Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Koch": documentary biogrpahy of New York City's feisty mayor


The Avalon Theater in Washington DC (a non-profit, continuing operations for a facility dating bac to 1923) is showing the chatty biographical documentary “Koch” (by Niels Barsky)  in its big auditorium, with fair attendance today (Sunday afternoon).  This has nothing to do with the controversial oil company (Friday’s pot), but, rather, New York City’s feisty mayor Ed Koch, who held office from 1978-1989 and recently passed away at 88.
   
I lived in New York City in the 1970s, and remember his New Year’s Day inauguration to start 1978, when he said ‘Come East”.  The City had fallen into despair with the financial crisis of 1957m and the famous New York Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead” (link) .
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New York did get better quickly in the 1980s.  A friend, on my visit back from Texas in 1982, said, “actually New York is booming.”    Koch kept himself personally above the corruption of others, or he at least tried to.

He calls himself a "fiscal conservative" and a "social liberal".  The film says little about his terms in Congress from 1969-1977.  Koch actually wrote one time that he supported the idea of filial responsibility, that adult children should be held responsible for their parents.  (New York State, however, does not have a filial support law.)
   
Koch was a bachelor all his life, and actually teamed up with Bess Meyerson in the 1977 campaign to deflect “homo” character assassination from political opponents.  He refused to answer questions about sexual orientation, and said that politicians shouldn’t have to.  On the other hand, many feel that a politician’s “coming out” would help less fortunate LGBT people.  Some felt that his response to AIDS in New York City was underwhelming.  Late in the film, there is some graphic footage of PWA’s and ACT-UP demonstrations.  (See review of “How to Survie a Plague, June 24, 2012).

Koch was felt to have an uneven record with African-Americans.  He first supported and then tried to close a hospital in Harlem as part of New York's financial restructuring.  He does refer to himself as "white" and his Jewish background, while shown (in extended family events) doesn't seem to put him in a a "minority".

I believe Koch was still in office when the police scandal associated with the Central Park Five occurred in 1989 (see Dec. 15, 2012 posting).

The official site for the film (Zeitgeist) is here.
It is said that Ed Koch leaves behind the entire City of New York as his lineage.  Whenever he was in a plane landing back home, he felt like he owned the City as if it were “the Ring” (that is, Frodo's). 

By the way, I do remember those old subway tokens of the 1970s.  I was living in Dallas for most of the time if Koch's mayoralty;  I left NYC in early 1979, when things were still not good. 

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