February 1, 2013

Ed Koch, New York's feisty mayor, dies at 88

The Associated Press

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Ed Koch was a famously combative politician who rescued New York City from near-financial ruin during three terms as mayor.

AP

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In this Aug. 30, 2004, photo, former New York Mayor Ed Koch speaks at the first day of the Republican National Convention in New York.

AP

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Reaction to death of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch:

"In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader. Through his tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship, Ed helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback." —New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
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"Although we disagreed on politics ... I have found that he was never a phony or a hypocrite. He would not patronize or deceive you. He said what he meant. He meant what he said. He fought for what he believed." — Rev. Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network.
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"He's the guy who saved our city. He paid off the loans on the federal government, ahead of time. So he did a lot of good stuff." —Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins.
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"Ed Koch personified the spirit of New York. New York's mayor for life is now New York's mayor for eternity. May he rest in peace." — U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
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"He once said, 'I don't want to leave Manhattan, even when I'm gone. This is my home.' Ed Koch will never leave New York City. He will exist forever in our hearts, and in the millions of lives he touched." —New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

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"Ed Koch embodied the highest ideals of public service, and his life was dedicated toward making New York— the city and our state — a better place for all." — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
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"New York would not be the safest big city in America today if Ed Koch hadn't spearheaded one of the most important criminal justice reforms in New York City's history as mayor: selecting Criminal Court judges based on merit instead of political connections." — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
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"We will miss his keen mind, sharp wit and absolute devotion to making a great city the best in the world. While we mourn his loss, we know that the legacy of his mayoralty, his commitment to civil rights and affordable housing, and his civic leadership long after he left City Hall, will live on for generations." —New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

"Ed was a guy to whom I could turn if I wanted a straight answer," he told Fox 5 News.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg saluted Koch as "a civic savior for our city in desperate times," saying "the whole city was crumbling" when Koch was elected.

"When we were down, Ed Koch picked us up. When we were worried, he gave us confidence. When someone needed a good kick in the rear, he gave it to them - and, if you remember, he enjoyed it," Bloomberg said.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remembered Koch as a fierce advocate for his city and a friend "whose convictions ran deep."

The Clintons recalled Koch as a man with a personality big enough to match the nation's largest city. They call him a leader who "stood up for the underprivileged and underrepresented" in every corner of New York.

A lifelong bachelor who lived in Greenwich Village, Koch championed gay rights, taking on the Roman Catholic Church and scores of political leaders. His own sexual orientation was the subject of speculation and rumors. During his 1977 mayoral campaign against Mario Cuomo, posters that read "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo" mysteriously appeared in some neighborhoods.

Koch offered a typically blunt response to questions about his sexuality: "My answer to questions on this subject is simply, 'F--- off.' There have to be some private matters left."

Koch was also proudly Jewish and an outspoken supporter of Israel.

After leaving office, he continued to offer his opinions as a political pundit, movie reviewer, food critic and judge on "The People's Court." Even in his 80s, he exercised regularly and worked as a lawyer.

Describing himself as "a liberal with sanity," Koch pursued a fearlessly independent course. When President George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, Democrat Koch supported him and spoke at the GOP convention. He also endorsed Bloomberg's re-election at a time when Bloomberg was a Republican.

Edward Irving Koch was born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants. During the Depression the family lived in Newark, N.J.

The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He attended City College of New York and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II.

He received a law degree from New York University in 1948 and began his political career in Greenwich Village as a liberal Democratic reformer, beating the powerful old-school party boss Carmine DeSapio in a race for district leader.

Koch was elected to the City Council and then to Congress, serving from 1969 to 1977 as the representative from the wealthy East Side's "Silk Stocking" district.

His politics edged to the center of the political spectrum during his years in Congress and pulled to the right on a number of issues after he became mayor.

Drugs? Send convicted dealers to concentration camps in the desert. Decaying buildings? Paint phony windows with cheery flowerpots on brick facades. Overcrowded jails? Stick inmates on floating prison barges.

With New York in dire financial condition in 1977, Koch defeated Mayor Abe Beame and Cuomo in the Democratic primary to win his first term in City Hall. He breezed to re-election in 1981 and 1985, winning an unprecedented three-quarters of the votes cast.

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Additional Photos

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In this March 8, 1987, photo, New York Mayor Ed Koch gives a lift to Broadway dancer Ann Reinking during a performance of political satire on at the annual Inner Circle gathering of the New York Press Club in New York.

AP

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In this Oct. 17, 1980, photo, New York Mayor Ed Koch gestures as he escorts Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan into Gracie Mansion in New York.

AP

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This 1944 file photo shows Ed Koch during his service in the U.S. Army in France.

AP



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