Political power affects lives. It affects your life every day, in the quality of your subway ride, in the cleanliness of your streets, in the access you have to parks. That’s political power. People may not think of it as political power, they may think of it only when a snowstorm comes. But it is there in every aspect of their life.
The Take Away: The Importance and the Dignity of the Individual
THE investigation of power – political power.
Analyzing power structures the hidden systems that people use and abuse to gather power for themselves, and also of the powerless who suffer at their hands. You had to discuss power through the human cost rather than through the lens of people at the top.
Robert Caro “We ignore the powerless at our own peril”
“I say if Rome was power and Greece was glory, what New York was was a home to the world. We took in the Italians, we took in the Jews, we took in the Irish; now there are 167 languages being spoken in Queens. That’s because they could create their communities here. But the very idea, and concept behind Hudson Yards and these towers, is that nobody is zoning it so you have small stores on the ground floor. Did you see Fiddler on the Roof? I wanted to put a line in “The Power Broker” from the song “Anatevka” that says “where I know everyone I meet.” And that’s so precious and rare in the city now.
“The Power Broker” by Robert Caro began as a small character study of the Machiavellian city planner Robert Moses the idea of someone wrangling outsized power without proper checks and balances.
City Planning Commissioner Robert Moses chairman of the Triborough Authority and the Henry Hudson Authority and the Bethpage State Park Authority and the Jones Beach Authority. Public authority as the source of political power. “It sells bonds and collects tolls to build a bridge, then goes out of business.”
Moses was such a genius, that he got to the heart of what power was in cities. If you can explain how he did it, which no one had ever done before him, you would be explaining something nobody knows about how power works — not just in New York, but in all cities.
Everything is based on this feeling that in a democracy power comes from the voters, being elected.
But here was a guy who was never elected to anything. A guy who had more power than anyone who was elected, more power than any mayor, more power than any governor, more power than any mayors or governors combined. And he had had this power for 44 years, and with it, had built everything!
And I said to myself: You, who are supposed to know something about political power, have not the faintest idea about how it works, and apparently neither does anybody else.
You have to deal with the powerless.
You couldn’t just write about how power works, you had to write about its effect on people who didn’t have power, both for good and for ill.
“I really read The Power Broker, so I am in student government and I asked to be the chairman of the bylaws committee.” And I said, “Oh, he got it!”
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