The Edward I. Koch Administration Project centers on Ed Koch, the 105th mayor of New York City. From 1978 until 1989, Koch served three terms as one of the city's most popular and outspoken mayors.
Born in the Bronx on December 12, 1924, Koch was the second of three children of Polish-Jewish immigrant parents. In 1941, Koch began attending City College of New York, but his studies were interrupted by World War Two. He served as a medic with the 104th Infantry Division, landing in France in September 1944. After the war, Koch studied at New York University School of Law. He passed the bar in 1949 and went into practice.
His political career began in 1956 when he moved to Greenwich Village and volunteered for Adlai Stevenson. In 1963, Koch became the village's Democratic Party district leader; then, in rapid succession he was elected to New York City Council (1966) and to U.S. Congress, first as New York's representative from the 17th district (1969–73), and then as the 18th district's congressman (1973–77). Koch's first interview with Columbia's Oral History Research Office, from 1976, focuses on these early years of his political life.
Koch won election as mayor of New York in 1977 by defeating Liberal Party candidate Mario Cuomo. He inherited a city in dire financial straits, but soon restored fiscal stability. Although he lost a 1982 gubernatorial bid to Mario Cuomo, Koch succeeded in winning reelection as mayor in 1981 and 1985. As mayor he established a merit system for judges and initiated extensive housing programs. He was known as an unconventional Democrat—a strong supporter of the death penalty and an early gay-rights advocate. His straight-talking style elicited both positive and negative answers to his catchphrase question, "How'm I doin'?" He once noted, "I am the sort of person who will never get ulcers. Why? Because I say exactly what I think. But I am the sort of person who might give other people ulcers."
In 1989, he ran for an unprecedented fourth term, but lost the Democratic primary to David Dinkins, who went on to defeat Rudolph Giuliani and become the city's first African American mayor. Soon after, Columbia's Oral History Research Office began the Koch Administration Project, which includes interviews with nearly four dozen of his colleagues, as well as a second, extensive interview with Koch himself. Currently, Ed Koch divides his time between his duties as a partner in a law firm and as a political commentator (and food and movie critic) for various print, radio, and TV outlets. Koch also teaches at New York University and has served as the judge on TV's The People's Court. Between 1984 and 2000, he authored more than a dozen books, from serious political fare to a children's picture book, and several murder mysteries—featuring, in true Koch style, a protagonist named Ed Koch, mayor of New York.