Robert Moses did big things - huge things. He was a master builder. Although he held no elected office, he exercised more power than any other figure in the history of New York City or New York State. He did so though a genius for political maneuver, relentless vindictive behavior toward his opponents, meanspiritedness, viciousness, callousness and an enormous belief in the wisdom of his views.
He was racist and especially worked against racial minorities. He fought public transit so that minorities could not access his recreational facilities, although that was mitigated somewhat by the construction of 10 gigantic public pools under the WPA Program. Although he built many playgrounds across the city, almost none of them were located in Harlem. He saw to it that the overpasses on parkways he built were made purposely too low for buses to clear, thereby preventing low-income people who did not have a car from getting to beaches and parks by public transportation. Moses was cavalier in the exercise of eminent domain in the removal of hundreds of thousands of residents, businesses, houses of worship and entire neighborhoods to make way for his projects. He favored and built high rise public houses which were an eyesore and humanly demeaning. His domestic and even international influence was enormous. The automobile became king, the presumed primary means of transportation.
That shaped the social mindset and the design and layout of urban areas everywhere. It delivered urban sprawl. Public transportation was diminished. Robert Moses' accomplishments were mind boggling. At one point, 25 percent of federal construction dollars were spent in New York City. As many as 80,000 worked under him. He did this through many appointments to commissionerships in the city and state, the consequence of his political power. His early projects, all huge successes, were achieved is the 1920s, capped off by Jones Beach and a network of connecting parkways. He built bridges - the Triboro (1936), Henry Hudson (1936), Marine Parkway (1937), Bronx Whitestone (1939), Little Hell Gate (1937-torn down in 1996), Cross Bay (1939), Ward's Island Pedestrian (1951),Throgs Neck (1961) and Verrazano Narrows (1964). He built Grand Central Parkway, Interboro Parkway, Laurelton Parkway, Gowanus Expressway, Henry Hudson Parkway and the West Side Highway as well as the 79th Street Boat Basin. Moses' most despised project was the Cross Bronx Expressway, which required 10 years to build, forced the eviction of nearly 4,000 families, and slashed a seven mile gash through Bronx residential neighborhoods.
Not all of his ambitions were realized and he had a number of noteworthy failures. He was responsible for the move of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles when he blocked the team's owner, Walter O'Malley, from gaining access to an ideal parcel of land on which to build a new stadium and related facilities to replace the small, antiquated Ebbets Field. He presided over the demolition of Penn Station, an architectural gem. Popular public opposition effectively blocked a lower Manhattan expressway and a mid-Manhattan Expressway. He failed in his efforts to build a bridge linking lower Manhattan with Brooklyn; there is now the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. His grandiose schemes failed or ran into popular opposition; his power gradually and then rapidly waned. He retired a successful, bitter man.