Across the breadth of policy issues, the Democratic candidates for mayor this year tend to share similar viewpoints. However, there are some notable exceptions, and at a debate sponsored by The New York Observer and 92Y, another one was revealed last night: their mayoral role models.
The first two candidates to speak, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, couldn’t choose just one mayor. Rather, the pair saw themselves as pulling from the best attributes from four and cited Ed Koch’s spirit, David Dinkins’s compassion, Rudy Giuliani’s toughness and Michael Bloomberg’s vision.
“I’ve been asked that question before and I’ve made sure that I haven’t alienated former mayors,” Mr. Thompson joked.
Readers of Wednesday’s New York Post may have noticed a full-page tribute to the late former Mayor Ed Koch signed by Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis and his wife, Margo. When Politicker called Mr. Catsimatidis to ask about the ad this afternoon, the billionaire businessman was quick to point out it wasn’t a campaign expense.
“I paid for it personally,” he said as soon as we mentioned the tribute.
How'd He Do?
At Temple Emanu-El in the Upper East Side this morning, hundreds of New Yorkers–including a small army of elected officials–braved ice-cold wind gusts and swarms of reporters to pay their respects to former Mayor Ed Koch, who passed away last Friday. The long list of top-tier politicos in attendance included current and former governors, mayors and senators. And every one of them had a fond memory of Koch to share.
“My last conversation with him was when I went to his office to ask him to support me for comptroller.” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recalled, for example. “I prepared. I expected to have a long conversation. He looked up at me and said, ‘I endorse you. Go win. Goodbye.’”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered one of the eulogies at former Mayor Ed Koch’s funeral in Manhattan this morning and he praised his predecessor for an attitude “full of humor and chutzpah” that ”embodied the spirit of New York City” and made him “our City’s quintessential Mayor.” In his speech, Mayor Bloomberg also credited Koch with laying the foundation that allowed subsequent mayor’s to make the five boroughs “great again.” In a nod to the setting of the funeral, the Jewish Temple Emanu-El, Mr. Bloomberg compared Koch’s achievements to the story of Moses.
“I’ve been doing my biblical research, and I think it’s only fitting that this week’s Torah portion is about Moses leading the Jews out of bondage in Egypt. Now, Ed, in his own way, was our Moses. Just with a little less hair,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “He led us out of darkness and he gave us hope. And while he may not have parted the Red Sea, he did break a subway strike by standing on a bridge and shouting words of encouragement.”
Andrew Cuomo is among the mourners attending Ed Koch’s funeral today in Manhattan, but the governor and his family didn’t always enjoy the best relationship with the former mayor.
Koch ran against Governor Cuomo’s father, Mario, twice. They first faced off when Koch made it to City Hall in the 1977 mayoral election. In 1982, Koch ran for governor and was defeated by the elder Mr. Cuomo. The 1977 campaign included an incident where posters alluding to the widespread rumors about Mr. Koch’s sexuality by proclaiming “Vote For Cuomo, Not The Homo” were placed all along Queens Boulevard.
This situation evidently caused a lasting rift between Koch and the Cuomos. However in one of his final interviews with Politicker, Koch explained the signs weren’t among the reasons he initially had issues with Cuomo the younger.
White House Well-Wishes
In 1981, when Ed Koch was mayor, President Barack Obama moved to New York City to study at Columbia University. Today, Mr. Obama joined New Yorkers in mourning Mr. Koch’s death.
“Ed Koch was an extraordinary Mayor, irrepressible character, and quintessential New Yorker,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “He took office at a time when New York was in fiscal crisis, and helped his city achieve economic renewal, expand affordable housing, and extend opportunity to more of its people.”
Former Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Andrew Cuomo have a long and colorful history, stretching all the way back to Mr. Koch’s initial mayoral election against Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father, in a hotly-contested, occasionally bitter 1977 race that Mr. Koch ultimately won. Although Mr. Koch continued to tweak the younger Cuomo for years after–calling him a “schmuck” in his latest documentary, for example–the two became political allies on a number of issues during Mr. Cuomo’s political career and governorship. Earlier today, Mr. Cuomo described his final words with the late Mr. Koch and the inspiration he received from them.
“I talked to the mayor two days ago. He’s in the hospital. …. I said to him, ‘Mister Mayor, how are you feeling?’ [He replied,] ‘Stronger every day. Stronger every day.’” Mr. Cuomo recalled in a radio interview with New York Post columnist Fred Dicker. “To me, that’s the essence of Ed Koch. Stronger every day. Tomorrow’s going to be better. Optimism. Look forward. Don’t look back. You think the situation is bleak? Nah, we’re going to conquer. We’re going to win. We’re going to be better. Stronger every day. Now, he had to know where he was, right? ‘Stronger every day.’ How beautiful is that?”
MSNBC host and civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton released a statement this morning reacting to former Mayor Ed Koch’s death. In his statement, Mr. Sharpton noted he eventually came to “understand Koch,” though he was initially a staunch critic of the mayor and received his “first arrest” protesting the Koch administration.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of former Mayor Ed Koch,” Mr. Sharpton began. “Throughout his twelve years of being mayor, I was one of his most vociferous critics. In fact, my first arrest was leading a sit-in on him about summer jobs for youth in 1978. We later united and worked together around the country in a national campaign for nonviolent drug offenders to give them a second chance in life, and we ended up getting to know and understand each other.”
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch died earlier this morning at the age of 88 after being hospitalized for congestive heart disease. Mr. Koch served as the 105th Mayor of New York City for three terms from 1978 until 1989. With a larger-than-life personality, Mr. Koch relished a position that allowed him to become something of a national ambassador for New York City.
Though critics accused Mr. Koch of worsening racial tensions in the city and not doing enough to fight the AIDS crisis that was particularly devastating to the gay community, Mr. Koch was fiercely proud of his legacy, specifically, what he saw as his efforts to save New York from the financial crisis of the late 1970′s, his vast expansion of public housing and programs and efforts he saw as bringing a more meritocratic approach to local government. Politicker conducted one of the final interviews with Mr. Koch on January 17, just two weeks before his death, and he characterized his administration as paving the way for his successors.
“I’m proud of what I did,” he said. “I also believe that both Giuliani and, particularly, Mike Bloomberg have made tremendous contributions to this city. … And I look upon what I did as laying the groundwork and the foundation on which they could build, and without what I did, they couldn’t have done what they did. So, I’m proud of my contributions.”
how he did
At 2 a.m. this morning, former Mayor Ed Koch passed away due to congestive heart failure. He was 88, outspoken, and if you listen to some of New York City’s leading political figures, “an irrepressible icon,” “larger than life” and “part of the fabric of New York.”
“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,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in a statement. “As we mourn Mayor Koch’s passing, the flags at all City buildings will be flying at half-staff in his memory.”
Mr. Bloomberg further reflected on the meaning of Mr. Koch’s passing and the footprint on the city the former mayor leaves behind.