As I was writing this book, I realized—realized is probably an exaggerated word—I realized that if I did his life right, I would be explaining not just him, but how urban political power worked. Not just in New York but in all the cities of America.
Moses had done something no one else had ever done. Everyone thought power comes from being elected. He wasn’t elected, he realizes he’s never going to get elected to anything, so he’s got to figure out a way to get all this power without getting elected, and he does it. I didn’t understand it, no one else understood it, even La Guardia says to him,
“Don’t tell me what to do,” or whatever the quote is, “I’m the boss, you just work for me.”
And Moses writes, and I saw this letter in La Guardia’s papers, he sends back the letter and he writes across it, “You’d better read the contracts, mayor.”