My ambivance about Ed Koch

Edward I. Koch died recently. He was the brash, outspoken mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. You should watch this interview conducted in 2007, where he “reflected on his life and political career, and talked of how he would like to be remembered.” I would agree that he brought some fiscal stability to a city on the brink of bankruptcy, “turning a $1 billion budget deficit into a $500 million surplus in five years. He restored the city’s credit, doubled the annual budget to $26 billion and oversaw $19 billion in capital improvements.”

The year 1977 was tough for both NYCNY and me. The city had a blackout that led to widespread looting. A guy dubbed Son of Sam was going around shooting people. I had graduated from college the year before, and was underemployed in my college town the the autumn of 1976. In desperation, I lived with my parents in Charlotte, NC for the first four months of 1977; not my favorite place at the time. Then, after a brief trip to Binghamton, NY, I ended up living in the apartment of my sister and her husband at the time. Much of the time, they were in Boston, though they were present some of the time, and he and I did not get along that well.

I had a 30 hour per week telephone job from 6 pm until midnight. I spent most of my time hanging out in Greenwich Village with a co-worker named Michael, who pursued an ill-fated romance with a young woman. I’ve long since lost track of him, but have remained friends with the woman to this day.

So I wasn’t all that engaged with the politics that was going on. It seemed that there were a half dozen folks running for mayor. Ed Koch had been a reform-minded member of Congress, but his pro-death penalty position troubled me greatly. I ended up rooting for Mario Cuomo, who was the state’s Secretary of State.

Despite living there, I was totally unaware of signs that were apparently all over the city saying “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.” Mario Cuomo has continually denied being behind these signs, and though Cuomo and Koch appeared together from time to time subsequently, Koch never forgave either Mario, or his son Andrew, the current New York State governor. (I tend to believe Mario, but wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew were involved; he was a very nasty guy.)

He also didn’t endear himself to upstate voters when he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York State in 1982, again against Mario Cuomo. Koch described his run as hubris. He was hurt by an interview with Playboy magazine, where he was insulting to upstaters, describing rural life as “a joke,” for instance.

Amid his accomplishments, and they were many, it was thought by many that he was lousy on race relations with blacks, and extremely slow in responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

After his time as mayor, he worked as a partner in a law firm, did radio commentary, wrote newspaper columns and even movie reviews. talk-show guest. his support of the war in Iraq peeved me, especially since he had opposed the Vietnam war as a Congressman. More recently, he tried, unsuccessfully, to get nonpartisan reapportionment done, which I support.

The writer Pete Hamill said in 2005 that he was “some mad combination of a Lindy’s waiter, Coney Island barker, Catskills comedian, irritated school principal and eccentric uncle.” This was meant as a compliment, and it’s pretty accurate. The praise he received was no doubt warranted, but somehow, I was not his biggest fan.
***
Artists Against Fracking is a video postcard from Yoko Ono to Andrew Cuomo

From the 1977 Sacred Songs album, NYCNY by Daryl Hall, which rather sounds like NYC, NY of 1977

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2 thoughts on “My ambivance about Ed Koch

  1. When I read about the long hours you worked Roger I wonder what has happened to the current younger generation. My nephews are currently living with my MIL and often stay in bed for most of the day. I despair.

  2. Those were difficult times for us all Roger. I recall living in a studio apt and barely making enough to pay the rent. I can’t really fault the current generation. There isn’t much out there now and what there is wouldn’t pay enough to support one person. And a lot of the lower wage jobs are taken up by retirees.

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