Former New York City mayor Ed Koch, whose trademark “How’m I doin?” greeted many a constituent in the 70s and 80s, died this morning at age 88.
Koch led the city from Jan. 1978 through Dec. 1989, a period the New York Times described as encompassing “the fiscal austerity of the late 1970s and the racial conflicts and municipal corruption scandals of the 1980s, an era of almost continuous discord that found Mr. Koch at the vortex of a maelstrom day after day.”
Koch loved New York, but he grew up in Newark and in recent years spent some time in Montclair. A film buff who maintained a website devoted to the medium, Koch often patronized the Clairidge Cinema and could sometimes be seen enjoying a frozen yogurt at Red Mango. In 2011, he and his sister Pat appeared at Watchung Booksellers to do a reading of their new children’s book. The reading was arranged in part by Baristanet contributor Erika Bleiberg, who was a family friend of Koch and his sister.
“I met him a few times when I was a child, but had the pleasure of his company these past few years when he and I shared Sunday brunch with my mother and his sister, who are very close long time friends,” she explained.
Pat Koch Thaler and Bleiberg’s mother, Inge Goldstein, live in the same senior community in Pompton Plains, and about once a month Bleiberg would see Koch when they all had brunch together in the community dining room.
“He was always gracious and kind and would shake hands with everyone who came up to him,” Bleiberg said. “He was a special person in that community and would come to help raise money for different causes. He was a real mensch.”
She added that even when he clearly had not been feeling well over the last several months, his mind was still sharp and he would frequently weigh in on political issues, both global and local. Bleiberg recalls a recent discussion after Cory Booker’s announcement that he is considering running for Senate. “He found that interesting,” she said.
Bleiberg took this picture of Koch eating ice cream: “He had a sweet tooth, and a charmingly child-like excitement whenever the servers at Cedar Crest brought him dessert. His pleasure was evident to all around him. I asked him to pose with his ice cream, a few months back. The man lived fully and enjoyed life, that’s for sure.”