NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One simple question defined former New York City Mayor Ed Koch: “How’m I doing?”

For many New Yorkers, it wasn’t the trademark phrase that made him so popular, it was the fact that Koch wanted to know the answer so he could do better by the people of the city he loved.

EXTRA: Photo Gallery | Share Your Condolences

“He was always friendly,” Upper East Side resident Don Leftt said. “Very open to people all the time, so approachable.”

“He made us all remember how great it is to be a New Yorker,” Upper East Side resident Margot Rosenberg said.

The political pros may remember Koch as brash and combative, but New Yorkers remember a softer side of his personality, including his sense of humor and warmth, 1010 WINS’ John Montone reported.

One man told Montone he was living in Brooklyn during the Koch years and would often walk by the steps of City Hall where he would frequently spot the city’s 105th mayor.

“He was always out there and he was an amazing guy, always friendly,” the man recalled. “He was just a regular guy, an amazing person.”

Judge Edward McLaughlin said he will always be grateful to Koch who appointed him in 1983.

“He started me on my judicial career,” McLaughlin told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria. “He was just the most sincere, smart fellow and the city is at a loss because of his death.”

After learning of the 88-year-old’s passing, many can’t help but reflect on what the city would be now, without Koch then.

“He rescued it when our economy wasn’t doing so well,” New Yorker Ellen Santoro said. “He made the Big Apple become the Big Apple.”

“He took the city when it was in the dumps and made it really great,” one man said. “He was a really great person and I’m sure he’s going to go right to heaven because that’s where he belongs. He did everything great for all of us.”

Maria Sacliss, of the Upper East Side, said Koch was larger than life, the quintessential New Yorker and a real leader in tough economic times.

“I remember what the city was like and what he did for the city, just to bring up the whole level of quality of life here was just phenomenal,” Scaliss told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

Koch‘s reputation also exceeded the Big Apple’s borders.

“He was kind of almost a comic figure but not with disrespect,” Will Matthews of Texas said. “He kind of lightened the mood of what maybe a lot of people naturally think New York may be kind of a heavy place.”

“We like real folk, and he was real folk to me,” Lindy Korn of Buffalo, N.Y. said. “I liked his emotion, his passion. I think he cared about the city and the people all over the state.”

The former mayor’s life and work is detailed in the new documentary “Koch” which opened nationwide on the day of his death.

Many have taken to local theaters to see the film and pay tribute to Koch.

“I’m amazed it’s opening on the day of his death,” moviegoer Alan Finz said before seeing the film at the Angelika Theater in Greenwich Village. “I wanted to commemorate it somewhere.”

Koch died at 2 a.m. Friday at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital of congestive heart failure.

His funeral will be Monday at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan.

Share your thoughts below…

Watch & Listen LIVE