February 1st, 2013

Quintessential New Yorker…

…and former NY Mayor Ed Koch is dead of heart failure at 88.

He was mayor from ’78 to ’89. The adjectives that quickly come to my mind—and probably to everybody’s mind—when thinking of him are colorful, flamboyant, outspoken. He was a special kind of character that New York City seems to specialize in.

The following is just about what you’d expect of Koch, isn’t it?:

Koch was born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants Louis and Joyce Koch. During the Depression the family lived in Newark, NJ.

The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He attended City College and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II, earning his sergeant stripes.

I hadn’t known this, either:

While mayor, he wrote three books including the best-seller “Mayor,” ”Politics” and “His Eminence and Hizzoner,” written with Cardinal John O’Connor. He wrote seven other nonfiction books, four mystery novels and three children’s books after leaving office.

Politics? Well, of course, he was a liberal. That almost goes without saying, and there’s not much I can say about that except I came to disagree with him (strongly). His terms, especially in the latter years, were beset by some problems, and New Yorkers finally (as he himself noted) got tired of him.

But this is the kind of New Yorker he was:

At age 83, Koch paid $20,000 for a burial plot at Trinity Church Cemetery, at the time the only graveyard in Manhattan that still had space.

“I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone,” Koch told The Associated Press. “This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.”

And this was the kind of Jew he was, and what kind of American:

Not long after buying the plot, he had his tombstone inscribed and installed. The marker features the last words of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”

It also includes a Jewish prayer and the epitaph he wrote after his stroke:

“He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”


8 Responses to “Quintessential New Yorker…”

  1. blert Says:

    IIRC, Alexander Hamilton is in that graveyard — which is at the head of Wall Street — literally a stones throw from the NYSE front door.

    It’s hard to believe, but for decades, that church’s steeple was the tallest structure in New York — and in North America.

    The ‘space available’ was a joke, of course; space is only available for mayors and governors — and only a handful at that.

    It took his connection to the Cardinal to get him in — of course.


    In the film “Ghostbusters” there is an allusion to the very tight relationship between the Mayor and the Cardinal…. It was an inside joke that the Mayor ran all of his biggest decisions past the Cardinal.

  2. Occam's Beard Says:

    Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”

    AND … he was a Democrat.

    Reflect on that for a minute.

  3. Charles Says:

    Ed Koch was also one who held his beliefs very dearly; but, didn’t “hate” others like so many poltiicans do today.

    He will be missed . . .

    P.S. blert, I think you might have the graveyards confused. Yes, Hamilton is at Trinity Church’s graveyard, just a stone’s throw from Wall Street. But Ed Koch will be buried at their 155 and Amsterdam Ave cemetary – up town, WAY up town. (Still in Manhattan though, which is what Hizzoner wanted)

    Also, Trinity Church is an Episcopal Church, the Cardinal is Roman Catholic. Not sure if you are joking about the connection to get into the graveyard or not.

  4. beverly Says:

    He also said that the one person he truly despised was Jimmy Carter.

    On the other hand, he wrote a nasty book about Giuliani when Rudy was elected and started to clean up the crime problem, which really escaped Ed.

    On yet another hand, I’ll never forget how he said, in the week after Sept. 11th, what a comfort it was that “Mother England” had played our National Anthem at Buckingham Palace. That, in one remark, crystallized for me how primally wounded we all (well, we Americans) were: like hurt children, turning to Mother England for comfort, indeed.

    But he was of that generation, who were taught the facts of our founding and to honor it; how we sprang from England’s ideals, and had to grow up, fight her, and leave home.

  5. beverly Says:

    Ah, found the quote! it was Al D’amato who said it, but Ed seconded the sentiment:

    “Al: And bless Mother England. They’re there, shoulder-to-shoulder, thank God.

    Ed: Yes. Thank God.”

    Here’s another bit (this was in the days right after the attacks):

    Ed: The Israelis every day. I’m glad that Bush referred to this as a war. You have to punish the countries that support terrorists. The retaliation has to be enormous. Furious.

    Al: What you need is a massive fist.

    Ed: And I’m glad, frankly, that Bush is there on this issue, because I don’t think that Gore would have done it. It would have been a light tap.

    Al: Absolutely. And it’s not going to be easy. You have Iran. Iraq. Syria. All of them, at this time, are funneling money into these terrorism networks. And already, you have Ramsey Clark leading this nonviolent movement —

    Ed: What bullshit. The fact is, we didn’t respond when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. We didn’t respond when the USS Cole was bombed. Not responding simply encourages terrorists.

    Al: I hope we don’t make the same mistake we’ve made in the past. We let Saddam off the hook. Some idiot in Bush’s press department convinced him to stop because the media said, “It’s terrible what we’re doing to the Iraqis.”

    Ed: What they said is, “This is a turkey shoot.” What’s wrong with a turkey shoot?”

    Okay, here’s the article: http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/politics/columns/rightwrong/5228/
    Koch still resented Giuliani (really hated him) but he also had Sharpton’s number and detested him, and pegged Mark Green as a “radical.” True, dat.

  6. Gary Rosen Says:

    Koch wasn’t perfect – liberal Democrat (OK I was too at the time), hated Giuianai, probably because Rudi succeeded in finishing what Ed barely started. But he was as straight a shooter as you’ll get for a politician of that importance.

    Great comment in Althouse today. Somebody had praised Koch for not “caving to the race hustlers” and the response was “Caving to race hustlers was the good old days. Now the politicians are the race hustlers”.

  7. Ira Says:

    Koch became mayor after I, a Bronx boy who attended NYC public schools from kindergarten right through CCNY, had moved to California. (Note: I realized I was a conservative long before Neo-neocon realized that she was.) While I was living in LA, I still had my folks and many friends living in NYC. So, I followed news of NYC closely. Koch SAVED NYC. Thank G-d he became mayor. By the way, as much as some people think Koch was full of himself, in an interview recently the interviewer referred to Koch as “America’s mayor.” Koch immediately responded, “That’s Rudy Giuliani.”

  8. ziontruth Says:

    The Old School Dems are dying out. Soon nobody could know it was once possible to be a left-winger without being a Marxist traitor (excuse my use of redundancy).

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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