The New York of today would look much different without Mayor Koch's energetic, brash influence during a time when the city was facing high crime, economic upheaval, and a loss of hope by residents. He faced many battles during his first term to balance the city's budget, including a 1980 transit strike, and can count his success in this regard as one of his greatest victories. Though the sometimes controversial mayor faced his share of criticism, primarily for his handling of the AIDS epidemic and race relations while he was mayor from 1978 to 1989, he was nevertheless beloved by the city that he in turn loved so much. And though he will never again ask, "How'm I doin'?", he did just fine for the city he loved.
New Yorkers React
John Schmitt, a musician who lives in Brooklyn, said it well. "Ed Koch was my friend. Yours, too. That's what he meant to this city. We all lost our buddy today."
Mark Sirkin, a psychologist who now lives in White Plains, remembered Koch's humor and love of the city. He recalled that after a Teachers Union victory in Rochester, Koch remarked that the only problem was that you had to live in Rochester to get it. "He was a guy who really loved the city. Bold, bald, in-your-face New York. It's the greatest city in the world, and who wouldn't want to be here?" said Sirkin.
Even those who sometimes disagreed with the mayor are mourning his passing. Hal Gross, a Manhattan resident, had this to say about the death of the iconic mayor: "I was sorry to hear of his passing. I always deeply appreciated his no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners directness, honestly. But I was deeply disappointed in his mishandling in the early years of the AIDS crisis. He did nothing while hundreds were dying. Some said he was timid initially on the issue due to his fear of being outed himself, but that was never proven. He just didn't react quickly enough, and he got no encouragement from the federal government. There is no doubt, however, that he loved the city, and he improved public transportation a great deal. Hizzoner was the quintessential New Yorker."
William Smith, a security officer who works on the Upper West Side, agreed. "It's a tragic thing [that] he's gone. He's been a New Yorker as long as I can remember. He's got New York in his blood. It's a great loss to all New Yorkers. He bleeds New York."