Financial Rhetoric


To the Editors of The Crimson:

Francis J. Connolly's insinuation ("A new York State of Mind". Oct. 20) that Robert Moses profited financially from the development of central Long Island is so astonishingly far from the truth as to demand comment.

Robert Moses is a man of controversy. In his 44 years of power he built public works costing $27 billion in 1968 dollars. The aesthetics of these projects and the tactics of their creator can be debated from now until doomsday.

The one thing about which there can be no debate is their creator's financial integrity. Even his opponents have conceded this. Robert A. Caro, author of a lengthy and highly critical biography entitled "The Power Broker," makes this abundantly clear. He describes Moses as "personally honest in matters of money," and notes: "For all the years of his adult life, he had been short of money...seventy-one years old. Robert Moses, the Robert Moses whom the press persisted in describing as 'independently wealthy,' was, so far as cash was concerned, all but penniless."

Yet Mr. Connolly insists that "Moses created most of central Long Island in his own image...and he also created a fortune for himself." Having managed somehow to drag the name of Moses into an article on the Carey-Duryea gubernatorial campaign, he might have troubled to get the facts straight. Ross Green '80


Connolly replies:

Mr. Green's point is well taken. Robert Moses spent decades in the public service and remained, throughout his career, one of the most scrupulously honest figures in New York state government. I surely never meant to impugn Mr. Moses' personal integrity--all of us who have read Mr. Caro's book realize that this cannot be done. However, it is no secret that through the peak of his career Mr. Moses enjoyed the concomitant privileges of a personal fortune -- in terms of access to the state's vast resources, a position in the state hierarchy and the personal prerequisites that attend well-placed public officials. Those facts are certainly straight. To refer to those privileges as a "fortune" was a serious rhetorical oversight on my part. Yet to ignore the fact that Moses' activities did, nonetheless, benefit himself--in terms of power and privilege if not money--and to assume that the unique role Mr. Moses played in New York State politics cannot be "dragged in" as relevant to the current election are errors approaching the same magnitude.