Ed Koch, the boisterous and popular mayor who headed New York City from 1978 to 1989, a time marked by fiscal recovery but also rapidly rising violent crime, died Friday morning at the age of 88.
Koch, who had been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks, died at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been in the intensive care unit, according to his spokesman, George Arzt.
Koch, who served as a congressman from Manhattan before winning three terms as mayor, had remained a force in New York politics until the end, giving out hard-sought endorsements to various candidates from both major parties and continuing to reiterate some policy positions, in particular his support for Israel.
Among his accomplishments in office was a years-long improvement of the city's degrading bridges. The Queensboro-59th Street Bridge was recently renamed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge largely in recognition of that program — though the move was opposed by a majority of Queens residents because Koch had no strong ties to this borough in particular.
Famous for frequently asking constituents "How'm I doin'?" during his time as mayor, Koch was, however, highly popular among New Yorkers.
Koch did earn the support of many in Queens when, as a congressman, he helped defeat a proposal to build a 3,000-person housing project in Forest Hills, a plan put forth by then-Mayor John Lindsay in the early 1970s. It was then that he moved rightward politically, describing himself as "a liberal with sanity."
Born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, Edward Irving Koch grew up in Newark, NJ, graduated high school in 1941 and served in the infantry in Europe during World War II, earning combat commendations and being discharged as a sergeant in 1946. He earned a law degree in 1948 and eventually got active in politics, becoming a Democratic Party district leader in Greenwich Village in 1963. He served on the City Council from 1967 to 1969 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1973. He was elected to the first of three terms as mayor in 1977.
A number of elected officials, from Mayor Bloomberg on down, quickly issued statements lauding Koch's service to the people of New York.
“Earlier today, New York City lost an irrepressible icon, our most charismatic cheerleader and champion, Edward I. Koch," Bloomberg said. "He was a great mayor, a great man, and a great friend. In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader. Through his tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship, Ed helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback. We will miss him dearly, but his good works — and his wit and wisdom — will forever be a part of the city he loved so much. His spirit will live on not only here at City Hall, and not only on the bridge the bears his name, but all across the five boroughs.
“I’m expressing my condolences on behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, and I know so many of them will be keeping Mayor Koch and his family and friends in their thoughts prayers. As we mourn Mayor Koch’s passing, the flags at all City buildings will be flying at half-staff in his memory.”
City Comptroller John Liu, who intends to run for mayor, said, "Ed Koch was a true New Yorker, outspoken and feisty to the very end. He lived a great life of 88 years, leaving an indelible imprint on the City, and we will miss him.”
A funeral for Koch will be held Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan, published reports said.