Ed Koch, thrice mayor of New York, has died. The 88-year-old succumbed to heart failure in a Manhattan hospital early Friday morning. A lawyer by trade, he turned to politics in the 1960s, and remained there until voted out of mayoral office in 1989. From then on, he moved was a mainstay in about every aspect of New York life, he worked as a TV judge to movie reviewer, wrote newspaper columns and even recipes. This career fluidity is one reason we can think of him as the city’s (and, indeed, the country’s) first Generation Flux mayor.
When Koch moved into City Hall in 1978, New York was almost bankrupt. He restored the city’s finances, pride, self-esteem, and perhaps some of his best work came as he returned 200,000 housing units into places people could call home. Many neighborhoods, once no-go areas, became somewhere their residents could be proud of. After David Dinkins stopped his ambitions for a record-breaking fourth term, Koch flitted around several arenas, his outspokenness, ebullience and ability to crack wise gave him a new audience, even into the last month of his life.
On Friday, Poynter.org recalled a conversation Koch had in 2008 when he said his headstone would reflect the admiration for slain journalist Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded while working on a story in Pakistan.
“The marker will bear the Star of David and a Hebrew prayer, ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.'” he said. “It also will be inscribed with the last words of journalist Daniel Pearl before he was murdered by terrorists in 2002: ‘My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.’”
But it is perhaps this line in today’s obit in the New York Times, which is being quoted and re-tweeted across the Big Apple, that best sums up one of Gotham’s most legendary mayors: “Mr. Koch,” wrote Robert McFadden, “is survived by New York itself.”
[Image by Flickr user swedennewyork]