Ever since it was published in 1974, the Power Broker, Robert Caros best-selling biography of Robert Moses, has cast a shadow over New Yorks urban historians. But 1998s centennial of the citys charter presented an unusual tie-in that might have boosted their work into contention with Caros. If only they had met their deadlines. It would be nice if this thing were here now, admits Mike Wallace, a professor at John Jay College, referring to Gotham: A History of New York City, which he and his co-author now hope to finish by the fall. His publisher at Oxford University Press cant conceal her impatience: Weve got Mikes nose to the grindstone, she says.
Daniel Czitrom, a professor at Mount Holyoke College, hasnt been able to get his Mysteries of the City: Politics, Cultureand the Underworld in Turn-of-the Century New York finished, either. I confess to being delayed by several things, like having my second kid, says Czitrom. And Ric Burns, whose ten-hour documentary was to air on PBS this fall, wont be ready until 1999.
All of which leaves The Power Broker, with a little helpful re-promotion from Random House, more powerful than ever. I walked into a party the other night, and I realized this group of six people were all reading it, says Caro. Its just like it was a new book. Its been very satisfying.