The NYC That Never Was: 7 Robert Moses Projects That Were Never-Built

Secret of the FDR Drive-Robert Moses-NYCImage via Library of Congress/C.M. Stieglitz

It could be argued that Robert Moses shaped the physical landscape of New York City more so than any other person in the twentieth century. By the end of his tenure, the “master builder” and city planner had constructed 658 playgrounds and 13 bridges, as well as a number of highways, beaches, and the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Today, he leaves behind an architectural legacy, but as Robert A. Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The Power Broker, critically points out, Moses had a tendency to embark on large-scale projects beyond the funding approved by the New York State Legislature. His ideas were not always welcomed with open arms, yet he had no problem dismissing public opposition to his work and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.

These seven controversial proposals are examples of projects he never had the opportunity to build in New York City:

1. Mid-Manhattan Expressway

robert-moses-mid-manhattan-expressway-new-york-city-untapped-citiesImage via Andrew Lynch: Vanshnookenraggen

Robert Moses was frequently criticized about his lack of concern for community opposition. In a consistent effort to modernize and prepare New York City for the “automobile age,” he was staunchly in favor of building five east-west expressways in ManhattanThe Mid-Manhattan Expressway, initially proposed in 1937, would have connected the Lincoln Tunnel to the Queens Midtown Tunnel with a six lane elevated expressway across 30th Street. Due to growing opposition from officials and the general public, the project was a topic of debate for many years until Governor Nelson Rockefeller finally axed the proposal in 1971.

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2 Responses
  1. michelle young Reply

    Hi Louis! It’s definitely on our list to do. Many of the city’s parks (though run down today) were because of Moses’ aggressive tactics of repurposing underutilized land and turning them into much needed neighborhood parks. There are many other things we can thank Moses for, although the prevailing narrative doesn’t really include that. If you have particular suggestions for this piece, just let us know!

  2. Did U.C. ever get around to publish the Moses public works that were of great benefit. Also I would like to remind everyone of the Hillary Ballon’s book which presented a much more balanced presentation of Moses than does Caro. (But of course everyone just loves our urban legend prejudices dont we?)

    Not that I am apologizing for some of the worst aspects of Moses, but he should be examined within the context of his day, particularly before WWII.

    Note on the XBronx Expressway. If you would look at a map you can see that the construction of the GW Bridge was as others have stated, ‘a dagger pointed into the heart of the Bronx’. The Expressway could have no doubt have been relocated through more affluent and less dense neighborhoods, but without a doubt, once the Bridge was built, all that anticipated traffic coming into Manhattan had to be removed from the city streets.

    Please look into Wikipedia for a better overall view of the Moses legacy

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