Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Alex Marshall

Robert Moses’s Fundamental Misunderstanding

12:00 PM EST on February 9, 2007

In the latest issue of the Regional Plan Association's Spotlight on the Region newsletter, editor Alex Marshall has an outstanding essay responding to the recent burst of Robert Moses revisionism. An excerpt:  

It all comes down to capacity. Like many people of his generation, I'm convinced, Moses essentially didn't understand the different capabilities of different modes of transportation, despite his learning and education. A freeway at top capacity can move only a few thousand vehicles per hour, and all those vehicles have to be put somewhere once they arrive where they're going. That means many lanes of freeways and many parking lots and garages chewing up prime real estate.

By comparison, a subway or commuter train can move tens of thousands of people per hour, and they all arrive without the need to store a vehicle. This essential fact is why Manhattan can have dozens of skyscrapers, which not incidentally produce millions in salaries, profits and taxes, crammed right next to each other without any parking lots.

Moses' vision of New York, if he had completed it, would have essentially downsized large parts of the city. At the MCNY exhibit, there's one artist's conception of what Soho would look like after the highway was cut through it. It essentially looked like Dallas or Houston - a broad boulevard lined with Edge City style office buildings. And whether you love or hate Dallas, it's a far less productive city than New York, when calculated on a per square foot basis.

This is what happened to much of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, which are still recovering from the damage Moses did. The boroughs are not only less hospitable because of the worst of Moses' freeways; they are also less productive.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Greenpoint Woman Dies from Injuries Sustained in Crash

The driver's RAM truck had been nabbed by city speed cameras 26 times since 2018, including nine times last year.

February 25, 2024

Congestion Pricing Opponents Are Blocking Disabled Access to Mass Transit, Politicians Charge

Just as the MTA begins speeding up new elevator construction, congestion pricing opponents are poised to stop it.

February 23, 2024

Legislation Introduced in Georgia to Fight Temporary License Plate Fraud

The bill is the most significant effort yet to stop the flow of fraudulent paper tags from Georgia car dealerships to New York City streets.

February 23, 2024

Community Board Backs DOT Road Diet for Brooklyn’s Deadly Third Av.

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community,” said one board member. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

February 23, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: More Lunch Consumption Edition

Streetfilms goes to Paris. Plus more news.

February 23, 2024
See all posts