Mention one new detail that you learned from the documentary segment that none of your classmates have commented on previously.
I am an Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, CUNY.
November 7, 2015
November 8, 2017 at 12:38 am
I learned about the immense impact Robert Moses had on New York throughout the greater part of the 20th century in regards to the automobile. Robert Moses carried out the vision of New Yorkers, in which he was able to see an expansion outwards with the help of the automobile invention. He had a passion for the automobile and wanted to use it to its maximum capacity. At the turn of the century, these inventions gained rapid popularity; initially, mobiles were merely a ‘rich man’s toy,’ so no one seriously expected them to ever significantly impact city transportation when railroads and subway lines were already in place. Initial models of these machines were flawed- they were fragile, expensive, needed a chauffeur, and required maintenance. Around 1900, the 8000 cars in America were mostly owned by rich New Yorkers. Once Henry Ford began his mass production of the automobile through the assembly line, the sales of automobiles in the 20s soared tremendously. The future now consisted of a motor car, thus Robert Moses saw that it was essential to restructure the city to cater to this mode of transportation. Limited access roadways were built for the first time, leading to the suburb areas of Long Island. Moses was in charge of the Long Island State Park Commission, which was built after decades of planning. Moses stopped at nothing to complete this project to help open up new possibilities, or roadways, for cities. The beach, located in southern Suffolk County, is a physical realization of Robert Moses’ dream to create the park and parkway system for Long Island. I have visited the beaches in the area numerous times with my family, which I now know I have Robert Moses largely in part to thank for.
November 8, 2017 at 5:56 pm
In the 1920s, the first automobile was created, and the automotive industry exploded. The biggest impact of the automobile industry was not automobiles being created, but how cities and the world around them were changed because of their creation. Robert Moses was the first person to realize that due to this massive influx of innovative transportation, New York City’s infrastructure would need to be changed. Limited access roadways were constructed all throughout New York, and suddenly areas as far out as eastern Long Island could be available to the Empire City. These were the first roads of their kind to exist in the entire country, and were the first stepping stones to fulfilling the promise of the automotive age. After this, Robert Moses was put in charge of what was called the Long Island State Park Commission. This commission put Moses in charge of constructing roadways all across Long Island and state parks from east to west. Finally, the flow from city to rural areas was created, and strengthened New York as an interconnected state. Thanks to Robert Moses, we have parks today such as Robert Moses beach on Fire Island. Without his influence, it is undetermined how well New York, both state and city, would’ve adjusted to such a massive shift in transportation. In a pre-automobile world, people were forced to rely on public transportation, which created less hustle and congestion for the city above ground. Now, with the option to own a private automobile, it became a colossal struggle to contain the mass of cars on public roadways and passageways. With new parks and roadways, New York was on its way to becoming the iconic and powerful Empire State that it is today.
November 8, 2017 at 6:29 pm
The New Deal, which was implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, allowed the federal government to help enterprises grow and hopefully this would lead to an improvement in the economy. Robert Moses was ready to take advantage of this as the New York City Park Commissioner. However, he had many conditions that he wanted to be satisfied before accepting the title. He wanted absolute power over the parks and wanted to retain the state post title. Using his plans, he started many public work projects to improve the city parks. He fired all the old park commissioners and their staff to replace them with architects, engineers and a new construction force that he saw fitting for the job. Changes in the parks were completed and it took from the winter of 1934 to May to finish it. One impressionable change was with Central Park. Previously, the park’s zoo was poorly maintained and as a result the cages were deteriorating. Tammany thought the best way to fix the issue would be to have his workers, who were armed with rifles, sit there and wait until a problem occurs. Mosses created a brand-new zoo for Central Park along with 1700 other renovations. This created safer conditions for the citizens of New York City and allowed them to enjoy the different parks that were around them.
November 10, 2017 at 3:40 pm
One of the things that really caught my attention as I was watching the documentary was the impressive story of the Tri-borough Bridge. Despite the name, the project was in reality a rendezvous of three bridges. One of the bridges that make up this project is the largest vertical lift bridge in the world. Each girder used in its construction was as big as a ten-room ranch house, which was so expansive that it would have to be carried on 4 or 5 barges and pushed by an entire team of tugboats until they got it into position. What makes the project such an impressive feat is that it was created in the Great Depression. So much concrete was used in the bridge that entire factories had to be reopened from Maine to Mississippi. Meanwhile, an entire forest was leveled in Oregon in order to produce the wood used to hold the concrete in place. 5,000 men would be working on this bridge at any given time. Of course, the 5,000 men would only be putting into place the materials created by many times 5,000 men in 134 cities in 20 states all over the United States. This one project created tons of jobs across the States in a time when employment rates were in dire straits. The bridge was so impressive that in the opening ceremony, the keynote speaker was President Roosevelt himself. The bridge was an indication of the great number of public works that would arise under Robert Moses’s time and of civic rebirth and renewal, holding out the promise of a glorious future just over the horizon, not just for the privileged few but for the general populace.
November 11, 2017 at 11:19 pm
Robert Moses played an essential part in the park recreation of the city. He became the New York City park commissioner. Moses used much manpower to restructure the parks of the city. He hired 600 architectures, engineer and other Irish men to fix the ruins of the public park and green spaces during the Great Depression. Throughout his career, he managed and coordinated over 1,700 renovation projects including the ones in Central Park. At first, Moses does not want to fix the rusty, old cages in the Central Park Zoo. Moses rather sent men to guard the front door with rifles to shot the animals if they broke loose. Afterall, Moses brought to light through the hidden darkness of the city. Despite the shortcomings of the Great Depression, Moses’ reconstruction was a sign of hope and encouragement for the public. The 1930s is known as the era that completed the principle of mass transit. Moses wanted to modernize the city and improve transportation, therefore he established the West Side Improvement plan built a series of correcting highways that unified the three boroughs together. He constructed the first urban highway that was connected by tunnels, causeways, and bridges. This altered the vision of New York City’s landscape, Moses adapted the city into an automobile haven. Moses turned the dull city driveway into a seductive park of curving highways.
November 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm
After watching this episode of the documentary, something new that I learned and found astonishing was the creation and implementation of the first automobiles within the United States. As we live our lives today, the automobile is a typical object that almost every single family owns. Within the United States now, you go out on the street in New York City and see tons of cars parked outside, cars parked in the driveways or garages of homes, as well as tons of cars rushing through the streets. During the turn of the 20th century, the automobile was a brand new and exciting invention. I was astonished to learn that the automobile was considered to be a “rich man’s toy,” rather than a typical form of transportation for individuals. The middle class would not be able to afford an automobile like the way they do now in the 21st century. The rich owners of automobiles would have their own personal chauffeurs to drive these vehicles and cars would only be parked and kept in personal garages rather than in the street because they were very fragile. I was shocked to learn that during the early 1900’s, there were only 8,000 automobiles out within the nation, a majority of those 8,000 were located within New York City. What is more interesting is that during this time, there was a huge disparity in the distribution of wealth since John Jacob Astor owned 32 cars himself.
November 12, 2017 at 2:52 pm
The New Deal was certainly crucial to the economic recovery of the nation, but it did have adverse effects on the social aspects of diverse cities like New York City. Under the Work Projects Administration (WPA), Robert Moses was able to build 255 playgrounds throughout the 1930s. Not only did this improve the quality of life in NYC, but it created countless job opportunities for New Yorkers. As a result, the economy was slowly regaining stability and flow. However, segregation and discrimination also thrived under the WPA’s policies. The city was separated into 66 small districts solely based on the demographics. This was especially detrimental to the Black and Latino communities because even their districts often received the lowest rating from city officials. For one, this had negative impacts on the social aspects of the city. For the next two decades, Black children did not have access to the 255 playgrounds Moses had constructed. Instead of using the baseball fields and swings, they had to play baseball with broomsticks on the sidewalk and use fire hydrants as an alternative to the pools. This was also harmful to the economy of New York, especially for Black communities. Due to the low ratings that they receive, banks are unwilling to loan money for people to move into these districts. Consequently, housing prices in these communities drastically decrease over time. By the 1950s, the Black population was the most segregated group in Brooklyn. This was shocking as the Black community in Brooklyn were the least segregated group in 1930, which was right before the introduction of the New Deal and the WPA.
November 12, 2017 at 8:07 pm
In this segment of the documentary, I learned about the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was held in Queens and took nearly three years and an army of men to complete. Even at the height of the Great Depression, the World’s Fair was still constructed. This time, it was based on the theme of the “Dawn of a New Day.” On April 30, 1939, the New York World’s Fair was opened. Quite possibly the most stunning exhibit of the World’s Fair was the giant sphere in the center of the city within a city. Inside the sphere, there was an exhibit, called “Democracity,” which showed the possible future of cities in the twentieth century. However, the most popular exhibit was General Motors’ envisionment of the future of the United States, which was called “Futurama.” This exhibit was a vision of the future, 1960 to be exact. Futurama was to scale as well. There, General Motors envisioned a country tied together by highways. It was a future dictated by the infrastructure dedicated to the automobiles. Also in their exhibit, General Motors showed off their vision for a replacement for New York City, where large highways separated buildings and replaced streets altogether. The exhibit was definitely polarizing as not everyone felt that the automobile was the next step towards the future.
November 13, 2017 at 12:27 am
One new detail that I learned about from watching the documentary segment was the great amount of power that Robert Moses accumulated while building his public works projects through his creation of public authorities. Rather than shut down his public authorities after the tolls that they collected had paid for the projects, Moses rewrote legislation to keep his public authorities open and allow for a continuous flow of revenue. He borrowed from these millions of dollars in revenue to fund future projects. This gave Moses more power by allowing him to avoid going to the governor or mayor to request funding or ask for permission. Moses spent the money that was collected by the public authorities at his own discretion and in a way that made him unaccountable to the people unlike elected officials. In doing so, he created a fourth branch of government made up of these so called “public” authorities that did not answer to the will of the people. Moses created more than a dozen of such public authorities that he integrated into his own personal political machine that he used to fund his public works projects. Very few people objected to these public authorities because Moses had helped make many people rich through his projects.
November 13, 2017 at 4:52 am
One new detail that I learned was how different Fiorello LaGuardia and Robert Moses were when compared to each other. Although they had worked well together to rebuild the city, Fiorello La Guardia and Robert Moses embodied contrasting values and attitudes towards the city and its people. La Guardia appreciated diversity and he would actually visit different neighborhoods and talking to people in their various languages. Even if he didn’t know the language very well, with just a few words, La Guardia had won the hearts of the people in the city. He enjoyed being on the streets and really connecting with the people. Robert Moses, on the other hand, distanced himself from the people. He saw New York City as a whole system and each person was really just a small part of it. Robert Moses didn’t really care for any one place, but rather he cared about the flow and connections of the city. Despite their differences, both men transformed the city like never before.
November 13, 2017 at 5:15 pm
One of the things that I learned after watching this segment of the New York City documentary is that the 99th mayor of New York, Fiorello H. La Guardia, was the man primarily responsible for the construction of La Guardia airport. From his first day in office, Fiorello La Guardia made a focused effort on constructing today’s La Guardia airport. The construction of the airport was the largest project that the WPA undertook and New Deal funds were used to build it. According to the document, Fiorello was so determined on completing this airport that he was at the construction site everyday. The reason he took such a profound interest in building an airport in New York was because he believed it was the major transportation project of the 20th century that would further connect New York to the city around it.
November 13, 2017 at 5:17 pm
After watching this documentary, I was surprised to find commonality between the race riot of 1935 and modern protests. The riot emerged from mistreatment of a Puerto Rican boy named Lino Rivera who was abused by the police for stealing a knife from a store. There were rumors that Rivera was killed and spectators demanded to see him alive. However, the police withheld information from the general public which angered them even more. As a result, a riot emerged and 125 people were arrested, over 100 were injured and three of them killed. All of them were black. This reminds me a lot of the current political climate. There is unfair treatment of people of color, for both men and women, by the police which results in death and suffering across hundreds of families. People like Philando Castille and Alton Sterling unfortunately became a part of the thousands of black people who were unfairly killed by the hands of the police. I wonder, however, why people think that the recent peaceful protests and movements are “Race Riots.” They are advocating for change, but they are doing it peacefully, knowing that violence will not speed up change. I personally do not think of the Black Lives Matter movement as a riot, instead it is a campaign against systematic racism and violence. The word riot, from the Webster dictionary states, “A violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.” Thus, the Black Lives Matter movement is far from being a riot, if anything it is spreading peace rather than disturbing it.
November 13, 2017 at 7:06 pm
One segment of the documentary that I found interesting was how during the 1930’s when the United States was steeped in the Great Depression and economic crisis, the category of jobs known as “Negro jobs” disappeared. I previously didn’t even know that such a category had existed. However, the documentary went on to explain that menial jobs in areas such as Harlem were known as “Negro jobs”. These jobs benefitted the masses as it allowed for social mobility and an opportunity to engage in the American Dream. However, during the Great Depression, the shortage of jobs for even educated and skilled laborers caused the white population to take over these “Negro jobs” that they refused to take beforehand. In Harlem, the levels of unemployment soared high and job opportunities shrank due to the general lack of economic stimulation as well as racist discrimination in the hiring process. Even the WPA discriminated, worsening the the effects of the Depression on the black community. Another fact that portrayed the discrimination of that time was that Robert Moses built 250 playgrounds in New York City. However only 2 were built in black neighborhoods that allowed black children to play on them.
November 13, 2017 at 7:56 pm
What stood out to me in this documentary was the development of the Triborough Bridge and its overall effect. Robert Moses had his own vision of what New York could be when creating this bridge. It connected three boroughs and was mainly three giant bridges in one. This unbelievably complicated highway structure was known as one of the greatest accomplishment of man. The bridge opened on July 11, 1936, and Robert Moses was viewed as a hero. His goal of building highways right on the river was so that he could integrate landscapes and make it work for human beings. The opening of the bridge marked a turning point for the automobile. However five weeks after the bridge opened, the New Yorker got a glimpse of the future. On August 17, 1936, there was the biggest traffic jam in the history of the city region. When Moses first created this bridge, he did not take into account the traffic that it would cause. Opening this bridge increased traffic tremendously and in order to fix this, the Queensboro Bridge was created. I found it interesting that this still didn’t resolve the problem which led to the creation of the Whitestone Bridge. With each bridge, there was more traffic generated. Moses knew building highways builds congestion, but he was trying to get money for the highways which is why he stated that it would diminish traffic rather than create it. He knew he was wrong but he took such means to accumulate power when he realized that the normal democratic practices wouldn’t get him any.
November 14, 2017 at 12:05 am
While Moses’ career and his contribution to not people, but the automobile and transportation industry were impressive, I was actually more interested in how it all began. I knew that Ford was famous for the development of mass production and replaceable parts (that drastically decreased costs of repairs and such). What I did know was what his industry of mass-produced automobiles did to the social environment of New York City. When I read about the first cars that were made and how most of them were in New York City, I was automatically concerned about how crowded the city would have been (children came to mind as well). I wasn’t surprised to hear the first accident occurred with a child being hit (it occurs quite frequently), and connecting this to Ford’s automobiles becoming accessible to the general public, it made me realize that Ford closed a social/ class gap between New Yorkers. When I saw the beginning of the video, it was evident that there was a class conflict going on, even if it wasn’t obvious or violent. The majority of people saw the cars as toys, likely the poorer working class who couldn’t afford them. They were likely used to make fun of how stupid wealthy people were in their purchases. On the other hand, I felt that wealthy people used these cars indirectly to show prowess and power. By dominating the streets that had always been full of children playing and a public space for the common man, they had suddenly become a road for the wealthy (simply because it was too dangerous to walk on the streets with moving cars!). By allowing cars to be available to most people, Ford indirectly united New Yorkers and also allowed for a smoother transition for the city to focus more for the accommodations for car owners (both the wealthy and the poor).
*upon further research I found that the first car accident was not with a child. For clarification, the first accident involved a lady named Evylyn Thomas who was riding her bike. Perhaps the case involving the child mentioned in the document was the first fatal car accident which likely caused a much bigger stir, especially because it was a child.
November 14, 2017 at 12:10 am
One of the most interesting parts of the documentary to me was the discussion of the redlining practices that segregated neighborhoods by race and served to deprive African Americans and Latinos of social and economic mobility opportunities. This federal policy of mortgage and loan practices, which prioritized loaning to whites to move further out of the city, catalyzed the “ghetto-ization” of African American neighborhoods. In order to get white middle and working-class families to move further and further out of the city, new deal policy dictated that banks would offer loans to get people to buy property in “good” or green zones, often labeling minority communities as “bad” or red zones, hence the name redlining.This lead to the creation of some of the largest ghettos in America, like Bedford-Stuyvestant in Brooklyn. These were areas of the city usually populated by Blacks and Latinos. They were labeled as poor economic investments. Banks would often only loan to black Americans to specifically buy homes in those areas, creating a kind of bubble and physically separating them in these quarantined spaces. These practices were not only federal but also state level policies and often the result of coordinated efforts between government, banking, and insurance agencies who wanted to keep Black and Latino Americans isolated. This kept many black people from amassing wealth, entering spheres of governance to change these discriminatory policies, and for many years following the institution of these policies, moving up in the economic environment of the United States.
Furthermore, as many schools are funded by property taxes, many of the schools in these areas ended up underfunded and poor performing, making advancement all the more difficult. New York City, for example, has the most segregated school system in the country to this day, mostly due to these redlining practices put in place so many decades ago. Having never been able to growing wealth, the descendants of African Americans of the 30s and 40s still often live in these neighborhoods and have much more difficulty advancing economically and socially because for years they were concentrated in these isolated ethnic centers of poverty. Many of these communities were also the result of the expansion of the highway systems throughout the city which doubtlessly bulldozed through African American communities. Though the documentary does not address it, many of Moses’s practices were incredibly racist. Of the hundreds of playgrounds he had built, only two were in black neighborhoods. And of course, there is the case of the stone overpasses constructed over the southern state parkway along Long Island, which were built especially low so as to prevent buses, presumably carrying Blacks and Latinos from the city, from getting to Jones beach.
It is a very interesting time for these communities seeing as, for example, bed-stuy has seen very rapid gentrification in recent years. Property value in these neighborhoods has skyrocketed, as have rents. The many Blacks and Latinos who have lived in this neighborhood for decades, not having been able to afford to live anywhere else, are being forced out in droves. It is sort of ironic that after being trapped by circumstance for so long, these groups now have no choice but to leave.
November 14, 2017 at 1:09 am
One new detail I learned from the video was the traffic generated as a result of the mass transit, cars, and bridges constructed. In 1936, the metropolitan area experienced its first traffic jam, a complete standstill of cars. What is commonplace today was a new experience back then. The creation of the tri-borough bridge actually led to more traffic, instead of less. In just five weeks, the bridge was jammed, and this led Moses to create even more bridges. However, the more bridges built, the bigger the traffic problem grew. Now more and more people were able to enter the city from all different areas, bringing in more cars than the city and roads could handle. The bridges were causing the massive traffic jams that we are familiar with today. Since cars had just began being mass-produced, more people were driving, contributing to the growing problem of traffic. This was only a glimpse into the future, where today traffic is expected and anticipated, like during rush hour.
November 14, 2017 at 2:05 am
One of my greatest takeaways from this segment of the documentary was the extent to which the Depression was particularly harsh on African American communities. One of the reasons for this, which now seems obvious, although still undeniably unjust, is that the Depression lead to the disappearance of the idea of “Negro” jobs. Because unemployment rates were soaring, whites were so desperate to find work that they were willing to take on jobs that they had previously deemed themselves “above” doing. There had already been preexisting discrimination against African Americans in the labour market, for instance the inability of African Americans to get hired in hospitals, but when priority for the few existing jobs was given to whites, finding work for blacks became even more difficult. Thus, the Depression was perhaps more severe in Harlem than anywhere else.
Another detail from the documentary that struck me was the fact that, although Robert Moses built 255 playgrounds in the city in the 1930’s, he only built two playgrounds in black neighbourhoods, leaving African American children to continue to play in the streets. Thus, black children essentially grew up feeling that the city did not care for them.
Lastly, although this was admittedly not new to me, it was interesting to hear again about the severe injustice in the city’s housing market at the time. As part of New Deal policies, in an attempt to revive the housing market in the outer boroughs, intentionally segregated the city. A systematic rating system was put in place, which analyzed neighbourhoods block by block and counted the black, latino, Jewish, Italian, and Polish families and thus giving each neighbourhood a rating. These ratings were shared with banks, and would come to affect the banks loaning policies. White families living in neighbourhoods of, for example, Brooklyn would see that the value of their home was declining because banks were refusing to lend anyone who wasn’t black money to move there. Thus, white families felt pressured to move out of their neighbourhoods to the outer boroughs, where immense construction projects were occuring.
November 14, 2017 at 11:40 am
I learned about the huge impact that Robert Moses had in New York. Robert Moses wanted to create roadways or bridges to parks and beaches from New York City and Long Island. Al Smith put Moses in charge of the New York State Park Commission. This was in part due to the fact that he believed cars would be the future and he wanted people to be able to drive whenever and wherever to a park. I had recently only known his name because of the beach near my house named after him. Robert Moses renovated almost every park in New York City with the finances given to him from the newly implemented New Deal. This was made because of the Great Depression and it was Roosevelt’s way of boosting the economy. This boost that the general public got from this helped to bring everyone back from the depression, but with the jobs that were created due to the park renovation projects, including a new zoo in Central Park, gave hope to the public.
December 16, 2017 at 12:08 am
Racial discrimination has always been prevalent in society, even in a city as diverse as New York. Harlem, in particular, was critically impacted by the Depression, but none more so than the black population in the area. The businesses were owned by white people and the scarcity of jobs only made them more opposed to offering positions to blacks. The establishment of a rating system in which every black resident decreased the value of the neighborhood led to increased segregation, and public policies intended to solve the city’s economic crises resulted in the black population being quarantined for the sake of white economic and social mobility.
On March 19, 1935, a Puerto Rican boy who had stolen a pen-knife had been caught in the act, but he was released through the back of the shop to prevent even more problems when the police arrived. However, the general public had not known about the boy being let go, so rumors spread of his death. A riot ensues, continuing until the next day, resulting in 125 people arrested, 100 injured, and 3 killed—all of whom were black. While this incident allowed the government to see the severity of the struggles of being a black American, not much changed. Similar racial protests still take place today, suggesting that society still has a long way to go in achieving equality for all Americans.
December 21, 2017 at 6:10 pm
Robert Moses was an impressive figure during the 20th century. He was able to influence the dynamics and landscape of New York City. He also maintained his power and was able to go on with the projects that he desired. His first major success was the creation of jones beach. He was also able to fix central park and he created urban highways as to facilitate transportation. Triborough bridge was also one of the major accomplishments by Moses. Additionally, some people say that the ways he used to get these projects through were not the most honest or concerning of the people during that time. And I found Laguardia and Moses relationship quite interesting as well.
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