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.”
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.”