Shalom, Ed Koch: a New Yorker’s eulogy

ed koch black and whiteAnother chapter of New York City history, and that of our country, has officially closed. Bronx born Mayor Edward I. Koch, the 105th Mayor of New York City, passed away Friday.

The iconoclastic political figure was a force of nature. A lawyer by profession, Koch began his early political career in the U.S. House of Representatives. His party affiliation was aligned with the Democratic Party, though he cross-endorsed candidates as recent as 2011. Koch used his political gravitas to voice his support for Republican, Bob Turner of New York’s 9th Congressional District over his Democratic Party’s pick, David Weprin. The election took place to fill Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat and Koch felt it was important to voice his opinion.

I am here this morning to suggest that the contested race in the 9th Congressional District be turned into a referendum allowing the voters of this district, the largest Jewish district in the country, to register a protest against the positions of President Obama and the Republican leadership.

Ed Koch, July 25, 2011.

ed koch nyc skylineKoch’s religious affiliation was of the Jewish faith. He had been a strong supporter of Israel, and yet he supported the  Catholic Church’s constructive role in the life of the city. Mayor Koch was often a guest at St. Patrick Cathedral’s  Christmas Midnight Mass where  he  warmly greeted the liturgical celebrants and a mutual cordial respect  existed. Though many of his views differed from that of the Church,  such divergent differences of opinion did not translate into oppressive  governing from the Mayor’s office. Mayor Koch and then Cardinal John O’Connor would  even share lunch and enjoy New York’s great Chinese culinary fare.

Koch faced challenging days as his  Mayoral tenure continued. The AIDS epidemic just had begun to spiral through the city’s districts and solutions  had been ferociously sought to stem the spread of the new disease. Mayor Koch’s decision to close gay bath houses was unpopular among many in the gay community at the time. So too, Koch drew much criticism over his handling of racially tense events, Rev. Al Sharpton often clashing with him. “Throughout his twelve years of being Mayor I was one of his most vociferous critics,” said Sharpton.

ed koch smilingI remember Ed Koch as a unifier. The beloved Mayor had a puckish sense of humor which endeared him to many. The Judds and Willie Nelson gained much fame in the 1980s, yet a video clip which caught my attention was Ricky Scagg’s “Country Boy,” featuring Mayor Ed Koch.

The catchy phrase, “How’m I doing?” provides another snapshot of Mayor Koch. He was not too proud to ask the ephemeral question. He truly sounded like a quintessential New Yorker expressing the phrase.

Fiscally, Koch was more conservative than many New York City politicians. According to The New York Sun’s Benjamin Smith, Koch had cut “7,000 city jobs.” In spite of difficult days, Koch was able to craft a brighter landscape for his beloved city.

Appreciation for Koch (who still had worked at a private job until recently) helped to generate a new title for the Queensboro Bridge to what has now become known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

Koch was a loveable character in New York’s story. He was straightforward and opinionated, but just the same, he appreciated the differences which comprise New York. Koch was able to “get” the bigger picture — he was not the mayoral micro manager. Perhaps that is why New Yorkers and many throughout the country found him refreshing.

We will miss Ed Koch, indeed. Shalom.

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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on World Chaos.

  2. Thank you, Tembisa for the Reblog!

  3. As a native New Yorker I remember Ed Koch in a vey fond way. He is a throwback to a time when whether you were on the right or left – somethings just made sense. He ran a city that was in rough shape at a rough time. Controversial, yet personally likable. One of the last sane Democrats from a party that has now become unrecognizable.

    • ‘Agree, he was Mayor during difficult times, and maintained common sense and civility. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, and was politically incorrect at times. Very likable personality!

  4. Very touching, very Personal, very different & Very well written.
    This article really captures Koch for who he was, A man who (certainly in his later years) would cross the Party Political divide for the best interests of the people & wasnt shy to speak up.

    • Thank you for the kind words. Koch’s actions came from the heart, very sincere man. Was glad that he was still alive when the movie about him had been released. Am sure this brought comfort to him, realizing how loved he was.

  5. Kathy, thanks for this great spotlight on Mayor Ed Koch. He was a brilliant politician who spoke with an urgency of here and now, and he did it with the confidence of a leader who had won many battles. A triumphant spirit. For anyone interested, Politico’s editorial writer, Roger Simon, gave a wonderful personal portrait of Mayor Koch as interviewed in 1988 presidential primary. It appears in today’s edition, Feb 5, 2013.

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