You did not have to grow up in New York City to know the name Ed Koch. He served as Mayor for three terms from 1978-1989, and used his sometimes combative style to rescue the city from near financial ruin.
He was a quintessential New Yorker and one of the city’s most popular and outspoken politicians - known for his no nonsense in-your-face, colorful personality, and his trademark question asked of friends and foes alike - "How'm I doin'?" Koch lived a life as big as the city he served – not afraid to speak his mind. He lived with a passion for politics and the Big Apple.
Son of immigrants
Edward Irving Koch was born to Polish Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, NY in 1924. His parents Louis and Yetta (later Americanized to Joyce) arrived in New York separately as teenagers from Poland in the early 1900s – Louis traveled from the village of Uścieszko in the Galician frontier. He became a furrier and a partner in a shop until it folded during the Depression in 1931.
Ed was drafted out of college by the army to serve in World War II as a combat infantryman in Europe. Honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant, he returned home and practiced law before turning to a political career. A lifelong Democrat, Koch served on City Council, then three terms in the Congress. In 1977, he became New York’s 105th Mayor – a job Koch often said he wanted for life.
He took over a city facing financial crisis and is credited for saving it from disaster. New York was graffiti-marred and crime-ridden. He was the city’s Mayor for twelve years that were spirited, irreverent and rarely, if ever boring.
After leaving office, Koch remained active and popular. He practiced law, wrote more than a dozen books, came into the homes of many TV viewers as the Judge on the People’s Court, was a radio broadcaster, an inveterate movie reviewer, and became an enthusiastic Twitter user. He also endured a stroke, a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery.
Ed Koch was involved with the Consulate General of Poland in New York for special events, such as the dedication of the Jan Karski monument. The sculpture was formally dedicated by the former Mayor, who also renamed the intersection where the statue resides as “Jan Karski Corner.”
He was direct, unpredictable, and had an irrepressible character, but he claimed that the Ed Koch you saw was not who he was. “I knew that to get attention, to get it done, and to get people to listen and support, you have to be bigger than life,” said Koch.
Much to his frustration the former Mayor was too ill to attend the premiere of the film Koch – a documentary about his life was released. Ironically, the film opened to the general public on the day of his passing.
Larger-than-life, the ebullient Ed Koch embodied New York chutzpah for the rest of the world. "How'm I doin'?" You did good!