Each year, the month of July reminds me of someone who played a significant role in our past lives and would be even more significant if he were alive today. I refer to the late Robert Moses. (He died in July 1981.) Younger readers may not know who Moses was, but his successes are all around us, in very concrete form.
If you drive the region’s highways and cross its bridges, you can give Moses credit for the Northern and Southern State parkways; the Triborough, Verrazano and Throgs Neck bridges; the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel; the Major Deegan and Cross-Bronx expressways and the Belt Parkway. It’s not his fault that all of these arteries are currently clogged and in need of upgrading; give Moses the credit for getting them built.
Some longtime residents of communities across the region will tell you that his public-works projects did more harm than good, wiping out thousands of homes and robbing many parts of the city of their identity. But we’ve all learned over time that you don’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
There isn’t a person I’ve known in my lifetime who at one time or another hasn’t visited Central Park. It’s the venue for many famous concerts as well as the finish of the New York City Marathon, and is one of the world’s classic public parks. In order to build it, the city had to evict thousands of people and destroy numerous small enclaves, uprooting even more families. But today the 150-plus-year-old park is one of the world’s biggest drawing cards for residents and tourists alike. Central Park was built many years before Moses was born, but it, too, is an example of leaders willing to take on monumental challenges.
No matter where you look, there is no one near or far who fits the profile of a Robert Moses. We have a handful of well-meaning elected officials, but none who are willing to meet the needs of this region and have the vision and the fortitude to take on the numerous groups that fight every major project.