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Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch Dies at 88

The former Mayor of New York City passed away early Friday morning from congestive heart failure.

Edward I. Koch, who served three terms as mayor of New York, died early Friday.

He was 88.

The former mayor died at around 2 a.m. from congestive heart failure while being treated at New York-Presbyterian Columbia Hospital.   

Koch served as mayor from 1978 to 1989, solidifying a reputation as a colorful, candid and tough New Yorker who led the city through an era of almost continuous discord. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment: Leading the city government up and out of bankruptcy after the financial disaster of the 1970s.

Koch became New York's mayor after he came from way behind to win a heated Democratic primary against other city political behomoths, including future Gov. Mario Cuomo and incumbent Mayor Abe Beame.

Reaction to Koch's passing was swift.

"With the passing of Ed Koch, New York has lost one of our most admired public leaders, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "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. From his days on the front lines of World War II, his time in Congress, to his leadership as Mayor guiding New York City through difficult years, Ed Koch never strayed from his unwavering commitment to serving others."

Added Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: "All of Brooklyn joins in mourning the passing of one of our city’s greatest and most charismatic leaders, Mayor Ed Koch. Although he was born in the Bronx and raised in Newark, Mayor Koch lived with his family in Brooklyn as a young man, and I have no doubt it’s where he got the Brooklyn attitude, swagger and “chutzpah” that made him such a character and helped him navigate New York City through some of its most challenging times."

Markowitz added that the Brooklyn flag over Borough Hall will be lowered in remembrance of this "one-of-a-kind New York icon, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues."

Koch is credited by most political experts for digging New York out of bankruptcy. In his obit, the New York Times said that in his first term, he "held down spending, subdued the municipal unions, restored the city’s creditworthiness, revived a moribund capital budget, began work on long-neglected bridges and streets, cut antipoverty programs and tried to reduce the friction between Manhattan and the more tradition-minded other boroughs."

Hif first-term success led to an easy re-election campaign, where he earned 75 percent of the vote. With an improved economy, he hired workers and restored services - all as the once-bankrupt city operated in a surplus. In 1985, he won a third term, coasting with 78 percent of the vote.

But his third term was rocky and it led to the end of his career as an elected official. A Parking Violations Bureau scandal didn't implicate Koch specifically, but it rocked his administration.

It was the same scandal that did implicate the Queens Borough President at the time, Donald Manes. Manes resigned - and then killed himself.

Koch also dealt with racial discord during his third term. After 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson called New York "hymietown," Koch said a Jew would be crazy to vote for Jackson, who at the time was in a competitive race against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis for the right to run against then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Then in August 1989, a 16-year-old black man, Yusuf Hawkins, was attacked and shot to death by a gang of white kids when we went to Bensonhurst to see a used car. The Brooklyn crime rocked the city.

Koch would lose his bid for a fourth term to David Dinkins, who then edged Rudolph Giuliani in a racially-charged election. Though Dinkins won, about seven in 10 white voters supported the Republican.

Four years later, Giuliani would defeat Dinkins.

Meanwhile, Koch hardly stayed out of the limelight. He became a talk show host, a TV celebrity of sorts, and even a Snapple pitchman.

He remained politically active until the end, endorsing President Barack Obama in late October as he fought off a challenge from Mitt Romney. But that didn't mean Koch, combative until his dying days, didn't go after the president.

At an election night celebration for Rep. Bob Turner in 2011, Koch said that he liked the president, but "Obama threw Israel under the bus."

It was Koch's anger towards Obama's Israel policy that led him to support Turner, a Republican.

Carol Anthony February 06, 2013 at 04:06 AM
@Paul--Sorry for being so foolish. I actually liked Koch. But the fact that even New Yorkers refer to their city as "The city" sort of smacks of being "full of yourself". Koch had the same attitude, and it was quintessentially New York. Also, I lived in NYC for 20 years, with addresses in every borough, including the South Bronx, so I can assure you, I am quite familiar with the "reality" or "real world" of NYC, both good and bad. Just because someone is a great mayor doesn't mean he isn't full of himself.
Jim February 06, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Carol - you are not very worldly. People who live in or just outside Rochester, Albany, Cleveland and every other city large and small refer to their city as "the city". It is not just a New York thing.
Patti February 06, 2013 at 02:51 PM
If you run for a political office you are full of yourself. Not always a bad thing just how it goes. Jim, those other cities you refer to their city as "the city" may be correct all small letters. Most people in the world would agree NYC is THE CITY.
Carol Anthony February 07, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Hey, Jim--We all speak from our own experience, and maybe I haven't lived in as many different cities as you have. But I have lived in more than a few, and I honestly had never heard anyone refer to their city--regardless of how famous it might be--- as "The City", as if it were the ONLY one--until I moved to New York. But the point is really not worth this debate. Have a super sparkly day.
BRADY February 07, 2013 at 04:06 AM
How exactly does not knowing about people who live in or just outside Rochester ,Albany,Cleveland make someone not "Very Worldly"

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