Ex-New York City Mayor Ed Koch, 88, died Friday, sparking waves of online tributes
@mayoredkoch Twitter account features touching retweets
NEW: John Avlon: In the end he was "almost impossible to dislike" which "reflected the city."
Younger Americans may remember Koch best from TV's "People's Court"
Just hours after word began to spread about Ed Koch’s death Friday morning it was already clear: The brash former New York mayor leaves behind a legacy that crosses generations and geography.
It’s obvious across the Web, as tweeters and bloggers remember Koch as much more than a politician.
A “master showman of City Hall,” tweeted one. Other words included “cultural icon,” “great boss,” and even “model of New York-iness.”
The three-term mayor who served from 1978 to 1989 died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 88. During his prime, Koch wore his quotable comeback lines like badges of honor. @JenniferPrestion posted this one: “I can explain it to you, but I cannot comprehend it for you.”
Koch used quips as weapons against political foes on issues like racial tensions, labor unions, crime, the city’s dwindling population and AIDS. In the end, he was “almost impossible to dislike,” wrote John Avlon. “In this, he reflected the city.”
The @mayoredkoch Twitter account remained active, featuring touching retweets. “So many memories of @mayoredkoch,” wrote Evelyne Wade @ChezEvy. “Sang NY NY for him at City Hall. New York City will surely miss this feisty mayor and mensch!”
Koch’s personality fed his widespread popularity. “Like his policies or not,” Tweeted @EarlFando, “the man knew how to entertain.”
“He was the first mayor to open for ‘Saturday Night Live,’” wrote blogger Howard Barbanel. “He was Mr. New York long before the advent of Rudy Giuliani.”
In 1978, Koch delivered a nice line about ulcers, as Salon.com recalled. “I’m the sort of person who will never get ulcers,” the quote went. “Why? Because I say exactly what I think. I’m the sort of person who might give other people ulcers.”
A younger generation may best remember Koch from his stint on TV’s “People’s Court,” where during the late 90s, Koch sat in judgment over the show’s endless parade of small-claims plaintiffs and defendants.
“Ed Koch has left this world to preside over the Big People’s Court in the sky,” posted @RossParsons. The mayor flexed his dramatic chops with minor roles on TV’s “Spin City,” and the 1996 film “City Hall.”
In fact tweeter Betsie Huban @BetsietheBroker called Koch, “the most fun mayor NYC ever had.” High praise in these days of frowning, stone-faced lawmakers who just can’t get along.
“My first job in politics was working for Mayor Koch on transit & environmental issues,” wrote Wendy Thurm @hangingsliders. “Great job. Great boss.”
Often credited with reviving New York’s ailing economy in the 1970s, one Tweeter said Koch was “the (right) man at the (right) time.”
But a lot of folks aren’t talking about the man’s policies or his political agenda. They’re talking about the man himself. Like they knew him personally. Like he was the friendly neighbor down the block.
Decades before the spread of the Internet and its instant feedback, Koch got his feedback in the streets, sometimes standing at subway stations and asking voters, “How’m I doing?”
“In the ’80s I got the pleasure of meeting Ed Koch a few times.” wrote Laurie Lombardi @LL712. “Once I asked him, ‘How’s it going mayor?’ He replied, ‘I’m trying, kid.’”
Symbol. That’s a powerful word.
And it’s popping up a lot about Koch. The Alec Baldwin Foundation @ABFalecbaldwin wrote that Koch was “as much a part of New York as Central Park, hot dog carts, the subway. A mayor of the people like few others.”
Many Facebook and Twitter posters are talking about Koch’s desire to have his tombstone inscribed with the final words of terrorism victim Daniel Pearl: “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish,” which prompted Michelle Boorstein @mboorstein to tweet about “crying in the car during morning commute over Ed Koch’s gravestone, modeled after Danny Pearl’s.”
So how’d he do? The answer to his signature question seems overwhelming: Not too shabby, Mr. Mayor.