grounds greeted visitors.  Gift shops sold World of Food souvenirs anyway.  Meanwhile, the fair paid thousands of dollars to store the unused construction materials off site.  [More information at Bill Young’s excellent World’s Fair site. Image above is also from there.]

2) Ceramic catastrophe
The most spectacular displays were often at the pavilions hosted by foreign countries.  The Pieta at the Vatican Pavilion, for instance, would become one of the most popular attractions.  The organizers from Spain, however, would have to scramble when they opened crates containing a 50-foot ceramic relief by Antonio Cumella called ‘Homage to Gaudi,” only to discover that much of it had been crushed in transport.

Welders furiously labored to repair the work before the fair opened.  Some semblance of the work was eventually displayed.

Courtesy New York Daily News

3) Rain on Opening Day
The April 22nd opening was to be one of the greatest events in New York City history, and in volume, it certainly was.  Ten of thousands clogged the highways in one of New York’s ugliest traffic days. Over 90,000 made it to the fairgrounds to witness opening ceremonies that included a speech by president Lyndon B. Johnson, president for only a few months after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

But fair organized had planned for 250,000 attendees.  Keeping people away was the “November-like weather,” torrential morning rain and a chilly, cloudy afternoon.  The New York Times reported:  “The World’s Fair opened yesterday morning with a parade that had everything. But mostly it had rain, and 4,000 sodden marchers outnumbered the hundreds of sodden bystanders.”

4) Protesters and arrests
President Johnson and fair organizers were met with picketers and sit-ins, mostly civil rights organizers.  They managed to heckle Johnson through his entire speech at the Federal Pavilion and sit in at several fair venues.  In particular, protesters camped out in shrubbery outside the pavilion and had to be forcibly removed.  “It was dreadful, dreadful,” said one state official.

By the end of the day, over 300 people had been arrested by police.  What had particularly incensed protesters was a variety show at the fair called “America, Be Seated,” a “minstrel-style” show that meant to turn the derogatory stereotypes of old into something fun and jazzy for the 1960s.  “I think we’ll start a whole new wave of minstrel shows,” hoped producer Michael Todd Jr, (stepson of Elizabeth Taylor), promising no “burnt cork” and that every performer in the integrated cast would be wearing “his own face.”

It was still deemed too offensive for many and quickly closed within two days, raking in a grand total of $300.

Below: From the New York Times, April 23, 1964

5) City locked down
If you weren’t at the fair, you were probably cursing it out.  A planned “stall-in” by demonstrators to stop traffic throughout the city failed to materialize, but the city planned for it anyway, created a veritable police state that day.  “Police cars and tow trucks waited sometimes as close as every half mile along Grand Central Parkway.”

This tension led to a near-disaster at one subway station, when four protesters and three police officers were injured “when a crowd tried to stop one morning subway train.” [source]

6) No hospital
Five days after opening, seven fair goers were injured inside fair transportation sponsored by Greyhound Bus Lines. One of these “Glide-a-Ride” vehicles hit one of the eleven General Foods arches (pictured above), causing minor injuries.

But there was no hospital facility on the fairgrounds — “[T]he hospital was expected to open late next month” — so the injured were treated at the employee’s dispensary and advised to see their own doctors at once. [source]

Leonidoff’s Wonder World. Pic courtesy Randy Treadway at World Fair Community. There are many more rare photos of this event there.)

7) Water and Ice Catastrophes
Two big-name entertainments at the fair were plagued with constant accidents and delays before they opened.  Leon Leonidoff, famed producer at Radio City Music Hall, watched as his “Leonidoff’s Wonder World” befell perpetual mishaps, mostly associated with a faulty mechanical swimming pool.  The show was hugely expensive and not a big draw (see photo above).  It closed within two months.

Meanwhile, Olympic champion Dick Button was having similar issues over at Dick Button’s Ice-Travaganza.  His woes involved transportation costs and salaries associated with his mostly European cast.  This show, too, was considered a failure, closing a few weeks after its opening opening.

However it did have a skating chimpanzee in a dress, so that’s something to celebrate.

8) Elephant Attack
Six days after the fair opened, a trainer was “stepped on” by a chained elephant named Anna Mae.  Again, as no fair hospital had been opened, the trainer was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital.

You can imagine what the conditions for this poor animal were probably like.  The animal, known for “her erratic temperament,” was chained to two other elephants at the time of the attack.

Above: the Ford Pavilion (NYPL)

9) Ford Pavilion Smoked Out
Nine days after it opened, a transformer at the Ford Pavilion — featuring Walt Disney’s Magic Skyway — caught fire, issuing smoke into the attraction and causing 2,000 people to be evacuated.  The conveyor belt Skyway was also prone in its early days to malfunctions, leaving fair-goers trapped in late-model Ford vehicles in front of caveman and space-age dioramas. [source]

10) The World’s Fair Bus “Riot”
May 16 was a day of record attendance at the fair, so it should be assumed that it was also a day of high tensions and long lines.  People were especially impatient that evening while waiting to board shuttles back to the parking lot.

“A shoving, yelling crowd of 15,000 persons went into near panic,” creating four blocks of mayhem as people attempted to squeeze into an inadequete number of vehicles.  A “riot call” was made on the fairgrounds, with additional police and several ambulances called to treat minor injuries and several women who had fainted.

“They acted like animals,” commented one bus inspector. Said another, who had been grabbed and lifted by his tie:  “If we lived through [Saturday] night, we can live through anything.” [source]

Top image courtesy Flickr Marsmett Tallahassee

Robert Moses was born 125 years ago today. Here’s ten ways to celebrate/mourn his magnificent, controversial legacy

One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, Robert Moses was unleashed upon the world, born in New Haven, Connecticut, on Dwight Street.  He remains today one of the most powerful civic figures in American history, and obviously one of the most controversial.  Because of Moses, we have the modern New York City.  Many of its strengths and its difficulties can be traced, in some way, to decisions he made, from roads and housing to parks and waterways.

Can you really “celebrate” Robert Moses?  Of course you can.  Here’s ten particular ways you can ruminate upon the changes he inflicted upon the city, from the mighty highways to the large, concrete-heavy parks.

1) Read his obituary in the New York Times. Robert Moses died on July 29, 1981.

An excerpt: “Robert Moses was, in every sense of the word, New York’s master builder. Neither an architect, a planner, a lawyer nor even, in the strictest sense, a politician, he changed the face of the state more than anyone who was. Before him, there was no Triborough Bridge, Jones Beach State Park, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, West Side Highway or Long Island parkway system or Niagara and St. Lawrence power projects. He built all of these and more.”

You might also like to know the contents of his will.

The Unisphere is still around (and presumably in no danger), but the New York State Pavilion, seen in the background, could face demolition. (NYPL)

2) Help save the New  York State Pavilion.  
The curious remnants that remain of the World’s Fair 1964-65, located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, are in danger of being torn down.  Certainly Moses himself would have approved of tearing down these useless — and yet, priceless — relics.

After the city projected it would be cheaper to tear them down than to renovate, many in the community rallied to save the embattled old ruins.  A couple weeks ago, Gizmodo asked the question ‘Should Queens Tear Down The 1964 World’s Fair Pavilion’.  Prepare an interesting preservation battle over this historic piece, designed by Philip Johnson.

3) Visit neighborhoods plucked from Robert Moses’ grasp.
Had Moses had his way, a variety of beloved neighborhoods would have been wiped from existence — parts of the Lower East Side and SoHo (thanks to the Lower East Side Expressway proposal), Willowtown in Brooklyn, just to start.

In particular, go to Battery Park and physically embrace Castle Clinton if you can. (It was still behind fences last I checked.)  Moses wanted to construct a bridge over to Brooklyn that would have wiped it from existence.  From my original article:  “The Brooklyn-Battery would be designed by bridge master Othmar Ammann, designer of nearly half the bridges of New York City, with an anchorage plopped in the middle of Governor’s Island.”

Fortunately, the community intervened, and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel was built in its place. But a vision of what it might have looked like is above.  (Courtesy Urban Omnibus)

4) Visit those neighborhoods he did replace.
This is a far more depressing stroll and far more common.  Moses’ use of funds from Title I of the 1949 Housing Act replaced some serious New York slum conditions with low-income housing developments, but some of it was poorly designed and shoddily planned.  According to Joel Schwartz, “To a generation of critics … Title I was also synonymous with reckless power that went unchecked until a small band of urban liberals rallied the conscience of the city.”  Not surprisingly, Moses focus was on neighborhoods that were predominantly black and Latino.

Most striking of these was East Tremont in the Bronx and Manhattantown on Manhattan’s Upper East Side:

 

5) Ride over the Triborough Bridge and head to Randall’s Island
Easily one of Moses’ biggest successes, the Triborough Bridge Authority took in millions of dollars in tolls which then funded other ambitious projects throughout the state.

Over at Randall’s Island,  you should visit the Triborough Bridge Authority Building, which was the homebase for Moses for decades.  It was here that many of his greatest triumphs — and a few city downfalls — were planned.

6) Check out the ghastly Robert Moses mosaic in Flushing-Meadows Park.
The mosaic underfoot is based upon a work by Andy Warhol which the artist created after Moses destroyed Warhol’s outdoor art piece involving the FBI Most Wanted list. From my previous article ‘Most Wanted: Robert Moses vs. Andy Warhol’:  “[H]is mural was literally whitewashed. Warhol intended to replace it with a new design: 25 silkscreen panels of Robert Moses’ face in a Joker-like grin. Unsurprisingly, [Philip] Johnson did not think this appropriate for the main pavilion of Moses’ fair.”

Listen to the WNYC piece from 2010 for more information!

  

7)  Ponder his vast, virtually unchecked power.
Can you imagine if a politician or city leader were actually as successful as Robert Moses in getting anything done?  His reach and output makes him one of the most powerful city builders in modern human history.

Imagine such power in the hands of a modern politician today. Scratch that. Imagine that power in the hands of an unelected civic leader, as Moses was.

He was so powerful, in fact, that he changed the names of neighborhoods — on a whim!  Like Throggs Neck, for instance.  Excuse me, Throgs Neck.

From my article on the origin of the name: “You may have noticed that John’s last name [Throgg] has two g’s in it, while most common spellings have only one. Legend has it that this is another thing you can blame on Robert Moses.  Not exactly known for reaching out to communities for their thoughts and opinions, Moses decided to drop a ‘g’ in 1955 when the bridge started construction, believing it would fit on more traffic signs without an additional and needless letter.  Who cares if it was in use that way for over 300 years!”

8) Watch Robert Moses on TV in 1953
Moses was even a guest on an early television show called Longines Chronoscope, sponsored by Longines.  This isn’t the most fascinating television that was ever made, but it’s interesting to hear Moses’ authoritative voice during the era of his greatest power.

And check out this bonus video on Robert Moses’ “improvement plans” for Coney Island:

9) Visit his burial site 
He’s buried in a crypt at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.  So is his most prominent collaborator, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

10) Listen to our podcast (Episode #100) on Robert Moses, our longest-ever show!
   

And check out our other podcasts and pages which feature Robert Moses and his effects on the city including the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Shea Stadium, Shakespeare In The Park The Rockaways and Rockaway Beach and Central Park

Below:  The glory that was Shea Stadium  (NYPL)