NPR : News

Filed Under:

Ed Koch, Flamboyant Former New York City Mayor, Dies

Ed Koch, the colorful three-term mayor who led New York City through its financial crisis in the '70s, has died.

George Arzt, a spokesman for the former mayor, tells NPR's Joel Rose that Koch died of congestive heart failure around 2 a.m. ET Friday. The former mayor was 88.

As Joel writes, Koch's "larger-than-life personality was well-suited to the nation's biggest city but could also get him in trouble." The Democratic mayor, says Joel:

"Was famous for asking his constituents this question: 'Hey! How'm I doing?' He insisted this was more than just shtick. He told NPR in 1981 that he really wanted to know. 'Some people have said that's a mark of insecurity. Gee, I have to be patted on the back, how'm I doing,' he said. 'I want you to think about this: Do you know people in public life who are sufficiently secure to ask people to rate them?' "

"[But] Koch's mouth finally cost him his job as mayor. His relationship with African-American voters — never great to begin with — soured for good when he suggested that Jews would be 'crazy' to vote for Jesse Jackson in 1988. The next year, Koch lost the Democratic primary to David Dinkins, who went on to be the city's first African-American mayor. Koch never ran for office again, but he never left the public eye, either.

"He did a stint behind the bench on the People's Court; he hosted a popular talk radio show; and he stayed active in politics, endorsing causes and candidates he favored, with little regard for party affiliation."

The New York Times leads its obituary by saying that Koch "parlayed shrewd political instincts and plenty of chutzpah into three tumultuous terms as mayor of New York with all the tenacity, zest and combativeness that personified his city of golden dreams."

And our colleague Jim O'Grady at WNYC writes that Koch:

"Decided that what the city needed was a leader with an active will and gigantic personality. Specifically, his. You'd see him everywhere: On TV and at community meetings, astride the Brooklyn Bridge with the commuting masses during a transit strike and throwing out the first ball at Shea Stadium, to mingled cheers and boos. His nasal hectoring and pressed-forward posture became the sound and style of the city during the 12 years of his three terms in office. On his watch, the budgetary bleeding was stanched and the municipal books were balanced. And New York City began to show faint glimmers of recovery."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

After Sketchy Science, Shark Week Promises To Turn Over A New Fin

Shark Week is here, and scientists are afraid. Not of the toothy swimmers — but of inaccuracies, bad science and the demonization of animals that aren't as ferocious as Discovery Channel has made out.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.