What follows are in my opinion the miscellaneous best parts of Caro’s wonderful book.
Title I Slum Clearance The best and most moving section is about the East Tremont neighborhood in the Bronx. For a good summary of this, you can visit Caro’s own website, www.robertcaro.com. Similar events happened at other sites, including what is now Lincoln Center (the movie of “West Side Story” was shot just before the bulldozers leveled that neighborhood).
Riots on the LIRR Perhaps not technically riots, but there were poorly heated cars where conductors would not go, because they were afraid that if they tried to collect tickets, the passengers would rise up against them.
Why Do the Subways Suck, and the Traffic’s Worse? http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/09/opinion/09russianoff.html?scp=7&sq=April+9%2C+2008&st=nyt I was not a little testy about Shelly Silver blocking the Mayor’s congestion pricing from even coming to the floor in Albany earlier this week. Shelly hasn’t tried getting crosstown in a taxi lately. Crosstown in a limo in Albany doesn’t count. At least our new governor is looking at ways to fund capital improvements for the MTA. Gene Russianoff’s Times op-ed piece on Wednesday goes into further detail (link above). All those millions and millions of federal dollars, not to mention state and city, that Moses had reallocated from public transportation, and school and hospital construction, to build more highways and more bridges. New York City is still reeling from the effects of it.
Al Smith & the Tiger I’d read this story elsewhere, but I’d always feared it was apocryphal. When Al Smith was an old man, he lived on Fifth Avenue with his daughter and her family. The apartment was across the street from the Central Park Zoo. After Moses renovated the Zoo in the 30s (and he did do a wonderful job with that- I was only sorry that the last Children’s Zoo renovation didn’t keep more of Moses’ ideas. I miss Jonah and the whale!), he presented Al Smith with his own key, as “Night Superintendent”. So Smith would wander the zoo alone at night. Caro writes that Smith made friends with the Rosie the hippo, and would bring her an apple for a snack. Smith referred to the Zoo’s tiger as the Tammany Tiger. So that when he would bring guests with him while LaGuardia (elected as a reformer) was mayor, Smith would say “LaGuardia!” and the tiger would roar and roar.