Ed Koch's Legacy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Update: Ed Koch died two days after this interview aired, the morning of Friday February 1st. Read WNYC's remembrance here.

Filmmaker Neil Barsky discusses "Koch," his new documentary on former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.


Neil Barsky

Comments [29]

robert antonucci from bklyn public library

ed koch corrupted ny city with deals with political bosses.he intentionally inflamed racial tensions for political purposes.he was vicious in his personal attacks. nyc city has had a malignancy removed.

Feb. 06 2013 04:24 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

David Willinger from Manhattan said:

"I, a Jewish white New Yorker, agree with Charles Barron and never liked Ed Koch as a mayor".

You and david kkk duke share an admiration of Charlie Barron.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke endorses Councilman Charles Barron in Congress bid

Like minds think alike?

Feb. 02 2013 02:57 PM
larry grinch

During the Spring of 1980, while I was exhibiting my paintings at the Washington Square show on 10th Street near University, Mayor Koch and his bodyguard approached the artist exhibiting next to me. That artist was a printmaker specializing in caricatures. Koch confronted the artist, stating "I heard you created a print of me in drag". The guy was shocked. Koch proceeded to examine the print closely , which displayed the mayor in a sheath dress, sporting a pill box hat and with one hand on his hip and the other holding a purse -- both knees bent. The artist was mortified. Koch studied the piece intently and finally said to the artist "this is quite good, I may buy one". The artist finally recovered and offered the print to Koch as a gift. Koch accepted the gift on the condition that he sign another one dedicated to the artist. . It was all very cool and very exciting.

Feb. 01 2013 08:34 PM
LF from NY

Chip: I will never forget the harm he caused by allowing the corrupt Buildings Dept to look the other way while landlords were stocking their unusable buildings with artists who renovated and paid for it themselves adding untold value to the landlords holdings. And then according to plan said -Oh My these people are living here illegally!- He was responsible for wholesale evictions and many many horror stories of families suddenly without access to heat and hot water,of illness and the unbearable stress of continual lawsuits. When the loft tenants got together to complain to him he said {exact quote} " Let them move to the South Bronx " in true Marie Antoinette style. When they took busses to Albany to get some relief from the legislature , got a loft law passed, Koch undermined it with a loft board meant to write regulations to protect the Loft dwellers but instead appointing total landlord advocates who basically turned it into a legal rout. I'll never forget the harm he caused, and with total arrogance, the destruction of a wonderful neighborhood of NYC, its people hurt and scattered. Koch, I hope your eternity is prisoner in a cold dank wreck of a building that you continually have to complain to the city about for no avail.

Feb. 01 2013 02:36 PM

The Koch legacy: High crime, a filthy city, unsafe streets, homeless people everywhere, terrible schools, etc.. There is a whole generation of people who don't remember how awful New York City was during the Koch and Dinkins administrations. The city is so much cleaner, safer, and nicer now. Ed Koch may have been a colorful character, and was certainly a great cheerleader for New York, but his record as mayor is really mixed. There seems to be a lot of revisionist history going on...

Feb. 01 2013 11:15 AM
Reuven from Washington Heights

In honor of NYC mayors when Ed Koch ("Hizzoner") has just died, and a documentary on Koch and an Encores! revival of the musical Fiorello! (La Guardia) have just opened, here's a (really hard!) trivia question.

In NYC mayoral elections:
Who are the top 6 vote getters? (They all got >1,000,000 votes, two of them 3 times.)
(Of course you could Google the answer (as I did -- I might have gotten 3 of them) but what fun would that be?)

Bonus questions:
Who is the top vote getter?
Who is the lowest winning vote getter since women got the right to vote in NYS (1921 election)?

Feb. 01 2013 10:50 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

I had the great luck to work in the same building in midtown as Ed Koch. I met him about a half dozen times over the years and he was always lively and outgoing and optimistic. Great, great guy. He will definitely be missed.

Feb. 01 2013 10:18 AM
Ronald Carter from East Orange, NJ

Ed Koch, RIP

While Mayor, his people helped initiate the Way Up North in Mississippi Picnic in Central Park. An event good for both Mississippi and Central Park in 1980 and it has endured to this day with just his kind of spirit. I remember a photo from the picnic when then Mayor Koch participated in our Watermelon Seed Sittin' Spittin' and Thumpin' Contest! Wonderful Memory! I will try to find this photo! It shows the same spirit as the picture at the top of this page.

Feb. 01 2013 10:14 AM
kevin from ULS

john-you've got it the other way around. good to see you're consistent. even if consistently odd. you and A'mc,might want to start a club for like minds.

Jan. 30 2013 01:58 PM
David Willinger from Manhattan

I, a Jewish white New Yorker, agree with Charles Barron and never liked Ed Koch as a mayor. He was like an assistant junior high school principal wagging a scolding finger at all of us. But what really galls me about him is the way he grabbed a forum on the national stage taking horrible positions every time. His Netanyahu lens on Israel promotes every aggressive policy the U.S. has taken in the Middle East - the First Gulf War, The Second Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, the Palestinian quagmire - he takes to HIMSELF the role of speaking for American Jews. Who is HE? He doesn't represent me. That man has overweening chutspah, and - in my opinion - he's not even funny.

Jan. 30 2013 11:52 AM
Merrill R. Frank

One of Koch's finer moments and show of political bravery was the Sunday after the Howard Beach murder he went to a Catholic church in Howard Beach and sadly was heckled by the same outer borough white ethnics who were his base of support.

Jan. 30 2013 11:37 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Dark. I'm no fan of Dinkins but him hiring thousands of extra cops and Ray Kelly as his second commissioner, help set the groundwork for Guiliani (who should get credit) to take it to another level. Dinkins never gets credit because the media will never forgive him for beating Koch in the primary.

Jan. 30 2013 11:36 AM
Kathleen Nelson from Sunnyside

I wonder why Barsky chose to create an "Ode to Ed Koch" and who funded it.

Jan. 30 2013 11:31 AM
Joan from Brooklyn

Nothing complicated here. Koch didn't call it by name but he implemented Roger Starr's concept of planned shrinkage. Part of that strategy was to convince each group that some other group was getting undeserved benefits that he would eliminate.

Jan. 30 2013 11:31 AM
john from office

Dinkins was the worst mayor ever. No friend of the police, FDNY or any of the pilars of ny.

Jan. 30 2013 11:31 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Actually, crime started going down under DINKINS which he never gets credit for and quite frankly crime went down nationally during that period so the claim that Ghouliani had anything to do with it is questionable despite the mythology.

Jan. 30 2013 11:30 AM
The Truth from Becky

and he was gay.

Jan. 30 2013 11:30 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Amen Robert - Koch talking down the Romanian dictator Ceausescu was one of his finer points. Koch accusing Dinkins of carrying out a "Pogrom" during the Crown Heights riots, was not.

Jan. 30 2013 11:26 AM
pliny from s

What about Westway

Jan. 30 2013 11:26 AM
A. McNamara from Fanwood, NJ

I also remember that he was the first person I heard to use the phrase "guilty in the court of public opinion" in regard to some notorious case where the accused was not found guilty, I cannot recall which case it was. But in response to a reporter's question was "...well he was found guilty in the court of public opinion" which is really a very keen observation and true in many cases.

Jan. 30 2013 11:24 AM
Henry from Manhattan

“Eh, how’m I doin’?”

Jan. 30 2013 11:23 AM
A. McNamara

One good thing I remember about him is going to the site where a crane had fallen on someone and sticking his hand into the hole where they were pinned and holding the hand while the firemen worked to free the person. One bad thing I recall is that he wore and afro wig to some political party.

Jan. 30 2013 11:19 AM
Jeanne from Katonah, NY

One of Mayor Koch's contributions should be listed as popularizing the Heimlich maneuver since he benefited from it at dinner one night.

Jan. 30 2013 11:18 AM

Was interesting to see Mr. Koch in the documentary The Central Park Five. He didn't seem to handle that situation well, at least by today's standards.

Jan. 30 2013 11:18 AM
Paul from NYC/Northern NJ

Koch's outspoken support of the Iraq war was just plain weird.

Jan. 30 2013 11:17 AM
Jean from Midtown

I would love to hear about the guest's views on Koch and his legacy towards AIDS. Many still think that Koch was a little too late to react to the AIDS epidemic.

Jan. 30 2013 11:15 AM
Michelle from NYC

He also took a lot of heat from the gay community in relation to how handled the city's AIDS crisis in those days.

Jan. 30 2013 11:14 AM
Robert from NYC

Thank you Sheldon I thought I was the only person who felt that way about his terms in office. Yes, he was a wonder one and 1/2 term mayor. I also agree on the naming of the bridge. I remember was a time when one had to be dead and for a certain number of years before a municiple or government in general monument was the law. I guess like many laws today it's ignored or it was removed. I would guess, as the cynic I am, the first guess is the correct one.

Jan. 30 2013 11:10 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I am grateful to mayor Koch for his first term and some of his second. His 3rd term was at best - disappointing, during which, the city was run into the ground, something Dinkins unfairly got blamed for.

And for Bloomberg to name a bridge after Koch, whilst he is still alive - was the ultimate in political narcissism.

Jan. 30 2013 10:34 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.