He has been called a “crank,” a “slippery egoist” and the “quintessential New Yorker.” But more than anything, former New York mayor Ed Koch was a force of nature — a status evidenced by the public outpouring over his death 23 years after he left office.
Koch died at 2 a.m. from congestive heart failure. He was 88.
New York journalists responded with fond memories and tributes. “The late New York City mayor was entertaining until the end and legitimately funny, always recognizable by his honk of a voice,” Joe Coscarelli wrote on New York magazine's Daily Intel. He “could outtalk anybody in the authentic voice of New York: as opinionated as a Flatbush cabby, as loud as the scrums on 42nd Street, as pugnacious as a West Side reform Democrat mother,” wrote Robert McFadden in the New York Times.
New York politicos and ordinary city-dwellers remember Koch as a man who led the city out of a dire financial crisis with grace and one-liners — many of which have rocketed around the Internet today.
We've lost an irrepressible icon, our most charismatic cheerleader and champion. Mayor Koch was a great mayor, a great man & a great friend.
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) February 1, 2013
Rest in peace, Ed Koch. Mr. Mayor, you were a great leader, a consummate NYer & a good friend. To answer your question, you did just great!
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@CarolynBMaloney) February 1, 2013
NYers will miss Ed Koch, his service to the city & his towering presence
— Chuck Schumer (@ChuckSchumer) February 1, 2013
— Meerkah (@Meerkah) February 1, 2013
Ed Koch was "my" mayor. He's the one I remember best from childhood. Even met him once. RIP Mr. Mayor
— Suz (@souphead) February 1, 2013
Koch made NYC mayor seem like the greatest job in the world. Somehow that had to contribute to me wanting to live here since grade school.
— Christy Tanner (@christytanner) February 1, 2013
Yet aspects of Koch’s legacy remain controversial. The former mayor was rumored to be gay but refused to speak openly about his sexuality. AIDS activists such as Larry Kramer, who skewered Koch in his play “The Normal Heart,” have accused him of ignoring New York’s AIDS epidemic to hide his own homosexuality.
That prompted some reactions like these, from fashion editor Derek Blasberg and transgender artist Justin Vivian Bond:
The iconic Ed Koch, a mayor from another era, has died. May he be resting in peace in a giant closet in the sky.
— Derek Blasberg (@DerekBlasberg) February 1, 2013
Ed Koch is dead. Evidently he had a heart. It failed. Hmmm, I thought his heart failed during the height of the AIDS crisis. How'm I doing?
— Justin Vivian Bond (@mxjustinVbond) February 1, 2013
But even those who tangled with Koch will remember his legacy, tweets Bill De Blasio, the New York City official who recently announced his mayoral bid.
Like many, I often disagreed w Ed Koch. But I also got to know & learn from this great man with a heart and mind as big as the city he loved
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) February 1, 2013