The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
Caro, Robert A.
In the 1920s and 30s Robert Moses built parks all over New York, and beaches and beach houses that became models and showplaces for the world. But it sometimes appeared to observers that though he ostensibly built them for the poor of NY city to have a place to play and bathe, he actually didn’t like those people very well at all. He had a strict policy for cleanliness in his parks, and according to Frances Perkins, what underlay the policy was “deep distaste for the public that was using them. He’d denounce the common people terribly. To him they were lousy, dirty people, throwing bottles all over Jones’ Beach. ‘I’ll get them! I’ll teach them! . . . He loves the public, but not as people. The public is just the public. It’s a great amorphous mass to him; it needs to be bathed, it needs to be aired, it needs recreation, but not for personal reasons–just to make it a better public.” Caro: So Moses took steps to limit the use of his parks by undesirables. He made sure nobody could get to them by rapid transit. E.g., he “vetoed the Long Island Rail Road’s proposed construction of a branch spur to Jones Beach.” He limited bus approach too by building bridges across his parkways too low for buses to pass under. And because he considered black people dirty, he took extra measures with them, making it tough for chartered buses of them to get permits to enter state parks and to park there. They couldn’t go to Moses’ beloved Jones Beach, but had to go to parks much farther out on Long Island, and, once there, had to park in the farthest reaches of those beach areas. And he kept the water at the Jones Beach swimming pool icy, believing that blacks didn’t like cold water. When challenged, Moses violently rejected the claims.