Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mayor Edward Koch's Final Tribute

Mourners say goodbye to one of NYC's finest

By Rachael Johnson

With the eulogies finished and the organ playing “New York, New York,” the wooden casket containing the body of Mayor Edward Koch was carried through the throng at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

And then something unusual happened: The mourners burst into spontaneous applause.

“I’ve never been to a funeral where people clapped as the casket went by,” said mourner Edward Summer. “He was a straight shooter.”

“It was a nice tribute,” said Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx borough president and now the acting chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “A nice send-off.”

For a little over an hour on Monday morning, the sanctuary was filled with hundreds who had come to mourn Koch, who died Friday at the age of 88. The crowd included family, friends, such politicians as President Bill Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and fellow New Yorkers who knew and loved Koch.

“No mayor ever embodied spirit like Ed,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “He knew that New York was more than a place, but a state of mind.”

Bloomberg said that before he began his run for office, he asked Koch for advice. “Be yourself. Say what you believe and don’t worry about what people think,” Bloomberg said. “God knows he didn’t.”

Later on, when Bloomberg turned to him again for political advice about how to improve the city’s health system, Koch told him, “Limit the size of sugary drinks; no one will notice,” he recalled as the audience chuckled.

Koch was the city’s 105th mayor. He was born in the Bronx, and graduated from New York University School of Law in 1948.

In 1966, he was elected to the City Council from Greenwich Village.  After leaving the council, Koch served in the U.S. Congress for five terms and then served as mayor from 1978 to1989. He served three terms, becoming the first mayor in history to receive both the Democratic and Republican nominations in 1981.

“He said, I’m still liberal, but I’m sane,’” President Clinton said. “He had a big brain, but he had a bigger heart.”

Koch’s close friend, James F. Gill, whom Koch appointed as chairman of the Joint Commission on Integrity in the Public Schools in 1988, also spoke at the funeral. Gill recalled a time when the two walked down the street after his fourth mayoral campaign ended in a loss to David Dinkins. People told Koch that he should run again. “He’d reply, ‘No. The people threw me out and now the people must be punished,’” Gill said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Longtime friend John LoCicero, who first met Koch in 1963 when Koch was the district leader in Greenwich Village, said that he cherished his friend’s honesty. “He was real and didn’t cater to anyone, and that came through,” LoCicero said.

Outside, friends gathered around the temple after the casket was driven away to the cemetery.

Former NYC mayoral candidate Mark Green noted that he, too, came to celebrate Koch’s life of service. “Ed and I had a contentious start, but we respected each other.”

No comments:

Post a Comment