“Surely the greatest book ever written about a city.”
“A masterpiece of American reporting. It’s more than the story
of a tragic figure or the exploration of the unknown politics of our time.
It’s an elegantly written and enthralling work of art.”
—Theodore H. White
“The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provocative book ever published
about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man
who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over
the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political
power in a democracy. A monumental work, a political biography and political
history of the first magnitude.”
—Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York
“One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This
is definitive biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This
is a study of the corruption which power exerts on those who wield it to set
beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare and his kings.”
—Daniel Berger, Baltimore Evening Sun
“Required reading for all those who hope to make their way in urban
politics; for the reformer, the planner, the politician and even the ward heeler.”
—Jules L. Wagman, Cleveland Press
“A triumph, brilliant and totally fascinating. A majestic, even Shakespearean,
drama about the interplay of power and personality.”
“The feverish hype that dominates the merchandising of arts and letters
in America has so debased the language that, when a truly exceptional achievement
comes along, there are no words left to praise it. Important, awesome, compelling—these
no longer summon the full flourish of trumpets this book deserves. It is extraordinary
on many levels and certain to endure.”
—The Washington Post
For the sheer magnitude, depth and authority of its revelations,
The Power Broker stands alone---a huge and galvanizing biography revealing
not only the virtually unknown saga of one man's incredible accumulation of power,
but the hidden story of the shaping (and mis-shaping) of New York through the
Robert Caro's monumental book, seven years in work, makes public at last what few outsiders have known: that Robert Moses has been the single most powerful man of our time in the City and in the State of New York. And in telling the Moses story, Caro both opens up to an unprecedented degree the way in which politics really happens-the way things really get done in America's City Halls and Statehouses-and brings to light a bonanza of vital new information about such national figures as Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt (and the genesis of their blood feud), about Fiorello La Guardia, John V. Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller.
But The Power Broker is first and foremost a brilliant multidimensional portrait of a man-an extraordinary man who, denied power within the normal framework of the democratic process, stepped outside that framework to grasp power sufficient to shape a great city and to hold sway over the very texture of millions of lives. We see how Moses began: the handsome, intellectual young heir to the world of Our Crowd; an idealist. How, rebuffed by the entrenched political establishment, he fought for the power to accomplish his ideals. How he first created a miraculous flowering of parks and parkways, playlands and beaches-and then ultimately brought down on the city the smog-choked aridity of our urban landscape, the endless miles of (never sufficient) highway, the hopeless sprawl of Long Island, the massive failures of public housing, and countless other barriers to humane living. How, inevitably, the accumulation of power became an end in itself.
Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He was held in fear-his dossiers could disgorge the dark secret of anyone who opposed him. He was, he claimed, above politics, above deals; and through decade after decade, the newspapers and the public believed. Meanwhile, he was developing his public authorities into a fourth branch of government known as "Triborough"-a government whose records were closed to the public, whose policies and plans were decided not by voters or elected officials but solely by Moses-an immense economic force directing pressure on labor unions, on banks, on all the city's political and economic institutions, and on the press, and on the Church. He himself wrote the legislation that cemented his power; he battled and defeated FDR (his most bitter enemy), controlled the entire huge flow of federal funds into legal fees, insurance commissions, lucrative contracts on the basis of who could best pay him back in the only coin he coveted: power. He dominated the politics and politicians of his time--without ever having been elected to any office. He was, in essence, above our democratic system.
Robert Moses held power in the state for 44 years, through the governorships of Smith, Roosevelt, Lehman, Dewey, Harriman and Rockefeller, and in the city for 34 years, through the 111 mayoralties of La Guardia, O'Dwyer, Impellitteri, Wagner and Lindsay. He personally conceived and carried through public works costing 27 billion dollars-he was undoubtedly America's greatest builder. This is how he built and dominated New York-before, finally, he was stripped of his reputation (by the press) and his power (by Nelson Rockefeller). But his work, and his will, had been done.
"Beyond a superb portrait of a man, (it is) a study of municipal power that will change the way any reader of the book hereafter peruses his newspaper."
—Philip Herrera, Time
"In the future, the scholar who writes the history of American cities in the 20th century
will doubtless begin with this extraordinary effort. The first extensive and comprehensive critique of one of the most powerful men of this--or any--century. The first successful entry to the highly guarded confines of the Robert Moses public works empire."
—Richard C. Wade, Distinguished Prof. of Urban History, City University of NY Grad. Center, in The New york Times Book Review
"Caro has written one of the finest, best-researched and most analytically informative descriptions of our political and governmental processes to appear in a generation."
—Nicholas Von Hoffman, Washington Post
"Surely the greatest book ever written about a city. Marvelously readable. An extraordinary
achievement. I am in awe of Mr. Caro."
"The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provocative book ever published about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political power in a democracy. A monumental work, apolitical biography and political history of the first magnitude. Should be read by anyone who is interested in how politics works."
—Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York Magazine
"What a really great thing Robert Caro has done. Apart from the book's being so good as biography, as city history, as sheer good reading, The
Power Broker is an immense public service."
"A book which will rank as required reading for all who hope to make their way in urban politics; for the reformer, the planner, the politician and even the ward heeler who has lofty aspirations."
—Jules L. Wagman, Cleveland Press
"A truly exceptional achievement. Extraordinary on many levels, and certain to endure. If you are among those addicts who savor inside stories of politics, virtually every chapter is a ripe yarn of intrigue and of powerful figures in collision, from Al Smith to Nelson Rockefeller."
—William Greider, Washington Post Book World
"An extraordinary study of the workings of power, individually, institutionally, politically, and economically in our republic."
—Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal
"Almost certain to become standard, required reading in college and post graduate level
sociology, political science, local government, and, hopefully, engineering and business
—Rod Cockshutt, Raleigh News & Observer
"One of the most profound and precisely articulated books ever written about the shame of
the American City. It is tirelessly investigative, scrupulously evidential, and wonderfully
—Justin Kaplan, Miami World
"Should be gobbled up by regional planners, educators, political scientists, journalists--by anyone with any curiosity about the forces that have shaped this metropolis. The book could serve as a text by itself for a college course in municipal government." —Stanley Isaacs, NEWSDAY
"Impressive. Caro skillfully unravels the complicated web of urban politics, bureaucratic
wrangling, and legal questions. A disturbing view of the inner workings of government."
"One of the most exciting, un-put-downable books I have ever read. This is definitive
biography, urban history, and investigative journalism. This is a study of the corruption
which power exerts on those who wield it, to set beside Tacitus and his emperors, Shakespeare
and his kings. When history looks up Moses, it will look him up in this book. Like Moses,
Mr. Caro has built to endure."
—Daniel Berger, Baltimore Evening Sun
"An outstanding political biography. The research is impeccable; the writing, superb. It
is so thorough that it makes other worthy political biographies seem only the shadow of what
they might have been."
—Robert Cassidy, Chicago Tribune Book World
"As a lesson in the realities of political science, The Power Broker is superb. It is a
thoroughly documented and detailed case history of the use and abuse of power. Will form the
basic reading of political science courses for years to come."
—Roderick Craib, Asst. Prof. of English at Rutgers Univ. and Transportation Editor of "Business Week" in New Brunswick News
"A superlative biography. Fascinating from start to finish. A splendid achievement, at once
the portrait of an extraordinary man, a vividly colorful account of New York politics in this century, and a sobering, at times painful, study of power, how it is sought, won, exercised, and lost in modern America."
—Jack Patterson, Business Week
"A brilliant, superbly written, monumental work."
—David A. Johnson, Assoc. Prof. of Planning, Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship, in Planning
"Caro's achievement is staggering. The most unlikely subjects--banking, ward politics,
construction, traffic management, state financing, insurance companies, labor unions, bridge
building--become alive and contemporary. It is cheap at the price and too short by half. A
milestone in literary and publishing history."
—Donald R. Morris, Houston Post
"An invaluable primer in Getting Things Done. Should be required reading for every political
—Paul Harris, El Paso Herald–Post
"From now on both contemporary biographies and studies of urban life will have to stand the
hard test of being measured against this immense unfailingly vigorous book. A beacon to
students doggedly chewing their way through the literature of urban studies."
—Fred Cody, Berkeley Monthly
"Irresistible reading. It is like one of the great Russian novels, overflowing with
characters and incidents that all fit into a vast mosaic of plot and counterplot. Only this
is no novel. This is a college education in power corruption."
—George McCue, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A book that no student of politics and of power--and of the consequences in the practice and pursuit thereof--can afford to miss."
—Oren Root, America
"A gripping book. Not only as an indictment of Moses' policies and procedures, but as a case
study of the ways in which power can accrue to public managers bypassing democracy and imposing a personal vision on the life of a city. An exemplary tale for our times."
—Kirsch, LA Times