The South Heights

Part of the south side of Brooklyn Heights–the intersection of Hicks and State streets is at the lower left–as seen from the LICH parking garage. In 1956 Robert Moses deemed this area a slum, and wanted to bulldoze it and replace it with high-rise luxury housing ($60 a room!), but, as with his initial plan to build the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway through the Heights, he was thwarted by determined community opposition. (Photo by C. Scales for BHB.)

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  • curious

    Can you post the other photos you may have taken, if you also took the southern photos of Cobble Hill? It would be an interesting view.

  • Claude Scales

    That’s the only one I took at the time. You can’t shoot Cobble Hill from that location, because the LICH buildings are in the way.

  • mlo

    Very appropraite (although unintentional) use of words. Tall buildings obstructing views?? Hmmmmm

  • Josh G

    Glad Robert Moses’ plans for the Heights were shot down.. he would have destroyed the neighborhood.

  • Andrew Porter

    He destroyed so many other neighborhoods. Think how the fabric of the city across from BH would now look if his expressway from the Manhattan Bridge across Chinatown to the tunnel to NJ had been built.

  • Moshe aron Kestenbaum, Williamsburg ODA

    Robert mosses was a hero, he made this city a world class place

  • Bob Stone


    Unless my memory fails me–always a possibility–you appeared at the Brooklyn Bridge Park meeting at LICH last November to speak forcefully in favor of building residential housing in the park. If I’m correct, it doesn’t surprise me that you see Robert Moses in a different light than most of of the residents of the neighborhood where Claude’s picture was taken. If I’m wrong, please accept my apologies.

    Bob Stone

  • Claude Scales

    Like most people who have acted in the public realm, Robert Moses left a legacy that’s a mixed bag. Some of what he did was very good, some was good but could have been better, and some was bad. Fortunately, some of his really bad ideas, like the Brooklyn-Battery Bridge, were transformed into good ones, like the tunnel that was built in its stead. Others, like destroying large swaths of lower Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights, were nipped in the bud.

  • Eddy de Lectron

    Moshe, Moses built roads, there is nothing heroic about that… And New York was already “a world class place” before he showed up.

  • resident

    It does bring up an interesting question, what would NYC look like without Moses’ road system? Would NYC be what it is as the only major American city without thorough integration into the interstate system?

    Moses was an amazing man whose ability to produce building projects was perhaps unmatched in American history. Unfortunately, he probably did more harm than good in the long run. His slum clearing projects were a travesty, his highways destroyed neighborhoods, his commitment to roads at the cost of mass transit has had far reaching effects. While many of his parks are beautiful, and we’re probably all thankful for at least one of his projects (Lincoln Center for example), one has to wonder why he couldn’t just compromise on easy issues for the benefit of everyone? Why did highways have to take routes through the middle of bustling neighborhoods? Why did he refuse to allow space for rail lines next to the LIE? Why not include rail lines on his bridges? Ultimately, Moses was an amazing man, whose bullheadedness cost him his legacy.

  • nabeguy

    Yes, his plans did create metropolitan interstate well as a metropolitan innercities.

  • Andrew Porter

    I was living in the Bronx as a kid when the Cross-Bronx Expressway was being rammed through the middle-class neighborhoods, ultimately to connect to the approach to the GWB. The mass destruction of decent housing contributed greatly, IMHO, to the “white flight” of the era, and the subsequent decline of the Bronx. But what do I know?

  • Andrew Porter

    Just Googled “Moshe aron Kestenbaum, Williamsburg ODA”, and the man is posting everywhere, including here:

    Note second comment, after his…

  • resident

    I completely agree that interstates (in NYC and other areas) have led to “white flight,” and the expanding/creation of inner city problem areas, and I would much prefer a country that is far less dependent on the automobile. When I posed my questions, I was more thinking about shipping concerns. Over the last 60 years, long haul shipping has increasingly moved to trucks as opposed to rail and boats. Would the NYC area have thrived if it were cut off from vital shipping resources?

    Ultimately, it’s a fairly pointless question. The Interstate system was partially built for defense systems, and with the amount of money flowing from Washington to build it, NYC was going to get interstates, with or without Robert Moses. I’ll just be thankful that some good people prevented further destruction of NYC.

  • epc

    Moses’ fetid fixation on highways helped drain tax revenue from the city to subsidize the building of the suburbs. Fifty years later and the City and suburbs both have unsustainable imbalances between expenses and revenue, our infrastructure is worn out, and we have no way to fund rehabilitation. Our mass–transit system is constantly starved of funds, even as ridership increases. This isn’t all necessarily directly his fault, but he certainly set in motion disruptions to the local economy which has taken decades to rebalance.

  • Billy Reno

    Just remember, Bobby Moses never approached the evil that is Ratner!

  • nabeguy

    Billy, interesting that you bring up Ratner in a discussion of Moses. When O’Malley originally wanted to move the Dodgers to the current site of the Atlantic Terminal, he was blocked by Moses, who felt that the proximity of the stadium to the LIRR terminal would be in direct competition to his plans for the LIE. As far as Moses was concerned, trains were dinosaurs, cars were king.

  • EHinBH

    Moses was a huge hero. Huge. We will never see a city planner like him again and it is sad. Things change. People need to move. It’s progress. Would you rather we live in teepees?

  • nabeguy

    Maybe just you EH. Progress is one thing…misguided and wholesale destruction of neighborhoods is another. The only thing huge about Moses was his ego. And what’s sadder is that there are pretenders to his throne.

  • Jorale-man

    The good guy vs. bad guy dichotomy feels a bit simplistic for someone like Moses. He had some important achievements (building the Triboro Bridge, beaches, playgrounds and state parks) but he also did some disastrously negative things (running expressways through close-knit neighborhoods while starving mass transit, creating massive superblocks that ignored street life). And as mentioned earlier, he wanted to build an eight-lane expressway through the heart of Greenwich Village and Soho.

    But he was a product of his time and should be judged as such. He was known for “getting things done” in a ways that could never been seen today (i.e. the WTC site) but yes, it often came at great costs to the urban fabric.

  • nabeguy

    Nothing simplistic about Moses, except his atavistic approach to his job. How about the fact that he specifically designated that the approaches to Jones Beach would include overpasses that were so low that they that excluded public buses? Gotta keep the riff-raff out. Let ’em have Orchard Beach

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    Moses because he was acting through the removed from the electroal process of an authority not an agency was able to act in ways that politicians of the era could distance themselves from
    This while controversy often raged. Moses CERTIANLY DEVITAL-
    IZED much of this town. Neighborhoods with thier inner life and thier vitality were the driving engine of the city as a whole. Gone….
    But why? because Moses had a entire layer of support from many
    key elements in the elite leadership of the city. And in NGO land, Moses was seen as a kind ofa door to the future eliminating all those elements which were a block to the future they saw. The Carnigie foundation was a big albiet quiet Moses supporter.
    So Moses was what he was because of his shield of actig through the legal device, or vice, of an agency AND because of his
    support of the elites and the “professional” elements in this town.
    And they distroyed this once wonderful vital city….

  • http://Building Jeffrey J Smith

    But before you fixate on Moses, its FAR MORE important that everyone fix on what is happening now-

    The moses of this time are unelected entities like the REGIONAL PLAN ASSOCIATION. Foundations, trusts, NGO’s and the like have ONE purpose. To have unelected POWER which is responsible to well, who? You’ll never get a straight answer to that one.

    Before you fix on the legacy of moses you should first, learn from the example of unelected power and then fix on the shadow
    rulers of today and forcefully examine who they are. Almost
    always some elite type and thier “best and brightest” employ-
    ees. and examine the “changes” they want for the city today.

    Fix on the children of moses which are the active very very harmful entities of today…..

  • Karl Junkersfeld


    Not Orchard in the Bronx but Jacob Riis Park in Brooklyn. This was the beach for the poor and was purposely built with access to public transportation. The rich had cars and Jones Beach.

  • nabeguy

    Karl, I’ve seen your vid about the trip to Riis Park. Not exactly accessible unless you want to take a train and a bus (no free transfer, mind you). But, hey, as far as Moses was concerned, it all added to the city coffers.

  • nabeguy

    BTW, Brighton and Coney are still the only beaches that are directly accessible by train lines, making them what they’ve always been…the poor mans Riviera. $2.25, a bottle of Hawaiin Tropic, and a Nathan’s dog…life doesn’t get much sweeter.