Monday, February 4, 2013

     
    Writer Jimmy Breslin gets final victory in feud with mayor Ed Koch

    The Koch-Breslin deathwatch comes to an end with the passing of the former mayor on Friday. Their feud began after Koch said he intended to run for three more terms as mayor and then 'give the eulogy at Jimmy Breslin’s funeral.'

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    A victorious Ed Koch gives thumbs-up after first mayoral victory in 1978.  Koch and former Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin (bottom)  feuded for many years and Koch vowed to outlive Breslin. It was not to be.

    A victorious Ed Koch gives a thumbs up after his first mayoral victory in 1978. Koch famously vowed to outlive writer Jimmy Breslin, but it was not to be.

    The death watch is over.
    Jimmy Breslin has outlived Ed Koch.
    About five years ago, I was eating in a diner on Ninth Ave. near the Port Authority in Manhattan and Ed Koch had just finished eating at another table with some friends. As he was leaving he nodded to me and I said, “How’m I doing, Ed?”
    Koch laughed, shook hands, and said, “Not as good as me. I’m having a great life. And I’m still going to outlive your friend Jimmy Breslin.”
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    He smiled but there was a determination in his eyes.
    The Breslin-Koch feud dates back to 1986 when Koch appeared on a talk show and said he intended to run for three more terms as mayor and then “give the eulogy at Jimmy Breslin’s funeral.”
    Breslin responded in a column, saying, “I do not think that a man on the public payroll should be allowed to say things like this so easily.”
    To which Koch responded, “It was not intended to be anything else but funny. If it wasn’t funny, it’s my fault. Or maybe he’s lost his sense of humor.”
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    Before I ran into him in the Ninth Ave. diner, Koch had been telling people for years that one of his life’s ambitions was to outlive Breslin, whom he referred to in his autobiography “Citizen Koch” as “one of the most intellectually dishonest reporters in the country.”
    Actually, Breslin’s coverage of Koch’s trouble-plagued City Hall during the Parking Violations Bureau scandal was some of the best journalism this city has ever seen. But how could the former mayor have ever forgiven Breslin for his Dec. 31, 1989, column on the Koch legacy? The piece started like this: “Thus far there have been 20,000 murders while Ed Koch has been mayor. This is the one most ghastly figure in the history of American cities and shows clearly that Koch has been a hideous figure, a man who laughs in the morgue.”
    One of the ways Koch wanted to get even with Breslin was by outliving him. It didn’t work out that way as Koch died at 88 on Friday.
    “I didn’t even know he was dead,” the 82-year-old Breslin told me when I spoke to him Friday morning. “Too bad.”
    HAMILL3N_2_WEB

    Former Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin feuded with Ed Koch for many years. Breslin said that he is sad that Koch died, but was still irked by the former mayor's comment about outliving him.

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    I covered Koch’s first campaign for mayor in 1977 when he ran on a law-and-order platform against Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo in the Democratic primary. The city was in fiscal default. Cops and firefighters had been laid off under Mayor Abe Beame, whose campaign slogan was “he knows the buck.” Son of Sam was terrorizing the city, killing random innocents with a .44-caliber revolver. Then looters ransacked neighborhoods during the summer blackout.
    The city was in frightened freefall.
    And as I followed Koch around on the campaign trail, I noticed that his people passed out leaflets supporting the death penalty in the more conservative outer boroughs but not in liberal Manhattan. It didn’t matter that the mayor had zero control over capital punishment, an issue decided by state legislators and the governor. Koch was exploiting the fears of the public and used the issue against his main opponent, Mario Cuomo, who was against the death penalty.
    Koch was elected to three terms.
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    But law and order sure didn’t return under his administration.
    At the end of his third term, Breslin writes, “Koch got the job as mayor because he promised whites that he could keep the blacks under control. He spent 12 years as a replica of Lester Maddox of Georgia and the results are the same . . . He wants to go out beloved but the figures call him a pure undertaker.”
    In his column summing up the Koch mayoralty, Breslin says the police homicide books show that the 20,000th murder victim under Koch was either a man named Lou Jones, who was carrying milk and Chinese food into LeFrak City when he was shot in the head, or Lisa Biffle, 25, a legal secretary, who was nine-months pregnant when she was shot dead in a car passing the South Jamaica projects on Christmas Day.
    Breslin writes with telling detail, “She was taken to Queens General Hospital where doctors delivered a baby boy. The baby weighed in at 6 pounds, 7 ounces, and the mother died.”
    When asked what he felt about Koch wanting to outlive him, Breslin told me, “He shouldn’t have said something like that. I wished him better than that.”
    Did he stay in touch with Koch over the years?
    “With him? Never. For what? I’m sad that he died. That’s it. Goodbye.”
    And that’s the end of the Koch/Breslin deathwatch.
    dhamill@nydailynews.com
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