Thingish Things

The Ever-Relevant Ed Koch

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jul• 25•11

Bob Turner (l.) and Former Mayor Ed Koch. Photo Credit:

I first met Ed Koch in 1988. Or rather, that’s when he first met me – with his shoulder.  I had been sent to City Hall Park to listen in on a Koch news conference and the two of us ended up on separate but converging paths at the northwest corner of the park. When we surprised each other at the point of intersection, Mayor Koch did what any sturdy 6’2” man would do when confronting a lesser 5’ 9’1/2”-er.  He knocked me on my arse.

I was a little surprised.  He had done it on purpose.  But had he not,  I may just as well have knocked him onto his. We each had been walking purposefully and one of us was going over from the force of the collision.  Mayor Koch just ensured that it would be me.  No harm no foul.  It was pure instinct. Seeing a notebook  clutched in my hand – it looked a little like a reporter’s notebook – his security guards picked me up and dusted me off, and we all went on our way.  But I made a short mental note: Koch is tougher than I thought.

Today, 23-years later, I got to spend some time again with Mayor Koch, this time at a news conference in Queens.  He was crossing party lines to endorse Republican Bob Turner for Congress in a race on which I am advising.  Even at age 87, Koch’s fearlessness shines through.  He remains an imposing force, intellectually and physically.  I would hesitate still before carelessly crossing his path again.  

What is most remarkable about Koch today, though, is his increasing relevance in New York politics at this late stage in his life.  One can see it in how New Yorkers and reporters act toward him.  There is a reverence shown Koch reserved for men of power, a form distinctly different than that proffered for reasons of nostalgia. Koch clearly commands the former.

I would not have anticipated Koch’s political resurgence. I had seen him at a variety of political and social events since 1989 when his mayoralty ended, and he generally struck me as an ex-Mayor.  That is not a bad thing; it is the natural state for those leaving the executive position at City Hall. But when New York State began melting down in the wake of Governor Spitzer’s resignation — 20 years after the Mayor Koch left public office — he stepped forward again and began demanding accountability and ethics reform throughout the state in a sustained way.  He has not stepped back from his reform campaign since.

The Koch I saw today has not mellowed a bit.  He is as tough, honest, and as acerbic as ever.  He is 100% Ed Koch, and should he desire it, I bet he could be elected to office again.  Who would dare stop him?  Certainly not me. 

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  1. Nick says:

    Mayor Koch was a very good Mayor. He stood up to the unions and took back the city for the voting public. It will be interesting to see how this election turns out.

  2. […] wrote admiringly about Koch on these pages recently — about his continued relevance in US politics. Judging from […]

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