New York City bids farewell to Ed Koch
The casket containing the body of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is carried by policemen into Temple Emanu-El in New York, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 88. / AP Photo/Seth Wenig
NEW YORK Ed Koch couldn't have chosen a more appropriate song to herald his final farewell to New York City.
Strains of Frank Sinatra's famed song, "New York, New York," rang throughout a Manhattan synagogue on Monday as the colorful former mayor's coffin was carried past thousands of mourners. The packed crowd broke into a spontaneous standing ovation as the coffin made its way out of the synagogue.
Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 88.
Outside on Fifth Avenue, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and David Dinkins held their hands to their hearts. NYPD helicopters flew overhead and bagpipes wailed on the freezing February afternoon.
Koch was remembered as the quintessential New Yorker during a funeral that frequently elicited laughter, recalling his famous one-liners and amusing antics in the public eye.
"We had such respect for him because of his outsized personality," Bloomberg told the crowd. "Matched by his integrity, his intelligence and his independence."
Koch will be buried at the Trinity Church cemetery in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood.
His tombstone says Koch "fiercely" defended New York City and loved its people and America.
Bloomberg said the man who governed the city during the 1970s and 1980s must be "beaming" from all the attention created by his death.
"No mayor, I think, has ever embodied the spirit of New York City like he did, and I don't think anyone ever will," said Bloomberg. "Tough and loud, brash and irreverent, full of humor and chutzpah, he was our city's quintessential mayor and more than anyone else, Ed knew that New York was more than a place -- it is a state of mind, it is an attitude, an attitude that he displayed to the world every day.
"We had such respect for him because of his outsized personality and that it was matched by his integrity, his intelligence, and his independence."
Bloomberg recalled receiving Koch's endorsement for his first run for the mayor's office in 2001: "I was new to politics, didn't know a thing about it. But I always remembered the advice he gave me. He said, 'Be yourself, say what you believe, and don't worry about what people think.' And God knows, he didn't worry about it. He was as genuine a politician as America has ever seen. He understood that if you take tough stances and give it to the people straight, they will respect you for being honest, even when they don't agree with you. And that scares the hell out of press secretaries and political consultants, but the average citizen in New York really admires it."
Bloomberg noted that the funeral was being held near "a certain East River span" referring to the 59th Street bridge, which was renamed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in 2011.
Describing the bridge dedication ceremony, Bloomberg drew laughter from the crowd as he recalled Koch stood there for 20 minutes, yelling: "Welcome to my bridge!"
Former President Bill Clinton, who served as a representative for President Barack Obama at the funeral, said the world was a better place because Koch had "lived and served."
Koch was a friend of both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, and was helpful during her successful campaign for the U.S. Senate from New York, according to Koch spokesman George Arzt. Koch also backed Hillary Clinton in her presidential run.
Holding up a hefty pile of papers ("This is not my speech!"), Mr. Clinton spoke of the many letters he had received from Koch during his presidency, on issues ranging from gun violence to missile defense to Israel to taxes to scouting.
Mr. Clinton recalled a particularly passionate issue of Koch's: "It was imperative that we give young people who'd gotten in trouble a second chance. That they should be given a chance to serve in Americorps or do something else, and if they got their GED and they stayed off drugs, their records should be sealed and their convictions should be purged so that if ever they were asked again in their life, 'Did they have a criminal conviction?' they could honestly say no. He said, 'You have to give people a second chance.'"
He noted a hilarious letter, after legislation had failed aimed at curbing cigarette use among young people, which enraged Koch: "There has just been a new study saying that it impacts virility. And he said, 'Now, politicians don't like to talk about this, especially among young people. But young people are way more sophisticated than older people, and they get this. It doesn't work to tell people they're going to get cancer or respiratory diseases. Go after the virility argument!'"
Clinton said he was also speaking for his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, "who loved him very much and was grateful for his endorsement in every race."
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