Who brought Robert Moses down?


It was Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of New York State

He also formed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and saved the Long Island Railroad

Robert Moses was a double-edged sword. He built a lot of great things and destroyed a lot of great things at the same time.

Moses was one of the contributing factors to the rapid decline of commuter rail in the New York City metropolitan area in the 1950’s and 1960s. Just when state governments were starting to warm up to the idea of subsidies, Moses would use his power to block funding of any type to the railroads. To understand his attitude towards commuter rail, his mantra was more or less, “The public should not be providing funds to benefit private for-profit corporations.” Never mind that the private for-profit corporations were providing a necessary service. There would be no direct subsidy until he was out of power.

When Moses was removed from power by Rockefeller, they made Moses chairman of the World’s Fair committee, a position that would make him look bad if he turned it down. Since you can’t be chairman of more than one committee at a time, he lost his powerful position, and his voice. By 1968 he was a “consultant” to the MTA, and he passed away in 1981.

Let’s look at what happened immediately AFTER Moses was gone.
1965 – Governor Rockefeller proposes to purchase the LIRR from the PRR. Some commuter rail equipment purchases are funded for NYC lines out of Grand Central.
1966 – The Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority purchases the LIRR from PRR.
1968 – Five transit authorities are created across New York State, MCTA becomes MTA.
1970 – MTA contracts with Penn Central to subsidize Harlem and Hudson Line operations out of Grand Central.
1971- New equipment arrives on LIRR and PC lines… and so on and so on…

Was Moses the catalyst of all evil directed towards the railroads? The jury is still out, but he was certainly a major factor.

In reading about Moses, you see that Moses was a creature of his particular time, and that in that time, the things he did were fashionable politically and popular with the public. At the time, for example, everybody wanted expressways — these were the answer to all congestion problems — and few people seemed to realize the problems they would generate. The Moses projects were the projects that the politicians wanted to spend money on, so he was successful in getting it. The dreary housing projects he built later in his career are examples of the same thing.

Moses has to be judged by the standards and fashions of his time, and not in hindsight. He was no more or less foresighted than most others then.

It would be interesting to speculate what a young Moses would be doing now, with mass transit in fashion and lots of public money available.

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