During his 12 years as Mayor Koch became a symbol of NYC, he was a combative, in your face, take no prisoners type of politician whose heart was as big as the City he managed. Koch was one of my early political idols, not necessarily because of his stances but because he was willing to switch parties to support (who he thought were) the superior candidates
Koch was an icon, who led by example. He used to walk through the city flashing thumbs up sign and asking his constituents, "How am I doing?"
Bald and bombastic, paunchy and pretentious, the city's 105th mayor was quick with a friendly quip and equally fast with a cutting remark for his political enemies.
"You punch me, I punch back," Koch once memorably observed. "I do not believe it's good for one's self-respect to be a punching bag."
The mayor dismissed his critics as "wackos," waged verbal war with developer Donald Trump ("piggy") and mayoral successor Rudolph Giuliani ("nasty man"), lambasted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and once reduced the head of the City Council to tears.His last words to me (via email) was a blunt you are an idiot when I complained to him about his off again on again criticism of Obama (but that is for another day).
"I'm not the type to get ulcers," he wrote in "Mayor," his autobiography. "I give them."During the 1980 transit strike he walked across the Brooklyn Bridge--cheer-leading the commuters walking across the bridge to work.
"I began to yell, `Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge! We're not going to let these bastards bring us to our knees!' And people began to applaud," he recalled at a 2012 forum. His success in rallying New Yorkers in the face of the strike was, he said, his biggest personal achievement as mayor.When the NY Giants won the Super Bowl (a decade after they left NY) Koch refused to throw them a parade in the city saying;
"If they want a parade, let them parade in front of the oil drums in Moonachie, (a town near their Stadium in NJ)."
Koch was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith and a tireless supporter of Israel. On his gravestone (which he already had made) is engraved with the last words of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”
Ironically Koch died on February 1st the same day as Daniel Pearl.
"HaMakom yenachem etchem b'toch sha'ar availay Tzion VeYerushalayim"
May God comfort his family, friends and all his loved ones amongst the mourners of Zion and