As regular readers know, I’ve often quoted the great Mayor Ed Koch. He was inspirational — thoughtful, witty and brilliant.
Koch was a legend.
Sadly, he died last Friday, at age 88.
He was a man of honor and loyalty. He had a deep love for his family, his friends and his causes, especially New York City, the Democratic Party and Israel.
He was never afraid to call ’em as he saw ’em. He crossed party lines and supported those he thought would best serve their country. For example, in the 2011 election for the Brooklyn House seat left vacant by Anthony Weiner, Koch endorsed Republican Bob Turner because he believed President Obama had turned his back on Israel.
Koch was a man of his beliefs.
For those of you too young to remember, New York City in the 1970s was a place where the streets were filled with crime and racial tension. Between 1969 and 1977, the city lost 620,000 jobs during an economic downturn, and 1 million residents fled the area. Koch assumed control in 1978, and knew that the only way the city was going to be saved was through economic development and revitalization.
He cut spending, put extremely tough fiscal policies in place and encouraged redevelopment. Within five years, the city had turned a $1 billion deficit into a $500 million surplus. With more financial room to breathe, Koch was able to double the city’s annual budget, and oversaw $19 billion worth of capital improvements. He brought life to the greatest city in the world.
There are so many “Kochisms” that will live on indefinitely. There’s the great story of him standing on the Brooklyn Bridge in the face of a mass transit strike, yelling at the people of New York to walk over the bridge because “We’re not going to let these bastards bring us to our knees!” And now the great mayor has his own bridge, named in his honor.
I had many good laughs with my old friend. He loved to share a particular story. After his loss to David Dinkins in the Democratic primary, he went out for a walk to do some shopping and restock his refrigerator in the first week after leaving office. When you’re the mayor, you don’t do much of your own shopping, and it was the first time in decades that Koch was walking down a Manhattan street as a private citizen.