Mayor Ed Koch is gone and with him someone who seemed at times like he'd live as long as the city of New York stood. The first time I ever heard of Ed Koch was when he ran for mayor in 1977. I was really too young to pay much attention to him or understand what was going on in the city. Not until his second term, starting in 1981, did I see him as someone other than the man always blurting out, "How'm I doin?". By then, aside from seeing his pure joy at representing this city to the world, I was able start understanding the things he had done to help address the financial crisis that had nearly murdered the city. By then, even my staunchly Republican parents had become fans of his. Aside from a neighbor who ran for state senator, the only Democrat my father ever voted for was Ed Koch.
If you're not a native New Yorker you owe it to yourself to read about the man and his accomplishments. His greatest one was proving that New York City, contrary to many's beliefs, was indeed governable. I'm glad he didn't become governor (though we would have been saved the sanctimony of Mario Cuomo) and began the recovery of New York from the disasters of the sixties and seventies. His strenuous efforts also laid the groundwork for the later successes of Giuliani.
Ed Koch wasn't perfect. He, Police Commissioner Ben Ward and the NYPD of the mid-eighties were unable to staunch the blood from rising crime rates. He couldn't stem the flood of homeless people on the city's streets. For all the fiscal stability he helped bring (along with the Gov. Carey, the MAC and the municipal unions) to New York City, the city took on a rotten sheen that was only washed away by the collapsing crime rates of the nineties and the development of the past two decades.
I will miss Ed Koch. Even as my love for this city dwindles (skyrocketing taxes, endless development, etc.), and as Bloomberg acts the fool (soda, fats, smoking and, really, he wants to make Kissel and Conyingham Avenues a bike route?), and a cast of ultra-liberal Democratic party hacks wait in the wings to replace him, reading about Koch reminds me of better times and how a mayor ought to act. Unlike today's mayor, he walked the streets, met regularly with the public (and listened to what they said), and reflected the sheer excitement of being a citizen of this great and wondrous city.