Robert Moses and the Cross-Bronx Expressway

home_southbronx Aerial_view_of_the_Bronx,_Harlem_River,_Harlem,_Hudson_River,_George_Washington_Bridge,_2008-05-10

Robert Moses was considered the most “powerful modern builder of all time”. He was know especially for the building of the Cross-Bronx Expressway. This highway connected New Jersey, North Manhattan, South Bronx and ended up in in Long Island through wither either the Throgs-Neck Bridge or the Whitestone Bridge. The building of this new highway system meant that over 60,000 residents would have to be uprooted and relocated to new areas. Most of these people lived in South Bronx. Moses led the white exodus out of the Bronx. Most of the white residents moved to either Westchester or Northern Bronx areas and other moved to small suburban houses being built around the Cross Bronx Expressway in New Jersey. The poorer residents who where given a meager $200 per room compensation were forced to move out and settle in new high-rise apartment buildings that were being built. These new behemoths had could include up to 1700 apartments per building.

As a result of this mass relocation the economy of the Bronx suffered immensely. The South Bronx area lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs. Youth unemployment rose to 40 percent and in some areas as high as 80 percent. The most devastating affect of the Cross Bronx Expressway took place when the newly built apartment buildings passed into the hands of slumlords. These people used many different tactics such as demanding more money when they shut off heat and water supply to the tenants. Another tactic that the slumlords used proved to be the most effective and profitable for them. They would find junkies and rent-a-thugs to set fire to abandoned apartments and then they would collect the insurance polices from the city. The slumlords profited greatly from this enterprise as they collected as much as 150,000 dollars per fire. The insurance companies didn’t really mind in the begging as they were leasing out many new insurance policies, but after a time even they realized that their costs were beginning to get to high. In the end as insurance companies refused to provide insurance policies to cover certain buildings in South Bronx and the fires continued to spread, whole city blocks became completely abandoned and opened up a place for crime and gangs to fill the void.

The Unknown Side of Bronx Gangs

Between 1968 and 1973, numerous gangs emerged that altered life drastically in the Bronx. To be caught in the wrong part of town without backup was a high-risk, it was a rule of thumb that you stayed within the boundaries of your own neighborhood. Education was insignificant to existence in the Bronx, and more time was spent trying to complete gang initiations than completing high school. Distanced from the ideologies of the late 50’s and 60’s these young folks did not care about desegregation and politics. Being in a gang meant brotherhood and protection of their own turf from other gangs, which was more directly beneficial to their lives. It can be argued that the development of gangs in the Bronx prolonged it’s lack of progress.

Chang brings to light actions taken by the gangs of this period that contributed to the borough in several ways. Young people living in unstable homes, as well as immigrant and foster children who did not have the guidance of an adult in their lives, sought refuge from the harsh conditions of the streets with help from gangs. Gangs provided these minors with a sympathy, security, and a place to sleep. This population of lost children was in the thousands, and with the help of gangs they were able to unite and fight against common enemies. Eventually these gangs were considered the overseers of everything that happened in the community. According to Danny Dejesus, a Savage Skull gang member-“before they would go to the local police, the people would come to us to solve their problems.” (pg. 49) Gangs also participated in an operation to promote health care, stealing and making use of an x-ray truck for free services. They took it a step further by completely taking over a hospital in their neighborhood, and effort which rival gangs linked together as defense against the police. Gangs also declared war on drug addicts and dealers as they attempted to reduce burglaries (crimes addicts are most prone to) by purging the streets of junkies and their suppliers. In this way, gangs did the “dirty work” of the police who failed to take action. They did this at first by giving twenty-four hour warnings to leave; things then became violent when a junkie stabbed a fellow gang member, causing the “Junkie Massacre.” Gang activity during this era may have been fueled by their revenge against society for leaving them in the dark. However, it can be argued that some of their endeavors were consequentially helpful to their city.

New York City street gang Savage Skulls

American Politics and Society Since Vietnam

This book tells the story of the United States during those years. It examines the political and economic structures of the country, daily life, regional and national culture and relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. Also, in the decades after world war two, Americans rarely spoke of empire or imperialism, especially in relation to their own society. Once common terms, widely used by both supporters and critics of policies meant to achieve control over foreign lands by the mid-twentieth century they had come to be seen as archaic and irrelevant to a world of decolonization and cold war. Furthermore, World War Two, the United States did  not seek to conquer territory or establish colonies, one reason its citizens rarely thought of it as an empire. But through treaties and alliances, investment and trade, Coca-Cola and rock and roll, Peace Corps volunteers and CIA agents as well as bombers and infantry, the United States established itself as the most powerful human force on the planet. The American empire shaped the flow of history far from the borders of the United States, just as empire shaped history within them. Immigration had brought unprecedented diversity to the population. Technology had changed the way people lived, worked, and entertained themselves.  it is important to know that within enduring social and legal structures as a continuous constitutional government, the United States has few peers in longevity- America has always been an extraordinarily dynamic society. France, Germany, Russia and China underwent multiple revolutions. Between World War Two and twenty first century, the country was shaped and reshaped by the militarization of American life that came with the cold war; the democratization of society set in motion by the African American freedom struggle; the cultural changes that rippled forward from the 1960s; the redefinition of gender roles; the corporate restructuring of the economy in the 1970s and 1980s; and the rise of political conservatism that began at the same time.

One of the great stories of U.S. history, and a framing theme of this book, is the long period of sustained economics growth after World War Two. when the war ended, the country, though rich by historical and world measures, had a standard of living far below what it would be a few a few decades later. Most families had little discretion in how they lived or spent their money, needing all their income and energy to get from one week to the next. limited resources and parochial cultures meant circumscribed lives, rooted in local social worlds, with minimal interaction with people and places even a modest distance away.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Chapters 1 and 3

South Bronx playground, 1970s

Jeff Chang spends a lot of time writing about the Bronx and its importance in the beginnings of hip hop. Let’s try to bring out some of the highlights of the history he creates.

For 9/27, write a brief (1-3 paragraph) blog post that points out a particular historical development in the Bronx.  Pay attention to what others have posted and try to write about something different (but, of course, related).

The Women’s Movement

Page 262 from American Empire.

“Fighting sexual discrimination in employment often meant challenging gender stereotypes.”

The mention of this quote summarizes the entire event of the Women’s Movement. There are policies in place like the EEOC but those policies did nothing for the women in that era. They had to fight stereotypes and sexual discrimination. Freeman included this because it covers what that part of the book is about. It goes with his argument that women during that era were treated differently.


Aid to Families with Dependent Children

“Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), “welfare” in the common lexicon… did not address the causes of deprivation but only sought to alleviate the plight of the poor (and lessen the social threat they might pose).”

Pg 268

This long established program was plagued by “complex regulations and demeaning practices” which made it hard for women to enroll. The Welfare Rights movement lead to states loosing regulations on the AFDC application process. This lead to an increase in families receiving AFDC benefits.

Nixon proposed a minimum annual income to replace AFDC, which he deemed a failure. The public generally bought into the misinformed notion that the majority of welfare recipients were black women, putting many people, particularly in the south against Welfare reform. Others believed the proposal was not enough to be considered a replacement of AFDC benefits. Ultimately Nixon’s proposal was denied in the Senate.

Nixon’s involvement with Welfare Rights and environmentalism shows that “Nixon did not shy away from the idea of expansive government.”

Nixon’s visit to the USSR

“At their summit, Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), the first arms control measure that the United States agreed to since the start of the Cold War.”


First of all, the visit was very significant, because no other president (except for Roosevelt) had ever went to the communist USSR before. Since the United States had always feared and fought communism and communistic countries, the “goodwill” visit to one of those countries meant a change in politics. As Freeman said it didn’t mean that the White House became more tolerant to communism, but it did mean that method of fighting it had changed. Instead of confronting each other they decided to be “friends”. If during the Cold War the two countries competed with each other in many aspects like military, science, innovations, etc. So after the visit they actually agreed on not only Arms Limitation Treaty, but on other joint projects in science and trade. For instance, during that visit was created an agreement to import Coca-Cola and created a project to build the first Coca-Cola factory in the USSR, which was completed in 1974 in Novorossiysk. This was a big deal in the USSR.

The Reason For The War At Vietnam

Page 222 in American Empire.

“The United States had very few economic or other interests in Vietnam before the war, little knowledge of it, and no particular expectation that a victory would bring deep or profitable engagement . American policymakers acted primarily out of ideology and a strategic outlook that saw any shift of control or power away from the United States, no matter where it occurred, as threatening its interests and security everywhere.”

I think this quote was included because it summaries a little reasoning behind the war against Vietnam. Later on in the chapter it discusses the reason. It became involved in Vietnam because of the relationship the United States has with France and many other wars, small details that eventually led to the conflict. I think Freeman thinks this part is important because it shows the status of America during that time and how if it felt threatened, they will make sure it will remain stable.


Richard Nixon

” Bobbing and weaving in an effort to maintain support from both liberal and conservative wings of the Republican Party.”(p. 267)

After winning the presidential elections in 1968 with a minority of the popular vote and democratic majority in congress limited his action, President Nixon hoped to win democratic supporters for seek reelection. Nixon supported the already established New Deal programs which benefited democrats and took conservative positions on other issues. Making improvements in medicaid, food stamp programs,civil rights and social security.  Nixon was also popular for giving up on proposals made by him, such as replacing warfare with an annual minimum income after the senate rejected it and environmental movements which affected the growth of businesses. President Nixon was reelected in the 1972 presidental election, after  the Watergate scandal he was forced to resign.

Lyndon B. Johnson

” Lyndon Johnson turned what had been a limited, largely guerrilla conflict  into an all-out war.” (Pg.225)

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Vice president Lyndon Johnson inherited the Presidency and crisis in Vietnam.  Instead of ending the small crisis in Vietnam, Johnson increased the number of deployed  U.S troops to ensure a victory. His plans back fired and the small conflict escalated to a full blown war, with many U.S soldiers lost their life due to the inexperience of guerrilla warfare. It was clearly to the American people, that the war was a total failure which led to antiwar movements.  President Johnson’s approval rating rapidly declined, and chose not to seek re-election.