Former Mayor Ed Koch, the combative, acid-tongued politician who rescued the city from near-financial ruin during a three-term City Hall run in which he embodied New York chutzpah for the rest of the world, died Friday. He was 88.
Koch died at 2 a.m., spokesman George Arzt said. The funeral will be Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.
After leaving City Hall in January 1990, Koch battled assorted health problems and heart disease.
The larger-than-life Koch, who breezed through the streets of New York flashing his signature thumbs-up sign, won a national reputation with his feisty style. “How’m I doing?” was his trademark question to constituents, although the answer mattered little to Koch. The mayor always thought he was doing wonderfully.
Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city’s 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.
The mayor dismissed his critics as “wackos,” waged verbal war with developer Donald Trump ("piggy") and mayoral successor Rudolph Giuliani ("nasty man"), lambasted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and once reduced the head of the City Council to tears.
“I’m not the type to get ulcers,” he wrote in “Mayor,” his autobiography. “I give them.”
When President George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, Koch, a Democrat, crossed party lines to support him and spoke at the GOP convention. He also endorsed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election efforts at a time when Bloomberg was a Republican. Koch described himself as “a liberal with sanity.”
He was also an outspoken supporter of Israel, willing to criticize anyone, including President Barack Obama, over decisions Koch thought could indicate any wavering of support for that nation.
Under his watch from 1978-89, the city climbed out of near-financial ruin thanks to Koch’s tough fiscal policies and razor-sharp budget cuts, and subway service improved enormously. But homelessness and AIDS soared through the 1980s, and critics charged that City Hall’s responses were too little, too late.
Ed Koch was a real old school Democrat, a proper American Liberal. As far as I could ever tell, he was NOT a Marxist/Statist hiding being the false label of “Progressive”. I’m sad to see him go, but he was very sick there towards the end, and he is no longer suffering. Be with god, Ed. Shalom.
And I think I won the Weasel’s Dead Pool.
Barney Bush also died - 2000-2013 - I will miss him much more than Mr Koch.
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