Minorities Say, “DUMP KOCH”: Mayor Koch and His Troubled Relationship with Minorities

Minorities Say, “DUMP KOCH”: Mayor Koch and His Troubled Relationship with Minorities

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Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Ed Koch loved his city. Often described as New York’s “Quintessential Mayor,” Koch had none of the glamor that one expects from a person in such a formidable position. Like the city he took control of in 1977, he was loud, brash, imperfect, yet proud. Above all his memorable characteristics, his firmness in his beliefs defined his leadership. “Part of the thing that was most refreshing and most appalling about Koch is that he will stand for what he believes in," Reverend Al Sharpton, one of Koch’s great critics, said of Koch. “He will not say what you want him to. And he will not be intimidated either way" {ABC News, 2013}. So why did minorities dislike him so much while he stood as Mayor? Mayor Ed Koch had such a poor relationship with minorities because his forthright leadership style made him appear insensitive towards racial issues, he struggled with city crackdown of hate crimes, and the strong cultural responses from minorities made Koch-hatred acceptable.

While this leadership style made him an effective decision maker, it fostered a perception of antagonism towards minority groups. He thought of solutions that would benefit the city for many years to come, and he had known they would initially affect minority communities the most. During the budget cuts in 1983, when “…The City wasn’t taking in enough cash to balance the budget” {Soffer, 235}, Koch met with minority group politicians and informed them that minority neighborhoods would suffer the most. He encouraged them to push for additional aid to compensate for “the lack of services in the neighborhoods” {235}. Fortunately, he did not pay a large price because New York managed to recover from the recession quicker th...

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... tension. During the campaigns of 1988 for the New York Presidential Primary, Koch set out a relentless attack on democratic party candidate, Rev. Jessie Jackson, by saying that Jews would be "crazy" to vote for him, accusing him of "arrogance and contempt” {NY Times, 1988}, and charging him for lying in 1968 about Martin Luther King dying in his arms. Mayor Koch’s fiercest, most powerful opponent, his voice, caused him both his credibility with minority voters and his fourth term as well. In the end, even when the Mayor claimed his “style” {NY Times, 1987} had changed attempted to repair the rift he had created with minorities by convening for meetings, pleading for “exquisite sensitivity to others,” {1987} and speaking out following the incident at Howard Beach in which white youths hit and killed 23 year old Michael Griffith with their car, it seemed too late.

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