Gov. Andrew Cuomo remembered former New York City Mayor Ed Koch as a man who was “aggressive about what government could do,” praising the late mayor as someone with a “personality … as big as New York.”
“He was very activist in making the government operate. We talk about performance—it was about performance, it was about integrity, attracting the best and the brightest,” Cuomo said. “He made government fun and cool again. People loved to be in the city government with him. There was an energy and a buzz about being in city government; you were fighting the good fight.”
Koch died early Friday morning of congestive heart failure. He was 88.
Cuomo, whose father Mario lost to Koch in the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary, compared the one-time political foes to boxing greats Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier. (Mario Cuomo later defeated Koch in a 1982 gubernatorial primary.)
The mayoral primary between Mario Cuomo and Koch turned nasty, at times, with infamous, anonymous “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo” signs popping up toward the tail end of the race. (Koch, in a New York Times video obituary recorded several years ago, said the incident caused a strain in his relationship with Mario Cuomo, but he later said he did not believe the Cuomos were responsible for the signs.)
“They were different styles, different personalities, different people,” Andrew Cuomo said. “But they really were just beautiful to watch. They were both a high point of the profession.”
Cuomo, like many others, said he would remember Koch for his larger-than-life personality. He said he spoke to Koch two days ago after the former mayor was admitted to the hospital. Koch, Cuomo said, was “all excited about the gun bill”—a set of new state gun-control laws signed by Cuomo earlier this month.
“I said, Mr. Mayor, how are you feeling?” Cuomo asked Koch.
“Stronger every day,” Koch said in reply, according to Cuomo.
(Photo: Mario Cuomo, left, and Ed Koch speak to reporters during a debate in 1977. AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)