Olmsted and Moses

Olmsted the Hero, Moses the Villain

History views master planners Frederick Law Olmsted and Robert Moses very differently. 
Left, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Right, planner Robert Moses.(Archive.org/Library of Congress)

They both were top-down, hard-charging master planners, creatures of authorities and commissions that helped them get things done. Both perturbed by the jarring cacophony of the city, they sought the best for the American people, and produced glorious public recreation facilities known the world over. They both had a fondness for poetry, and both were accepted at Yale.

Yet history views Frederick Law Olmsted and Robert Moses very differently. Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture, is lauded as a visionary, and places he designed, like Boston’s Emerald Necklace and New York’s Central Park, are cherished treasures. If Moses gets credit for Jones Beach, which he created as his master-builder career was just getting going in the 1920s, it’s just as likely he will be vilified for making the parkway bridges too low so buses couldn’t get there—a legend that has lived on despite being untrue.

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