Builders of 20th Century America Public Works

New York City Timeline Building Highlights
Robert Moses Highlights
    1888-1914 Preparation
1898 A new charter was adopted, making the city Greater New York, a metropolis of five boroughs 1888 Born to wealthy german jewish department store father, settlement house mother
1900 Electric lights replace gas on Broadway    
1901 Streetcars are converted to electricity    
1902 The Flatiron Building is completed - 20 stories and 300 feet tall | Macy’s opens its 34th Street department store    
1903 The Williamsburg Bridge opens    
1904 The IRT subway makes its first run, from City Hall to West 145th Street; 5 cents, 26 minutes    
1905 The City takes over the Staten Island Ferry; 5 cents until 1974    
1906 Streets are laid out for development in Forest Hills, Queens    
1907 Gasoline-powered taxis replace slow battery-powered hansom cabs | The 800-room Plaza Hotel opens at Central Park South and 58th St    
1908 Subways expand to Brooklyn and The Bronx | Metropolitan Life tower is the world’s tallest at 700 feet | The Brooklyn Academy of Music opens    
1909 The Queensboro Bridge spans the East River 1909 Magna cum laude Yale, runner and varsity swimmer, spread money beyond football
1910 The stunning Pennsylvania Station opens    
1911 The New York Public Library’s Central Research Building, an architectural masterpiece by Carrere and Hastings, is dedicated 1911 BA Oxford University, only US President of Oxford Union
1912 Horn & Hardart opens the world’s first automat at 1557 Broadway    
1913 The new Grand Central Terminal opens | The Woolworth Building is finished - tallest in the world at 792 feet | Ebbets Field opens 1913 MA Oxford University
    1914 PhDColumbia dissertation British Colonial Admiistration,
    1914-1923 Path to Power
1914 Another McKim, Mead and White edifice - Municipal Building 1914 Joins NY Bureau of Research as planner, analyst, concentrates on civil service reform
1915 The massive Equitable Building is completed, and inspires the nation’s first zoning law the following year    
1916 Nathan and Ida Handwerker establish their now-famous Coney Island hot dog stand    
1917 The new Catskill Aqueduct joins the Croton system | The Hell Gate Bridge links New England to New York and points south by rail 1917 Hyland elected Mayor, dismisses all Bureau staffers when assuming office in 1918
1918 The first regular airmail route in the United States is initiated between New York and Washington, D.C. 1918 Belle Moscowitz calls Moses to aid newly elected governor Alfred Smith
1919 Roseland Ballroom opens 1919 Reconstruction Commission report on Retrenchment and Reorganization of State Government
1920 Babe Ruth - the “Sultan of Swat” - hits 54 home runs this season 1920 Smith loses reelection
1921 The Port of New York Authority is established by New York State and New Jersey 1921 First Jones Beach exploration, Richard Childs reads Moses Reconstruction report and hires Moses as executive of Good Government organization
1922 Harlem’s Cotton Club opens, with black entertainers performing for a mostly white audience    
1923 Yankee Stadium opens in The Bronx The City begins the 32-year process of dismantling many of its old elevated railways 1923 Returns to Albany with reelected Smith, becomes best legislative bill drafter. Maps LI and State Park plans.
    1924-1933 Long Island Power
1924 Macy’s holds its first Thanksgiving Day Parade 1924 After refusing to head any projects, tells Smith he wants parks, drafts legislation, appointed President Long Island Parks Commission, Roosevelt head of Taconic Park, competitors
1925 Robert Moses begins a 40-year career as New York’s master builder 1925 Taylor Estate fight for South Shore Park
1926 The National Broadcasting Company is launched with a gala reception at the Waldorf-Astoria 1926 Driving lessons, no license ever. Hemstead reverses 1925 referendum to cede Jones Beach lands to state
1927 The Holland Tunnel opens 1927 Jones Beach dredging moves at 18 hour day pace as winter comes
1928 Staten Island is linked to the mainland with the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing 1928 With savings on LI, preserves Fort Stanton and Oriskany battlefields, buys 10,692 ac at Whiteface, expanding State parks to 70 and 125,000 ac. $5MM bond issue beats lumberman to Adirondacks and Catskills. Letchworth Rochester, Thatcher Albany, Deil’s Is. Niagara. Secty State, Acting gov as Smith runs for President.
1929 Museum of Modern Art opens | The stock market crashes on Tuesday, October 29, ushering in the Great Depression 1929 Construction on Southern State and Wantagh, surveying of Northern State after Dec. 1928 start to avoid Smith out of Albany, Hecksher Park June, SouthernState July, Wantagh, Jones Beach August. Valley Stream, Hemstead Lake. Northern State detour compromise.
1930 Hoover Valley, or Forgotten Man’s Gulch, springs up in Central Park - other shantytowns appear throughout the five boroughs 1930 Unveiling of NY City map with highway and park plans at Commodore Hotel, Roosevelt agrees to fight depression with public works spending
1931 The George Washington Bridge opens - the world’s longest suspension bridge | The Chrysler Building opens - at 1,048 feet, it is the world’s tallest for just a few months | The Empire State Building opens, 202 feet taller that the Chrysler | Rockefeller Center begins Sum LI 1920's and 1930's By 1929 opening of Jones Beach and parkways and accesses over causeway, Heckscher, Valley Stream, Hemstead Lake Parks, Northern State rerouting compromise. Other LI parkways: Meadowbrook, Ocean, Wantagh, Bethpage. Other LI Parks West: Bethpage, Massapequa, Gilgo, Belmont Lake Robert Moses (Fire Island), Captree, Bayard Cutting Connetquot, Cauamsett N, Sunken Meadow N. Other LI Parks E: Montauk, Hither Hills, Orient Beach N, Wildwood N..
1932 Radio City Music Hall opens - the world’s largest indoor theater Other Start1924: 29 states had 0 state parks, 6 had 1.
    States End 1968: 5.8MM acres state parks in 50 states, 2.6MM acres in NY
    1933-1968 NY City Park, Parkway, Bridge Power
1933 Prohibition is repealed 1933 Major agencies for parks and roads in NY metro area: Long Island State Park Commission; New York Council of Parks; Jones Beach State Park Authority; Bethpage State Park Authority; NY City Park Dept; Triborough Bridge Authority; Marine Parkway Authority. Moses controlled all. NY-NJ projects under Port Authority, Moses influence, never control: airports, port, Hudson crossings, World Trade Center
1934 Fiorello La Guardia is elected to his first of three terms as mayor 1934 After decades of neglect and winter whirlwind 1700 of 1800 park improvements completed by May opening. In addition to Central Park by midsummer full reconstruction done on Prospect Park Zoo, St. James, Crotona, Macombs Dam, Owl’s Head, McCarren, Fort Greene, Crocheron, Chisholm, Kissena Mount Morris, Manhattan Square, Carl Schurz and Bryant Park, all boroughs. By Labor Day 10 new golf courses/clubhouses, 240 tennis courts, 51 baseball diamonds. War Memorial Funds for 60 new playgrounds, half as many as built in NY City history. Comparisons to FDR 100 Days, no reversals. Central Park Zoo for Smith in December. 1934 Gubernatorial Campaign and FDR’s Order Number 129 battle
1935 The Works Progress Administration is a lifeline for New Yorkers | Hard-hit by the Depression, Harlem is the scene of rioting | First US public housing project opens at Avenue A and East 3rd 1935 Triborough: 4 bridges to 3 boroughs and 2 islands, both made into enormous, beautiful parks. $50MM left surplus to build Bronx and Queens Parkway links. 10 times costs of decade of LI Parks to which Moses was finally linking NY City.
1936 The Triborough Bridge opens with a 25 cent toll 1936 Triborough completion, 10 giant new swimming pools, 71 playgrounds, 71 in 1937
1937 The Lincoln Tunnel opens 1937 80,000 in NY City rebuilding parks, plus four parkways, three bridges. Extension of LI parks and parkways, expansion of upstate parks, Niagara power. Riverside Park, Hudson parkway and bridge, $110MM.
1938 Charles F. Carlson invents the xerox process in Astoria, Queens 1938 Orchard Beach, Saw Mill River Parkway, Gowanus Expressway in Sunset neighborhood
1939 The New York World’s Fair welcomes 45 million | North Beach (La Guardia) Airport | The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge opens 1939 Bronx Whitestone Bridge, NY World’s Fair, TV as World War II begins. FDR vetos Brooklyn Battery Bridge on security grounds.
1940 The Midtown Tunnel opens 1940 Alienates reformists with aquarium closing, war prevents Fort Clinton destruction
1941 Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn Take the A Train 1941 Subway and mass transit funds elimiated from Moses expansion plans 1933 through 1968
1942 Rubble resulting from German bombing raids in England is brought in as ballast on ships and used for landfill under East River Drive 1942 Initial steel shortage allocation role, then rejected by FDR for war year responsibility. Other city arterial highway plans during hiatus of building during war years.
1943 Rent control is established as a war-time measure 1943 Stuyvesant plans after Moses facilitates land availability, clearing and Met deal
1944 The GI Bill’s inexpensive mortgages subsidize the middle-class exodus from the City 1944 After attempts to cut off steel in 1942, Moses discredits Singstad as prelude to Tunnel takeover by Triborough in 1945
1945 May 8 V-E Day, Aug 15 V-J Day celebrated at Times Square 1945 LaGuardi retires, O'Dwyer elected, Moses provides postwar finance and building plans
1946 John D. Rockefeller donates land for the erection of the United Nations, securing its New York City headquarters 1946 Rescues UN for NY from Philadelphia through Zeckendorf option, Rockefeller donation, demands construction control. Appointed construction coordinator with Washington.
1947 December 26th: 26.4 inches of snow brings the City to a halt 1947 O'Dwyer dispute, remaining Idlewild completion, LaGuardia upgrades with Port Authority.
1948 Subway and bus fares double to 10 cents after 44 years | Idlewild Airport (renamed after John F. Kennedy in 1963) is the largest commercial airport in the world | The Fresh Kills Landfill opens on Staten Island - it will rise to the equivalent of 17 stories tall 1948 Hears of Title I proposed legislation from Yale classmate congressman. Appointed head of NY Slum Clearance, controls urban renewal and housing in NY City for over a decade
1949 Charlie “Bird” Parker performs at Birdland on Broadway and at Carnegie Hall 1949 UN construction, Wollman ice rink, Title I slum clearance and reliable contractor awards. Reintroduction of MidManhattan Expressway proposal for O'Dwyer reelection campaign
1950 Greater New York is the largest metropolis in the world with 12.3 million people | Robert Moses is appointed to head the Slum Clearance Committee - among other assignments - by Mayor Impellitteri | United Nations Secretariat Building opens 1950 Brooklyn battery tunnel opens. Third avenue and Gowanus approaches. Impellitteri takes over for digraced O'Dywer, gives Moses more power, particularly in slum clearance, housing. Finkelstein and Planning Commission threat eliminated.
1951 New Yorker J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is published 1951 Dominates mayoralty agenda, appointments, financial prioritiesmonths
1952 Lever House is the first of many International Style office buildings on Park Avenue 1952 Continues highway construction in outer boroughs, 88 miles during 44 Impy, mass transit and other capital needs like schools, helath, safety starved.
1953 The New York City Transit Authority is established; subway tokens are introduced and fare increases from 10 to 15 cents | In the first mass migration by airplane, 58,500 Puerto Ricans arrive in New York City, fleeing acute poverty at home 1953 Battle with East Tremont residents over Cross Bronx expressway route. Wagner elected mayor, keeps Moses, but tries to assert some independence. Mumford questions whether new roads and bridges just bring more traffic and congestion.
1954 Half a million commuters make the daily trip into Manhattan | Bill Haley and the Comets record Rock Around the Clock at Decca Records’ West 70th Street studio 1954 Meets with Tobin of Port Authority for talks on vision of NY metro area in Interstate system. New GW deck, Verrazano and Throgs Neck bridge immediate action with arterial approaches: Bergen County, TransManhattan for GW; Throgs Neck N, Clearview S, CrossBronx E for Throgs; CloveLakes S, Gowanus-7th Ave for Verrazano; Mid and Lower Manhattan expressways; Future freeways beyond, plus new Hudson crossing at 125th.
1955 The Brooklyn Dodgers finally win a World Series, defeating the Yankees 1955 Wins Port Authority Board approval and funds for Joint Program. Starts work for Throgs Neck and Verrazano Narrows bridges, integrated state system guarantees Interstate funds. Critics decry lack of planning or commitment to mass transit.
1956 Twenty volunteers help public school teachers under the School Volunteer Program - the first of its kind in the nation 1956 Coliseum opens. I87 Deagan opens. Central Park Tavern on Green and Shakespeare in Park battles and losses. Rumors, investigations and initial newspaper articles on Title I projects.
1957 The last of streetcars | Jack Kerouac’s On the Road 1957 Vision of reborn upper west side above Coliseum. Plan for 18 block Lincoln Center for Opera, Symphony, ballet, theater, Fordham music schools.
1958 Dodgers and Giants leave for California, the Yankees win series 1958 Shea proposal not acceptable to Dodgers O'Mally, Dodgers and Giants leave, stadiums become high rise urban renewal projects.
1959 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opens - the only Frank Lloyd Wright structure in the City | San Juan Hill, a largely African-American neighborhood, is razed for the construction of Lincoln Center | Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building inspires zoning law revisions to encourage the building of towers on open plazas 1959 Opens Massena dam, funds Niagara.Title I scandals reach Moses and press no longer follows his lead. Ready to leave housing and parks for money and Fair, but keeps power through Triborough, State jobs. 16 large Titl I projects completed by time Moses resigns Slum Clearance and Parks posts for World's Fair. Farewell dinner and Wagner ' Thanks for the Memory'.
1960 The New York waterfront begins its decline as container ships are routed to Port Elizabeth, New Jersey 1960 Joint Agreement doesn't help Moses and Triborough as containers arrive, NY Port falls, NJ rises. President NY World Fair of 1964-5. Nelson Rockefeller governor, trouble ahead.
1961 The City University of New York is formed 1961 Throgs Neck bridge, with plans dating to 1946, opens
1962 Central Park’s Delacorte Theater becomes home to Joseph Papp’s “Shakespeare in the Park” 1962 Lincoln Center for Performin Arts opens: Met 1966; Julliard/Tully 1969. Culmination of Jane Jacobs resistance as Board of Estimate rejects $100MM Lower Manhattan expressway.
1963 The Pan Am (now Met Life) Building straddles Park Avenue above Grand Central Terminal | Pennsylvania Station is demolished 1963 Tensions with Rockefeller lead to State position resignations. Cross Bronx expressway and Harlem River bridge links to George Washington completed.
1964 The Verrazano Narrows Bridge opens, linking Brooklyn and Staten Island - the last of Robert Moses’ great projects | The World’s Fair returns to Queens, with theme “Peace Through Understanding” 1964 Verrazano Narrows bridge opens with SI expressway links to NJ bridges, capstone of Moses building career. Mets move to Shea after two Polo Ground seasons. World's Fair first year opening after many political, management construction problems. Financial outlook bleak.
1965 A blackout of the northeastern U.S. puts New York in the dark |Galvanized by the 1963 demolition of Pennsylvania Station, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is established 1965 Fair faces $25 million deficit, but last three week attendance reduces it to $10 million. Moses chooses to use remaining $10 million cash for park rather than repay $23 million bonds. Lindsay elected mayor.
1966 The Transit Workers Union begins a 12-day strike the day Mayor John Lindsay takes office; fares rise to 20 cents 1966 Lindsay announces legislation to merge Triborough into Transit Authority, name chairman and use Triborough surplus for subways.
1967 A 9-day sanitation strike leaves stinky sidewalks 1967 Rockefeller proses and passes Metropolitan Transit Authority with Ronan as head. Moses and Triborough threaten suit, but Chase as Triborough trustee declines to pursue. Rockefeller brothers as wealthy Governor and Triborough bond trustee bank head
1968 Columbia University is closed by student uprisings 1968 March 1 Moses resigns Triborough, last of posts.
1969 Mets win the series; Knicks win the NBA championship; Jets win the Superbowl    
1970 first “Earth Day” is celebrated in Central Park    
1971 Illegal artist-residents of SoHo (South of Houston) warehouses win a zoning victory to keep their homes and studios    
1972 Gloria Steinem and others launch Ms. Magazine    
1973 The Green Guerrillas bring community gardens to vacant lots throughout the City    
1974 Saturday Night Live premiers    
1975 The City faces bankruptcy; Daily News headline delivers President Ford’s message to the City: “Drop Dead”    
1976 The World Trade Center’s twin towers open    
1977 Citicorp completes its distinctive slant-roofed tower    
1978 Pooper Scooper Law enacted    
1979 The Guardian Angels vigilante organization begins patrolling subways and City streets    
1980 AT&T’s postmodern world headquarters tower is erected with its distinctive Chippendale profile    
1981 Battery Park City is built on landfill left over from the World Trade Center construction    
1982 The MTA begins to invest in the improvement of the declining subway system | Barracks-style shelters are opened for the City’s large homeless population    
1983 Brooklyn Bridge centennial celebration    
1984 On September 1st, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are assigned the unfashionable “718” area code, leaving the Bronx and Manhattan joined by the now-exclusive “212” code    
1985 Crains New York Business releases its first issue    
1986 The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center opens    
1987 A refurbished Central Park Zoo attracts crowds    
1989 Recycling is mandatory citywide    
1990 40 million vehicles a year make the Lincoln Tunnel the world’s busiest | New York City murders hit a peak at 2,245 this year | Deemed unfair by the U.S. Supreme Court, the NYC Board of Estimate is disbanded    
1991 The last surviving automat closes    
1992 Bryant Park, once ravaged by drug dealers, is now a pleasant public open space    
1993 The World Trade Center is bombed by terrorists, killing six    
1994 Tourism is strong again, with 28 million visitors this year    
1995 Welfare becomes “workfare”    
1996 After 30 years of contamination, the lower Hudson River is teeming with life again    
1997 The MetroCard is introduced    
1998 Grand Central Terminal celebrates its 85th birthday with a $200 million renovation and redesign    
1999 The last surviving Checker cab is removed from service