Forward Thinking

Dinner with Ed Koch

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

  • Print
  • Share Share

When Ed Koch died this morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement. “I will miss his friendship,” the 55-year-old governor said.

Former Mayor, Ed Koch

Ed Koch thought that Andrew Cuomo was a schmuck.

He said so on election night in 2010, in a conversation preserved in a new documentary about Koch’s life.

Koch said what he meant. That’s not to say he always meant what he said.

Back in July, Koch said he had plans to organize a rally of 50,000 people against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.

“We’re going to turn City Hall Park into Tiananmen Square, Tahrir Square, and Moscow Square,” the 88-year-old former mayor told me, citing three iconic uprisings.

That didn’t quite happen.

Photo: Karen Leon

Koch told me about his plans for the rally on primary night at an Upper West Side Italian restaurant called Bello, where the mayor ate two or three times a week. He was out with four old buddies, loyal Koch guys from his administration and his various campaigns. The guys were there to eat shellfish. I was there to profile the Mayor.

I had pitched the story because Koch, then 88, had played a part in a handful of the Democratic primary contests being waged that evening. The original idea had been to follow Koch around on his primary night rounds. When I called his office the week before the election, I got an invitation to dinner instead.

The talk at dinner was politics, but with Koch the membrane between his private self and his political self was essentially nonexistent, so really the talk was about Koch.

Koch talked about his meeting with President Obama at the New York Public Library two years before. “You look terrific,” Obama told him, according to Koch. “I know you exercise every day.”

Obama was wrong, and Koch told him so. “Not true,” Koch said. Apparently he had stopped exercising after his bypass surgery. His back pain had stopped since he’s given up working out, and Koch told Obama that, too.

Koch also talked on primary night about his plan to campaign for Obama among South Florida’s Jews. “I’ve got 600,000 cousins in Florida,” he said.

The July congressional primaries came two years into Koch’s resurgence as a national political figure, after he had helped swing Anthony Weiner’s old congressional seat to a Republican businessman. Koch’s apostasy against his Democratic Party had shocked some of the friends around the table at the time.

This primary was a sort of test of the staying power of that resurgence. It was a test Koch largely failed, in that Rory Lancman, the Queens congressional candidate he’d backed most strongly, lost by a landslide to Grace Meng, who had the county Democratic party behind her.

Speaking at the time, Lancman said he thought Koch’s endorsement had been helpful, even if it hadn’t manifested in a win. “I’m confident that almost every voter who went to the polls for whom Israel is a very high priority were voting for me, and Ed Koch’s [endorsement] played a large role in that,” Lancman told me.



Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: mayor, ed koch, death, appreciation

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.