Though Robert Moses altered New York City forever—displacing thousands, while constructing his vision of interconnected highways—he is perhaps best remembered today for his failures. Notable among them was his proposal for a massive road-building project that was thwarted by Jane Jacobs and Greenwich Village community groups. A lesser-known but deeply painful failure for Moses involved the Brooklyn Battery Bridge—a 6,500-foot-long speedway that would connect Brooklyn to Manhattan at the island’s southern tip. The bridge would stand as a testament to Moses’s vision and ability, reasons why he preferred the size and scale of a bridge to proposals for a tunnel connecting the boroughs.
The plan was introduced on January 22, 1939, and after a few months of bitter resistance from opponents who both hated its design and Moses, the bridge was approved by the city and state. All that remained was a nod from the Federal Government and the War Department. Despite the expected approval, the War Department nixed the plan for security reasons.
Moses attempted to have the White House intercede, but to no avail. Then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been waiting on an opportunity to exact revenge on Moses. While Roosevelt was governor of New York in the late 1920s, the urban planner had cut off funding for his parks commission. So instead of Moses’s bridge, plans moved forward for a tunnel. “On October 28th, 1940, construction began on the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which Moses had so adamantly tried to scuttle,” reads Never Built. “President Roosevelt led the groundbreaking.” Sweet, sweet revenge.