Originally posted by Bobby Ogage:
Robert Moses was both a hero and a despot. Long Islanders enjoy the Northern State, Southern State, Sagtikos / Sunken Meadow, the Belt, the Van Wyck, the Cross Island and other roads because of him. The despot side of Moses was the demise of the Long Island Motor Parkway, and the decay of the subways and Els before the MTA. Theorello LaGuardia did his part by dooming the street car and trolley lines. Before these two, New York City transit suffered under the corrupt Boss Tweed who had a strangle hold on the trolley and street car lines.
Overall I would say not much heroic about Robert Moses, and not just about transit issues. The highways on Long Island destroyed the livelyhood of farmers when he used eminent domain to force the roads through their fields (with little recompense) while he was more then willing to move the road to accomodate the rich who still had estates out there (on the other other hand, in building Jones Beach he did a number on some of the richer set, to be able to build it).When the TBTA's books were finally opened after Moses was forced from power, they found out that it had cost the city a lot of money, despite the myth put out that TBTA 'saved' the city money, and so forth. He also was responsible in no small part for the decline of NYC and other cities, his obsession with building roads right through the center of neighborhoods and such led, for example, to the decay in the South Bronx thanks to the Cross bronx Expressway. There was good to what he did, he did bring desperately needed jobs to the city and left behind parks and such, there is no doubt, but there was a cost to it, and the kind of power he had should never have been granted to any one person, he was a despot, unelected and with power that for many years was unchecked.
In terms of mass transit, he was a disaster area. When they were building the Van Wyck, planners wanted to have an easement in the middle of the expressway (it would have been relatively cheap to buy the extra land), that would have allowed for direct access to JFK via mass transit. The second avenue subway was not built when they floated the 500 million bond issue in the early 50's because of him, and he had influence at the state and federal level that gave short shrift to mass transit. Likewise he fought for years the state running the commuter railroads, which led to the decline of both the LIRR and and what is now Metro North (ex NYC), both the Penn and the NYC had offered those lines to the state for relatively cheap money, but Moses basically blocked it with his de facto veto....
His web was interconnected with almost everything that happened in the NY area from the 20's onward, and in many ways you can trace the near downfall of NY (and in more then a few cases, other cities) to his influence and power. On top of everything else, Moses was an elitist of the worse sort, he had contempt for the working class (which back then was most people) or the poor, and when he built those highways on Long Island it was as a convenience for the upper classes, he probably was upset by the growth of the burbs post WWII as happened where it was a migration of the working and middle classes.