New York Times Obituary
The New York Times obituary tells the full story of Ed Koch, and it is a must-read summary of an extraordinary life of an extraordinary New Yorker. We will miss Ed Koch.
Mayor Koch and the Black Community
While Ed Koch remains larger than life, even in death, he had an uncomfortable relationship with the Black Community in NYC and in the world beyond NYC.
The New York Times obituary provides insight into the tension:
The scandals and the scourges of crack cocaine, homelessness and AIDS were compounded by a widening rift between Mr. Koch and black New Yorkers. The mayor traced his contentious relationship with black leaders to his first-term decision to close Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, where, he said, the city was paying too much for inadequate care. He would regret the decision.
“It was the wrong thing to do,” Mr. Koch, who rarely second-guessed himself, said in 2009. Closing the hospital saved $9 million, he said, but “there was such a psychological attachment to Sydenham, because black doctors couldn’t get into other hospitals — it was the psychological attachment that I violated.”
Black leaders were also unhappy with Mr. Koch’s decision to purge antipoverty programs and comments he made that they considered insensitive. He said, for example, that busing and racial quotas had done more to divide the races than to achieve integration, and that Jews would be “crazy” to vote for the Rev. Jesse Jackson in his 1988 presidential campaign after Mr. Jackson’s 1984 reference to New York as “Hymietown” and his call for a Palestinian homeland in Israel.
In a city where minorities had long held grievances against a largely white police force, Mr. Koch’s 1983 appointment of Benjamin Ward as New York’s first black police commissioner hardly appeased critics, and a series of ugly episodes came to symbolize mounting racial troubles.
In 1984, a white officer with a shotgun killed a black woman, Eleanor Bumpurs, 66, as she was being evicted from her Bronx apartment; he was acquitted. In 1986, a gang of white teenagers assaulted three black men in Howard Beach, Queens, chasing one, Michael Griffith, to his death on a highway. And in 1989, a black youth, Yusuf K. Hawkins, 16, who went to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, to see a used car, was attacked by white youths and shot dead.
Mr. Hawkins’s death came just a month before Mr. Koch faced Mr. Dinkins, the Manhattan borough president and the only black candidate, in the 1989 Democratic primary. By then, City Hall was lurching from crisis to crisis. The racial divisions, the corruption scandals, the failures to cope with crack and homelessness all contributed to a sense it was time for a change. Mr. Dinkins, pledging to bring the city together again in a “gorgeous mosaic,” narrowly defeated Mr. Koch in the primary and went on to beat Mr. Giuliani, who ran on the Republican and Liberal lines, by a slender margin in the general election.
“I was defeated because of longevity, not because Yusuf Hawkins was murdered six weeks before the election, although that was a factor,” Mr. Koch wrote in New York magazine. “People get tired of you. So they decided to throw me out. And so help me God, as the numbers were coming in, I said to myself, ‘I’m free at last.’ ”