Ed Koch: a collection of favorite New York minutes with the mayor
Ed Koch, a three-term mayor of New York, died Friday. His trademark 'How'm I doin'?' – as much a challenge as a question – was as brash as the city he led for 11 years. Here's our remembrance of some defining Koch moments.
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The question – an Ed Koch trademark – came at the four of us as we slipped out of a taxi in 1978 in Greenwich Village. And there he stood, the man himself. Caught unawares, we all yelled back, "Great!"
What we didn't realize was that CBS's "60 Minutes" had a film crew trailing hizzonor. As the mayor shouted at us, the cameraman swung around to capture the moment. That brief encounter with the legendary Mr. Koch, who died Friday, became the teaser – right before the tick, tick, tick – for the news show's segment.
Over many years since then, I, like many reporters, had more substantive conversations with Koch, who invariably had an opinion about the topic du jour – and was more than willing to share it. Here are some Koch classics.
In September 2011, Koch – who might be characterized as an independent Democrat – announced he would endorse Bob Turner, a Republican, over a Democrat in a special election to replace disgraced Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner in a district that spanned Brooklyn and Queens. The endorsement, he explained, had nothing to do with the candidates: It was all about his perception that President Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” and it was important to let him know.
“I think the message is, don’t take the Jewish constituency for granted – and this district has the largest Jewish constituency in the nation,” Koch said at the time. Mr. Turner went on to win in the heavily Democratic district, thanks in large part to Koch’s endorsement, including taped robocalls.
In November 1997, Koch admitted he had voted for Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, for a second term as mayor of New York, saying he felt the quality of life had improved under his administration. But Koch also said he disliked Mr. Giuliani's bullying style.
“If you are not a sycophant, he destroys you,” he told the Monitor.
Koch always stood ready to explain the complexities of politics – no matter that the issue didn't involve him. For instance, Giuliani faced a hard choice in 1994: whether to endorse sitting Gov. Mario Cuomo for reelection or fellow Republican George Pataki, then a state senator.
If Giuliani were to endorse Mr. Cuomo, Koch reasoned, the backing could come back to haunt him. “Pataki will carry a grudge,” he said. “You have certain expectations as a politician, and if they are not fulfilled, you feel betrayed.”