Queens remembers Ed Koch

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Former New York Mayor Ed Koch listens during the 9th annual National Action Network convention in 2007. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Former mayor Ed Koch visits the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston. Photo by Frank Nocerito
Aurora Gareiss (l.) and Virginia Dent join former Mayor Ed Koch. Photo by Frank Nocerito
Former Mayor Ed Koch (r.) endorses state Sen. Joseph Addabbo in 2012. Photo courtesy Jennifer Galvin
Ed Koch sits down with the Vallone family for dinner. Photo courtesy Peter Vallone Jr.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is joined by Ed Koch in Forest Hills. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ed Koch enjoys a laugh with Emily Scheuer and her husband U.S. Rep. James Scheuer at the latter’s 70th birthday celebration in 1990. Photo by Walter Karling
Ed Koch says hello to then City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. at the Americans of Italian Heritage Unity Day celebration at the Reception House as then Queens Borough President Claire Shulman looks on. Photo by Walter Karling
Queens Borough President Donald Manes (l.) and City Councilman Archie Spigner join Ed Koch at LaGuardia Airport in 1979. Photo by Walter Karling
Ed Koch (c.) views planned improvements at the Flushing Library in 1985 with Myra Baird Herce (l.) and Linda Shostal. Photo by Walter Karling
On tour of Flushing near the historic Bowne House, Ed Koch (r.) receives a framed aerial view of the area in 1985 from Linda Shostal, the executive director of the Downtown Flushing Development Corporation and Community Board 7 members Regina Colletta and Myra Baird Herce. Photo by Walter Karling
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (c.) thanks Ed Koch for his support. Photo by Christina Santucci

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 januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 8:48 pm, February 7, 2013
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