Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, the combative, acid-tongued politician who rescued the city from near-financial ruin when he took over office in 1978, died today at the age of 88.
After leaving City Hall in January 1990, Koch battled assorted health problems and heart disease. Mayor Bloomberg led the tributes for 'a great mayor, a great man, and a great friend'. 'In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader,' he said.
'I don't think there was anybody who had more fun being mayor as Ed Koch,' City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is in the race to be the city's next mayor, said at the event.
When Koch took over the city from accountant Abe Beame in 1978, reporters covered him around the clock because of 'the Koch factor' - his ability to say something outrageous any place, any time. The larger-than-life character, who breezed through the streets of New York flashing his signature thumbs-up sign, won a national reputation with his feisty style.
'How'm I doing?' was his trademark question to constituents, although the answer mattered little to Koch. The mayor always thought he was doing wonderfully. Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city's 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.
'You punch me, I punch back,' Koch once memorably observed. 'I do not believe it's good for one's self-respect to be a punching bag.'
Among his favorite moments as mayor was the day in 1980 when, seized by inspiration, he walked down to the Brooklyn Bridge during a rare transit strike and began yelling encouragement to commuters walking to work.
'I began to yell, "Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge! We're not going to let these b******* bring us to our knees!" And people began to applaud,' he recalled at a 2012 forum.
“Who Can Imagine Ed Koch Anywhere But in New York?” Loving a broken city, which mostly loved him back.
Koch had no glamour when he was elected, and he managed not to acquire any during three terms in office. He was that rare politician who somehow became more ordinary, more real, even as he grew larger-than-life. He was obnoxious but not pretentious, deeply loved and deeply loathed, all of which only confirmed his essential New York–ness. We know that he achieved international fame, that he met statesmen and women all over the world, but who can imagine Ed Koch anywhere but in New York?
…and former NY Mayor Ed Koch is dead of heart failure at 88. He was mayor from ’78 to ’89. The adjectives that quickly come to my mind—and probably to everybody’s mind—when thinking of him are colorful, flamboyant, outspoken. He was a special kind of character that New York City seems to specialize in.
The following is just about what you’d expect of Koch, isn’t it?:
Koch was born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants Louis and Joyce Koch. During the Depression the family lived in Newark, NJ.
The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He attended City College and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II, earning his sergeant stripes.
I hadn’t known this, either:
While mayor, he wrote three books including the best-seller “Mayor,” ”Politics” and “His Eminence and Hizzoner,” written with Cardinal John O’Connor. He wrote seven other nonfiction books, four mystery novels and three children’s books after leaving office.
In The New York Times, a 2007 interview, Last Word, Ed Koch