Five reasons Mayor Ed Koch was the King of New York

Feb 1, 2013

The Big Apple's brash, irrepressible mayor has died at 88, leaving an immense legacy

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ED KOCH, the brash Democrat who served as New York's mayor from 1978 to 1989 and is credited with saving the city from "near bankruptcy", has died from heart failure at the age of 88. Born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants, the lawyer-turned-public servant had been in and out of hospital in recent months. The city's current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, described him as "an irrepressible icon" and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in his memory. Here are five things you may not know about the man nicknamed 'Hizzoner':

New York was a mess when he became mayor: Before his first election as mayor in 1977, New York was paralysed by the Son of Sam murders and a "mid-summer power blackout" that triggered looting. The crime-ridden, graffiti-scarred city was "an international symbol of urban ills", says the Washington Post. Koch also inherited a $1 billion city deficit, but used a raft of cost-cutting measures and federal loan guarantees to slowly return New York to financial health. By 1983, it had a surplus of $500 million.

He had a catch-phrase: As he barrelled up and down the streets of New York, the bald, animated Koch would greet people by enquiring loudly, "How'm I Doin'?" His signature greeting was delivered in "a whiny, nasal voice that was as recognisably New York as the screech of an A train", says the Washington Post.

He had a hands-on approach: Koch said one of his finest moments as mayor was the day he walked down to the Brooklyn Bridge during a 1980 train strike and shouted encouragement at New Yorkers forced to walk to work. "I began to yell, 'Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge!" he said. "We're not going to let these bastards bring us to our knees!' Koch said later that rallying New Yorkers in the face of the strike was "his biggest personal achievement as mayor", Fox News reports.

He became a TV star: Koch described himself as "pretty reserved" but he came across as an ebullient character, says CNN. After he left office his popularity encouraged producers to hire him to make "countless" appearances in shows including Sex and the City, Spin City and Picket Fences. In 1997, the former lawyer got a starring role as the judge on the syndicated show The People's Court. He also reviewed films and had his own review website called The Mayor at the Movies.

His popularity was extraordinary: Koch may have liked to tell people to "shut up" and call those who disagreed with him "dummies", but he became one of the most popular politicians in the US. At the end of his first term he was so popular both the Democratic and Republican parties endorsed him for re-election and Time magazine put him on its cover, "floating above the city's skyline".

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