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Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch Oversaw City's Renaissance

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Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch Oversaw City's Renaissance

Remembrances

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch Oversaw City's Renaissance

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch Oversaw City's Renaissance

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New York City residents are remembering one of their most colorful mayors. Ed Koch served the city for three terms in the 70s and 80s, an era when New York was plagued by fiscal problems, crime, and the AIDS epidemic. He didn't disappear when he was voted out of office. With his radio show and a stint as a TV judge, he became almost a stereotype of New York's brash, tell-it-like-it-is personality.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We're going to take a few minutes now to remember former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who died early this morning. Koch was a colorful and pugnacious force in New York City politics, serving three terms as mayor from 1978 to '89. He presided over the city's recovery from a fiscal crisis while grappling with homelessness, rampant crime and the outbreak of AIDS. He did all that in a very New York tone, as we hear from Jim O'Grady of member station WNYC.

JIM O'GRADY, BYLINE: Ed Koch sounded like no mayor who'd come before him.

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O'GRADY: Fighting was like breathing to him.

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O'GRADY: Born in the Bronx in 1924, Ed Koch grew up in Newark doing the Great Depression and saw combat as an infantryman in World War II. In 1963, he was a member of the Greenwich Village Independent Democrats when he took on powerbroker Carmine DeSapio in a long shot race for district leader and won. Koch relished campaigning.

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O'GRADY: He used those skills to win five terms in Congress. But it was as mayor that he first gained national attention for a question he shouted at New Yorkers in the street.

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O'GRADY: Historians say Koch did well, balancing the books after the city's near-bankruptcy and battling crime to a draw while constantly stressing his commitment to law and order, as with his remarks to a police academy class.

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O'GRADY: Koch also went hard at his opponents, and they returned the favor. Like during the 11-day transit strike of 1980 when the mayor famously walked across the Brooklyn Bridge during rush hour and took sides against the Transport Workers Union. That riled up one subway worker who said this about the mayor.

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O'GRADY: Koch's third term, from 1986 to 1989, was marked by scandal. One of his major allies was accused of extortion. That man then committed suicide by stabbing himself in the heart. Koch tried to downplay the problems at a press conference.

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O'GRADY: By the end of his third term, Koch's outsized personality began to wear thin, and the voters rejected his bid for a fourth term. Out of office, Koch published "Mayor," a best-selling book that became an off-Broadway play, reviewed movies and even served as a judge on TV's "The People's Court."

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O'GRADY: In 2010, the city announced it would put Edward I. Koch's name on the Queensboro Bridge. That pleased him.

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O'GRADY: In a 1989 interview, Koch was asked to compose his own epitaph.

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O'GRADY: Ed Koch was the 105th mayor of New York City. For NPR News, I'm Jim O'Grady in New York.

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