Leaders share their favorite Koch memories at late mayor's funeral
When a host of leaders from around the country spoke about Mayor Ed Koch's life Monday, they didn't focus on his decades of public service, his unique Big Apple popularity, or even his stint as the judge on the "People's Court."
Rather, those dignitaries, family members and friends reflected on the personal moments that they said demonstrated his big heart.
Thousands gathered at the Temple Emanu-El to hear those anecdotes and bid the colorful 88-year-old former mayor, who died Friday, goodbye.
Koch's relatives began the ceremony talking about his closeness to the family.
Although the Bronx native never married or had any children, Noah Thaler, Koch's grandnephew, said he and his cousins considered him as a second grandfather who would always ask about their recent accomplishments.
"He was a vibrant and vital part of our family," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloom-berg noted Koch never lost his sense of humor. Bloomberg recounted a story where Koch filmed an ad where he greeted drivers who entered newly named Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, telling each and every one of them, "Welcome to my bridge! Welcome to my bridge."
"But what most people don't know is, after the cameras stopped rolling, Ed stayed out there in the freezing cold for another 20 minutes, yelling 'Welcome to my bridge,'" Bloomberg said to a laughing crowd.
Despite the wisecracks, Bloomberg noted that Koch was always serious when it came to making sure the city bounced back from its despair during the '70s.
From public housing projects to fighting for the rights of the city's gay and lesbian community, Bloomberg said Koch didn't shy away from making sure New Yorkers got a government they deserve.
"He understood that if you take tough stances and give it to people straight, they'll respect you for being honest, even when they don't agree with you," Bloomberg said.
Former President Bill Clinton said he was always impressed with advice that he'd give to leaders, himself included.
He recalled a letter that Koch sent to the White House when he was trying to pass anti-smoking bills and laughed when the former mayor offered a suggestion.
"It doesn't work to tell young people they're going to get cancer or respiratory diseases, go after the virility," Clinton recalled Koch telling him in a letter.
Koch's friends and aides said he had all of the details of his funeral services planned to the smallest detail in the 80s, because he loved his life and was never afraid to die.
The final part of the memorial service, which was followed by a shiva for relatives at Gracie Mansion and burial at Trinity Church Cemetery, was a standing ovation fit for a grand Big Apple leader.
As Koch's casket made its way out of the temple, the organist played Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York."
"He would have loved this crowd," Koch's former chief of staff Diane Coffey said.
Eulogy exerpts from Bloomberg, Clinton
"We were talking about how to tackle obesity, and he said: 'Limit' the size of sugary drinks, no one will 'notice.'"
"No mayor, I think, has ever embodied the spirit of New York City like he did ... Tough and loud, brash and irreverent, full of humor and chutzpah - he was our city's quintessential Mayor."
"He was as genuine a politician as America has ever seen. He understood that if you take tough stances and give it to people straight, they'll respect you for being honest, even when they don't agree with you."
"It's not hard to picture Ed getting up to heaven, meeting God, and saying with a big smile, 'How'd I do?'"
"He said, 'You know, we've got to do something to convince these young people to quit smoking,'...'It doesn't work to tell young people they're going to get cancer or respiratory diseases, go after the virility.'"
"It's not just New York that owes him a lot."
"Ed Koch wanted us all to shape up."
"He had a big brain, but he had a bigger heart."
Pols want Koch honor on UES
City pols want the MTA to honor late Mayor Ed Koch at his "favorite" subway station by renaming it or erecting a monument, but the agency is unlikely to heed the call.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney Monday asked the MTA to honor Koch at the 77th St.-Lexington Avenue station on the Upper East Side, saying he was a regular there during his campaigns and that it was one of his favorite places to ask his signature question, "How am I doing?"
"He told me that the 77th Street subway stop was his favorite, lucky corner," Maloney said at the station, flanked by City Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Jessica Lappin.
Maloney had initially wanted the MTA to rename the station in Koch's honor, but the MTA quickly shot down that idea, telling news outlets that stations are never named for people but only geographic locations or corporate sponsorship.
MTA officials also said any type of plaque is unlikely.
Still, Levin said any remembrance would be better than none.