Former New York Mayor Ed Koch Dies at 88

Ed Koch, who served as mayor of New York in the 1970s and 1980s, dies after suffering from heart and other health problems.

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Elad Benari, Canada,

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch

Former New York mayor Ed Koch died on Friday and the age of 88.

Koch, who served as the mayor of New York in the turbulent 1970s and 1980s and credited with rescuing the nation's largest city from financial ruin, had been suffering heart and other health problems, AFP reported.

Koch gave Arutz Sheva permission to publish his articles, and they appeared in the Op-Ed section. 

The current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, praised Koch as a "tireless, fearless and guileless civic leader" for his role in pulling New York back from the brink of financial collapse in the late 1970s.

"Ed helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback," Bloomberg said, ordering flags to be lowered to half-mast.

Koch's greatest success was in his tough financial management during three terms between 1978 and 1989.

More than anything he is remembered for his salty and colorful New Yorker style and sense of humor.

Koch frequently walked in public or stood outside subway stations, earning a reputation as man of the people. "How'm I doin'?" was his trademark greeting to voters.

Arthur Browne, a reporter at the New York Daily News tabloid during the Koch era, remembered him for bringing in journalists every morning for a no-holds barred question and answer session.

"He was the most open to the press mayor that New York City has ever had," Browne told NY1 television. "He was a quirky quintessential outsider New Yorker who was very funny, entertaining.... People tended to love him."

Veteran U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel said that even the many who clashed with Koch recognized his sincerity and passion.

"He has to go down as one of the most unforgettable mayors that New York City's ever had," Rangel said on NY1, noting "it would be hard to win a public debate with Ed Koch."

"Sometimes he would say some mean things and he never would apologize," Rangel added.

Born into a Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx on December 12, 1924, Koch went on to attend City College and earn a law degree from New York University.

He entered politics in the 1950s in Manhattan's Greenwich Village neighborhood, winning a seat on the city council, and later went to Washington, where he served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1977, he made a second attempt running for mayor of New York City, and proved to be an agile campaigner. After two terms in office he was returned for a third term with 70 percent of the vote, when a corruption scandal involving his ally, Queens Borough President Donald Manes, damaged his reputation with voters, though Koch himself was never directly implicated.

Koch's attempt at a fourth term failed when he lost his party's nomination to Manhattan borough president David Dinkins, who would go on to be the city's first black mayor.

Most recently, Koch was featured in an ad placed by the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) in The New York Times against the nomination of Chuck Hagel as President Barack Obama’s top choice to fill the position of Secretary of Defense.

“I believe [the Hagel nomination] will encourage the Iranian program,” Koch was quoted as saying in the ad. “ I believe it will encourage the jihadists. They will say, ‘Ah, we are winning the battle. America is beginning to desert Israel.’ If [Hagel] is not [confirmed] it’ll be because the Republicans take him on, and a few good Democrats.”

Last month the former New York mayor sent a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him why his country chose to criticize Israel for approving new construction in Judea and Samaria and pointing out that the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is essential to ensuring Israel's security, especially in the wake of recent comments by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.

Mashaal, who visited Gaza for the first time in December, said in a public speech that the terror group reserves the right to use "resistance" - the Arab term for terrorism - to "liberate Palestine".

"You ask Israel to cease building settlements on the West Bank, which are intended not only to house Israelis, but to provide a defense bulwark when the Islamist armies of the surrounding states, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria - Assad or his opponents - and Iraq, again try militarily to crush Israel," wrote Koch.

"Will Britain come to Israel's aid? I recall when in one of those wars, Britain declined to deliver to Israel tanks it had purchased from your country. Britain under Chamberlain participated in the Munich sellout of Czechoslovakia. What you and your European colleagues are doing now is repeating the sellout, this time of Israel. The Czech Republic, mindful of what happened to it, is the only European country to vote no to Palestinian statehood. When one of your predecessors told the world that he offered 'peace in our time,' he wrote himself into history as a disgrace. How will history on this issue recall you?

"Why would you expect Israel to cooperate in its intended lynching?"

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)