He may have been born in the Bronx, but for residents of this borough, he was a Brooklyn boy at heart.
Brooklyn leaders saluted former Mayor Ed Koch — who famously greeted commuters as they walked home across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan during a 1980 transit strike — upon his death of congestive heart failure at 2 am on Feb. 1, 2013. Koch served as mayor from 1978 until 1989, and turned 88 last December.
Beep Marty Markowitz vowed to fly the Brooklyn flag at half-staff over borough hall today, in honor of Koch’s service to New York City and the years the late mayor lived in the County of Kings after he moved to Kensington in 1941 with his young family before heading to France to fight the Nazis as a combat infantryman.
“I have no doubt this is where he got the Brooklyn attitude, swagger, and ‘chutzpah,’ that made him such a character and helped him navigate New York City through some of its most challenging times,” said Markowitz.
“Although I’ve had my disagreements with Mayor Ed Koch, I always respected that he spoke his mind,” said mayoral hopeful Sal Albanese. “New York City lost a giant of a man today.”
Councilmember Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) recalled Koch as “authentic to the bone, larger-than-life, and always the true embodiment of what it means to be a New Yorker.”
“For decades, he embodied the soul of our city, unfailingly defending and advocating for New York and everyone in it,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D–Park Slope), also lauding Koch’s “unflinching” support for Israel.
Mayor Bloomberg called Koch “an irrepressible icon, our most charismatic cheerleader and champion… a great mayor, a great man, and a great friend.”
“We will miss him dearly, but his good works – and his wit and wisdom – will forever be a part of the city he loved so much,” said Bloomberg. “His spirit will live on not only here at City Hall, and not only on the bridge the bears his name, but all across the five boroughs.”
“Ed Koch was a great New Yorker. A shrewd and honest civil servant, he was never shy to speak his mind and stand up for what he believed to be in the best interest of New Yorkers and all Americans,” said former Republican Rep. Bob Turner of Sheepshead Bay, who was elected in large part thanks to Koch’s endorsement. “This honesty and bravado led to the beginning of our unique and cherished friendship. Mayor Koch’s support was the critical element in my winning Democratic support during my campaign for the House. I am proud to have called him my friend.”
African-American Brooklynites also praised Koch, with recently elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene) noting his efforts to bring the city back from the bankruptcy crisis of 1988 and build more affordable housing.
“Edward Koch served as a Big Apple Mayor with a big personality who embodied the spirit, wit and resilience of New York City,” said Jeffries, who pointed out that the late mayor “engineered the development of thousands of units of affordable housing that have benefited generations of working families in some of our toughest neighborhoods.”
The comments came despite hizzoner’s tense relationship with the black community while in office, especially following his weak response to the murder of East New York youth Yusuf Hawkins at the hands of white Bensonhurst residents in Aug. 1989 — which some say may have cost him a fourth term. Koch’s handling of ethnic tensions is part of the backdrop of Spike Lee’s 1989 classic “Do The Right Thing,” which depicts friction between whites and blacks in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Southern Brooklyn residents also recalled Koch fondly, with Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president Carlo Scissura — a Bensonhurst native — recalling Koch’s famous policy of conducting informal opinion polls in the street.
“Koch always asked, ‘How am I doing?’ ” Scissura said. “Well, Brooklyn says you did great!”
Reach reporter Will Bredderman at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.