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Four months after the opening of three much mulled-over Robert Moses exhibitions, the debate over his legacy shows no signs of waning. Yesterday’s NY Times delved yet again into the morass, this time wondering whether the two perspectives are simply creatures of their cultural moments – a city embroiled in decay vs. a city experiencing a growth spurt.

Here’s Power Broker author Robert Caro’s take:

“I understand each age looks through its own prism,” he said a few days ago. “But the revisionists are not coming to grips with this man.”

Caro, whose biography of Moses portrayed a racist, arrogant bureaucrat who, essentially, bulldozed his way through the lives of poor and working-class New Yorkers, hasn’t flinched in recent months as historians - like Columbia historians Kenneth T. Jackson and Hilary Ballon - have sought to cast the achievements of Moses in a different light.

“It’s a mesmerizing narrative,” [Ballon] said. “Caro stimulated a great discussion, and there’s a human truth there: Powerful people become undone by their power. But the book is far from definitive and misjudges history. It’s absolutely evident to me that ‘The Power Broker’ is symptomatic of a time and a zeitgeist. In the community of historians, there’s been brewing a sense of discontent.”

There's more:

“When I read of the heroic building of the 1930s, I brought to mind the stalled projects of our day," Professor Ballon said. "It’s easy enough now to realize that New York hasn’t fallen down, as Caro thought. Look at this resurgent city. It’s spectacular."

The piece zigs and zags through an issue that has been debated to death – and returns to the revisionists' claim that Moses helped build the foundations of today’s thriving metropolis (beaches, parks, highways, cultural institutions), how the city needs another master builder and how Moses’ racism was "a product of his time.” The pool-cooling incident is recounted and so is the idea that Moses’ legacy, inadvertently, is that he “created great beaches for poor people,” according to NYU urban policy and planning professor Mitchell Moss.

One of our favorite parts is when Caro is asked about the Cross Bronx Expressway and he quotes from page 19 of his dog-eared book:

“To build his highways, Moses threw out of their homes 250,000 persons — more people than lived in Albany or Chattanooga, or in Spokane, Tacoma, Duluth, Akron, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Nashville or Sacramento. He tore out the hearts of a score of neighborhoods.”

And there's this gem, again from Caro: “It’s a compliment, really, that they are still debating my book as if it was new.”