BY PETER VALLONE SR.
I served with Mayor Ed Koch for 12 years, the last four from 1986 through 1989, while I was the newly-elected head of the City Council, soon to be empowered as a truly independent legislative branch of government with the coming elimination of the unconstitutional Board of Estimate.
He and I became very close friends because the city was in deep trouble fiscally, there was a notable absence of cops, the subways were unsafe, and the city needed a cheerleader to lift its sagging spirits, as well as a government that worked and gave hope for the future.
Ed Koch was the right person. We worked together to fashion the most significant landmark legislation in any four year period in the history of the city. The first Clean Air Act in the country, preventing people from being forced to inhale smoke from others, dividing restaurants and all public places accordingly; the first Campaign Finance Law ensuring a level playing field to anyone aspiring to run for office; the first so-called Gay Rights Bill preventing discrimination by reason of sexual orientation; the first and biggest housing plan providing for hundreds of thousands of affordable units to be built over the next four years, and a homeless policy to break up homeless shelters and provide homes wherever possible, just to name a few.
The best way to remember Ed Koch is in his own words. I was present with him on many occasions when he told a large audience mad at something or other he said or did, he would say: “Look, if I were a baseball player and got a hit only three times out of every 10 I batted, I would be a pretty good player, wouldn’t I? So if you agree with me three out of 10 times, I’m doing pretty good as mayor, too. But if I got a hit 7seven of 10 times, I would be the greatest player ever, right? Now most of you here agree with me 7 out of 10 times, so I must be the greatest mayor ever! On the other hand, if you agree with me 10 out of 10, you must be crazy!”
Many still think Ed Koch was single. That’s not true. He was married to this city, and loved it with a passion and devotion from beginning to end. I told him many times he could be one of the greatest stand-up comedians if he chose to, as well as being one of the greatest mayors ever.
Perhaps the best tribute you could say about any person is that when you mention his name, a smile comes to your face, and that is how I will always remember my dear friend, Ed Koch. My only hope is that he will enjoy and love Heaven as much as he loved this city.
Peter F. Vallone is former Speaker of the NYC Council