Real-estate operators are only just beginning to recognize their responsibilities. Back in 1927, as Secretary of State, I organized and was head of the Real Estate Bureau of New York. The licensing law was never intended to be enforced. Its aim was to give real-estate operators the status of a profession without the responsibility and standards which are supposed to accompany this recognition. More and more the intelligent and reputable real-estate men throughout the country are concluding that the time has come for statesmanship in place of irresponsible promotion.
WITH this sketchy diagnosis of the origin of the disease, let me go on to the happier discussion of the cure. It is safe to say that almost no city needs to tolerate slums. There are plenty of ways of getting rid of them. The only exceptions are in cities so decayed, so associated with temporary booms or exhausted natural resources, so lacking in morale and pride, so badly located as to trade, or so controlled by dirty politics, that the situation is hopeless. There are few such places in the United States.
The greatest difficulties today lie not in lack of good will, fine intentions, and public spirit on the part of most citizens, but in endless wranglings over the methods to be employed, over jurisdiction, over constitutional and legalistic interpretations -- wranglings which create stalemates with perfectionists on one side and realists on the other. Slums cannot be cleaned out all at once except in campaign oratory and the familiar literature of social agencies. There has to be a time schedule as well as a program. There must be limited objectives. There must be compromise.
To begin with, those who advocate the abandonment of the older cities, the creation of satellite towns, decentralization by whatever name, and other revolutionary plans which in effect mean tearing up the city and reconstituting it on a different scale, must be eliminated from the picture. The revolutionaries can't win, for the stakes are too large. The vested interests, legitimate or not, must be considered. And finally, habit is too strong; sentiment for the old neighborhoods, which is poohpoohed by revolutionaries, by the pinks and reds who never get their roots down anywhere, will continue to be a great factor in the necessity for gradual and conservative change.
Then we come to the perfectionists who are not revolutionaries but who will agree to no compromise. They say there must be a complete master plan, that everything must fit into this plan, that no piecemeal or experimental work shall be done, that those who favor and achieve limited objectives are merely tacticians and not strategists and that what they accomplish probably will be found not to fit into the great ultimate design. An editorial in a recent Architectural Forum, entitled "London's Little Planners," complained that the City of London is rejecting revolutionary improvements for the rebuilding of the bomb-gutted financial part of the Empire, and criticized the officials responsible for deciding on a conservative program as "choked with guineas and tradition," as "not planners but pessimists." Finally, for no apparent reason, this reference to me was dragged in by the hair: "Short-term realist Robert Moses, the Park Commissioner who has become synonymous with the 'practical spirit' of New York's patchwork city planning, would applaud the work of the 'practical men' of London."