Thousands gather to bid farewell to former Jewish N.Y. Mayor Ed Koch
The funeral service is being held in Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan' former U.S. President Bill Clinton is among the public officials to honor Koch.
At the funeral service for Ed Koch Monday morning at Manhattan's Temple Emanu-El, mourners heard from former President Bill Clinton, as well as the Israeli consul general and current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mayor Bloomberg said that Ed Koch was the embodiment of a New Yorker. “No mayor, I think, has ever embodied the spirit of New York City like he did. And I don’t think anyone ever will. Tough and loud, brash and irreverent, full of humor and chutzpah – he was our city’s quintessential mayor," the mayor said.
“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. And we had such respect for him because of his outsized personality and that it was matched by his integrity, his intelligence, and his independence.
New York Police Department helicopters flew over the synagogue in honor of Koch.
About 350 people were already standing in two lines outside the temple more than an hour before the funeral began. The crowd braved temperatures in the low 20's and a fierce wind as helicopters hovered overhead.
Inside, six uniformed officers from the NYPD and the fire department were standing alongside his wooden coffin as part of Koch's honor guard.
Koch was a friend of both Bill and Hillary 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.
Bill Clinton served as a representative for President Barack Obama at the funeral.
Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 88.
The funeral was held at one of the nation's most prominent synagogues, a Reform Jewish congregation on Fifth Avenue. Bloomberg is a member, as are comedian Joan Rivers and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"I don't want to leave Manhattan, even when I'm gone," Koch told The Associated Press in 2008 after purchasing a burial plot in Trinity Church Cemetery, at the time the only graveyard in Manhattan that still had space.
"This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me."
Koch led his city for 12 years, with a brash, humor-tinged style that came to personify the New York of the 1980s.
The Democratic mayor is credited with helping save New York from its economic crisis in the 1970s and leading it to financial rebirth. But during his three terms as mayor, he also faced racial tensions and corruption among political allies, as well as the AIDS epidemic, homelessness and urban crime.
In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg called Koch "our most tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader."
The mayor said his predecessor's "tough, determined leadership and responsible fiscal stewardship ... helped lift the city out of its darkest days and set it on course for an incredible comeback."
He added, "When someone needed a good kick in the rear, he gave it to them."
Koch lost the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1989 to David Dinkins, who succeeded him. Koch said he was defeated "because of longevity." In his words, "people get tired of you."
But as the votes were coming in, he said he told himself, "I'm free at last."
Also Monday, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney made a recommendation to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to rename a Manhattan subway station in Koch's honor.
She will propose that the subway station at East 77th Street and Lexington Avenue be called "Mayor Ed Koch subway station." She will also announce renaming the street corner there "Mayor Edward I. Koch."
City officials have introduced legislation to officially rename the station.