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Long-Standing Saturday Lunch Tradition Goes On Without Mayor Ed Koch

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With the death of former mayor Ed Koch, a long tradition came to an end: his regular Saturday lunches with old friends. The group met again Saturday, this time to toast the mayor. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

Lunch was delicious, but perhaps not quite as sweet with one chair empty.

"One word: sad," said Arnie Kriss, a lawyer for former Mayor Ed Koch. "But the memories are really going to keep all of us going."

Memories formed over decades of Saturdays Lunch with Ed Koch.

It was often Peking Duck House, so they chose it again this time. But normally, picking the restaurant wasn't easy.

They'd first gather at Koch's apartment at 12:30 p.m. And then?

"Someone would yell, 'Where are we eating?'" said George Arzt, Koch's longtime spokesperson. "And he would say, 'How about Aqua Grill?' And someone else would say 'How about Peking Duck?' Someone else would say, 'Peter Luger?'"

The votes would be tallied, though Koch had preferences.

"As long as it was greasy and garlic-y, it was fine," said Tom Baer, a friend of Koch.

The former mayor also wanted the food to come quick.

"Ed's general view was, about a minute after you ordered, the food should come," said Peter Aschkenasy, a friend of Koch.

And don't bother with a fancy muffin basket, either.

"He would say, 'Have you got some bread?'" Baer said.

As for Peking Duck, he loved the tail. Koch started coming here in 1978, when the restaurant opened and he entered City Hall.

"When he visited China, go to Beijing, he tell me, 'New York duck better than Beijing,'" said Wun Yin Wu, the owner of Peking Duck.

The lunches date to the late 1960s, when Koch was a city councilman making political connections.

"We'd try and invite other people so he would meet politically," said John LoCicero, a former Koch aide. "He was thinking of the future."

It paid off, of course.

There was a 12-year lunch break when Koch was at City Hall, and then it resumed.

"We wanted to keep the family together," Arzt said. "We're the family."

It's unclear whether the group will meet with the same frequency without the mayor.

The former mayor's funeral will be held Monday at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side. He'll then be buried further uptown at Trinity Cemetery in Washington Heights.

Koch chose his own burial plot. He said he could never imagine leaving Manhattan.

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