Robert Moses, Republican candidate for Governor, in a published letter to Russell H. Hunter regarding the Hillside Housing Development, writes as follows about Nathan Straus, Jr.:
“What do you think of the price for land paid to Senator Straus? When the Senator originally talked to me about this project, he told me that it was primarily philanthropic and that his heart just bled to provide cheap houses for the people in the Bronx. I had no time to go into details of the matter then, and no machinery to make a check on his figures. I thought that it was worth while getting work under way even if the projects were a long way from perfect, and I assumed that he was not going to profiteer at anybody’s expense.
“Since then I have heard some very strange things about the price at which the land was put in. Is it not true that this land belonged to the Straus family for a long time, that in fact it is part of an estate, that the family was stuck with this land and could not dispose of it, that it brought in nothing, that it was sold to the limited dividend company at a price in excess of what it could possibly bring on the market, that the price paid was over twice the assessed valuation just fixed by the city for tax purposes for the following year?
“Is it not true that Senator Straus held out on all the valuable frontage on the Boston Post Road, so as to cash in on it by building stores and other commercial developments, to be patronized by the tenants when the housing development is concluded, and that what he sold to the company was nothing but back land?
“The Straus corporation which sold this land was called the Ostrich Realty Corporation. An ostrich is supposed to be a bird that sticks its head in the sand and doesn’t know what is going on. Perhaps all the people of the city are not ostriches.
“If Senator Straus made no claim to be anything more than a very slick trader, and if he admitted that he bargained with the very political leaders he is opposing in the municipal election, I should have a good deal more respect for him. When, however, he pretends to be a philanthropist, civic champion and uplifter, it becomes a little disgusting.
“I trust that when Governor Lehman accepts the nomination of the Liberal party at the hands of Senator Straus he will explain the Hillside land matter and the connection of Farley and Flynn with the patronage and building racket.”
And this is what Nathan Straus Jr., the son of the truly great philanthropist and humanitarian, the late Nathan Straus, said in reply:
“Bob Moses will be in the limelight for another ten days and is entitled to all the fun he can get out of it. As one of his oldest friends, and the man who sponsored his park program in the State Senate, I wish him all the luck in the world.”
This is hardly the answer that people would expect of the son of Nathan Straus, unless this was the only answer that he could safely make.
But two questions will occur to the general public in connection with Robert Moses’ charges against Mr. Straus. Why did Mr. Moses keep silent about this Straus transaction all this time instead of raising it now as a political issue? And what has Governor Lehman to do with all this ?
Governor Lehman’s own record of achievements as a businessman of the highest integrity, as a humanitarian who has so generously contributed his service, his energy and his wealth to every worthy cause, as a distinguished, broadminded American and as a constructive leader in American Jewry, and as a progressive Governor of New York deeply concerned with the advancement of social justice and the people’s welfare, has endeared him to the people, and he will undoubtedly receive the overwhelming approval of the people for another term as Governor.
Mr. Moses claims credit for having written many of former Governor Smith’s speeches and for having inspired much of his constructive legislation. Mr. Straus claims credit for having sponsored Mr. Moses’ “entire park program in the State Senate.” Mr. Moses is beyond question a very upright and capable gentleman. The fact that he was Governor Smith’s ghost writer only confirms Mr. Smith’s good judgment in having chosen an upright and capable ghost writer even though he was a Republican. Mr. Moses’s record as Park Commissioner is splendid. The public will need his valuable services in the field for which he has demonstrated such high qualifications.
And as for Mr. Straus, the issue raised by Mr. Moses with regard to the Hillside Housing Development will not end with the ten days of limelight predicted for Mr. Moses. Mr. Straus will be expected to give a full explanation of the deal instead of the flippant answer which evades the issue.