The Words of Robert Moses to Serve as Keynoter for the Long Island Contractors' Dinner

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"There's nothing here I haven't seen before…what you need is steel and concrete…" -- Congressman Bishop & LI Regional Planning Chair Cameron to be honored

He was irascible, brilliant, arrogant and extraordinary, which gave him the intellectual firepower and political will to accomplish that most difficult of assignments, building an infrastructure that still carries us some 75 years later.

In the midst of a destructive recession, members of the nearly $4 billion Long Island contractors industry will gather for their annual dinner on Thursday, March 12th, at Stonebridge Country Club, Smithtown, where they will hear from a keynoter who has been dead since 1981, the much lionized and libeled master builder of New York, Robert Moses.

With words from his own book, "Public Works, a Dangerous Trade," serving as the core of the address delivered by actor Robert Spiotto, "Moses" will open his remarks by noting his return to a podium wasn't easy. "Dick Amper tried to have my bones burned. Then he got fined by the EPA for violating his carbon footprint. Served him right."

Moses, responsible for creating billions of dollars in infrastructure ranging from parks to power plants, from bridges and tunnels during the height of the Great Depression, remains one of the most iconic leaders in the field of public works. Long Island Contractors' Association (LICA) Executive Director Marc Herbst observed, "He was irascible, brilliant, arrogant and extraordinary, which gave him the intellectual firepower and political will to accomplish that most difficult of assignments, building an infrastructure that still carries us some 75 years later."

"Moses" will note from the LICA podium, "I don't see anything here I haven't seen before. Men out of work. Politicians promising to help. A run on the banks, foreclosures. A President who's a great communicator trying to instill confidence. What you need is some steel and concrete."

The Master Builder will observe, "You build infrastructure you rebuild your economy. You put people back to work and you keep the sheriff away from your home. It's a lesson that I taught LaGuardia, Lehman and Smith back in the 30's. FDR hated me but I put his money to work and you people are still depending on the projects I built. If it hadn't been for me you'd all still be living in the Bronx and `Smart Growth' would be something you put in your apartment window box."

In his own words
Much of the keynote address will depend on Moses' own words, written for his first person narrative, "Public Works," and will provide an historic context for how many of Long Island's most important infrastructure projects were built.

"In 1924 we published a plan for Jones Beach, `On the Shore of Long Island' and our report, stated that, `there are miles of ocean front beaches now inaccessible except by small boat. If the island between these beaches and mainland were bridged by an adequate state parkway, thousands of acres could be made available to public use. Opposition immediately arose. Our first proposition in 1925 asking that the Town of Hempstead cede the lands to the state was defeated because of fear that the `rabble' coming out from the city would create a second Coney Island. The proposal was modified and resubmitted. This time it.. carried.

"In our most troublesome period, the Regional Plan Association of New York bitterly opposed our program. They even brought into the picture from abroad Thomas Adams, a distinguished British planner and chief advisor to the London County Council, who advocated splitting up Jones Beach into minute subdivisions and selling them to cottages." Imagine that.

"The Northern State Parkway began as a scheme for a park at Oyster Bay and a parkway to the New York City line, which together would be a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt. Opposition quickly developed. Long Island in those days was a prime example of new wealth, snobbery and reaction. The pressure on Governor Smith was enormous.

"This was the starting gun in the war over Long Island parkways and parks that was to be waged with increasing bitterness for several years. The humorless, consummate gall of the Long Island nouveau riche of the first quarter of the twentieth century is hard to beat," wrote Moses.

"I am a conservationist but I object to locking up the wilderness against recreation. Extremists are enemies of progress. The Far Right, whether zealots, fanatics, or plain selfish groups living in the past and protecting their own against the public interest, are no better and no worse than the Far Left, which wants unlimited socialism and reduction of all to one common level," Moses wrote.

Awarding Excellence
LICA Executive Director Marc Herbst noted, "Bringing back the words of Robert Moses is unprecedented. But then again, he lived through an era when bricks and mortar financed with public money helped to arrest the pain of widespread unemployment and left us with an incredible infrastructure legacy. Love him or hate him, he has a message that is still relevant during the Great Recession of `09."
LICA board members will be presenting the 2009 LICA Leadership Award Presentation to Congressman Timothy Bishop for his extraordinary leadership in seeking economic stimulus dollars for Long Island and to John Cameron, of the Long Island Regional Planning Council for the vision and commitment of the Council to the region's future and the specific efforts of Cameron who serves as its Chairman.


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