Tag Archives: new york

Book Review: The Power Broker, by Robert Caro

Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize winning “The Power Broker” is a fascinating and incisive look into the life and work of Robert Moses, the nation’s foremost builder and the man most responsible for the modern face of New York. It is a biography that reads like a Greek tragedy: Moses gets his first taste of power achieving a purely public good, then finds himself incapable of relinquishing that power as the scope of his works and megalomania continue to grow. The joke of it all is that Moses started out as an idealistic champion of government reform.

Caro’s writing is thorough and fast paced, two descriptions that don’t often go together. The book is something like 1200 pages but its hard to put down. Caro certainly earned his Pulitzer, and the book is an amazing and relevant read even today as many of Moses projects stifle the city or begin to be replaced. His methods were openly classist and inherently racist, and the world he envisioned had no care for working people, future concerns, or anyone in his way. I don’t think there’s much of a way to examine or measure his impact on New York and the country, and it is even harder to speculate as to the damage he did with his open hostility to public transportation. At times, it is clear that Moses actually enjoyed destroying communities and anyone who got in his way. There are a lot of lessons in this book, but the central one is age old: power will undoubtedly corrupt even a simple park commissioner.

Defenders of Moses unfailingly return to the idea that if he didn’t do it, no one would have, and that because the city and state needed his public works projects and the jobs that came with them, all the terrible things that came with Moses must be swallowed. This is ridiculous on two main fronts. First, if New York needed infrastructure that badly, it would have been built. Paris and London built public works without jettisoning the democratic process. Moverover, there were some things he built that were vital, and many others that consumed money better spent on hospitals and schools. There is no doubt that a more democratic process would have resulted in far better transportation works, anyways. Last, it is possible for a man with great power to also be a good person, and Moses had it within his means to achieve just as much with half the damage.

That he revelled in the misery of others while building public monuments to himself can be best understood while in the midst of traffic lines on any of his most famous works. 

 

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In New York, justice remains out of reach.

The police officers who shot unarmed and innocent Sean Bell were acquitted late this week. To most onlookers, the events that resulted in Bell’s death point toward excessive force and wholly inappropriate behavior, first by the undercover officer that imagined Bell was attempting to locate a gun in his car and then by that same officer and his partners, who unloaded 50 shots into Bell and his vehicle before ever seeing a sign that Bell might be armed. Not only was Bell unarmed, but there never was a gun in that car and as it turns out, that undercover officer had pursued Bell to his vehicle solely out of wild suspicion.

Bell’s death recalls the painful memories of Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, and the impotence of the justice system serves only to remind us that what happened to the Jena Six was not an isolated incident – justice is blind to all but race and power.

When Louima’s case shocked the nation, outrage was smoothed over with guarantees that it would never happen again. When Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times for no justifiable reason, the police claimed again that, though the system was not going to be reformed and the police were guilty of no wrongdoing, there was no reason to be indignant because it would never happen again.

In the weeks following this latest police acquittal, let us not forget this history when the State of New York attempts to placate us by guaranteeing that Sean Bell’s death will be the last of its kind.

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Stat-Watch: Two-For One Edition

The Hornets are really good. They’re the first team all season to have two players seriously challenge the 5×5 mark, with Tyson Chandler and David West both having excellent all around games versus the New York Knicks. I know what you’re thinking – if its the Knicks, it doesn’t count. You’re probably right, but either way,

Chandler had 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.

David West had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks.

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Today, God’s waiting room gets to vote…

Rudy Giuliani is under 20% in his most important state, the one where he spent all his money trying to get people to remember him while a half dozen primaries dominated the media and public discourse. If he can’t turn it around, he pretty much has to drop out.

Meanwhile, Romney and McCain are essentially tied. If McCain wins it he only builds further momentum in CA, NY and NJ, Feb5th states where he is already leading. If Romney wins it, it might be more of a fight next week.

As far as I’m concerned, tonight could essentially decide the Republican nomination. If it is McCain, that only strengthens the case for Obama.

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