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Brooklyn's legal community reflects with sadness on passing of Mayor Koch

Former Mayor Ed Koch addresses the court during a taping of "The People's Court" in 1998 in New York. AP file photo by Stuart Ramson

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn's legal community reacted Friday to the death of former Mayor Ed Koch, reflecting with sadness in interviews with the Brooklyn Eagle.

Koch, who received a law degree from New York University School of Law in 1948 and was admitted to the state bar the following year, was a founding partner of Koch, Lankenau, Schwartz & Kovner, and had many legal ties to Brooklyn.     

“From time to time I had lunch with Mayor Koch and I enjoyed immensely the stories he told about New York City and his encounters with so many of the City’s intriguing personalities,” reflected Administrative  Judge for Criminal Matters Barry Kamins. “He told me that one his proudest accomplishments was the appointment process for judges and the quality of excellent appointments that it produced.”

“I loved former Mayor Koch,” said former state Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

With sadness in her voice, Kaye noted that “I have taken to watching him every Tuesday night on NY1 and reading all of his email and movie reviews. His “afterlife” or rather life after being mayor was so hugely distinguished. He used and cherished every second of his time.”

Some Brooklyn judges knew Koch beyond just the bench.

“I was first a district manager and then councilman when Koch was mayor of New York City,” said Kings County Supreme Court Justice Noach Dear. When he was district manager for Community Board 12 in Brooklyn, Dear had the pleasure of working directly with Koch. “I was there when Koch attended a district manager meeting. No mayor before Koch did. And it was Koch who suggested I run for City Council,” Dear recalled.

Though a Bronx native, Koch had strong political relationships in Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn got to know Koch pretty intimately in the 1970s,” said Brooklyn attorney and Kings County Democratic leader Frank Seddio.

“It was the ‘Brooklyn machine’ that helped get Koch elected,” Seddio said.

Working for Koch as the New York City commissioner of traffic enforcement, Seddio got to know Koch very well. “Koch was a quintessential New Yorker. He had his opinions and he made sure everyone knew them,” Seddio said. “He had a Brooklyn attitude.”  

This “Brooklyn attitude” was reflected in a story retold by Dear.

“Sometime in the 1980s during a dispute involving Sri Lanka, my constituents were not happy to hear the Koch had invited the president of Sri Lanka to receive a ‘Key to the City’. After hearing the complaints, Koch kept his meeting with the president but, instead of handing over the keys to the City, Koch gave the president a list of his alleged affronts to human rights.”

“Koch was one of the most plain spoken persons I know,” commented noted Brooklyn attorney George Farkas. “New York City was blessed to have him as a mayor.”

“We are diminished as New Yorkers by this loss,” said Kaye.

Koch was a “real rooter for New York,” said Seddio.

“Many will follow in his footsteps,” noted Farkas. Dear commented, “with Koch’s death, we have to look at ways in which we can emulate his leadership.”

February 1, 2013 - 12:41pm


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