Remembering Koch Across N.Y. & Nation
Hours following reports of former Mayor Ed Koch’s death last Friday, Feb. 1, elected officials across the city and state issued statements offering their condolences and remembering him as a public servant and outspoken leader who had a deep and profound love of New York City-and worked diligently to improve it.
Among those who mourned his passing were officials who were part of the Koch administration, including Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes. Between 1981 and 1984, Hynes served Koch as the fire commissioner.
“It was an honor to serve as fire commissioner during his administration,” Hynes stated. “He always asked, ‘How am I doing?’ Ed, you did magnificent!”
State Sen. Tony Avella served as Koch’s Queens representative between 1984 and 1989. He recalled that, toward the end of his term, Koch provided Avella with a signed picture and a letter “grateful for all that we had accomplished in the years before on behalf of the city we loved.”
“For Koch, there was no problem too small or too big to address on behalf of his constituents throughout the city,” Avella said in his statement. “If it was important to them, it was important to Mayor Koch. Years later, as an elected official, I modeled my governing style after his, always staying true to the people who elected you. He was always trying to find ways to make the city better, and his lasting legacy will be that the city is in a far better place thanks to Mayor Koch.”
Another member of the Koch administration was State Sen. Malcolm Smith, who served as an aide to the former mayor. “I was able to learn a lot from him, and it was truly a pleasure to work for one of the greatest mayors that this city has ever seen,” Smith said.
New York City’s incumbent leader, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ordered all flags on all city buildings to fly at half-mast in Koch’s memory. He remembered the 105th mayor as “an irrepressible icon, our most charismatic cheerleader and champion.”
“Through his tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship, Ed helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback,” Bloomberg said. “We will miss him dearly, but his good works-and his wit and wisdom-will forever be a part of the city he loved so much.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo-whose father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, had a rivalry with Koch that included battles in the 1977 mayoral race and the 1982 race for governor-remembered the late mayor as a mentor, noting that “many times in my life, I have turned to Ed Koch for his advice and guidance.” The current governor noted that he offered well wishes to Koch the day before he died.
“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,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “No New Yorker has- or likely ever will-voice their love for New York City in such a passionate and outspoken manner than Ed Koch. New York City would not be the place it is today without Ed Koch’s leadership over three terms at City Hall. Mr. Mayor was never one to shy away from taking a stand that he believed was right, no matter what the polls said or what was politically correct.”
President Barack Obama also offered his condolences to the city on the loss of Koch, stating that the late mayor was a “irrepressible character and quintessential New Yorker.”
“He took office at a time when New York was in fiscal crisis, and helped his city achieve economic renewal, expand affordable housing, and extend opportunity to more of its people,” Obama said. “In public office and beyond, his energy, force of personality, and commitment to causes ranging from civic issues to the security of the state of Israel always informed and enlivened the public discourse. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Ed’s loved ones, and to the city that survives him.”
Other elected officials and organizations offering statement of grief included the following:
– City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that “Mayor Koch was never one to back down from a fight, and never above reaching out to a stranger to offer his help. Throughout my years in government, some of my proudest and fondest moments have been working and fighting by his side.”
– Public Advocate Bill de Blasio remembered Koch for helping to end the city’s fiscal crisis in the 1970s, revitalizing the South Bronx and giving New Yorkers hope. “He simply wouldn’t let New York City fail. Like many, I often disagreed with Ed, but I also got to know and learn from this great man, with a heart and mind as big as the city he loved,” he added.
– City Comptroller John Liu stated that Koch “was a true New Yorker, outspoken and feisty to the very end,” adding that he left “an indelible imprint on the city.”
– Queens Borough President Helen Marshall called Koch “the quintessential New Yorker,” adding that “his housing program, his fiscal management that brought our city back from the ledge, his leadership and spirit will be just a portion of the great legacy he leaves behind.”
“How did he do? He did fine … just fine,” Marshall said.
– Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly remarked that “In many ways, Ed Koch never stopped being mayor. He was personally engaged in the issues of the day, including those involving the Police Department, frequently seeking information from us and offering his opinion personally and writing.” Kelly added that he was priviliged to speak with Koch “before he finally left New York for someplace better, although he’d probably argue that’s not possible.”
– Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty said that Koch “will be remembered as the mayor who turned around the Department of Sanitation by rebuilding its aging infrastructure, purchasing new collection trucks, fixing up crumbling garages, and advocating for a cleaner environment. But more importantly, he will be remembered as a tireless advocate and supporter of the department.”
– Attorney General Eric Schneiderman noted that, aside from Koch’s years as mayor, “his commitment to civil rights and affordable housing, and his civic leadership after he left City Hall, will live on for generations.”
– Sen. Charles Schumer credited Koch for helping to “save the city and, perhaps most important of all, gave it confidence when it was beginning to doubt itself, which helped pave the way for growth and prosperity we’re still experiencing today.”
– Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand remembered her last conversation with Koch-which she said included topics such as Middle East policy to Chinese food-and said that the former mayor “was as singular and unique to New York City as the Empire State Building.”
– Rep. Carolyn Maloney recalled many memories of her experiences with Koch in a press release, including his efforts to calm New Yorkers during the 1980 transit strike by “standing on the Brooklyn Bridge … and cheering on pedestrians,” adding that “he let people know: ‘We’re in this together, and we’re going to be fine.'”
– Rep. Joseph Crowley added that “with fierce determination and leadership, [Koch] guided our city through one of the most difficult times in our history, and we emerged stronger because of it.”
– Former Rep. Bob Turner called Koch “a shrewd and honest civil servant, he was never shy to speak his mind and stand up for what he believed to be in the best interest of New Yorkers and all Americans.” He added that “this honesty and bravado led to the beginning of our unique and cherished friendship.”
– State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo recalled that he met Koch many times “through his friendship and working relationship with my father,” the late- Rep. Joseph P. Addabbo Sr. “Later, I had the great opportunity of working with Ed on government reform and had the honor of having his endorsement for my campaigns,” the state senator said. “A symbol of good government and hard work, throughout the years, Ed kept his focus on the people’s interest and needs.”
– City Council Member Diana Reyna recalled Koch “for his love and dedication to the City of New York,” adding that his “legacy extends far past his three terms; Koch distinguished himself as a tireless champion of all people in the five boroughs. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten. His faith in our city to rebound built a foundation so that communities like Greenpoint/ Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood would come to see better days.”
– New York Press Club President Larry Seary stated that many of its members “will long remember the thousands of missives he gave us and the pages of copy brightened by his words.”
– Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio spoke on behalf of the Catholic community in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens in mourning Koch’s passing, stating that “he never forgot the common folk, even as he transcended to greatness and became a legend.”
“He was as concerned about residents in the outer boroughs as much as he was for those in Manhattan,” DiMarzio said, adding that Koch “recently again showed his support for Catholic schools by backing a proposal for tax credits for parochial school parents.”