Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
The late New York Mayor was never for want of words.
Iconic New York City Mayor Ed Koch famously steered the city through an era – hard to picture now – when Gotham was wracked by AIDS and crack epidemics, by crime and financial woes, when people were fleeing the metropolis instead of flocking to it. He died early this morning in a New York City hospital at the age of 88, and you can read online a wealth of eloquent remembrances and obituaries of his three terms as mayor (and lifetime relationship with the city) across the web right now. We recommend spending some time here, here, here and here.
As a more abridged tour of his tenure in the city, which formally spanned from 1978 through 1989, we bring you instead some of our favorite quotable moments from the mouthy mayor, who had an opinion on everything. He will be remembered as much for his tongue as his tactics in office, a quality that made him a genuine New York City character.
Koch on his own way with words, just before taking office in 1978:
I’m the sort of person who will never get ulcers. Why? Because I say exactly what I think. I’m the sort of person who might give other people ulcers.
Koch on his catch phrase "How'm I doin'?" in a 1981 interview with NPR:
Some people have said that’s a mark of insecurity. Gee, I have to be patted on the back. How’m I doing? I want you to think about this: Do you know people in public life who are sufficiently secure to ask people to rate them?
Koch, standing on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1980, advising residents on how to react to striking transit workers:
Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge! We're not going to let these bastards bring us to our knees!
Koch on how voters should measure his record:
If you agree with me on 9 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.
Koch on "life in the country," in a 1982 interview with Playboy Magazine that helped doom his chances of becoming governor:
Have you ever lived in the suburbs? It’s sterile. It’s nothing. It’s wasting your life, and people do not wish to waste their lives once they’ve seen New York! ... This rural American thing — I’m telling you, it’s a joke.
Koch on sexuality, in New York Magazine in 1998:
Listen, there’s no question that some New Yorkers think I’m gay, and voted for me nevertheless. The vast majority don’t care, and others don’t think I am. And I don’t give a shit either way! What do I care?
Koch on the city's relationship to America:
There was always a love-hate relationship with New York in the rest of the country, but I made them feel more love than hate.
And Koch on his relationship to the city that elected him:
Whenever I would fly home, there was the city of New York laid out before me, and I thought to myself, ‘this belongs to me.'
That last quote comes from the trailer for a new documentary, "Koch," about the mayor that was scheduled to debut – with remarkable timing – today: