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Ed Koch

NYPR Archives & Preservation

Mary Perot Nichols: Guiding WNYC's Rebirth and Renewal - Part 2

Monday, October 27, 2014

WNYC gets a new facility and wins a Peabody. A lot of change for WNYC in 6 years.
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NYPR Archives & Preservation

Mary Perot Nichols: Guiding WNYC's Rebirth and Renewal - Part 1

Monday, October 27, 2014

In 1979, when the city owned WNYC, then-Mayor Ed Koch demanded the station air the names of men who patronized prostitutes, and it cost director Mary Perot Nichols a fortune in funding.
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WNYC News

Mayor Versus Nature, Take Two

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A rookie mayor takes office, and a few days later, crazy winter weather hits and keeps on hitting in what ends up being a test of leadership. Sound familiar? It happened to Ed Koch, and it's happening now.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Mayoral History Smackdown

Thursday, July 18, 2013

As the Bloomberg era comes to a close, we look back at the history of the New York mayor's office and assess the accomplishments of those who've held the office. Which mayor transformed the city the most, and was Bloomberg just another mayor, or has he had a unique impact? Sam Roberts, urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times and editor of America's Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York, and Mason B. Williams, author of City of Ambition: FDR, LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York, discuss. Listeners, who's the best mayor in NYC history in your estimation? Was Bloomberg just another mayor? Post here or call 212-433-9692...

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WNYC News

Ed Koch Remembered as a 'Quintessential' New Yorker

Monday, February 04, 2013

Hundreds of people turned out to bid farewell to former Mayor Ed Koch on Monday.

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WNYC News

Friends and Dignitaries to Remember Former Mayor Koch Monday

Sunday, February 03, 2013

New Yorkers from all walks of life will remember former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch at his funeral service Monday morning.

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WNYC News

What Giuliani Learned From Ed Koch: 'I Tried to Copy Him'

Friday, February 01, 2013

"The mayor should be the one in charge. And I think I kind of learned that watching Ed Koch do that for so many years."

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Transportation Nation

Ed Koch, Staunch Supporter of Transit, Inadvertent Boon for Biking, Dies at 88

Friday, February 01, 2013

Ed Koch reclines in the office of his campaign manager in September 1977-as seen in "Koch". (Courtesy of the film.)

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch died on the 100th birthday of Grand Central Terminal. That's a poetic coincidence, but not a random one. Koch played a crucial role in ensuring America's cathedral to public transportation lived to see its centennial celebration, fiercely advocating for its preservation first as a Congressman and then as mayor. (Here's the Grand Central Terminal preservation story told with charming archival audio).

That's just one of many of Koch's  staunch stances during his three terms from 1978 - 1989 that has transit advocates heaping praise in memory of the bellicose mayor who helped pull New York  out of dark times.

In fact, many of his most controversial moments have to do with transportation, including famously walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest of the 1980 transit workers' strike. 

Though, his biggest impact on transportation may have been through a project that never was. Early in Koch's tenure, NY Governor Hugh Carey pushed for a highway megaproject known as "Westway" to put the West Side Highway underground, a plan the federal government would only fund if the mayor also signed off on it.

Koch refused until Carey promised the state would subsidize the NYC subway enough to avoid any fare increase for four years. The governor kept his word for two years, then reneged. But Koch -- with his subway loyalties -- had the last laugh.

In 1985, a legal challenge and Congressional opposition doomed the Westway project. Koch and then-governor Mario Cuomo chose not to fight to resurrect Westway and instead scrambled to "trade-in" the federal funds to be reallocated to transit, yielding more than $1 billion for subways and buses according to Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. (See video of Koch discussing Westway below.)

The NYC Straphanger's Campaign also said in a statement of condolence to Koch's family that the former mayor inherited a subway system with ridership at the lowest level since 1917. Yet when he left office, the system was on the rise. 

"Mayors have limited powers to affect subway and bus service, which is run by a State public authority. Mayor Koch used his to the fullest, employing his bully pulpit to drag public promises out of transit executives before the glare of cameras, such as improved announcements and a crackdown on subway graffiti. Under pressure from Mayor Koch, the MTA completely eliminated graffiti on subway cars in 1989, during Mayor Koch's last term in office. In the mid-1980's, Mayor Koch doubled the City's commitment to the MTA's vital five-year rebuilding program."

Inadvertently, Koch gave a boost the the NY cycling community as well: by trying to ban bikes from Midtown in 1987. What was meant as a crackdown on weaving bicycle messengers transformed hordes of casual riders into activists, or at least supporters of advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives, which saw membership sign-ups increase ten fold. The bike ban was eventually voided over a legal technicality, but the organized bike lobby remains strong to this day. 

Koch's memory has been firmly fastened to transportation with the most sturdy and standard of civic tributes: the Queensboro Bridge has been renamed the Edward Koch Queensboro Bridge. "There are other bridges that are much more beautiful like the George Washington or the Verrazano but this more suits my personality," he told WNYC, "because it's a workhorse bridge. I mean, it's always busy, it ain't beautiful, but it is durable."

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Ed Koch's Last Campaign

Friday, February 01, 2013

Liz Benjamin, host of Capital Tonight, blogger, talks about Ed Koch and New York Uprising, the campaign to get state legislators to pledge to reform redistricting.

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WQXR Blog

When Ed Koch Met Aaron Copland

Friday, February 01, 2013

In 1978, mayor Edward I. Koch invited Aaron Copland to Gracie Mansion after hearing that the composer had never been there. "But you were born in Brooklyn and are one of our great composers," Koch exclaimed. "I am shocked!"

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The Takeaway

Ed Koch, Former New York Mayor, Dies at 88

Friday, February 01, 2013

Ed Koch, the three-time mayor of New York, died this morning at the age of 88. His 12-year mayoralty encompassed the fiscal austerity of the late 1970s and the racial conflicts and municipal corruption scandals of the 1980s, an era of almost continuous discord that found Mr. Koch at the vortex of a maelstrom day after day.

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WNYC News

Mayor Bloomberg Statement on Ed Koch

Friday, February 01, 2013

"His spirit will live on not only here at City Hall, and not only on the bridge the bears his name, but all across the five boroughs."

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Transportation Nation

How Grand Central Terminal Survived the Wrecking Ball - And Lived to 100

Thursday, January 31, 2013

(New York, NY - WNYC) Soon after Grand Central Terminal opened in 1913, it was viewed as an one of the great public spaces in America, an icon of modern travel. By the 1940s, a popular radio drama bearing its name would open with a blast from a locomotive whistle and an announcer crying, "Grand Central Station! As a bullet seeks its target, shining rails in every part of our great country are aimed at Grand Central Station, part of the nation's greatest city."

Thirty years later, developers wanted to take a wrecking ball to Grand Central and replace it with an office tower.

In truth, the place was seedy. That's according to Kent Barwick, a former head of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and a key player in the effort to prevent the destruction of the terminal to make way for an office tower. "It was pretty dusty and the windows were broken," he recalled of Grand Central back then. "It was dark and and littered with advertising everywhere. And there wasn't any retail except for a couple of newsstands that had near-poisonous sandwiches and undrinkable coffee."

(We've done some terrific coverage of Grand Central in the past year:  a tour of the Grand Central clock tour with The Invention of Hugo Cabret author Brian O. Selznick here and a cool behind-the-scenes video of Grand Central's secrets here.)

The Fight Is On

The terminal was owned by the Penn Central Railroad, a company in decline because of America's move to the suburbs and car-dependent travel.  The much vaunted Interstate Highway Bill also spelled death for long-distance rail travel. In 1975, Penn Central was careering into bankruptcy and desperate to squeeze a windfall from its prime Manhattan real estate. So it proposed to do to Grand Central what it had done to Penn Station: sell the development rights to a company that would tear down the Beaux-Arts masterpiece and erect a steel and glass tower.

But Grand Central, unlike Penn Station, was landmarked.

The owners sued in state supreme court, claiming the new landmark law was unconstitutional. The railroad won, and moved to demolish Grand Central. The preservationists scrambled.

Barwick and his colleagues at The Municipal Arts Society called a hasty press conference in the terminal at Oyster Bar. Barwick's boss, Brendan Gill spoke first. "If we can't save a building like this, what can we do?" he asked.

The preservationists knew they were fighting to save not only the building but the landmarks law itself. And they knew from press descriptions of them as "a troop of well-known New Yorkers" that some of their opponents were painting them as elitists who wished to suspend New York in amber. Former consumer affairs commissioner Bess Meyerson spoke next, and addressed the issue.

"It's not really a question of change," she said. "If any city understands change, it's our city. But I think it's high time that we ask that very important question, 'Change for what?'"

Cause célèbre

The next speaker was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose presence transformed preservation from a stuffy to a glamorous pursuit. "I think if there is a great effort, even if it's at the eleventh hour, you can succeed and I know that's what we'll do," she said.

The New York Times prominently featured her in its coverage the following day, noting her "eleoquence," as well as her "two-piece tan dress adorned with heavy long gold chain." The effort to save Grand Central was, from that moment, a national issue.

Barwick recalled that Onassis also wrote a letter to Mayor Abe Beame, and that the letter began, "'Dear Abe, How President Kennedy loved Grand Central Terminal.'"  Barwick laughingly added that, "I don't know, and I don't need to know, whether President Kennedy had ever expressed himself on that subject."

Not long after, Beame told the city's lawyers to appeal the state supreme court's decision, an appeal the city won. The case then moved, in 1978, to the U.S. Supreme Court.Penn Central again argued it should be able to do what it wanted with its property. New York's lawyers said the city had the right to regulate land use through the landmarks law.

The verdict

The justices sided with the city. Grand Central Terminal was saved and, in the early 90s, underwent a restoration that brought back its luster. Penn Central Railroad eventually became Metro-North, which last year saw near-record ridership of 83 million passengers.

Barwick said that today, the city can't imagine being without Grand Central Terminal. "You see New Yorkers all the time, staking a claim in that building, pointing up to that cerulean sky and saying, 'Hey. this belongs to us,'" he said.

Grand Central Terminal turns 100 years old tomorrow.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Ed Koch's Legacy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Neil Barsky, filmmaker, talks with Brian Lehrer about his new documentary on former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.

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WNYC News

Ex-Mayor Ed Koch Leaves Hospital

Monday, December 10, 2012

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch has been released from a Manhattan hospital.

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WNYC News

Ex-NYC Mayor Koch Hospitalized with Infection

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is in a hospital with a respiratory infection. It's his second hospitalization in three months.

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WNYC News

Former Mayor Ed Koch Hospitalized for Anemia

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch has been hospitalized for treatment of anemia.

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The Empire

Koch emails legislators: Don't take a deal on redistricting

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Former Mayor Ed Koch with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

Former New York City mayor Ed Koch launched the latest salvo in the deal-or-no-deal redistricting battle. Koch, who pushed lawmakers during the last election to sign pledges supporting an independent redistricting process, is calling on them now to reject any sort of deal that would see a promise to pass a constitutional amendment in exchange for Governor Andrew Cuomo's signing the lines into law.

"A constitutional amendment is worthy of support on its own, of course, but not at the expense of improved lines now," Koch writes. "That is only good for the people who are counting on Albany staying exactly the way it is for another decade, but most New Yorkers think that's far too long. Voting for anything less than a 2012 independent commission would violate the pledge that so many lawmakers signed and campaigned on.

"We know there is a lot of pressure on you to support such a deal, or there will be. But if you still stand by your original pledge, as we hope you do, you should oppose it. And if it passes anyway and Governor Cuomo vetoes it, we hope you will sustain that veto."

Koch, of course, has been burned before by those who promised an independent process this time around. This might be more of a shot across the bow of those senators and members of the assembly who signed the NY Uprising pledge during their campaign and who Koch now labels "Enemies of Reform."

The full letter is after the jump.

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It's A Free Country ®

The Process is Political: Bloomberg Testimony, Where to Count Prisoners

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Our daily look at the details that can change everything.

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The Empire

Good gov groups split on redistricting as LATFOR comes to Manhattan

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Colby Hamilton / WNYC

Ed Koch, left, with Dick Dadey at the LATFOR hearing

The state legislature’s redistricting task force is holding public meetings this week in New York City. Today they were in Manhattan hearing testimony from elected officials, good government groups, and any normal people who were inspired to take a day off of work to attend the hearing.

Oh, and Ed Koch.

The former mayor, fresh off his party-crossing coup in the 9th Congressional District, came to shakedown the bicameral committee. He was joined by Dick Dadey, the head of the nonpartisan good government group Citizens Union, and former parks commissioner and founder of NY Civic, Henry Stern.

The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research—known awkwardly as LATFOR—has been holding meetings around the state to get the public’s feedback on how the decennial process of redrawing the state’s legislative districts should go. Koch and his good government cohorts have been pushing for an independent redistricting plan for over a year.

The New York State legislature was unable to put together a plan before the end of the last session, and so the traditional process—the politicians in the legislature whose districts are being redrawn controlling the process—has begun. This hasn’t made Ed Koch particularly happy.

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