NEW YORK – Ed Koch couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate final farewell to New York City.
An organist played “New York, New York,” the iconic ballad made famous by Frank Sinatra, in a Manhattan synagogue Monday as the former mayor’s oak coffin was carried past thousands of mourners, concluding a funeral that recalled the quintessential New Yorker’s famous one-liners and amusing antics in the public eye.
Koch died Friday of congestive heart failure at age 88.
After the funeral, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and David Dinkins held their hands to their hearts. Police helicopters flew overhead and bagpipes wailed on the freezing February afternoon.
Recalling Koch as “brash and irreverent,” Bloomberg told the crowd that came to pay its respects that the man who steered the city through the 1970s and 1980s must be “beaming” from all the attention created by his death.
“No mayor, I think, has ever embodied the spirit of New York City like he did,” Bloomberg said. “And I don’t think anyone ever will.”
True to his take-charge nature, Koch even choreographed his own funeral. Aware of his impending mortality during his final days, Koch wanted to know everything about the particulars of the event, said Diane Coffey, his former chief of staff.
Coffey said her old boss was grateful when she told him last week that Bloomberg was planning to speak at the service. She said he would have been “over the moon” that former President Bill Clinton also spoke.
Coffey said Koch insisted upon being buried in a cemetery “conveniently located near a subway stop” so that New Yorkers could come and visit his grave.
The packed crowd broke into a spontaneous standing ovation as the coffin made its way out of the synagogue. Koch will be buried at the Trinity Church cemetery in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
His tombstone says he “fiercely” defended New York City and loved its people and America.
Koch led the city for 12 years with a brash, humor-tinged style that came to personify the New York of the 1980s.
The Democratic mayor is credited with helping save New York from its economic crisis in the 1970s and leading it to financial rebirth. But during his three terms as mayor, he also faced racial tensions and corruption among political allies, as well as the AIDS epidemic, homelessness and urban crime.
Clinton, who represented President Barack Obama at the funeral, addressed Koch and said the world was “doing a lot better because you lived and served.”
“He had a big brain,” Clinton said of the late mayor. “But he had a bigger heart.”