I thought Ed Koch would never die. But he went this morning. Koch, despite being a Democrat and self-professed liberal, was one of the key figures to reviving New York. He was tough on crime, supported the death penalty and pushed back against the unions. When he took over, New York was on the verge of bankruptcy and descending into a crime-ridden hell. By the time he left, the city was rebounding. He paved the way for Giuliani to bring it all the way back (only for Bloomberg to turn into a Nanny State). After leaving office, he frequently endorsed Republicans like Giuliani, Pitaki, Bush and Christie. He opposed Obama on Israel. I didn’t agree with him on everything, obviously. But I think he was always straight about what he thought and believed.
In 1978, New York City was crumbling and the leading indicator of America’s seemingly irreversible decline. The South Bronx, once a thriving middle-class neighborhood, had became a national symbol of urban horror. From 1960 to 1980, New York’s murder rate tripled. Out-of-control spending had brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy, leading to a state takeover of its finances. The city’s subway was plauged [sic] by crime, graffiti, and equipment breakdowns.
On July 13th, 1977, the city reached its nadir when a 24-hour blackout gave way to mass looting. Bushwick, a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, was practically burned to the ground.
Then in 1978, Edward Irving Koch became New York’s 105th Mayor.
A veteran congressman from Manhattan, Koch’s chutzpah was exactly what the city needed. A self-proclaimed “liberal with sanity,” Koch took on special interests, he put the city’s finances back in order, and showed that it was not only possible to govern but to have fun doing it.
Koch gained a national reputation by being the quintessential New Yorker: A Bronx-born ethnic whose disparaging remarks about life outside the city may well have sunk his 1981 bid for the governor’s mansion in Albany. Long presumed to be gay, Koch kept mum about his personal life while pushing for social tolerance. His symbolic and practical role in the Big Apple’s multi-decade renaissance is as huge as his appetite for publicity.
RIP, Mr. Mayor.