Mayor Edward Irving “Ed” Koch Passes Away At Age 88


By Jueseppi B.

 

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From Reuters News Agency:

 

New York’s “mayor for life,” former Mayor Ed Koch dies at 88

 

By Edith Honan and Chris Michaud NEW YORK | Fri Feb 1, 2013

 

 

(Reuters) – Former Mayor Edward Koch, who presided over New York City during the turbulent late 1970’s and ’80’s and came to personify the city with his wry and outspoken style, died on Friday at the age of 88, his spokesman said.

 

As mayor from 1978 to 1989, the forceful, quick-witted Koch, with his trademark phrase “How’m I Doing?,” was a polarizing figure and the city’s constant promoter.

 

Koch died of congestive heart failure at about 2 a.m. at New York-Presbyterian hospital following a year of repeated hospitalizations, George Arzt, his spokesman, said.

 

Koch was credited with lifting New York from crushing economic crises to a level of prosperity that was the envy of other U.S. cities. Under his leadership, the city regained its financial footing and underwent a building renaissance.

 

But his three terms in office were also marked by racial tensions, corruption among many of his political allies, the rise in AIDS and HIV, homelessness and a high crime rate. In 1989, he lost the Democratic nomination for what would have been a record fourth term as mayor.

 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the flags at all city buildings would fly at half-staff in Koch’s memory.

 

“In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader,” Bloomberg said. “His spirit will live on not only here at City Hall, and not only on the bridge the bears his name, but all across the five boroughs.”

 

Koch had a quip for every occasion and once said he wanted to be mayor for life. He was the only U.S. mayor to have a bestselling autobiography that was turned into an off-Broadway musical.

 

This week, “Koch,” a documentary about his three terms as mayor, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art. Koch was unable to attend the premier for the movie.

 

“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 premier.

 

The film opens in theaters on Friday.

 

“Here was a mayor who was a combination of a Lindy’s waiter, a Coney Island barker, a Catskill comedian, an irritated school principal and an eccentric uncle,” New York writer Pete Hamill said in a 2005 discussion of Koch’s legacy. “He talked tough and the reason was, he was tough.”

 

 

NEW YORK NATIVE

Born into a Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx on December 12, 1924, Edward Irving Koch went on to attend City College and earn a law degree from New York University.

 

He entered politics in the 1950s in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, winning a seat on the city council, and later went to Washington, where he served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

In 1977, he made a second attempt running for mayor of New York City, and proved to be an agile campaigner. To combat rumors he was gay, former beauty queen Bess Myerson began appearing by his side at campaign events.

 

Koch later admitted the two were never romantically involved. Koch remained a bachelor all his life and refused to answer questions about his sexuality even in his later years.

 

After two successful terms in office – he was returned for a third term with 70 percent of the vote – Koch’s star had begun to fade. A corruption scandal involving his ally, Queens Borough President Donald Manes, never implicated Koch, but it damaged his reputation with voters.

 

Koch’s attempt at a fourth term failed when he lost his party’s nomination to Manhattan borough president David Dinkins, a man as quiet and deliberative as Koch was bold and abrasive. Dinkins would go on to be the city’s first black mayor.

 

“People became tired of Koch’s personality,” said Mitchell Moss, the director of the Urban Research Center at New York University. “He was a remarkable mayor but one with a big mouth. After 12 years you have to change the lyrics.”

 

After leaving office, Koch wrote articles on everything from Middle East politics to movie reviews, hosted a radio show and served as a judge on television’s ““The People’s Court.” His book about another former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, was titled “Giuliani: Nasty Man.”

 

He remained a formidable figure in New York politics until his death, endorsing candidates and offering political commentary on the local NY1 TV station. He has been a supporter of New York’s current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and in 2010 he formed New York Uprising, a political action committee designed to fight corruption in state politics.

 

In 2008, Koch announced he had secured a plot in Manhattan’s Trinity Cemetery, telling the New York Times: “The idea of leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me.”

 

(Additional reporting by David Storey, Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Walker Simon and Jackie Frank)

 

 

Edward Irving “Ed” Koch (pron.: /ˈkɒ/; (December 12, 1924 – February 1, 2013) was an American lawyer, politician, political commentator, movie critic and television reality show judge. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 and three terms as mayor of New York City, from 1978 to 1989. He also became known as a judge on the television judge show The People’s Court from 1997 to 1999. He died on February 1, 2013, of heart failure.

 

 

Former Mayor Ed Koch introduces current Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he opens his Manhattan campaign office and kicks off his bid for re-election in New York

Former Mayor Ed Koch (L) introduces current Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he opens his Manhattan campaign office and kicks off his bid for re-election in New York, March 29, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East

 

 

105th Mayor of New York City
In office
January 1, 1978 – December 31, 1989
Preceded by Abraham D. Beame
Succeeded by David N. Dinkins
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 18th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – December 31, 1977
Preceded by Charles B. Rangel
Succeeded by S. William Green
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 17th district
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by Theodore R. Kupferman
Succeeded by John M. Murphy
Personal details
Born Edward Irving Koch
December 12, 1924
The BronxNew York CityU.S.
Died February 1, 2013 (aged 88)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Nationality U.S.
Political party Democratic
Residence Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Alma mater
Occupation Politician
Religion Jewish
Military service
Allegiance United States United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1943–1946
Rank Army-USA-OR-05.svg Sergeant
Unit 104TrngDivLdrTrngSSI.svg104TrngDivLdrTrngDUILeft.jpg 104th Infantry Division
Battles/wars
Awards
Combat Infantry Badge.svg Combat Infantryman Badge
Bronze star
Bronze star

European-African-Middle Eastern

Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal

 

 

 

Early life

Koch was born in The Bronx, New York City, at New York–Presbyterian Hospital, the son of Yetta (née Silpe) and Louis Koch, immigrants from Poland. His family were Conservative Jews who resided in Newark, New Jersey, where his father worked at a theater. As a child, he worked as a hatcheck boy in a Newark dance hall. He graduated from South Side High School in Newark in 1941. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1943 where he served as an infantryman with the 104th Infantry Division, landing in Cherbourg, France in September 1944.

 

He earned two Battle Stars as a combat infantryman. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946. Koch returned to New York City to attend City College of New York, graduating in 1945, and New York University School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1948. Koch was a sole practitioner from 1949 to 1964, and a partner with Koch, Lankenau, Schwartz & Kovner from 1965 to 1968. A Democrat, he became active in New York City politics as a reformer and opponent of Carmine DeSapio and Tammany Hall. In 1963, Koch defeated DeSapio for the position of Democratic Party leader for the district which included Greenwich Village, and Koch won again in a 1965 rematch. Koch served on the New York City Council from 1967 to 1969.

 

 

 

Mayor of New York City

1977 election and first term

 

In 1977, Koch ran in the Democratic primary of the New York City mayoral election against incumbent Abe BeameBella Abzug and Mario Cuomo, among others. Koch ran to the right of the other candidates, on a “law and order” platform. According to historian Jonathan Mahler, the blackout that happened in July of that year, and the subsequent rioting, helped catapult Koch and his message of restoring public safety to front-runner status.

 

 

1981 election and second term; run for Governor

In 1981 he ran for re-election as mayor, running on both the Democratic and Republican Party lines; in November he won, defeating his main opponent, Unity Party candidate Frank J. Barbaro, with 75% of the vote.

 

In 1982, Koch ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York, losing the Democratic primary to Cuomo, who was then lieutenant governor. Many say the deciding factor in Koch’s loss was an interview with Playboy magazine in which he described the lifestyle of both suburbia and upstate New York as “sterile” and lamented the thought of having to live in “the small town” of Albany as Governor. Koch’s remarks are thought to have alienated many voters from outside New York City.

 

Koch often deviated from the conventional liberal line, strongly supporting the death penalty and taking a hard line on “quality of life” issues, such as giving police broader powers in dealing with the homeless and favoring (and signing) legislation banning the playing of radios on subways and buses. These positions prompted harsh criticism of him from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and many African-American leaders, particularly the Reverend Al Sharpton.

 

In 1984, Koch published his first memoir, Mayor, which became a best-seller. In 1985 the book was turned into an Off Broadway musical, Mayor, that ran for around 250 performances.

 

 

1985 election and third term

In 1985, Koch again ran for re-election, this time on the Democratic and Independent tickets; he defeated Liberal Party candidate Carol Bellamy and Republican candidate Diane McGrath with 78% of the vote.

 

In 1986, Mayor Koch signed a lesbian and gay rights ordinance for the city after the City Council passed the measure (on March 20), following several failed attempts by that body to approve such legislation. Despite his overall pro-lesbian and pro-gay-rights stance, he nonetheless backed up the New York City Health Department’s decision to shut down the city’s gay bathhouses in 1985 in response to concerns over the spread of AIDS.

 

The enactment of the measure the following year placed the city in a dilemma, as it apparently meant that the bathhouses would have to be re-opened because many heterosexual “sex clubs” – most notably Plato’s Retreat – were in operation in the city at the time, and allowing them to remain open while keeping the bathhouses shuttered would have been a violation of the newly-adopted anti-discrimination law. The Health Department, with Koch’s approval, reacted by ordering the heterosexual clubs, including Plato’s Retreat, to close as well.

 

Koch consistently demonstrated a fierce love for New York City, which some observers felt he carried to extremes on occasion: In 1984 he had gone on record as opposing the creation of a second telephone area code for the city, claiming that this would divide the city’s population; and when the National Football League‘s New York Giants won Super Bowl XXI in January 1987, he refused to grant a permit for the team to hold their traditional victory parade in the city, quipping famously, “If they want a parade, let them parade in front of the oil drums in Moonachie” (the latter being a town in New Jersey adjacent to East Rutherford, site of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, where the Giants play their home games).

 

In his third term, Koch’s popularity was shaken after a series of corruption scandals, touched off by the Donald Manes suicide and the PVB scandal, which revealed that he had acceded to the requests of corrupt political allies, most notably Queens Borough President Manes, Bronx Democratic party official Stanley Friedman, and Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito, to stack city agencies with patronage appointments. These patronage appointments, such as Department of Transportation Commissioner Tony Ameruso and Parking Violations Bureau official Geoffrey Lindenauer, had subsequently engaged in many varieties of graft, extortion and bribery. Another high-profile Koch official and ally, Cultural Affairs commissioner Bess Myerson, was accused and eventually indicted for improperly conspiring with a judge in order to fix a divorce case in favor of Myerson’s mob-linked lover. Though there were no allegations that Koch obtained any financial benefit from the corruption, the wave of scandals undermined Koch’s prior claims that he would run a patronage-free city government.

 

Shortly afterward Koch suffered a stroke in 1987 while in office, but was able to continue with his duties.

 

Koch became a controversial figure in the 1988 presidential campaign with his very public criticism of Democratic candidate Jesse Jackson, who had surprised many political observers by winning key primaries in March and running even with the front runner, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. As the April New York primary approached, Koch reminded voters of Jackson’s alleged anti-semitism and said that Jews would be “crazy” to vote for Jackson. Koch endorsed Tennessee Senator Al Gore, who had run well in his native south, but hadn’t won 20% in a northern state. As Koch’s anti Jackson rhetoric intensified, Gore seemed to shy away from Koch. On primary day, Gore finished a weak third place with 10% of the vote and dropped out of the race. Jackson ran ten points behind Dukakis, whose nomination became assured after his NY win.

 

In 1989, he ran for a fourth term as Mayor but lost the Democratic primary to David Dinkins, who went on to defeat Rudy Giuliani in the general election. Koch’s anti-Jackson campaign in 1988 had angered many black voters, likely playing a major role in Koch’s defeat and the victory of Dinkins.

 

 

Personal life

Koch was a lifelong bachelor, and his sexual orientation became an issue in the 1977 mayoral election with the appearance of placards and posters (disavowed by the Cuomo campaign) with the slogan “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo.” Koch denounced the attack. During the campaign and after becoming mayor, Koch began attending public events with former Miss America, well-known television game show panelist and consumer advocate Bess Myerson.

 

Koch refused comment on his sexual history, writing:

What do I care? I’m 73 years old. I find it fascinating that people are interested in my sex life at age 73. It’s rather complimentary! But as I say in my book, my answer to questions on this subject is simply “Fuck off.” There have to be some private matters left.

 

Randy Shilts, in And the Band Played On, his influential history of the early AIDS epidemic in America, discussed the possibility that Koch ignored the developing epidemic in New York City in 1982–1983 because he was afraid of lending credence to rumors of his homosexuality. Author and activist Larry Kramer described the former mayor as a “closeted gay man” whose fear of being ‘outed‘ kept him from aggressively addressing the AIDS epidemic in New York City in the early 1980s.

 

Kramer lampooned Koch’s sexuality and perceived indifference to the plight of AIDS victims inThe Normal Heart, in which the protagonist, an AIDS activist, lamented that the only way to get the mayor’s attention was to “hire a hunky hustler and send him up to Gracie Mansion with our plea tattooed on his cock.” John Cameron Mitchell‘s movie Shortbus featured a gay Koch-like older gentleman lamenting his poor choices while mayor of New York City. In the 2009 Kirby Dick documentary Outrage, investigative journalist Wayne Barrett of The Village Voice stated that Koch was gay.

 

 

Death

On January 19, 2013, Koch was admitted to the hospital because he was lethargic and had swollen ankles. He was released on January 26. It was the third time in the previous six months he had been hospitalized. Two days after his release, he was readmitted into NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital after complaining of shortness of breath and fluid on his lungs. He was moved to the ICU unit on January 31. He died at approximately 2AM February 1, 2013 of heart failure.

 

Ed Koch’s final resting place is at Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan. His tombstone is inscribed with the words “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”, followed by a Jewish prayer and the epitaph he wrote himself- “He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”

 

 

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3 Responses

  1. He was a great mayor. We all prospered when he was in office.

    Like

  2. I am so sorry for his loss … He was a great mayor … May he rest peacefully forever … Amen …

    Like

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