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Ed Koch Dies; Outspoken Mayor Brought N.Y. Back From The Brink

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, whose larger-than-life personality was well-suited to the nation's biggest city but could also get him in trouble, has died. He was 88.

His spokesman, George Arzt, says Koch passed away early Friday from congestive heart failure.

Koch was famous for asking his constituents this question: "Hey! How'm I doing?" He insisted this was more than just shtick. He told NPR in 1981 that he really wanted to know.

"Some people have said that's a mark of insecurity. Gee, I have to be patted on the back, how'm I doing," he said. "I want you to think about this: Do you know people in public life who are sufficiently secure to ask people to rate them?"

Insecurity did not seem to be a problem for Koch. When he ran first for mayor, New York was practically falling apart. The city was still reeling from the financial crisis of the mid-1970s and the looting that accompanied a major blackout in the summer of 1977.

"The city was being held together by chewing gum," recalls historian Jonathan Soffer. "He created a feeling of optimism. He created a feeling that the city could come back."

Soffer, who wrote a biography called Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York, says Koch managed to balance the city's budget, sometimes at the expense of low-income and minority communities. He says the Koch administration was focused on keeping middle-class families and white-collar jobs from leaving New York.

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