By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn political figures and others in public life on Friday remembered Ed Koch, the feisty, sometimes abrasive three-term mayor of New York City who died of congestive heart failure Friday morning.
Koch, a lawyer who broke into politics as a Reform Democratic congressman serving Manhattan’s “Silk Stocking” district from 1969 to 1977, was elected first mayor in 1977, and was re-elected in 1981 and 1985 with Republican as well as Democratic support. His tenure as mayor was marked by economic growth but also racial tensions.
Koch wrote three books about politics while mayor and moved to the right, eventually supporting President Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. He was always blunt about his dislike for his political enemies – for example, his book about Mayor Giuliani was titled “Nasty Man.” In spite of this, he always reached out to the everyday New Yorker – his catch phrase was “How’m I doing?”
Borough President Marty Markowitz said, “All of Brooklyn joins in mourning the passing of one of our city’s greatest and most charismatic leaders, Mayor Ed Koch. Although he was born in the Bronx and raised in Newark, Mayor Koch lived with his family in Brooklyn as a young man, and I have no doubt it’s where he got the Brooklyn attitude, swagger and `chutzpah’ that made him such a character and helped him navigate New York City through some of its most challenging times.”
Markowitz added that the Brooklyn flag over Borough Hall would be lowered in memory of the former mayor.
Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said, "I grew up in New York at a time when Koch was mayor, and I saw how the city changed and grew under his tenure. He was the first mayor I ever voted for. He was a quintessential New Yorker, a clever man and politician, and possessed the chutzpah that truly made him one of the best mayors in this city's history.
“Koch truly represented all the five boroughs. Koch was a cheerleader for all neighborhoods. He took what at the time was a gamble on Brooklyn by setting forth the vision that is now MetroTech. The creation of that business and educational center helped spur development across Downtown Brooklyn and the rest of the borough,” Scissura said.
District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, who served as fire commissioner during the Koch administration, said, “I have lost not only a friend, but every New Yorker has lost a public servant who not only played an important role in guiding our city as a councilman, congressman and mayor, but someone whose persona epitomized the city he loved.
“It was an honor to serve as fire commissioner during his administration. He always asked, “How am I doing?’ Ed, you did magnificent!”
Koch had some of his most intense verbal battles with the Rev. Al Sharpton, based in Brooklyn during the Koch years. On Friday, Sharpton conceded that he and Ed Koch had some political disagreements, but added that the former mayor was "never a phony or a hypocrite" and would never deceive you.
Alan Fishman, chair of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said, "Ed Koch was the first great visionary to view Downtown Brooklyn as a viable, thriving commercial center. Starting with a building for Morgan Stanley on Pierrepont Street, to MetroTech and Atlantic Terminal, every building built in this area since the mid-1980's is a tribute to his vision and legacy."
Sen. Charles Schumer, a lifelong Brooklynite who was a Brooklyn congressman during the Koch era, said Koch lived and breathed New York City with "every atom in his body." He added that the former mayor helped save New York City and gave it confidence when it was beginning to doubt itself.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents both Brooklyn and Manhattan, said, "For decades, Mayor Koch embodied the soul of our city, unfailing defending and advocating New York and everyone in it. I am proud to have worked with him for years during his mayoralty and after on so many issues affecting the city and Israel, of which he was an unflinching supporter.
Congreswoman Nydia Velazquez, who also represents a Brooklyn district, added, “For New Yorkers, Mayor Koch was a larger-than-life personality that embodied our city. In so many ways, Ed personified the resilient and irrepressible nature of all New Yorkers. He was the greatest cheerleader New York ever had, caring deeply about its people."
Wayne Barrett, a Brooklyn resident and former longtime political reporter for the Village Voice, said, "We [at the Voice], myself, Jack Newfield and Joe Conason, were the opposition, while most of the daily press was basically friendly to Koch. My book, "City for Sale," which I wrote with Jack Newfield, was very critical of what was happening during those years. Koch had a habit of saying whatever came into his head, which often contributed to the racial problems in the city at that time."
However, Barrett credits Koch with sponsoring, in his third term, the first city-sponsored low-income and moderate-income housing program in the nation. To date, he says, about 250,000 apartments have been built, including many in neighborhoods like Brownsville, where Barrett used to live.
And Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, who represents Bay Ridge, said, “For a man who has dedicated his life to serving the greatest city on earth, a bridge can never do his legacy justice. Instead, his pure love for New York City and zest for life will live on in the hearts of all New Yorkers who share his passion for our great city.”