I remember meeting esteemed attorney and New York City Mayor Ed Koch in 1998 on the set of the popular Law TV show, "The People's Court." He was quite receptive and I recall being quite surprised at how much taller he was in person than he appeared to be on live television. It was unexpected to meet him again just a year or so later as part of a group that was interested in further developing TheLaw.com, a consumer focused legal information portal that I had founded back in 1994 when I had begun law school.
Ed Koch as Mayor of New York City
The quality of life in New York City during the 70s and 80s represented a vastly different era than today. Certain neighborhoods, especially the upper reaches of the West Side and Harlem, could be dangerous places to wander about. Racial and cultural lines of division were far more extreme, creating significant challenges for the mosaic of different people to get along amicably. From my own memories, Mayor Koch stood out because he seemed to have the best interests of the residents in mind at all times. He seemed sincere in wanting to find the sensible, practical and right solution that most New York City residents would find amenable. And no matter how vocal the opposition, he would go forward with that plan with best of intentions.
Memories of homeless persons, graffiti covered subway trains and loud music dominate my memory of that era. There was a proliferation of the "boombox" or "ghetto blaster" - large portable AM/FM radio cassette players with powerful speakers. Among urban youth, this was the 70s version of proudly engaging in social media music sharing. Unlike the present time, one could not simply click to quit. Mayor Koch was a proponent of legislation banning the playing of radios on subways and buses for the purpose of quality of life. And while such a law would seem simple to pass in this age of cigarette-free dining, back then the opposition was fierce and vitriolic.
His Trademark Slogan: How Am I Doing?
During his entire three term tenure as the mayor of New York City, Ed Koch would seem to ask just about anyone he met: "How am I doing?" This wasn't lip service - he cared since a negative result would impact the citizens of New York (and perhaps his well known ego as well.) And regardless of how you felt about his opinion, Mayor Koch gave you the dignity of knowing his without a polished, two-faced veneer. He certainly showed his heart on his sleeve when it came to New York City citizens. He was even a fierce opponent of breaking up New York City into two different area codes, which became (212) and (718). And if you're a native New Yorker who lived in the city during these times, you're may still be clinging to your 212 phone numbers as if some badge and brand of being a "genuine" New Yorker and not a transplanted 646 poser.
Mayor Ed Koch and TheLaw.com
Mayor Koch and a group of other interested partners approached me in 1999 about their shared interest in providing consumers with greater access to legal information. For a short period of time, this group operated the site and furthered this goal to be a resource that is self-funded by a symbiotic relationship with the every day person who needs legal advice, assistance and potentially legal representation by an attorney. An example appears below, where Mayor Koch was featured in the judge's chambers as the site's celebrity spokesperson - and it's hard to believe that this occurred over thirteen years ago.
His Honor's Last Few Days
When I saw the Mayor Koch's picture in the newspaper this week, I feared the end was near. His most familiar friendly wave was devoid of his boundless exuberance and energy that personified him his entire life. I did not doubt that in his mind he still believed that he'd leave the hospital and immediately return to work. In 88 years he accomplished more than most could and significantly changed this city and the quality of life for the better. Thank you, Mayor Koch. To answer your lifelong question, you did extremely well.
- New York