The Best of Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch

The former New York City mayor was a colorful personality and frequent subject in the U.S. News archives.

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New York Mayor Edward Koch speaks to reporters on June 1, 1948, in New York about the ongoing contract negotiations with representatives of the 200,000 New York City municipal workers Unions.

During Ed Koch's three terms as mayor of New York City, he made news for things he said and things spoken about him. As he is laid to rest today, we take a look back and some of his more memorable moments.

[PHOTOS: The Life of Former Mayor Ed Koch]

On Oct. 10, 1983, U.S. News published a collection of "Current Quotes," including one from Koch about why the United Nations needed to remain in his city: "They should stay here in the city of New York because every country needs a cesspool."

On July 14, 1986, in an article called "We Cut Loose" about the centennial of Lady Liberty, Koch stated: "I govern today more Jews than live in Jerusalem, more blacks than live in Nairobi, more Irish than in Dublin, more Puerto Ricans than live in San Juan, more Italians than in Florence."

On Jan. 9, 1989, in an article called "Lines From Our Times," Koch had a somewhat more positive take on his city: "New York is mad, but the madness is gallant. New York is beautiful, but the beauty is grim."

On Nov. 6, 1989, U.S. News quoted Roger Ailes discussing Koch as part of its "Slams of the Week." Ailes, whose given title was "GOP campaign wizard," was asked about Koch's characterization of him as a "common criminal." His response: "If he thinks I'm a common criminal, I'm surprised he didn't offer me a job in his administration."

For more "Kochisms" and to find out how he angered a group of visiting Soviet teenagers, check out these two articles from the U.S. News archives.

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 29, 1986, issue of U.S. News & World Report.

The Grinch at City Hall

By Gerald Parshall

From the Potomac to the Politburo, the pin-striped diplomats minted polished platitudes. Meanwhile, the Nicholas Daniloff affair provoked Mayor Edward Koch into taking New York City to the brink. Dressed in shirt sleeves, he went eyeball to eyeball with a Soviet delegation in the rotunda of City Hall. The Soviets blinked first—they being 10 teenagers and preteenagers who had never before witnessed the mayor engaged in saving the "world's greatest" metropolis from drifting without a foreign policy.

Koch was anointing "Peace Child Week" in honor of a troupe of Soviet youngsters and 12 American youths crossing the U.S. in a "peace" play. The Soviet "government is the pits," the mayor told the young thespians when the proclaiming was done. "I don't want people to think that because I issued a proclamation commenting on peace that somehow or other I'm at peace with the Soviet government. I am not." He added, "Have a very good time while you're here, O.K.?"

The angry youths took swift reprisals—scrubbing the rest of their City Hall tour. "I don't want to stay in this house no more minute," announced Yegor Druzhinin, 14. "I want to go to bus and to go far, far away. The mayor is very rude." Before the Soviet saplings came to the U.S., they were taught about Communism and capitalism. But no one taught them about Kochism. Oksana Remizova, 18, protested that the mayor showed disrespect by appearing "in a dirty shirt and wrinkled tie." No one had briefed her that this is Koch's standard garb for greeting visitors, whether plutocrat, peasant or proletarian. Fending off the sartorial slur, Hizzoner said later: "What kind of a Communist society do they have there? Everyone runs around in tuxedos?"

The next day, Izvestia lobbed missiles at Koch from Moscow while the Soviet news agency Tass blasted him as a "reactionary provocateur." He was even grazed by friendly fire from the New York Times, which urged that he "pick on politicians his own size, or bigger."

But Koch, who once pinned the sobriquet "cesspool" on the United Nations and once called Prince Charles "a nice guy" who is "going to be bald," gave no sign of muting his declamations on the world scene. Just hours after the Soviet youngsters left in a huff, he told visiting East Germans that East Berlin is "very drab, very gray." The next day, shortly before Mexican dignitaries were due at City Hall to hear the mayor proclaim "Mexico Week," he described the Mexican government as corrupt—then soon donned a sombrero and bellowed, "Viva Mexico!"

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 8, 1990, issue of U.S. News & World Report.

Famously Said by Ed

By Jim Impoco; Susan Lawrence; Bill Kazer; Ted Gest; Donald Baer; Miriam Horn; Scott Minerbrook

As Ed Koch surrenders the keys to Gracie Mansion this week after 12 years, Gotham tabloids ought to give him a proper send-off:


For the verbal indiscretions of New York's mayor are legendary. A valedictory sampling:

* On life in the suburbs: "It's sterile, it's nothing, it's wasting your life."

* On life in rural areas: "It's a joke ... you have to drive 20 miles to buy a gingham dress or Sears, Roebuck suit."

* On blacks: "They're basically anti-Semitic. Now, I want to be fair about it. Most whites are anti-black."

* On reporters: Those "who appear friendly and smile ... are the ones who will seek to gut you on every occasion."

* On a colleague: "He is likeable and charming, but if you are looking for someone who will stand up and do the right thing when ... someone somewhere may get upset, then do not look for Basil."

* On his own nature: "I like to tweak people." And "I always get even."

Defeat can dethrone but cannot silence Koch. He will write a column, work as a TV commentator and practice law.

More News:

  • Opinion: While I'll Miss Ed Koch
  • Photos: The Life of Former Mayor Ed Koch
  • Bill Clinton Speaking at Koch's Funeral