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Edward Irving "Ed" Koch (born December 12, 1924; ) was a United States Congressman from 1969 to 1977 and the Mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989.

Early life

Koch was born in 1924 to a Jewish family in the Morrisaniamarker section of the Bronxmarker. His father worked as a furrier. During the Great Depression, sales of fur coats and other luxury goods sharply declined, and the family moved from New York City to Newark, New Jerseymarker. He graduated from Newark's South Side High School in 1941. (The school is now called Malcolm X Shabazz High Schoolmarker.) His mother, Joyce, died of cancer at a relatively young age. Koch attended City College of New Yorkmarker from 1941 to 1943.

He enlisted into the United States Army in 1943 where he served as an infantryman with the 104th Infantry Division, landing in Cherbourg, Francemarker in September 1944. He earned two Battle Stars as a Combat Infantryman. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946.

In that year, Koch began attending the New York University School of Lawmarker; that summer he also worked as a busboy in a hotel in the upstate New York spa town of Sharon Springs. He received his law degree in 1948, was admitted to the bar in 1949, and began to practice law.

Lawyer, party official, and Councilman

Koch was elected Democratic Party district leader of Greenwich Villagemarker, holding that office from 1963 to 1965, was a delegate to the State convention in 1964, and was elected to the New York City Council in 1966. In 1965 he made headlines for endorsing Republican John Lindsay for mayor, while still serving as a Democratic district leader.

U.S. Congressman

Koch was the Democratic U.S. Representative from New York's 17th congressional district from January 3, 1969 until January 3, 1973, when after a redistricting he represented New York's 18th congressional district until December 31, 1977, when he resigned to become Mayor of New York City.

Koch has said he began his political career as "just a plain liberal," with positions including opposing the Vietnam War and marching in the South for civil rights. He has traced the beginning of his rightward shift towards being a "liberal with sanity" to the controversy in 1973 around then-New York City Mayor John Lindsay's attempt to place a 3,000-person housing project in the middle of a middle-class community in Forest Hills, Queensmarker. Congressman Koch met with residents of the community, most of whom were against the proposal. He was convinced by their arguments, and spoke out against the plan; this decision, he has said, shocked many of his political associates.

Koch was active in advocating for a greater U.S. role in advancing human rights, within the context of fighting the worldwide threat of communism. He had particular influence in the foreign aid budget, as he sat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. In 1976, Koch proposed that the U.S. cut off foreign aid to the right-wing government of Uruguaymarker. In mid-July 1976, the CIA learned that two high-level Uruguayan intelligence officers had discussed a possible assassination attempt on Koch by DINA, the Chileanmarker secret police. The CIA did not regard these threats as credible until after the September, 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC by DINA agents coordinated by Operation Condor. After this assassination, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Bush informed Koch by phone of the threat. Koch subsequently asked both CIA and FBImarker for protection, but none was extended.

Mayor of New York City

1977 election and first term

In 1977, Koch ran in the Democratic primary of the New York City mayoral election against incumbent Abe Beame, Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo, among others. Koch ran to the right of the other candidates, on a "law and order" platform. According to historian Jonathan Mahler, the blackout that happened in July of that year, and the subsequent rioting, helped catapult Koch and his message of restoring public safety to front-runner status. Koch also attributes some measure of credit for his victory to Rupert Murdoch's decision to have the New York Post endorse him in both the primary and the general election. Koch won the initial vote in the Democratic primary, as well as a runoff vote held between him and Cuomo. In the general election, also held in 1977, Koch beat Cuomo, who ran on the Liberal Party ticket, and Roy M. Goodman, running on the Republican ticket.

After winning the election, Koch resigned from Congress to become the 105th Mayor of New York City.

His catch-phrase as Mayor was "How'm I doing?" When walking down the street, he would often use that question as a greeting to the people he talked to.

As Mayor, Ed Koch is credited with restoring fiscal stability to the City of New York, and placing the City on a budget balanced according to generally accepted accounting principles . He also established a merit selection system for Criminal and Family Court judges, and established extensive housing programs. He issued an executive order prohibiting all discrimination against homosexuals by City employees. A second executive order binding suppliers of the City to the same standards was eventually struck down by court order insofar as it applied to religious organizations, which were exempted from civil rights legislation by State law. John Cardinal O'Connor and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York were participants in the lawsuit against the executive order.

In April 1980, he successfully broke a strike by the city's subway and bus operators, invoking the state's Taylor Law, which prohibits strikes by state or local government employees and imposes fines on any union authorizing such a strike that steadily escalate each day the strike continues. On one morning he famously walked to City Hallmarker across the Brooklyn Bridgemarker, in solidarity with the many commuters who had chosen to walk to work. The strikers returned to work after eleven days.

He was a delegate to the 1980 Democratic National Convention from the city. However, he invited Ronald Reagan to Gracie Mansionmarker shortly before that year's Presidential election, in which Reagan defeated Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter a move widely seen as a tacit endorsement of Reagan on the part of Koch.

In 1981, City College of New Yorkmarker awarded Koch a B.A. degree.

1981 election and second term; run for Governor

In 1981 ran for re-election as mayor, running on both the Democratic and Republican Party lines; in November he won, defeating his main opponent, Unity Party candidate Frank J. Barbaro, with 75% of the vote.

In 1982, Koch ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York, losing the Democratic primary to Cuomo, who was then lieutenant governor. Many say the deciding factor in his loss was an interview with Playboy magazine in which he described the lifestyle of both suburbia and upstate New York as "sterile" and lamented the thought of having to live in "the small town" of Albanymarker as Governor, turning off voters from outside the city.

Koch often deviated from the conventional liberal line, strongly supporting the death penalty and taking a hard line on "quality of life" issues, such as giving police broader powers in dealing with the homeless and favoring (and signing) legislation banning the playing of radios on subways and buses. These positions prompted harsh criticism of him from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and many African-American leaders, particularly the Reverend Al Sharpton.

In 1984 Koch published his first memoir, Mayor, which became a best-seller. In 1985 the book was turned into an Off Broadway musical, Mayor, that ran for around 250 performances.

1985 election and third term

In 1985, Koch again ran for re-election, this time on the Democratic and Independent tickets; he defeated Liberal Party candidate Carol Bellamy and Republican candidate Diane McGrath with 78% of the vote.

In 1986, Mayor Koch signed a lesbian and gay rights ordinance for the city after the City Council passed the measure (on March 20), following several failed attempts by that body to approve such legislation. Despite his overall pro-lesbian and pro-gay-rights stance, he nonetheless backed up the New York City Health Department's decision to shut down the city's gay bathhouses in 1985 in response to concerns over the spread of AIDS. The enactment of the measure the following year placed the city in a dilemma, as it apparently meant that the bathhouses would have to be re-opened because many heterosexual "sex clubs" most notably Plato's Retreat were in operation in the city at the time, and allowing them to remain open while keeping the bathhouses shuttered would have been a violation of the newly-adopted anti-discrimination law. The Health Department, with Koch's approval, reacted by ordering the heterosexual clubs, including Plato's Retreat, to close as well (Plato's Retreat then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Floridamarker, where it reopened under the new name Plato's Repeat).

Koch consistently demonstrated a fierce love for New York City, which some observers felt he carried to extremes on occasion: In 1984 he had gone on record as opposing the creation of a second telephone area code for the city, claiming that this would divide the city's population; and when the National Football League's New York Giants won the Super Bowl in January 1987, he refused to grant a permit for the team to hold their traditional victory parade in the city, quipping famously, "If they want a parade, let them parade in front of the oil drums in Moonachiemarker" (the latter being a town in New Jersey adjacent to East Rutherfordmarker, site of the Meadowlands Sports Complexmarker, where the Giants play their home games).

In his third term, his popularity was shaken after the Donald Manes suicide and the PVB scandal, even though Koch himself was not part of the corruption ring, and corruption involving associate Stanley Friedman.

Shortly afterwards Koch suffered a stroke in 1987 while in office, but was able to continue with his duties.

Koch became a controversial figure in the 1988 presidential campaign with his very public criticism of Democratic candidate Jesse Jackson, who had surprised many political observers by winning key primaries in March and running even with the front runner, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. As the April New York primary approached, Koch reminded voters of Jackson’s alleged anti Semitism and said that Jews would be "crazy" to vote for Jackson. Koch endorsed Tennessee Senator, Al Gore, who had run well in his native south, but hadn't won 20% in a northern state. As Koch's anti Jackson rhetoric intensified, Gore seemed to shy away from Koch. On primary day, Gore finished a weak third place with 10% of the vote and dropped out of the race. Jackson ran ten points behind Dukakis, whose nomination became inevitable after his NY win.

In 1989, he ran for a fourth term as Mayor but lost the Democratic primary to David Dinkins, who went on to defeat Rudolph Giuliani in the general election. Koch's anti-Jackson campaign in '88 had angered many black voters, likely playing a major role in Koch's defeat.

Post-mayoralty years

In the years following his mayoralty, Koch became a partner in the law firm of Robinson, Silverman, Pearce, Aronsohn, and Berman LLP, (now Bryan Cave LLP) and became a commentator on politics, as well reviewing movies and restaurants, for newspapers, radio and television. He also became an adjunct professor at New York Universitymarker (NYU) and was the judge on the court show, The People's Court, for two years, following the retirement of Judge Wapner. In 1999, he was a visiting professor at Brandeis Universitymarker. Koch regularly appears on the lecture circuit, and had a highly rated local talk show on WABCmarker radio. He also hosts his own movie review video show on the web called The Mayor at the Movies.

Koch had a minor heart attack in March 1999.

In 2004, together with his sister Pat Koch Thaler, Koch wrote a children's book, Eddie, Harold's Little Brother; the book told the story of Koch's own childhood, when he tried unsuccessfully to emulate his older brother Harold's baseball talents, before realizing that he should instead focus on what he was already good at, which was telling stories and speaking in public.

From 2005 to 2007, Koch wrote a weekly column for the New York Pressmarker. He also writes film reviews for the Greenwich Village newspaper The Villager.

The former mayor occasionally appears in television specials and commercials that promote or advertise things about New York, such as commercials for Snapple (with the tagline "the best thing to ever come out of New York") and FreshDirect, a New York-based delivery service. He also made cameo appearances as himself in the movies Up At Lou's Fish (a documentary about the last days of the Fulton Fish Marketmarker), The Hebrew Hammer, We Own the Night and Eddie, and an episode of HBO's Sex and the City entitled "The Real Me".

In April 2008, Koch announced that he had secured a burial plot in Manhattan's non-denominational Trinity Cemetery, stating that “the idea of leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me,” and that he hoped not to use the plot "for another 8-10 years." For the inscription on his memorial stone, Koch has requested that the marker will bear the Star of David and a Hebrew prayer, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." 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." Koch explained that he had been moved that Pearl chose to affirm his faith and heritage in his last moments.

Political endorsements

Since leaving office, Koch has frequently endorsed prominent Republican candidates, including Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg for Mayor, Al D'Amato for U.S. Senate, George Pataki for Governor, and, in 2004, George W. Bush for President of the United States. Koch has also endorsed Democrats, including Eliot Spitzer for governor in the 2006 election. He endorsed Bill Bradley for President in 2000.

Though Koch supported Giuliani's first mayoral bid, he became opposed to him in January, 1996, and began writing a series of columns in the New York Daily News criticizing Giuliani, most frequently accusing him of being authoritarian and insensitive. In 1999, the columns were compiled into the book Giuliani: Nasty Man. He resumed his attacks, and had the book re-published, in 2007, after Giuliani announced his candidacy for President. In May 2007, Koch called Giuliani "a control freak" and said that he "wouldn't meet with people he didn't agree with... That's pretty crazy." He also said that Giuliani "was imbued with the thought that if he was right, it was like a God-given right. That's not what we need in a president."

Koch originally endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President during the 2008 presidential campaign, then endorsed Democratic nominee Barack Obama in the general election. In his endorsement of Obama, Koch wrote that he felt that (unlike in 2004) both sets of candidates would do their best to protect both the United States and Israel from terrorist attacks, but that he agreed with much more of Obama's domestic policies, and that the concept of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin ascending to the presidency "would scare me".

Other political statements

Koch has often written in defense of Israel and against anti-Semitism. He is a contributor to Newsmax, a mainstream conservative magazine. He also appeared in the documentary FahrenHYPE 9/11 defending President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and blasting Michael Moore. Koch was quoted in the film saying of Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, "It's not a documentary, it's a lie."

Koch was an early supporter of the Iraq War. In July 2007, Koch wrote that he was "bailing out" of his previous support for that war, due to the failure of the United States' NATOmarker allies, and other Arab countries, to contribute to the war effort. Koch wrote, "I would support our troops remaining in Iraq if our allies were to join us. But they have made it clear they will not." He added that the U.S. must still "prepare for the battles that will take place on American soil by the Islamic forces of terror who are engaged in a war that will be waged by them against Western civilization for at least the next 30 years."

Personal life

Koch is a lifelong bachelor, and his sexuality became an issue in the 1977 mayoral election with the appearance of placards and posters (disavowed by the Cuomo campaign) with the slogan "Vote for Cuomo, not the homo." Koch denounced the attack, later saying "No, I am not a homosexual. If I were a homosexual, I would hope I would have the courage to say so. What's cruel is that you are forcing me to say I am not a homosexual. This means you are putting homosexuals down. I don't want to do that." After becoming mayor, Koch began attending public events with former Miss America, well-known television game show panelist and consumer advocate Bess Myerson. The strategy made Myerson, who had political ambitions of her own (she later ran for senator), seem like a "First Lady of New York" of sorts.

Koch has generally been less explicit in his denials in later life, and refused comment on his actual sexual experiences, writing "What do I care? I'm 73 years old. I find it fascinating that people are interested in my sex life at age 73. It's rather complimentary! But as I say in my book, my answer to questions on this subject is simply Fuck off. There have to be some private matters left."

Randy Shilts, in And the Band Played On, his influential history of the early AIDS epidemic in America, discusses the possibility that Koch ignored the developing epidemic in New York City in 1982–1983 because he was afraid of lending credence to rumors of his homosexuality. Author and activist Larry Kramer has been more pointed in his criticism of Koch. He describes the former mayor as a "closeted gay man" whose fear of being 'outed' kept him from aggressively addressing the AIDS epidemic in New York City in the early 1980s. John Cameron Mitchell's movie Shortbus features a Koch-like older gentleman lamenting at his poor choices while mayor of New York Citymarker while attending a gay event and seducing a younger man, played by Jay Brannan. In the 2009 Kirby Dick documentary Outrage, investigative journalist Wayne Barrett of The Village Voice states that Koch is gay. The film also depicts interviews suggesting that Koch drove his former male lover out of New York during his bid at office.


Books by Ed Koch

  • Koch, Edward I. (1980). The Mandate Millstone. U.S. Conference of Mayors. ISBN B00072XPA8.
  • Koch, Edward I. (1981). How'm I doing? The Wit and Wisdom of Ed Koch. Lion Books. ISBN 0-87460-362-5.
  • Koch, Edward I.; Rauch, William (1984). Mayor. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-49536-4.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Rauch, William (1989). Politics. Horizon Book Promotions. ISBN 0-671-53296-0.
  • Koch, Edward I. & O'Connor, John Cardinal (1989). His Eminence and Hizzoner: A Candid Exchange : Mayor Edward Koch and John Cardinal O'Connor. William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0-688-07928-8.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Jones, Leland T. (1990) All The Best: Letters from a Feisty Mayor Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-69365-4.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Paisner, Daniel. (1992). Citizen Koch: An Autobiography St Martins Printing. ISBN 0-312-08161-8.
  • Koch, Edward I. (1994). Ed Koch on Everything: Movies, Politics, Personalities, Food, and Other Stuff. Carol Publishing. ISBN 1-55972-225-8.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Resnicow, Herbert (1995). Murder At City Hall. Kensington Publishing. ISBN 0-8217-5087-9.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Staub, Wendy Corsi (1996). Murder On Broadway. Kensington Publishing. ISBN 1-57566-186-1.
  • Koch, Edward I.; Staub, Wendy Corsi & Resnicow, Herbert (1997). Murder on 34th Street Kensington Publishing. ISBN 1-57566-232-9.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Staub, Wendy Corsi (1998). The Senator Must Die. Kensington Publishing. ISBN 1-57566-325-2.
  • Koch, Edward I. (1999). Giuliani: Nasty Man. Barricade Books. ISBN 1-56980-155-X. Republished, 2007.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Graham, Stephen P. (1999). New York: A State of Mind. Towery Publishing. ISBN 1-881096-76-9.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Paisner, Daniel (2000). I'm Not Done Yet!: Keeping at It, Remaining Relevant, and Having the Time of My Life. William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0-688-17075-7.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Koch Thaler, Pat (2004). Eddie, Harold’s Little Brother. Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN 0-399-24210-4.
  • Koch, Edward I. & Heady, Christy (2007). Buzz: How to Create It and Win With It. AMACOM/American Management Association. ISBN 0-814-47462-4.

Books about Ed Koch

  • City For Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York Wayne Barrett ISBN 0-06-091662-1
  • New York Comes Back: The Mayoralty of Edward I. Koch ed. Michael Goodman ISBN 1-57687-274-2


  1. "Paying Their Dues", Ed Koch, New York Press, May 23, 2007
  2. "Ed Koch Threatened with Assassination," The National Security Archives, Accessed May 4, 2009,
  3. "That 70's Show", Gotham Gazette, May 9, 2005
  4. Mayor at the Movies with Ed Koch
  5. David Seidman, "Railing at Rudy," New York Post, May 13, 2007, p. 9
  6. Giuliani Should Not Be a Favorite
  7. Koch backs Obama, calls Palin 'scary', Ben Smith, Politico, September 9, 2008
  8. NewsMax Pundits
  9. "I'm Done Defending the Iraq Policy", Ed Koch, Real Clear Politics, July 18, 2007
  10. Tom Buckley, "Bess Myerson, the Drive Behind Koch's Drive", The New York Times, September 16, 1977, p. 26.
  11. Leslie Bennetts, "Holtzman-Myerson Debate Centers on Nation's Defense", The New York Times, March 29, 1980, p. 27.
  12. Koch, Edward. [1]"30th Anniversary Issue / Ed Koch: Hizzoner",New York, April 6, 1998 (published online March 30, 1998). Retrieved May 9, 2009.
  13. 30th Anniversary Issue / Larry Kramer: Queer Conscience

External links

 Retrieved on 2008-02-05

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