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

The Glimmering Sheen Of A Wide World Seen From Inside A Bubble

The teen heroine of Nicola Yoon's debut novel, Everything, Everything, has a disorder that bars her from leaving her house. Still, her world is vast, filled with writings, drawings — and new love.
NPR

Correction: Italians And Celiac Disease

A correction to our story about gluten-free options in Italy, the land of pizza and pasta. Italian children are not routinely tested for celiac disease, as we incorrectly reported.
NPR

Donald Trump, Loyalty Pledges And The State Of The Race In 2016

NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro joins Arun Rath to recap the latest developments with the 2016 presidential hopefuls.
NPR

China Arrests Nearly 200 Over 'Online Rumors'

The rumors ranged from a man leaping to his death in Beijing over stock losses to highly inflated death tolls in the Tianjin industrial blasts.

Leave a Comment

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