Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City

Benjamin Schwarz’s “Editor’s Choice” in The Atlantic includes a discussion of Jonathan Soffer’s Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City. (The article unexpectedly begins with the “sequel” to The Preppy Handbook and ends with Soffer’s book.

Schwarz praises Soffer for his analysis of Koch’s administration as both stabilizing New York City during the late 1970s and setting the stage for the city’s later revitalization. Schwarz writes, “[Soffer] has written a precise and scrupulously honest, Marxian-inflected assessment of Koch’s mayoralty.” As one might suspect from this praise, Soffer’s book also criticizes Koch for some of his failings, and for pinning the city’s fortunes on the financial sector, a trend which continues to this day:

But of necessity [Koch] yoked the city’s revival and future health to the tax revenues garnered from the financial, insurance, and real-estate sectors—the ballooning and busting of which have fundamentally altered the city’s character, and perhaps vitiated the nation’s economy and public morality.

On a different note but still related to Koch, here is a clip from the Web site Old Jews Telling Jokes. Koch’s joke recounts an experience he had during his first run for mayor in 1977. The joke crystallizes the way many New Yorkers felt about the city at the time.

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