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Edward I. Koch, 1924-2013

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Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Lots of words have been used to describe Ed Koch, the former three-term mayor of New York City who died Friday at the age of 88.

There's “brash,” “shrewd” and “colorful.” And, yes, he was all those. Then there's “tenacious,” “zestful” and “combative.” True, he was. The more highbrow among New Yorkers knew Mr. Koch for his “ebullience,” a high-level enthusiasm that fueled another dimension of his powerful persona — his perennial and good-natured “cheerleading” for the Big Apple.

Which brings us to the core — the soul — of Ed Koch. In a vast sea (some would say sewer) of politicians and public servants more dedicated to serving themselves, he was the embodiment of a “leader.” Never self-effacing, he would do anything to improve the city he so loved and the lot of every resident he could.

And like too few other “leaders” who might offer comparable sizzle, few could match the quantity and the quality of Mayor Koch's steak. Once a liberals' liberal, he embraced pragmatic conservatism to tackle a wide array of challenges in his 12-year mayoralty beginning in 1978. It was Ed Koch who pulled New York back from the precipice of the mother of all fiscal cliffs. It was Ed Koch who revitalized neighborhoods given up for dead by so many others. It was Ed Koch whose work led to nearly a quarter of a million new housing units. And we could go on and on.

No uncertain sound ever emanated from Ed Koch's trumpet of leadership. And the notes he blew represent a legacy that few “leaders” have ever had or to which fewer still could ever realistically aspire.

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