THE STATUE OF LIBERTY CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: JULY 3-6, 1986."
Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
I write with great sadness after the passing of Mayor Edward I. Koch, an iconic New Yorker who embodied the city’s spirit and verve. While often a controversial figure, no one could deny his overwhelming love for his City. “How‘m I doin’” was his trademark question to the people he served.
Koch began his political career as Greenwich Village reformer, who defeated former Tammany Boss Carmine De Sapio in 1963, was then elected to the City Council and from there to the U.S. House of Representatives. Koch was elected mayor in 1977 in a rollicking race, which included the incumbent Abe Beame, Mario Cuomo, Congress members Bella Abzug and Herman Badillo, and Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton.
When he became mayor in 1978, he led New York out of its worst fiscal crisis. In addition to the fiscal problems and the struggle to restore basic services, Koch and his Administration faced rising homelessness, the AIDS epidemic, an increase in racial tensions and major corruption scandals in his third term. Although his first two terms were the most successful politically, it was in his third term where Mayor Koch started what was perhaps his greatest legacy to New York City, a multibillion dollar housing rehabilitation program. In his final years as mayor, the Koch Administration restored or built 2,000 units in formerly abandoned buildings with 13,000 more under construction and 20,000 more in the design stage. Over the next 15 years more than 200,000 units were restored or built and the number of abandoned buildings declined from 10,000 to under 800.
New York City was flat on its back and many had given up on it when Mayor Koch took the reins of power. Using his political skills and the sheer force of personality, he helped bring the City back from the brink. For this we owe him a debt of gratitude.