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Koch was a true New Yorker

TimesLedger Newspapers

I am writing to express my sympathies over the departure of former Mayor Ed Koch (1924-2013), Mr. New York. The time was 1924 when Mr. New York was born in the Bronx, when “the smell of the Bronx is perfume to me” (Rodgers & Hart, “I Gotta Get Back to New York”) and “as black as onyx, we’ll find the Bron-nix Park Express” (Rodgers & Hart, “Manhattan”).

Mr. New York graduated from New York University Law School and settled in “Greenwich where modern men itch to be free” (“Manhattan”) to play his guitar back in 1956 and become involved in the mire of politics with the Village Independent Democrats to defeat Tammany Hall in 1963 on his journey to City Hall as a three-term mayor (1978-89).

Upon Mr. New York’s election as mayor, I sent him a letter telling him “you grew up ridin’ the subways, runnin’ with people, up in Harlem, down on Broadway. You’re the heart and soul of New York City” (Odyssey, “Native New Yorker”).

A couple years later, I questioned him about his support of Medicaid-sponsored abortions in New York City at a Richmond Hill High School town hall meeting. Being a pragmatist, Mr. New York unfortunately scratched out the lyrical line, “our future babies, we’ll take to Abie’s Irish Rose. I hope they’ll live to see it close” (“Manhattan”).

Despite the corruption scandal of the Parking Violations Bureau in 1985, Mr. New York was not tarnished by the fall of some of his closest political allies: “And in the station house we’ll end, but Civic Virtue cannot destroy the dreams of a girl and boy” (“Manhattan”).

But what is most memorable about Mr. New York is having seen him, a Jew, attending mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the time of the late John Cardinal O’Connor and learning of Mr. New York’s burial in Trinity Church Cemetery in Washington Heights. His words in a 2009 interview were, “I believe in the afterlife. I believe in God. I believe in reward and punishment. And I hope to be rewarded.”

“New York is New York, that’s all you can say. It gets in your blood and it’s in there to stay” (“I Gotta Get Back To New York”). There are many televisions, but there is only one Mr. Television, Milton Berle. There are many native New Yorkers, myself included, but there is only one Mr. New York: Ed Koch.

May he rest in peace.

Joseph Manago


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