Former Mayor of New York City Ed Koch has died from congestive heart failure at age 88. His New York Times obituary is here.
Koch was a Democrat, and then he wasn't. He was an effective mayor in some ways, and a failure in others. He was polarizing sometimes because he was challenging the status quo in a radical way, and sometimes because his policies were designed to protect privilege. He was not always sensitive to issues of race or gender. Nor was he generous about anyone who lived outside New York City, seemingly the only place in the US he deemed worthy of residence. His third term was plagued by corruption. His political career was marked by many successes.
He was an icon of New York, a product and reflection of the city in many ways, good and bad. He was a character.
It was, for much of his career, an open secret, or a rumor, that Koch was gay, questions about which Koch used to evade until during a single interview in 1989 he said he was not. He stock answer was that it was no one's business but his own. It was used against him in the ugliest way, during the 1977 mayoral campaign, when signs reading "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo" were posted around the city.
Mr. Koch did not respond at the time, but 12 years later, in his book "His Eminence and Hizzoner," he recalled, "When I first saw those posters, I cringed, and I wondered how I would be able to bear it."A rare confession of vulnerability from the mayor who once explained he wasn't the sort of person who got ulcers; he was the sort of person who gave other people ulcers. He was known for saying what he thought, come what may. Like most people with a disabled filter, that gave him both the capacity for charm and harm, in equal measure.
RIP Mr. Mayor.
[Note: If there are less flattering things to be said about Koch, they have been excluded because I am unaware of them, not as the result of any deliberate intent to whitewash his life. Please feel welcome to comment on the entirety of his work and life in this thread.]