Thousands to Gather for Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch's Funeral
Ed Koch is being remembered as the quintessential New Yorker - an admired but tough, colorful former mayor who will be honored at his funeral by former President Bill Clinton.
At the service Monday morning at Manhattan's Temple Emanu-El, mourners will also hear about Koch's other fierce loyalty: Israel. The Israeli consul general is set to speak, along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And New York Police Department helicopters are expected to fly over the synagogue in honor of Koch.
Koch was a friend of both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and was helpful during her successful campaign for the U.S. Senate from New York, according to Koch spokesman George Arzt. Koch also backed Hillary Clinton in her presidential run. Bill Clinton will serve as a representative for President Barack Obama at the funeral.
Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 88. Friends from his weekly Greenwich Village luncheon gathering got together on Saturday, two weeks after his last meal with them.
The funeral will be held at one of the nation's most prominent synagogues, a Reform Jewish congregation on Fifth Avenue. Bloomberg is a member, as are comedian Joan Rivers and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"I don't want to leave Manhattan, even when I'm gone," Koch told The Associated Press in 2008 after purchasing a burial plot in Trinity Church Cemetery, at the time the only graveyard in Manhattan that still had space. "This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me."
Koch led his city for 12 years, with a brash, humor-tinged style that came to personify the New York of the 1980s. The Democratic mayor is credited with helping save New York from its economic crisis in the 1970s and leading it to financial rebirth. But during his three terms as mayor, he also faced racial tensions and corruption among political allies, as well as the AIDS epidemic, homelessness and urban crime.
In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg called Koch "our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader." The mayor said his predecessor's "tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship ... helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback."
He added, "When someone needed a good kick in the rear, he gave it to them." Koch lost the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1989 to David Dinkins, who succeeded him.
Koch said he was defeated "because of longevity." In his words, "people get tired of you." But as the votes were coming in, he said he told himself, "I'm free at last."
Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney will announce the renaming of a Manhattan subway station in Koch's honor. The subway station at East 77th Street and Lexington Avenue will be called "Mayor Ed Koch subway station," according to Maloney. City officials have introduced legislation to officially rename the station.