Edward Koch was born on December 12, 1924, in the Bronx, New York. He served in World War II and worked as a lawyer before entering New York City politics, eventually getting elected to Congress. He won the New York City mayoral election in 1977 and served for three terms. His administration was credited with rescuing the city from the edge of financial ruin while also facing much controversy due partially to racial unrest and rampant governmental corruption. With his mayoral days behind him, the outspoken Koch became a media figure and commentator. He died on February 1, 2013, at age 88.
Early Life and Politics
Edward Irving Koch was born on December 12, 1924, in the Bronx, New York, to Joyce Silpe and Louis Koch, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Poland. During childhood, Edward relocated to Newark, New Jersey with his parents and two siblings; there he would go on to attend South Side High School and, after the family moved to Brooklyn, become a student at City College. Koch was drafted to serve in World War II and stationed in Bavaria for a time before being discharged as a sergeant in 1946. Upon his return to the states, he attended New York University's law school and was admitted into the bar.
Living in Greenwhich Village, Koch worked as an attorney before entering New York City politics as part of the Village Independent Democrats. He made a name for himself defeating Tammany Hall political-machine member Carmine DeSapio in a 1963 district race. Koch moved on to City Council and then served in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977.
Winning Mayoral Seat
In 1977, Koch won New York's mayoral election, defeating Abraham D. Beame. New York City was on the verge of fiscal ruin, and the Koch administration administered a number of budget cuts and austerity measures that placed the city back on financial track. Koch's tenure was also known for barring job discrimination due to one's sexuality, creating thousands of housing units, renovating abandoned buildings and creating a style of campaigning that focused on appealing to individual voters. He also encouraged New Yorkers to persevere during a 1980 transit strike, a feat he saw as one of his proudest moments.
Koch won three mayoral terms, with landslide votes in his second and third election wins. Yet his administration faced much controversy. Outspoken and not afraid of confrontation, Koch was known for making barbed, hostile comments that often alienated fellow politicians and much of the general public. The city also underwent a great deal of racial unrest during the '80s, mitigated by what were thought to be racially motivated killings in Bensonhurst and Howard Beach. Soaring homelessness, the AIDS crisis, the drug epidemic and rampant corruption on a municipal level all placed a negative light on the administration.
Plethora of Later Projects
Koch was defeated in the 1989 Democratic primaries by David N. Dinkins, who went on to become the next mayor. After his final term, Koch returned to working as an attorney and kept very busy in a number of high-profile media positions that included writing columns, doing adjunct professor work, starring in commercial advertising spots and appearing on TV and radio as a commentator. He also worked as the judge on the TV show The People's Court from 1997 to 1999.
Koch made significant contributions to the world of publishing as well, having released 17 books over the course of his career, including Politics (1985), His Eminence and Hizzoner (1989) and Ed Koch on Everything (1994). He was also deeply devoted to his Jewish heritage.
In the political world, Koch was known for throwing support across party lines, endorsing Rudolph Giuliani for mayor—though Koch would later state that Giuliani was a "nasty man" who was too dictatorial—and Michael Bloomberg when he was running on the Republican mayoral ticket. Koch also supported the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush and the later presidential bids of Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Koch suffered from heart trouble in his later years, wearing a pacemaker and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery in 2009. With a documentary on his life opening the same day, Edward Koch died on February 1, 2013, in his true-blue home, New York City.
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