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by Louise Adams
Thursday Aug 29, 2013

New York City's three-term mayor Ed Koch often asked "How am I doing?" although he would rarely wait for an answer.

How he did is recounted in Neil Barsky's brisk, 90-minute documentary "Koch," now available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Playstation, Xbox, Youtube, Google, Cable VOD and on DVD, featuring fabulous period music like Talking Heads.

Shot before Hizzoner died last February, the film's frame is a debate over adding Koch's name to the Queensboro Bridge. At a city council meeting, some praise Caesar and some bury him, an appropriate segue into Koch's triumphs and failures.

The Big Apple's 105th mayor was "haunted and damned by a hell of personality," and ran the city from 1978-89. He is credited for cleaning up Times Square, both in graft and graffiti, and for building new housing, including in his birthplace, the Bronx, which, at the time, "looked like Dresden after the war."

Long before Detroit, NYC was also on the verge of bankruptcy, but Koch successfully lobbied Congress (he was a US Representative in the 70s) for $1.5 billion in loan guarantees.

New York City’s three-term mayor Ed Koch often asked "How am I doing?" although he would rarely wait for an answer.

His first election brought accusations that he was closeted - "Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo" was plastered on MTA trains - so he got the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, to be his beard. Koch's second term was "more of a coronation than an election." He appeared on "Saturday Night Live" and became a national figure and author.

The tide turned in the third term with corruption scandals and the rising toll of AIDS deaths. He lost support from the African-American community when he closed Harlem's Sydenham Hospital, although some said he "wasn't a racist, but an opportunist."

Outspoken, yet private, to the end, when asked if he was gay, Koch replies, "It's none of your fucking business." Yet his did pass non-discrimination gay rights legislation, and always wanted to remain relevant, and accessible. He wanted to be, and is, buried at Trinity Church so more people can visit (most of the city's Jewish cemeteries are locked).

An archival clip shows him saying, "This city belongs to me. Thank you, God."


Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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