The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 1, 2013

Ed Koch, mayor who became a symbol of NYC, dies

(Continued)

As the pressure grew, Koch suffered a minor stroke in 1987.

The administration was also beset by racial unrest, first after the 1986 death of a black youth at the hands of a white gang in Howard Beach and three years later after a black teen was shot to death in Brooklyn's tough Bensonhurst neighborhood by a group of whites.

Six weeks after the second slaying, Koch lost the Democratic primary to Dinkins, the city's eventual first black mayor. Koch later said the simmering racial tensions didn't lead to his defeat.

"I was defeated because of longevity," Koch said. "People get tired of you. So they decided to throw me out."

The man who bragged that he would always get a better job, but New Yorkers would never get a better mayor, left his City Hall office for the last time on Dec. 31, 1989.

Looking back, Koch said in a 1997 interview: "All I could think of was, "Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, I'm free at last."

He was finished with public office, but he would never be through with the city. At age 83, Koch paid $20,000 for a burial plot at Trinity Church Cemetery, at the time the only graveyard in Manhattan that still had space.

"I don't want to leave Manhattan, even when I'm gone," Koch told The Associated Press. "This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me."

Not long after buying the plot, he had his tombstone inscribed and installed. The marker features the last words of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl: "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."

It also includes a Jewish prayer and the epitaph he wrote after his stroke:

"He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II."

___

Associated Press writer Samantha Gross contributed to this report.

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