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Where Have You Gone, Robert Moses?

April 12th, 2011 in Musings by

They just don’t make great Americans like they used to.

That’s the only conclusion one can come to when you consider this: When was the last time somebody suggested that a statue be erected in somebody else’s honor? Taking things a step further, when was the last time you heard a suggestion regarding a statue honoring a Long Islander? Have you ever heard of someone suggesting that a statue be built to honor a Long Islander?

Well, there is one: a seven-foot (or so) statue of Robert Moses just west of Babylon Village Hall on Montauk Highway. He looks pretty dapper, for a statue. It’s there because Mr. Moses lived in Babylon Village when he wasn’t traversing the State as the last “Master Builder,” wreaking havoc on politicians and neighborhoods simultaneously, forsaking mass transit for his beloved parkways. The statue was the Village’s way of honoring a famous (at least in New York State circles) local resident, but chances are pretty good it will also serve as the last statue ever erected to honor  a man (or woman) who has walked among us.

In fact, I do not know of any other statues on the Island, and I travel the Island pretty extensively. In New York City, on the other hand, there are approximately 159 statues – give or take a bust – in the five boroughs, according to newyorkcitystatues.com. The city folks might have gotten a little carried away at some point, however. There are four statues of Alexander Hamilton alone, for instance. There’s also one of Chester Arthur, a New York native and the 21st President of the United States, as well as three of his contemporaries in Madison Square Park.

I suppose the modern-day equivalent to bronze immortality is having a building or park named in your honor. There are plenty of instances of that across the region – mostly for politicians. There’s Dean Skelos Park in Rockville Centre, Ken LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University and my personal favorite, the Al D’Amato Courthouse in Central Islip. And only those truly captivated by trivial information can appreciate the fact that that the Hauppauge Industrial Park is officially known as the John V. Klein Hauppauge Industrial Park.

Both Sens. Skelos and LaValle are still in office, so you have to hope they don’t suffer the same indignity the Town of Islip had to endure when the town leaders were forced to scrape Town Supervisor Pete McGowan’s name from the front wall of MacArthur Airport’s main terminal. Turns out flouting the law is frowned upon when considering one’s bid for immortality.

Having a building or park named in one’s honor is nice, but it is still not as cool as a statue.  Let’s face it: A statue requires true greatness that stands the test of time – not just the ability to squeeze some money out of a budget in Albany. Being statue-worthy means providing bold and innovative leadership through turbulent times; anyone can lead when times are good, and as somebody once pointed out you never see a statue built to honor a conformist.

Washington, Lincoln and, yes, Alexander Hamilton, all earned their statute stripes. So did Moses, for that matter, although an argument can be made that his documented disdain for minorities and mass transit have made it rather difficult for Long Island to change with the times.

But what Long Island leader – past or present – can claim to be statue-worthy? Given the fragmented nature of our region, is it even possible for one individual to provide the leadership required to inspire a statue?  And what does it say about the times we live in that nobody will be worth remembering a 100 years from now?

Like I said, they don’t make great Americans like they used to anymore.

By Michael Watt

Author: Michael Watt

Michael Watt is President of Long Island Inc., a marketing and communications strategy firm devoted to helping Long Island companies, organizations and entrepreneurs achieve their business goals. Prior to founding Long Island Inc., Michael served as Executive Vice President of the Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI), dedicated to expanding the home building and remodeling environment on Long Island. Michael has also served as an adjunct professor at both Nassau Community College and Dowling College, receiving a Masters in Business from the latter, and authored a column for the Long Island Business News for five years. Having a Long Island-centric career spanning more than two decades earned Michael the moniker “Mr. Long Island” and allowed him to leverage his knowledge of the Island and extensive network of colleagues to establish Long Island Inc. If you wish to reach Michael you can email him at michaelwatt@longislandinc.com or visit his website, www.longislandinc.com.

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6 Comments

Charlie Schreiber

April 12th, 2011

The Michael Watt Phone Booth went the way of the wind too, so I’m afraid there is little hope for immortality these days for my hero!

Chris Slattery

April 12th, 2011

There’s a statue of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Gleason was born in Brooklyn but had a summer home on Asharoken Avenue in Northport, surely that qualifies him as a Long Islander!

Jeff Morosoff

April 12th, 2011

If we ever find another Long Island leader we can be proud of, you might see a statue. But first Long Island needs to produce a leader.

Michael Watt

April 12th, 2011

@ Charlie – I’m still around. It’s the phone booths that have disappeared.
@ Chris – that was a long way to go just to mention that Jackie Gleason lived for a spell in your beloved Northport.
@ Jeff – my point exactly. Thanks for your comment!

Dorian Dale

April 13th, 2011

Moses spent his last years down at Gilgo Beach, six miles from his greatest production, Jones Beach with its iconic water tower. Ironically, the grand architect of car culture in the NYC metro area did not have a license to drive.

shamgar

July 2nd, 2013

long island iis the biggest deathtrap in the cosmos tanks in part to the pussiillaminous piosqueaks at the Nassau county planning commission who rbuffd the brilliant plan of Robert moses for the rye oyster bay bridge in 1970 and instead followed the siren song of the post menupasual slut who aated cars jane jacos and the geriatric weasel Robert caro now now your stupid state is broke and also the infrastructural toilet bowl of amerce glad I moved to the west coast of fl. 20 yrs. ago where I haave not paid a dime of state tax not a dme ah to escape the vulturine taxes of Albany your benighted blasphemous bootless state capitol and being a vet I have a homestad exemption hallelujah longisland is a losers paradise for any motorist and that’s what u stooges get for heeding te sirn songs of the post menupasual lut who hated cars jane Jacobs and the geriatric weasel roert caro who still lives in Sodom on 95 th st. and works part time for th noxious n.y times a paper I reserve for the parakeet cage

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