The Mayor Had Chutzpah

Ed Koch, the lively, contentious mayor of New York City who died at the age of 88 on Feb. 1, left an indelible mark on the city where he lived and worked for most of his life.

Ed Koch, the lively, contentious mayor of New York, who died at the age of 88 on February 1, left an indelible mark on the city where he lived and worked for most of his life. Koch served as mayor from 1978 to 1989 and is widely remembered for his feisty personality, sharp political skills and his now legendary remark, “How’m I doin?”

During his 12 years in office, Koch helped lead New York out of its darkest financial days and into a period of prosperity and growth. In many respects, New York was a relatively poor city that was losing population when Koch took over as mayor, according to Professor Robert Snyder, director of the American Studies Program at Rutgers University and author of a forthcoming book on New York’s post-war mayors. “By the time he left office, New York had a growing population that was increasingly middle class and affluent.”

But inequality in the city also grew during Koch’s three administrations, a result of his somewhat conservative economic policies, says Snyder.  He ran New York at a time when many cities were struggling to rebuild after decades of suburban flight, high crime and the decline of urban manufacturing as the traditional economic base. By the time Koch left office, New York was less white and its economy was expanding, thanks to a boom in real estate. A similar pattern would slowly emerge in other major urban centers around the country.

Politically, Koch moved away from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and his combative style put him at odds with blacks and other minorities, who felt he didn’t do enough to help New York’s working poor. His last years as mayor were further tarnished by a series of corruption scandals. In 1989, he was defeated in the Democratic primary by David Dinkins, who became New York’s first African-American mayor.

Asked what his legacy might be, Koch said he wanted to be remembered for straightening out the city’s finances, building affordable housing and for reforming the city’s judicial process. But most will remember him as an authentic voice of New York: loud, brash and never afraid to say what was on his mind.
   
 

Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
Sponsored
Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.
Sponsored
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?
Sponsored
As more state and local jurisdictions have placed a priority on creating sustainable and resilient communities, many have set strong targets to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with commercial and residential buildings.
Sponsored
As more people get vaccinated and states begin to roll back some of the restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic — schools, agencies and workplaces are working on a plan on how to safely return to normal.
Sponsored
The solutions will be a permanent part of government even after the pandemic is over.
Sponsored
See simple ways agencies can improve the citizen engagement experience and make online work environments safer without busting the budget.
Sponsored
Whether your agency is already a well-oiled DevOps machine, or whether you’re just in the beginning stages of adopting a new software development methodology, one thing is certain: The security of your product is a top-of-mind concern.
Sponsored
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, over half of the workforce will require significant reskilling or upskilling to do their jobs—and this data was published prior to the pandemic.
Sponsored
Part math problem and part unrealized social impact, recycling is at a tipping point. While there are critical system improvements to be made, in the end, success depends on millions of small decisions and actions by people.