“Brash” “Colorful” “Confrontational” and (oddly) “Bellicose” Those are the words that are being flung about today in memory of one of the great New York City mayors, Ed Koch, who passed in the wee small hours, at age 88.
The one word these reports are missing is an important one, particularly when you're running the city called The Capital of the World: "Optimistic".
Say his name one iconic image comes directly to the fore: the Mayor standing on the Brooklyn Bridge during an 11-day transit strike, in 1980. “Walk over the bridge; we won’t let them get us down!” He was there, with the folk, as it were, cheerfully urging New Yorkers on as they crossed over by foot, to get to work, and this is what it looked like: “Am I doin’ alright? How you doing? We can do this,” he greeted walkers energetically, imbuing them with such an infectious sense of New York optimism, bravado and sheer stubbornness that the trek became almost festive. Yeah. We can do this! We’re New Yorkers; we don’t get down, we get going.
What should have been an absolute misery became a proud moment for the people of New York. Transit strikes come and go; attitude is forever. Koch knew that better than almost anyone. And looking back, he understood that his time on the bridge was one of his finest momentsWhat I liked best about Koch was that he was a man who knew who he was, and was comfortable in his own skin. You can’t beat authenticity. NOTHING beats authenticity. It’s a rare gift. It won’t keep you from being vulgar…but it will give you grace.
Perhaps because I am a Catholic, and I was an admirer of both Mayor Koch and John Cardinal O’ Connor, I can’t help but be struck by how few people in media are making note of the warm, brilliant friendship between the two men; their sincere regard for each other, and their shared love of the city, brought them together to write a book, His Eminence and Hizzoner and the bonds they forged between the Jewish and Catholic communities have remained strong, even to today. At Cardinal O’ Connor’s funeral, Koch — who went to Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, for most of his life, for the sake of simple beauty and friendship — was front and center.
RIP Mayor Koch. A guy who knew that the job of the Mayor had less to do with monitoring the soda-and-salt intake of the taxpayers, and more to do with making sure the city functioned for the people — so they could, in fact, keep those tax coffers full — and who embodied the New York attitude whether in office or out, right to the end.
Deacon Greg has more, including a wonderful excerpt from Koch’s own piece on O’Connor