Financial Issues, Transit Strike Among Issues Koch Faced In First Term
After running on a law-and-order platform and beating out better known Democrats, former Mayor Ed Koch began his first term at City Hall in 1978. During that term, he held the line during a transit strike, clashed with black leaders, and tried to get the city's finances under control. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
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Ed Koch was a longshot candidate for mayor in 1977, but his tough stance on crime helped propel him to the top.
New Yorkers were on edge as looting broke out during a summer blackout and arson fires burned in the Bronx. Koch cast himself as a competent manager, a man to lead City Hall out of financial ruin.
Koch took office in 1978 and immediately set about reigning in the size of city government. He cut municipal jobs and slashed city services, many of which aided the poor.
He also turned to Washington for help. At Koch's urging, Congress signed off on loan guarantees that were critical in helping the city get back on its feet. He balanced the budget for the first time in 15 years.
Indeed, Koch seemed to shine in the face of a crisis. In 1980, when a transit strike crippled the city for 11 days, the mayor sprang into action.
The image of Koch cheering on people forced to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge is one many New Yorkers still remember to this day.
Koch's enthusiasm for New York, and for being mayor, seemed to lift the spirits of the city, and he did so at a time when it seemed impossible to rise above the crime, graffiti and financial problems that had taken such a toll.
But Koch's first term had problems, too, specifically when it came to his relationship with black New Yorkers. He infuriated Harlem leaders with his decision to shut down Sydenham Hospital, a local institution that was home to many black doctors. Demonstrators clashed with police in response to the decision.
Koch later said it was a terrible mistake, a mistake that some New Yorkers never got over.