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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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Any Neil Simon portrayal of a New Yorker would look and sound a lot like Koch. The three-term mayor loved to have Sunday brunch in the Village with an assortment of other New Yorkers. He loved bagels and other fattening foods, and so was almost always trying to diet. Koch acknowledged he wasn’t much of a sports fan, but like many New Yorkers he did love going to the movies.

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"Have you read my movie reviews?” he once asked me. He put me on his distribution list. The movie reviews were quintessential Koch: They always got straight to the point.

His Jan. 7 review of “The Impossible,” about the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, vaulted right to superstorm Sandy, which hit the New York region at the end of October, and from there to House Speaker John Boehner's decision not allow a vote on emergency aid to storm-ravaged areas. Koch called it “the most perfidious act of Congress that I can recall.”

His "movie" review then recounted how Mr. Boehner “got the message” and scheduled the vote in mid-January. New York got its money. "All’s well that ends well,” wrote Koch.


Koch, who left office in 1989, was also fond of writing what he termed “commentaries,” and he did not confine himself only to things New York. Here's his take on how to resolve the recent "fiscal cliff" impasse in Washington: shame officials into action. 

"We Americans should shame our legislators and the President into doing their jobs, which include adopting a budget and ten-year plan that will put our house in order,” Koch wrote in a Dec.11, 2012, missive, started while he was in the hospital recovering from an illness.

He recounted a favorite story about taking over as mayor in 1977 when the city was on the brink of bankruptcy. In three years, New York was back in the black, wrote a proud Koch.

“Based on my experience, there is only one common sense way to balance a budget: cut expenses and increase revenues in some combination,” he informed Mr. Obama and Congress. He also suggested six ways to raise more revenue and two ways to cut expenses.

After the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Koch called for a national day of commemoration every Dec. 17, when Americans would stop whatever they were doing and pause to observe a moment of silence. “It is my hope that an annual commemoration of this sort may raise everyone’s consciousness as to the need to control the level of senseless violence in our society,” he wrote.

Koch, unlike many former and current politicians, was readily available to talk on the phone. After a short hold, he would pick up the receiver, which is what people used back in the day. “Ed Koch,” he always said. “What do you need?”

Whether you agreed with him or not, he had an opinion.


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