A mob of Big Apple Democrats are demanding the removal of Ed Koch’s name from the Queensboro Bridge — after spending years singing his praises, a review of records and past statements show.
Koch, a colorful and sharp-tongued World War II vet, served as mayor from 1978 to 1989. A Democrat, he earned a soft spot among Republicans and centrists, but has long been polarizing among the city’s activist left. Critics said he didn’t move fast enough to address the AIDS crisis in the 1980s or tackle spiraling crime. Koch died in 2013.
The push to remove Koch’s name from the Queensboro Bridge comes from the Jim Owles LGBT Democratic Club, whose boss, Allen Roskoff, has long harbored a deep grudge against Koch over his handling of the AIDS epidemic.
“In view of the fact that Ed Koch has been documented to have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people with AIDS, and was blatantly racist, would you support a city bill to rename the former Queensboro Bridge? Do you authorize the use of your name for such a purpose?” Roskoff asked elected officials and candidates in a lengthy questionnaire. Woke Democrat A-listers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Jamaal Bowman wasted no time affirming their support.
Among the most notable demanding Koch’s removal is Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who lobbied fiercely in 2011 to have the bridge named after Koch.
“Mayor Koch’s infectious optimism and energy brought New York City back from the brink and restored our confidence in the future of the city we love. Renaming the Queensboro Bridge for Mayor Koch would be a fitting tribute for this great New Yorker and great American,” she said in official testimony to the City Council as they considered the name change.
When Maloney faced a primary in 2010, Koch endorsed her. The Congresswoman said she was “honored” to have his support, and called him “One of NYC’s greatest leaders and public servants.” Chummy photos of the two together are still available on Maloney’s Facebook page.
In 2013, shortly after Koch’s death, she fought to rename the 77th St.-Lexington Avenue subway stop after him, a plan which foundered because MTA rules forbid naming subway stations after people.
“I loved Ed Koch. I don’t believe in naming bridges after people,” Maloney told The Post. “I listened to LGBTQ+ leaders who shared that the former Queensboro bridge’s name being changed to honor Mayor Koch was offensive and painful to some in the community. I therefore chose to listen to the community, follow up my words of allyship with action, and add my name to the cause.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) also said he was “open to changing the name,” even though he once called Koch “a pioneer in his day” who “reinvented in no uncertain terms what it meant to be a big city Mayor.” When Jeffries was looking to jump from the state Assembly to Congress in 2012, Koch cut a radio ad for him.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) said she would “gladly consider” stripping Koch’s name from the bridge. But in a statement following his death, she said she would “always be proud and thankful for his support and will cherish the memories of working with him,” adding that Koch “personified New York.”
“Part of being a responsive leader is to listen to traditionally disenfranchised groups. Yes I sought the endorsement in the past but that does not mean that this issue doesn’t deserve a debate,” Meng told The Post.
George Arzt, a friend and former press secretary to the late mayor, said of the signatories, “I think it is certainly a betrayal of their relationship with Koch. It’s not about Koch. This is about Roskoff and these people running and wanting to get the endorsement of the club.”
Koch’s sister, Pat Thaler, said the hubbub made it seems as if her brother were still alive.
“Gei gezunterheit,” she said, a yiddish expression meaning “go in good health.”