Standing Ovation As Casket Carried From Temple To 'New York, New York'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Remembered as a man with a “big brain, but an even bigger heart,” thousands said goodbye Monday to New York City’s “quintessential mayor,” Ed Koch.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, it was a rousing sendoff for a master showman. Edward Irving Koch, New York City’s 105th mayor – was always larger than life.

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With a standing ovation, at least 2,500 mourners applauded as Koch’s wooden casket was carried by six uniformed officers out of Temple Emanu-El to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

“When they played ‘New York, New York’ as Ed was taken out of the synagogue, it couldn’t help but bring a tear to your eye,” former New York Gov. George Pataki told CBS 2’s Lou Young.


Speaking at the service, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Koch must be “beaming” from all the attention.

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“No mayor has ever embodied the spirit of New York like he did and I don’t think anyone ever will,” he said. “More than anyone else, he knew that New York was more than a place, it is a state of mind, it is an attitude.”

“He restored the arc of our city’s history. In the decade before Ed became mayor, we had lost our ways. And thanks to him, we became great again,” said Bloomberg.

Bloomberg also compared Koch to Moses, saying he led the city out of darkness.

“It is fair to say that the city we know today would not exist without him. Everything that David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani and I accomplished has been built on the foundation that Ed laid,” said Bloomberg.


Former President Bill Clinton said Koch left an impression on all who knew him.

“We miss you so much because we all know we’re doing a lot better because you lived and served,” Clinton said.

Koch was also remembered for his love of Israel. Ambassador Ido Aharoni, the Consul General of Israel in New York, said Israelis owe Koch “a great debt of gratitude.”

“For his long-standing support, friendship, unconditional love and commitment to the Zionist movement and the Jewish homeland,” he said.

It was, in many ways, the most upbeat funeral most had ever attended.

“It was a beautiful atmosphere — a great send-off for a beautiful man,” said former City Council member Melinda Katz.

“I think it was the ultimate eternal send-off,” said Brooklyn activist Richard Green.

But his funeral service wasn’t just about his life in politics. Koch was remembered as a doting grand-uncle by his family.

His grand-nephew, Noah Thayer, recalled fond memories of Koch attending their after-school activities with enthusiasm and getting a manicure with his then 11-year-old sister.

“While he knew he was often portrayed as a lonely bachelor, it didn’t matter,” Thayer said. “He saw in his family only perfection.”


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The funeral was followed by a procession to the Trinity Church cemetery in Washington Heights. Koch purchased a plot there in 2008 because it was the only graveyard in Manhattan that still had space.

“I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone,” he said at the time. “This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.”

Feisty and full of life to the very end, Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at the age of 88.

Diane Coffey, Koch’s former chief of staff, said at Monday’s service that Koch was aware of his impending mortality and planned his own funeral.

“We began talking about his death in the 80s and his plans for it,” Coffey said. “Who else plans every detail of a burial?”

She said Koch wanted to be buried in a cemetery that was “conveniently located near a subway stop” so that it would be easier for New Yorkers to visit.

Several other big names in New York’s history have also been laid to rest at the uptown cemetery, according to Trinity tour guide Eric K. Washington.

“He’ll be the fourth mayor in the cemetery. Fernando Wood is on the same side here and then across Broadway are two other mayors, A. Oakey Hall and Cadwallader David Colden. He’ll have people to talk to,” Washington told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.


A small crowd gathered across the street to watch the burial and take pictures of Koch’s large grave stone visible from 153rd Street.

“He is who he is, he was who he was and he loved New York City. He was an incredible human being and what you saw is what you got and that’s what’s so wonderful about him and so rare today,” an onlooker told Diamond.

The body of Mayor Koch was transported past throngs of New Yorkers along the cemetery route.

“I’m sad because I loved Ed Koch — loved his personality,” Marilyn Horowitz told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

Former Mayor Ed Koch's grave site at Trinity Cemetery in Manhattan (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Former Mayor Ed Koch’s grave site at Trinity Cemetery in Manhattan (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Just like the mayor himself, the procession shuttled from one side of town to the other, with New Yorkers pausing to remember.

“Big Ed, a classic fixture in New York history, and he’s remembered lovingly among New Yorkers,” said David Hamburger.

His grave stone 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.”

The grave stone also includes a quote from slain journalist Daniel Pearl — “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”

Koch became mayor of New York in 1978. He led the city for 12 years and is credited with helping save New York from its economic crisis in the 1970s, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“We had such respect for him because of his outsized personality,” Bloomberg said. “Matched by his integrity, his intelligence and his independence.”

In the end, Bloomberg said he wanted everyone to never forget the man that bled New York City.

“God said what so many people around this city and this country and around the world have been saying over the last few days: Ed, you did great. You did really great, so God bless you Ed Koch and bless the city you loved so much and served so well,” Bloomberg said.

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