61 Memorable Quotes (And Tweets!) From Late New York Mayor Ed Koch

The inimitable Ed Koch; @ The Washington Post

The inimitable Ed Koch; @ The Washington Post

As former New York Mayor Ed Koch is laid to rest today, we’d like to reflect on some of his most memorable quotes. Not only do we have the words that Mayor Koch, the self-described ““little Jewish kid from the Bronx,”  quipped while in office, but “Hizzoner” was also a fairly prolific tweeter. Lucky us!

And to answer his question “How’m I doin’? “: you sir, were fabulous. Thank you and RIP. [Sic on all quotes]

  1. “Citizens, what a fine day to visit our state capital – the halls are empty! Elections must be close.” (Twitter, 2010)
  2. “Mayor @CoryBooker: The @NYTimes acknowledges youre leading the way w/your Twitter while Im prehistoric w/my “How’m I doin?” Congratulations.” (Twitter)
  3. “Citizens, remember your neighbors who are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Follow @NYCMayorsFund for opportunities to support them.” (from Twitter, on 2012 Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney’s infamous “binders full of women” comment)
  4. “Is a collect call alright witth you mr. Koch? ;-)” // it’s an 800 number dummy (just kidding!)” (on his radio show)
  5. “Citizens, Justice Scalia is a highly intelligent, feisty defender of conservative views. Would that we had a comparable liberal defender.” (Twitter)
  6. “Citizens, whoever would have thought that Justice Roberts would become a hero to liberals and that Justice Kennedy would become the villain?” (Twitter, on the Obamacare Supreme Court ruling)
  7. “Citizens, how is @MittRomney going to attack a law which is modeled on his MA health law, now that it’s been found constitutional?” (Twitter, on Mitt Romney’s criticism of Obamacare)
  8. “Citizens, @BarackObama’s been given a second chance to explain the health law. Don’t screw up! No doubt he’ll be reelected if he can do it.” (Twitter)
  9. “Citizens, @BarackObama‘s healthcare law was upheld. We are lucky. The conservatives trying to strip us of care were stopped in their tracks.” (Twitter, on the Obamacare Supreme Court ruling)
  10. “Citizens, I am a New Yorker for Marriage Equality. Are you?” (Twitter)
  11. “Citizens, I introd[uced] 1st gay rights bill in Congress in 1974 w/Bella Abzug. Signed 1st NYC rights bill in 1986. Im for marriage equalty today.” (Twitter)
  12. “How’m I doin’? (famous one-liner when he metconstituents)
  13. “Some people have said that’s a mark of insecurity. Gee, I have to be patted on the back. How’m I doing? I want you to think about this: Do you know people in public life who are sufficiently secure to ask people to  rate them?” (when asked why he always said “How’m I doin’?)
  14. “Enjoy what you’re doing or don’t do it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult or won’t challenge you, but if you are involved in something that’s causing you to say, ‘Why am I doing this?’ then you’re in the wrong business.” (advice to young people)
  15. “If you know how to handle a heckler, he can be very good for you. You can make really great points when hecklers are in the audience. The only kind of heckler you can’t use is the drunk.” (from his 1984 autobiography)
  16. “I said, to be a New Yorker you have to live here for six months, and if at the end of the six months you find you walk faster, talk faster, think faster, you’re a New Yorker. “
  17. “The Republicans are coming – make nice.” (when the host committee for the Republican National Convention in NYC visited)
  18. “Volunteer to show ’em the ropes. They won’t know uptown from downtown. They’ve never ordered pizza by the slice. They don’t know from alternate-side-of-the-street parking.” (when the host committee for the Republican National Convention in NYC visited)
  19. “I’m the sort of person who will never get ulcers. Why? Because I say exactly what I think. I’m the sort of person who might give other people ulcers.” (after taking office in 1978)
  20. “There was always a love-hate relationship with New York in the rest of the country, but I made them feel more love than hate.”
  21. “Tone can be as important as text.”
  22. “Oh, shut up. Everybody comes from somewhere.” (to spokesman George Arzt when Arzt commented “I can’t believe how a kid who grew up in Williamsburg was now sitting next to the mayor”)
  23. “If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.” (on politics)
  24. “You punch me, I punch back. I do not believe it’s good for one’s self-respect to be a punching bag.”
  25. “Walk over the bridge! Walk over the bridge! We’re not going to let these bastards bring us to our knees!” (his advice to frustrated commuters during the 1980 New York City transit strike)
  26. “Walking over the bridge in the transit strike was one of the best days in my 12 years as Mayor. I knew we had won!”
  27. “You don’t have to love them. You just have to respect their rights.”
  28. “The person who is bent on killing you will follow you wherever you are.”
  29. “Water, water, everywhere, Atlantic and Pacific. But New York City’s got them beat, Our aqua is terrific!”
  30. “We’re in the hands of the state legislature and God, but at the moment, the state legislature has more to say than God.”
  31. “When all are wrong, everyone is right.”
  32.  “If you seek violence, we will seek to put you in jail.”
  33. “In a neighborhood, as in life, a clean bandage is much, much better than a raw or festering wound.”
  34. “The mere process of growing old together will make the slightest acquaintance seem a bosom friend. “
  35. “The art of creation is older than the art of killing.”
  36. “In action be primitive; in foresight, a strategist. “
  37. “If they don’t want to pay for it, they can stop drinking it.”
  38. “If I traveled to the end of the rainbow as Dame Fortune did intend, Murphy would be there to tell me the pot’s at the other end.”
  39. “If you don’t like the President, it costs you 90 bucks to fly to Washington to picket. If you don’t like the governor, it costs you 60 bucks to fly to Albany to picket. If you don’t like me — 90 cents.”
  40. “Have you ever lived in the suburbs? … It’s sterile. It’s nothing. It’s wasting your life, and people do not wish to waste their lives once they’ve seen New York! This rural American thing — I’m telling you, it’s a joke.” (on the thought of living in Albany during his failed 1982 race for governor)
  41. “At age 88, I wake up every morning and say to myself, ‘Well, I’m still in New York. Thank you, God.'”
  42. “I know many writers who first dictate passages, then polish what they have dictated. I speak, then I polish – occasionally I do windows.”
  43. “I was born at the age of twelve on a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot.”
  44. “I know that nothing happens here on this Earth that wasn’t ordained by God. I know that. You know that. And therefore, while I know that it was the people who elected me, it was God who selected me.” (1985 Easter Sunday worship in Harlem)
  45. “Not that I was given approval by the Deity, but I am delighted I was given the opportunity by the Deity.”
  46. “The best way to lose weight is to close your mouth – something very difficult for a politician. Or watch your food – just watch it, don’t eat it.”
  47. “It’s not soaring, beautiful, handsome, like the George Washington or the Verrazano. It’s rugged, it’s hard working – and that’s me.” (on the 59th Street Bridge – renamed for him in 2011)
  48. “I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone. This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.” (after purchasing his burial plot in Manhattan’s Trinity Cemetery – the only cemetery in Manhattan that still had space)
  49. “Her neighbors know her.” (explaining why Bella Abzug lost in her own neighborhood during her 1972 reelection bid)
  50. “The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse.” (to young people)
  51. “The knife of corruption endangered the life of New York City. The scalpel of the law is making us well again.”
  52. “Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
  53. “As mayor, I didn’t think I could spare the time to be as nice as I really am.”
  54. “Listen, there’s no question that some New Yorkers think I’m gay, and voted for me nevertheless. The vast majority don’t care, and others don’t think I am. And I don’t give a shit either way! What do I care? I’m 73 years old. I find it fascinating that people are interested in my sex life at age 73. It’s rather complimentary! But as I say in my book, my answer to questions on this subject is simply f***off.’ There have to be some private matters left.” (confronting the gay rumors that followed him throughout his career)
  55. “It’s a lot more fun being a critic than being the one criticized.” (on his post-politics career as a radio and TV commentator and columnist)
  56. “People get tired of you. So they decided to throw me out. And so help me God, as the numbers were coming in, I said to myself, ‘I’m free at last.'” (after losing the 1989 Democratic mayoral primary to David Dinkins)
  57. “The People have spoken … and they must be punished.” (on denying the Giants a Super Bowl Parade in 1987)
  58. “If they want a parade, let them parade in front of the oil drums in Moonachie.” (on denying the Giants a Super Bowl Parade in 1987)
  59. “When was the last time you performed oral sex on your boyfriend? See, I don’t think you should answer that question. It’s an improper question, and so is yours. My sexual orientation is none of your business and whether or not you performed oral sex on your boyfriend is none of my business.” (when asked if he was gay)
  60. “I was defeated because of longevity, not because Yusuf Hawkins was murdered six weeks before the election, although that was a factor.” (after losing the 1989 mayoral primary)
  61. “Citizens, remember your neighbors who are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Follow @NYCMayorsFund for opportunities to support them.” (his last tweet before becoming ill)

And in the end, his last quote, which is engraved on his tombstone, was from journalist Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan:

“My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”

“Well, that’s me, too,” he said of Pearl’s last words. “I think that statement is as important as the most holy of all statements in Jewish ritual,” Koch said. “I think that every Saturday, we ought to say, ‘My father’s a Jew, my mother was a Jew, and I’m a Jew,’ with great pride.”

Mayor Koch died at New York Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital of congestive heart failure at 2:00 a.m. Friday morning. He has been experiencing medical, including coronary problems, since 1989.


I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blogFind me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.