Robert Moses Dumps Poor People On the Waterfront

How public housing came to the New York coast.


A question that may have crossed your mind as Sandy hammered the East Coast in October: How exactly did so many low-income New Yorkers come to live on the water? Jonathan Mahler explains the history in The New York Times:

Brother Moses smote the water, and the seas take away.

Projects first started to rise in the Rockaways in 1950. At the time, there was an unprecedented demand for housing, from returning veterans and blacks migrating from the South, as well as plenty of federal financing as a result of the Housing Act of 1949.

Above all, there was Robert Moses.

"Why did the Rockaways end up with so much government-financed housing? Largely because Robert Moses wanted it there," says Robert Caro, author of "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York."…Never one for nostalgia, Moses saw the Rockaways as both a symbol of the past and a justification for his own aggressive approach to urban renewal, to building what he envisioned as the city of the future. "Such beaches as the Rockaways and those on Long Island and Coney Island lend themselves to summer exploitation, to honky-tonk catchpenny amusement resorts, shacks built without reference to health, sanitation, safety and decent living," he said, making his case for refashioning the old summer resorts into year-round residential communities.

What is more, the Rockaways had plenty of land that the city could buy cheaply, or simply seize under its newly increased powers of eminent domain, swaths big enough to accommodate the enormous public-housing towers Moses intended to build as part of his "Rockaway Improvement Plan." Though only a tiny fraction of the population of Queens lived in the Rockaways, it would soon contain more than half of its public housing.

"Moses may have thought he was breaking up the city's ghettos," Mahler writes; "in fact, he was relocating them and setting them in concrete."

Read the rest of the article here. For the government's role in getting rich people homes on the coast, go here.

Play us out, boys:


NEXT: Pope to Start Tweeting This Week

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It’s amazing what a colossal piece of shit Robert Moses was. From financially ruining the first highway for automobiles (yes it was built and operated by a private company) to sweeping away the last vestiges of the private owners who built the original NY subway systems, to raising the intensity of the progressive war on behalf of the poor, Catholic and non-white by destroying their neighborhoods, he worked energetically and tirelessly to create the political gridlock that made the 70’s in NY such a wonderful time.

    I imagine him as being a taller and more talented version of Joe.

    1. I’m confused, since Coney Island is home to Sea Gate, which is the exact opposite of what is being described here.

      Regardless, joe is a piece of shit.

      1. My understanding is that Coney Island in general is a shithole. One piece of corn stuck in it doesn’t make it stink any less.

        1. Is it sister city to Ocean City, MD?

        2. Coney Island is mostly a shithole. Going to the DMV there was never fun. But Sea Gate is pretty awesome. My friend’s father had a house there, right on the beach, and we would have parties there. Swimming in the ocean where you could see the Trade Towers from the water was pretty fucking cool. Plus, the original Nathan’s is about one block outside the gates so after you get drunk, stoned, and coked out, you could go get chili cheese dogs and wolf them down.

          1. …you could go get chili cheese dogs and wolf them down.

            I am surprised. I figured Nathan’s would be kosher. No basar bechalav.

            1. One can sell the gentiles whatever they want to eat; if they want to mix dairy and meat, so be it. And trust me, I do want to.

              1. One can sell the gentiles whatever they want to eat

                That’s a grey area to my understanding, but if you do cook non-kosher food I’m fairly certain it has to be prepared in a completely separate kitchen from your kosher foods.

                Hasidic kitchens have two of everything, including stoves, ovens, and sinks. But they’re crazy, so that may not mean anything.

                1. Your last sentence is the most important one.

          2. You’re so full of shit, Epi. I went to Coney Island a couple years ago and I couldn’t see the Trade Towers.


          3. I went to the Barclay’s center this weekend and it seemed to me that all of Brooklyn is a shithole.

            1. Call Hugh “Butter”, because he’s on a roll.

            2. Yes, because you can judge a city of 2.5 million people based on a couple square blocks.

            3. “I went to the Barclay’s center this weekend and it seemed to me that all of Brooklyn is a shithole.” Come on John, stop your “TEAM RED” rampaging all over the place. I’m sure Brooklyn has many very nice places, despite the n!&&ers;, f@gs, and k!ke$.

      2. Sea Gate is at one end – the rest is basically a ghetto.

  2. I coulda been a contender.

  3. Seems liek that dude has a pretty good plan. Wow.

    1. The logical conclusion of that dude’s “plan” usually ends with ovens. Wow.

      1. Why do you think anonbot is getting onboard now?

      2. Spambot has apparently popped a few rivets. It no longer can spell words with more than 3 letters.

        1. Ha, at least something does a more miserable job of spelling and makes more typos than me!

  4. Speaking of eminent domain, waterfront property newly destroyed sounds like a blight itching for bigtime commercial development.

    1. Why do you think that Bloomey, Obama, and Christie ordered up a huge hurricane and pointed it right at Jersey and NYC? Crony dollars, they will be a flowin. Relocate those serfs to the Bronx.

    2. Speaking of eminent domain, waterfront property newly destroyed sounds like a blight itching for bigtime commercial development.

      Would make an awesome prog rock band name.

      “Blight Itching” would be awesome for a punk band.

      1. Meant to bold only “newly destroyed sounds.”

      2. No prob. “Waterfront Property” would be a good name for a cover band, or maybe smooth jazz.

  5. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.

    1. Who knew civilization needed savin’?

    2. I want to send him an email saying, “I grew up wanting to be The Mule, just so I could fuck with you.”

      1. Done.


  6. Doin’ right ain’t got no end…

  7. Life loses meaning when the light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey.

  8. Joe and Chicago Tom used to come on here and claim that Moses wasn’t a liberal and proglydytes didn’t have to answer for his legacy. Bullshit. Moses was perhaps the best example of the well intentioned Top Man they all pine for. The guy was fucking Thomas Friedman with a higher IQ and actual power.

    1. You can’t have nation building at home until you destroy what’s already there.

    2. “Moses wasn’t a liberal,” even if we assume arguendo that he wasn’t, is a red herring. Liberal statism and other-than-liberal statism are different candy coatings for the same poison.

      1. I do wish modern progressives would stop calling themselves liberals. I always have to explain my name means classical liberal.

    3. You know who else liked building autobahns?

  9. I’m finding that things like this provide openings to get liberals to see the benefits of freedom. They can see how the omnibenevolent government has done something radically different from what they look to it to do.

    1. Yeah, but this was done by a Republican, so there will just be truckloads of denial and assurances that if their side was in charge it would have been better.

    2. I’m a classical liberal.

  10. From the NYT article:

    A modest six stories tall, they were hailed in 1940 as a model of public housing, “a Versailles for the Millions,” in the words of the architecture critic Lewis Mumford.

    Lewis Mumford. Another progressive douchebag who held nothing but contempt for minorities, and the poor, all the while pretending to champion their causes. When will people wake up and see that progressives have an agenda, and it isn’t “forward”.

    1. Public housing, another tragic disaster brought to you by progressives.

    2. Ellsworth Toohey is real.

      1. Isn’t Mumford who Toohey was based on?

  11. Who says stoners are lazy. Good for this guy

    Two suspected robbers believed to be targeting an alleged home-based marijuana growing operation were killed in a shootout on the first day of legal marijuana in Washington state, authorities said.

    The 35-year-old homeowner told detectives he shot the masked intruders Thursday after they broke into his home near Puyallup, Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer said, according Komonews.com. Troyer told the news outlet that the masked men most likely sought to grab the pot and maybe cash.


    1. See AM Links for commentary.

  12. “Moses may have thought he was breaking up the city’s ghettos,” Mahler writes; “in fact, he was relocating them and setting them in concrete.”

    That’s very charitable, considering Moses’s well-known views on the schwartzers.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.