Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of late Mayor Ed Koch last week as the outspoken and charismatic lawmaker was remembered in Queens with both fondness and sadness following his death at age 88.
Koch, who served as mayor from 1978-89, died from congestive heart failure at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Reuters reported.
Many borough lawmakers had close dealings with Koch, who took office during a tumultuous time in the city’s fiscal history, and many recalled his unique way of engaging the public.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) described campaigning with the venerable lawmaker decades ago when they were bombarded by egg throwers in Manhattan. She apologized to Koch, but he was unfazed.
“He just smiled and turned to me and said, ‘Not to worry, in my mind they’re all cheers!’”
The late mayor has been credited with pulling the city out of fiscal turmoil in the late 1970s and imbuing the population with a sense of hope.
But it was also during Koch’s tenure that former Borough President Donald Manes was accused of overseeing graft and kickbacks that flowed in and out of Borough Hall. He later committed suicide. Cataloged in the nonfiction book, “City for Sale,” the city’s Parking Violations Bureau served as a main venue for the dishonesty that plagued the borough’s government.
But that was not Koch’s enduring legacy in Queens, where he was remembered with great affection last week.
Many recited some of Koch’s famous acerbic witticisms.
Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., who served during part of Koch’s tenure, remembered the mayor saying: “If you agree with me nine out of 12 times, vote for me. If you agree with me 12 out of 12 times, see a psychiatrist.”
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) served in a low-level post in the Koch administration, and more than a decade later ran for his current seat against a candidate endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party.
Nobody in the political establishment backed him except Koch, the councilman said, pointing out that the late mayor “changed his life.”
Later in life, Koch was also an outspoken supporter of independent redistricting and gave out much-coveted political endorsements in Queens’ political races — some of them controversial.
In 2011, Koch endorsed U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village), which TimesLedger Newspapers disagreed with in an editorial.
Koch, who always made himself available to the media and kept tabs on the local press, wrote a letter to the editor accusing this newspaper of “ageism” with his trademark blunt speech.
“Am I suffering from dementia because I am supporting a different candidate for Congress than you are?” he wrote.
In 2011, the Queensboro Bridge was renamed for Koch, a move that created controversy at the time. Lawmakers and this newspaper opposed the renaming, but Koch himself reveled in it and was once filmed yelling to motorists: “Welcome to my bridge!”
Koch was born in 1924 to a Bronx Jewish family and attended City College before earning a law degree from New York University. He served as a city councilman and congressman before becoming mayor. After leaving office, Koch was a mainstay on political talk programs and prolific author and movie critic.
He was buried in Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan.
Reach reported Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community News Group
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