Last Known Activity|
Edward Irving "Ed" Koch , (December 12, 1924 ‚?? February 1, 2013), was an American lawyer, politician, and political commentator. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 and three terms as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989. He also became known as a judge on the television judge show The People's Court from 1997 to 1999. He died on February 1, 2013, of congestive heart failure.
Early Life.¬† Koch was born in The Bronx, New York City, at NewYork‚??Presbyterian Hospital. The son of Yetta (n√©e Silpe) and Louis Koch, immigrants from Poland. His family were Conservative Jews, and resided in Newark, New Jersey, where his father worked at a theater. As a child he worked as a hatcheck boy in a Newark dance hall. He graduated from South Side High School in Newark in 1941.
He was drafted into the United States Army in 1943 where he served as an infantryman with the 104th Infantry Division, landing in Cherbourg, France in September 1944. He earned two Battle Stars as a Combat Infantryman. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946.
Koch returned to New York City to attend City College of New York, graduating in 1945, and New York University School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1948. Koch was a sole practitioner from 1949 to 1964, and a partner with Koch, Lankenau, Schwartz & Kovner from 1965 to 1968. A Democrat, he became active in New York City politics as a reformer and opponent of Carmine DeSapio and Tammany Hall. In 1963 Koch defeated DeSapio for the position of Democratic Party leader for the district which included Greenwich Village, and Koch won again in a 1965 rematch. Koch served on the New York City Council from 1967 to 1969.
U.S. Congressman.¬† Koch was the Democratic US 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 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. In April 1973, Koch coined the term "Watergate Seven" when, in response to U.S. Senator Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.'s indicating that one of the men in Watergate scandal had been ordered in the spring of 1972 to keep certain Senators and Representatives under surveillance, posted a sign on the door of his United States Congress office saying, 'These premises were surveilled by the Watergate Seven. Watch yourself'. At about this same time, Koch began his rightward shift towards being a "liberal with sanity" after reviewing the 1973 controversy 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, Queens. 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 US 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 US cut off foreign aid to the right-wing government of Uruguay. 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 Chilean 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 FBI for protection, but none was extended.
Mayor of New York City 1977 Election and First Term as Mayor of New York
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.
1981 Election and Second Term; Run for Governor.¬† In 1981 he 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 Koch's 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 Albany as Governor. Koch's remarks are thought to have alienated many voters from outside New York 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.
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 Super Bowl XXI 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 Moonachie" (the latter being a town in New Jersey adjacent to East Rutherford, site of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, where the Giants play their home games).
In his third term, Koch's popularity was shaken after a series of corruption scandals, touched off by the Donald Manes suicide and the PVB scandal, which revealed that he had acceded to the requests of corrupt political allies, most notably Queens Borough President Manes, Bronx Democratic party official Stanley Friedman, and Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito, to stack city agencies with patronage appointments. These patronage appointments, such as Department of Transportation Commissioner Tony Ameruso and Parking Violations Bureau official Geoffrey Lindenauer, had subsequently engaged in many varieties of graft, extortion and bribery. Another high-profile Koch official and ally, Cultural Affairs commissioner Bess Myerson, was accused and eventually indicted for improperly conspiring with a judge in order to fix a divorce case in favor of Myerson's mob-linked lover. Though there were no allegations that Koch obtained any financial benefit from the corruption, the wave of scandals undermined Koch's prior claims that he would run a patronage-free city government.
Shortly afterward 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 antisemitism 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 assured 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 Rudy Giuliani in the general election. Koch's anti-Jackson campaign in 1988 had angered many black voters, likely playing a major role in Koch's defeat and the victory of Dinkins.
Post-mayoralty yearsIn 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 University (NYU) and was the judge on The People's Court for two years, following the retirement of Judge Joseph Wapner. In 1999, he was a visiting professor at Brandeis University. Koch regularly appeared on the lecture circuit, and had a highly rated local talk show on WABC radio. He also hosted his own movie review video show on the web called The Mayor at the Movies.
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.
In April 2008, Koch announced that he had secured a burial plot in Manhattan's non-denominational Trinity Cemetery, the only graveyard in Manhattan accepting new burials, stating "I don't want to leave Manhattan, even when I'm gone. This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me." For the inscription on his memorial stone, Koch has requested that the marker will bear the Star of David and the words from the Hebrew prayer Shema Yisrael, "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.
On March 23, 2011, the New York City Council voted to rename the Queensboro Bridge as the "Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge" in honor of the former mayor.
Mayor at the Movies¬† In the summer of 2009, Koch began appearing in weekly movie review segments for a web video show called Mayor at the Movies. The former mayor is an avid moviegoer who often sees two or three movies every weekend. Although he gets invited to private screenings, he actually prefers to see films with a public audience and is often approached by stunned moviegoers who are surprised to find him there. His reviews are regularly outspoken and wry, with his rating system consisting not of stars but of a "plus" (for a good film) or a "minus" for a bad one. He has a particular passion for independent cinema as well as documentaries, although he enjoys dramas and action films as well. In addition to being showcased on Mayor at the Movies, his film reviews are regularly featured on The Huffington Post and also in the New York newspaper The Villager. In addition to reviewing movies, the Mayor has appeared in more than 60 Hollywood films and television shows as himself, including Sex and the City, Spin City, Saturday Night Live, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. A documentary about Koch's life, Koch: The Movie, is also due for release in 2013.
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, Peter T. King for U.S. House, 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.
Koch took back his endorsement of Spitzer in the aftermath of the governor's prostitution scandal. He has said, "At the time the prostitution episode emerged, I commented that nothing could explain his behavior other than the fact that he had a screw loose in his head. Probably several."
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". In 2010 he rescinded his support for Obama, stating a belief that Obama could very well harm American-Israeli relations.
In 2011, Koch, a lifelong Democrat, endorsed Republican Bob Turner for Congress, because Koch "wanted to send a message to Obama to take a stronger position in support of Israel." Many Jewish voters joined Koch to elect the Roman-Catholic Turner, rather than his Jewish Democrat opponent David Weprin, giving Republicans their first win in the NY-9th Congressional seat since the 1920s.
In October 2012 Koch told Al Sharpton that after a conversation with President Obama about his position on Israel he was satisfied, and endorsed his reelection.
Other Political Statements.¬† Koch often wrote in defense of Israel and, also, against anti-Semitism. He was a contributor to Newsmax, a 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 praised current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He said that both had the right approach in reducing government spending and refraining from raising taxes.
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' NATO 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 US 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."
On April 8, 2010, Koch wrote a piece in the Jerusalem Post excoriating what he saw as increasing anti-Catholicism in the media, largely made evident by coverage of the priest sex abuse scandals. While denouncing the instances of abuse, Koch, himself Jewish, stated "the procession of articles on the same events are, in my opinion, no longer intended to inform, but simply to castigate." In this article, Koch states that he believes that many in the media, some themselves Catholic, exhibit such anti-Catholicism largely because of their opposition to the Catholic Church's teachings on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, and artificial contraception, among others. He stated that, while he himself opposes the Catholic Church's teaching in all these matters, he firmly believed that the Catholic Church had the right to espouse these beliefs, and furthermore to expect its members to espouse them, as well, calling the Roman Catholic Church "a force for good in the world, not evil."