No one would have enjoyed the show more than 'Hissoner' Edward I. Koch, who was laid to rest with all the honors befitting a three-term mayor of the city he is credited with saving and revitalizing, who relished more than anyone "the theater of politics."
Temple Emanu-el on Fifth Avenue was filled as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, President Bill Clinton, Ambassador Ido Aharoni of Israel, family members and others paid homage in moving eulogies.
Among those in the audience was a veritable bi-partisan Who's Who: US Senator Charles Schumer, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, former Governors Eliot Spitzer and George Pataki; Congressman Peter King, former Senator Al D'Amato, Cardinal Edward Egan, former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins; former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau; City Council speaker Christine Quinn; NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly; and Curtis Sliwa (wearing signature red beret and red shirt).
People started lining up more than an hour before the service in mid-20s temperature - one line for invited guests, an even longer line for the public, their faces reflecting the diversity that is New York City.
The mood was celebratory - not sad - for the man who was blessed with a full and rich life of accomplishment, passing away at the age of 88 "with dignity, without pain or prolonged illness. He was the luckiest man in the world," said his nephew.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he brought the "love and condolences of 8.4 million New Yorkers."
He spoke of Koch's delight when the Queensborough Bridge (the 59th Street Bridge immortalized by Simon & Garfunkle) was renamed in his honor. "Welcome to my bridge," he joked. Even after the cameras stopped rolling, he stayed another 20 minutes, "Welcome to my bridge"
When told in December 2010 that the bridge would be renamed for him, Koch said, “It’s a workhorse bridge And that’s what I am, I’m a workhorse. Always have been. I feel very compatible with it.”
"No mayor embodied the symbol of the city as he did," Mayor Bloomberg said. "Brash and irreverent," Koch brandished "chutzpah, Integrity, intelligence, independence."
"New York is more than a place - it is a state of mind, an attitude he displayed every day," Mayor Bloomberg said.
When Koch became mayor in 1978 - going on to serve 3 terms - "New York City was in a state of disrepair and decay.
"For the first time in its history, the whole city seemed in terminal decline.
"New York is a magnet, where the future comes to audition, but in the 1970s, that ceased to be true.
"Then Koch came and said, 'Our best days are ahead.' He convinced us we could be great again He inspired us to fight."
Koch didn't just restore the fiscal health to the city, Bloomberg said, but he restored New York as the economic engine of the world, unleashed the largest affordable housing program in the country, was a national leader in equal rights, art and culture.
"He restored the arc of the city's history. In the decades before, we lost our way, but thanks to him, we became great again."
And that was not inevitable, Bloomberg emphasized, but was becauseof the man, himself.
"Fair to say, today owes much to Koch."
Bloomberg, who is a member of Temple Emanu-el, noted that this week's Torah portion is about Moses leading the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt.
"Koch, like Moses, led us out of darkness.... he broke the subway strike," Bloomberg joked.
Moses died before he saw the promised land, Bloomberg noted. Koch passed away mere hours before the new documentary, 'Koch' opened. (Koch was supposed to attend the premier on Tuesday, but was too ill.)
Koch, who published movie and restaurant reviews as well as commentary and books, would have reveled in maximizing the publicity for the movie, Bloomberg joked.
"No one enjoyed the theater of politics as much." And even after he left office, the press and politicians never stopped asking him for his opinion "and he never stopped offering it."
How fitting, Bloomberg said, that Mayor Koch - who planned his funeral meticulously, even selecting the music and writing his own epitaph - insisted on being buried at Trinity Cemetery, so he could spend eternity in his beloved Manhattan. "A Jew, buried in an Episcopal cemetery in what is a predominantly Dominican neighborhood."
For his gravestone, Koch chose the words that journalist Daniel Pearl uttered before he died: "My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew. I am Jewish."
Koch died on the anniversary of Pearl's death.
Bloomberg noted that Koch was famous for asking, "How am I doing?" God will tell him, "Ed, you did great. God bless you Ed Koch, and the city you loved so much."
President Bill Clinton, a personal friend and representing President Obama, said that Koch had given him a parting gift: an extra day, since he flew back from Japan, and you gain a day. "At our age, every day counts"
He held up a wad of papers saying that this was not his speech, but rather the letters that Koch had written him during his Presidency, weighing in on such things as the Crime Bill of 1995 when he pushed for a ban on assault weapons, and how he urged Clinton to find a way to give young people in troubled neighborhoods positive activities and a second chance to expunge their record through community service.
A particularly hilarious letter, Clinton said, was where Koch offered his advice on ending the scurge of cigarette smoking. He suggested promoting the link between cigarette smoking and sex. "Viagra is a big deal.... go after virility."
Koch proposed a 10-point plan for victory for Democrats in 2000 - campaign finance reform, universal health care, a prescription drug benefit, and no tax cuts until the debt is paid.
"No one had a better grasp of the impact of government on people's lives."
Koch wrote 17 books including several children's books In the last one, confronting childhood obesity, he asked Clinton to write the forward.
"He imagined what life would be like for young people if they made positive choices or had choices foisted on them Ed wanted America to shape up."
In his last letter to Clinton, Koch, who was declining in health, asked about Hillary's health.
"He had a big brain, but a bigger heart," Clinton said.
"We're all doing fine," Clinton said, to answer Koch. "But we miss you, miss you so much. We know we're doing a lot better because you lived and served."
The synagogue was filled with Republicans and Democrats alike. Indeed, in 2004, came to Great Neck to campaign for George W. Bush's reelection in 2004 instead of backing John Kerry. The key issue for him was Israel.
Koch was a stalwart supporter of Israel, as Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York said, "speaking on behalf of President Shimon Perez and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the nation. .. Ed Koch was one of us. We owe Koch a great debt of gratitude.
"His support was unwavering to Zionist cause and a Jewish Homeland. He was one of the most important Zionists of our time. He never let us down."
Calling Koch "the quintessential mayor," Aharoni said that while visiting Israel during the first Intifada, he was hit by a rock in the head.
"He joked with the man next to him, 'that rock was meant for you' The man next to him was Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem."
Koch's nephews, Shmuel, Jonathan and Jared spoke of how his rise from the son of Polish immigrants to mayor of the geratt city on earth encouraged them to dream. and as much as he loved the limelight, his sanctuary was our family."
With his nephews and grandnieces andgrandnephews - to whom he was like a fifth grandfather - he reversed his famous question to ask "How are you doing?"
His grandphew Noah said, that he was cast as married to politics, portrayed as a lonely bachelor. In fact, he was a vibrant and vital part of our family."
Dr. David M Posner, Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-el, quoted from the Book of Job,
When I went out to the gate of the city,
when I prepared my seat in the square,
the young men saw me and withdrew,
and the aged rose and stood;
the princes refrained from talking,
and laid their hand on their mouth;
the voice of the nobles was hushed,
and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
When the ear heard, it called me blessed,
and when the eye saw, it approved;
because I delivered the poor who cried,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
I was eyes to the blind,
and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the poor,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
I broke the fangs of the unrighteous,
and made him drop his prey from his teeth.
Men listened to me, and waited,
and kept silence for my counsel.
I smiled on them when they had no confidence;
and the light of my countenance they did not cast down.
NYPD pallbearers carried the former three-term mayor's simple oak coffin from the Temple Emanu-el as the organ played "New York, New York" -- and a rousing round of applause.
Outside, Fifth Avenue traffic was stopped; pipes and drummers from the New York City Police, Fire and Sanitation Departments played, members of the city's first responders formed an honor guard, and New York City Police Department helicopters whirled overhead as a ceremonial fly-over.
A Lifetime of Accomplishment
Edward I. Koch was born in the Bronx on December 12, 1924. His parents, Joyce and Louis Koch, were immigrants from Poland who came through Ellis Island. He attended the City College of New York and served in the US Army from 1943-1946, awarded two battle stars and discharged with the rank of sergeant. He received his law degree from New York University in 1948.
He became active in the Village Independent Democrats, defeating longtime Tammany Hall boss Carmine De Sapio in 1963. After a term in the New York City Council, from 1966-1968, Koch was elected to Congress five times, representing Manhattan's East Side
In 1978, he became New York City's 105th Mayor, serving three terms from 1978-1989.
For much of that time, the plaque on his desk read, "If you say it can't be done, you're right, you can't do it."
His proudest achievements included restoring the City's fiscal stability after its near-default in 1975, instituting merit-based selection of judges, creating the largest urban affordable housing initiative in the US, starting the Percent for Art program, passing strong anti-discrimination legislation for gays and lesbians, limiting smoking in restaurants, enacting campaign finance laws, and reviving New York's reputation as a dynamic, welcoming city.
Before running for office, Koch was a partner in the law firm of Koch, Lankenau, Schwartz & Kovner. After leaving office, he became a partner in Robinson, Silverman, Pearce, Aronsohn & Berman and later Bryan Cave.
Most recently, he founded "New York Uprising," a campaign dedicated to reforming New York State government.
In addition to serving as a radio and television commentator, and a television Judge, he was a film critic, and frequent columnist. He published 17 books including a children's book co-authored with his sister, Pat Thaler.
Koch will be at home in Trinity Church Cemetery, in Washington Heights. Established in 1842, the 24-acre memorial park is one of New York State's most important burying grounds, steeped in Revolutionary War, Civil War, civic- and social history.
Among the notables buried here include many whose names are attached to buildings and streets: John Jacob Astor, Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, Eliza Jumel, writer Clement Clarke Moore and naturalist John James Audubon.
Koch will be in the company of three 19th-century Mayors of New York City who have their final resting place here: the controversial Fernando Wood, the colorful A. Oakey Hall and the anti-slavery activist Cadwallader D. Colden. (Ex-Mayor Edward I. Koch had already erected his gravestone here.)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Trinity Church Cemetery in Washington Heights is Manhattan's only still-admitting burial ground (and not to be confused with its older, smaller downtown sister, Trinity Churchyard at Wall Street).
Koch had reportedly been offered a spot in a Jewish cemetery in Queens, but he insisted on staying in Manhattan.
'Koch' Film Opens Wider in NYC, Long Island
Mayor Ed Koch passed away on February 1, the same day as a documentary about him opened - an irony that Koch no doubt would have relished.
The documentary depicts Mayor Koch as the quintessential New Yorker. Always ferocious, charismatic, and hilariously blunt, who ruled New York from 1978 to 1989—a down-and-dirty decade of grit, graffiti, near-bankruptcy and rampant crime.
With KOCH, first-time filmmaker (and former Wall Street Journal reporter) Neil Barsky crafts an intimate and revealing portrait of this intensely private man, his legacy as a political titan, and the town he helped transform. The tumult of his three terms included a fiercely competitive 1977 election; an infamous 1980 transit strike; the burgeoning AIDS epidemic; landmark housing renewal initiatives; and an irreparable municipal corruption scandal. Through candid interviews and rare archival footage, KOCH thrillingly chronicles the personal and political toll of running the world’s most wondrous city in a time of upheaval and reinvention.
KOCH is a beautiful documentary examining one man’s fascinating journey into rehabilitating the very unhealthy city of New York in the 1980s. Sometime stubborn and unapologetic, Koch also opens the door to his much-speculated-about private life, which he doesn’t mind being asked about, so long you don’t mind being told to mind your own business. With his trademark greeting “How I’m Doin, ’’ his combative energy and his charming wit, Ed Koch makes for the perfect documentary subject. Says director Neil Barsky: “Making a documentary about Ed Koch was an easy call. I cannot think of a New Yorker as popular or as polarizing. Ed Koch’s story is in many ways the story of the city.”
KOCH opened on February 1, 2013 at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Angelika Film Center in New York (there was a preview in Great Neck on January 24 as part of the Great Neck Art Center's Furman Film Festival). It will open at the Cinemas 1,2 & 3 in New York and the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington L.I. on February 8; followed by Kew Gardens Cinemas, Malverne Cinema 4, Roslyn Cinemas & Sag Harbor Cinemas on February 15, 2013. The film will open in additional cities following New York, and opens in Los Angeles on March 1.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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