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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch has died. He was 88.
Spokesman George Arzt said Koch died at 2 a.m. at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital of congestive heart failure. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan. Koch’s burial service will be private at the request of his family.
Koch was moved to intensive care on Thursday after being admitted to the hospital on Monday with shortness of breath. He had just been released from the hospital last week after being treated for water in his lungs and legs.
Only four people have ever been elected mayor of the city of New York three times: Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Wagner, Michael Bloomberg and Edward Irving Koch — a man whose personality was as large and as lively as the city he governed.
LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Alex Silverman With Spokesman George Arzt
“Ed loved the job because he was so good at it and his legacy is all around us in all five boroughs,” Bloomberg said Friday. “I think it’s fair to say that no retired elected official in the history of the world remained more involved, more vocal and more relevant than Edward I. Koch.”
“When we were down, Ed Koch picked us up; when we were worried, he gave us confidence; when someone needed a good kick in the rear, he gave it to them and he enjoyed it,” Bloomberg added.
“Ed Koch was an extraordinary Mayor, irrepressible character, and quintessential New Yorker,” said President Barack Obama. “Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Ed’s loved ones, and to the city that survives him.”
“He was a persona, kind of a lively, grumpy, friendly cheery gutsy New Yorker,” said former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. “He was an absolute quintessential New Yorker.”
Ed Koch became mayor of New York in 1978 by beating Cuomo in the democratic primary. Cuomo returned the favor by beating Koch in the democratic gubernatorial primary five years later.
Despite their political rivalry, Cuomo, like most New Yorkers, found it hard not to be drawn in by Koch’s utter irrepressibly.
“Hi. How’m I doin?” is the trademark phrase he made famous. This life-long bachelor and former congressman dedicated his 12 years in office to the city he loved — bragging to reporters he was in the news 365 days a year.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Al Jones on the new documentary “Koch”
“What a great city. Very few like it. In fact, there’s none,” said Koch in 1978.
“It was a mission for him to the people of New York,” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Koch’s rabbi and friend.
A mission he would describe as the defining moment of his years on earth, reported CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Koch took the oath of office in January 1978, inheriting a city on the edge of bankruptcy with a $1 billion debt.
“At that time the whole city was crumbling and then we elected Ed Koch and he was a civic savior for our city in desperate times and he will be remembered as one of the greatest and one of the most important mayors in our city’s long history,” Bloomberg said.
Koch cut spending, slashed the payroll and brought the city back to fiscal solvency by just saying “no.” With his clever quips and zany humor he got New Yorkers to like his lean and mean brand of fiscal austerity.
“We have been inundated by problems, shaken by troubles that would have destroyed any other city but we are not any other city,” Koch said at his inauguration.
Koch defended the city against all takers and he liked to brag that he gave as good as he got.
“I am not somebody you beat up and then you expect that we shake hands and it’s like a ball game,” Koch once said.
His popularity grew during the transit strike of 1980 where he was seen crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot with the commuting public — deftly staying out of the negotiations while showing solidarity with affected New Yorkers.
Koch was also proud to be Jewish. He was a staunch defender of Israel — planting an olive tree there he displayed his puckish sense of humor
“So now I have a steady supply of olives for my martinis,” Koch quipped.
After being re-elected mayor in 1981 as the candidate of both the Democratic and Republican parties, Koch was persuaded to run for governor.
A bid he lost to Mario Cuomo.
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“They voted for me for governor and kept Koch,” Cuomo said. “It drove him bonkers,” replied Cuomo.
The loss to Cuomo didn’t hurt him with New York City voters, though. They re-elected him for a third term in 1985 by historic margins.
But just one year later, the low point of his 12 years in office, a corruption scandal that engulfed Queens Borough President Donald Manes, who later committed suicide, proved to be a turning point in his mayoralty.
“I am embarrassed, I’m chagrined, I’m absolutely mortified that this kind of corruption could have existed and that I did not know,” Koch said regarding the scandal.
And despite his tangible accomplishments, he had his critics.
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“I think he misread the times and the times got away from him and he couldn’t manage the polarization that came in the city,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton.
In 1989, Koch was denied a fourth term, losing to David Dinkins in the primary.
Contributing to that loss was the killing of a black teenager Yusef Hawkins, by a white mob in Bensonhurst.
Koch conceded in his inimitable style. “Believe me. There is life after the mayoralty,” Koch said in his concession speech.
There sure was. From radio shows to the “The People’s Court” to the lecture circuit, Koch was never far from the public eye.
The city even renamed the Queensboro Bridge in his honor in 2011.
But his health began to fail in late 2012 with several hospital stays just months apart.
“I’ve led a very full life,” Koch said.
Koch often said he was at peace with himself and was ready to meet his maker whenever the Almighty chose to call him.
“I love life, but anytime God calls me, I’m willing to go without a struggle,” Koch said on his 85th birthday.
He even secured a burial plot in Manhattan’s Trinity Cemetery saying, “I don’t want to leave Manhattan — even when I’m gone.”
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck: ‘Koch Was New York’
His tombstone carries an inscription Koch wrote himself. It reads in part, “He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith, he fiercely defended the City of New York and he fiercely loved its people.”
His friends, family and fans say Ed Koch will always be part and parcel of the fabric of New York City.
“It will never be said Ed Koch is dead,” said Schneier. “Ed Koch lived.”
“He was New York, his personality was New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
And if you asked Ed Koch how he wanted to be remembered, it would be, “Ed Koch. A true mensch.”
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