Recap: Ed Koch at Tenement Museum’s Tenement Talks
Last night, the Tenement Museum bookshop was a zoo. It was the hot ticket in the neighborhood, as former mayor Ed Koch was in the house for the heralded Tenement Talks series. The event was a sold out affair, and lines queued for the remaining handful of standing-room-only tickets at the door.
Inside, the space was at total capacity. Lots of standing, lots of cameras, and lots of lights. Both the C-Span network and Book TV were also in attendance to capture some footage. The event itself was part of a promotional blitz to push a new definitive biography by NYU Polytechnic Associate Professor Jonathan Soffer called Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City.
Veteran urban affairs correspondent for the New York Times, Sam Roberts, was invited for opening remarks. It was all very flattering, including a quip that Koch was “the last mayor who laughed.” The structure of the discussion thereafter was rather loosy-goosy. Soffer read a couple passages from the book and also asked a number of additional questions, many of which were long-winded. Of course, Koch was happy to oblige. He charmed the crowd from the get-go with the perfect icebreaker, “I’m 85 years-old, I probably have 2-3 years left, and I’m not afraid of death.”
Ever the politician, it often seemed as though the mayor was back on the stump, campaigning for someone or something. Above and beyond his endorsement of Mayor Mike or repeating his support of the death penalty, Koch conveyed a basic survey course of his career in New York City in an attempt to set his legacy straight. In doing so, he intimated the reasoning behind some of his controversial decisions as mayor (e.g. Eleanor Bumpers) and also confessed regrets about certain political scandals. Most notably his regret of closing the Sydenham Hospital in Harlem in 1980.