New York City is mourning the death of former Mayor Ed Koch, who already is being eulogized as one of its greatest mayors. His sharply witty tongue also earned him a national stage, and today we remember him not only for the political heights he achieved in his three terms leading the city but for his down-to-earth persona. One thing we'll never forget is this: The entire time Koch was in office (from 1977-89), he maintained a tiny $475 rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village.
Yes, the powerhouse political figure held onto his humble home at 14 Washington Place in Manhattan even as his public stage got bigger and bigger. This New York Times photo taken in 1978 shows Koch in his tiny little home as he spoke to reporters about his watch over the city. "I'm the sort of person who will never get ulcers," Koch said, according to the photo's caption. "Why? Because I say exactly what I think. I'm the sort of person who might give other people ulcers."
Well, we know he sure wasn't getting ulcers over the rent. The $475-a-month apartment cost Koch far less than the $1,200 a month it was worth at market rate at the time he lived there. (Rent-control laws place a ceiling on how much landlords can charge tenants for rent to keep prices stabilized.) Even so, Koch did live in Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence in New York. He kept paying for his Greenwich Village apartment on the side.
He originally planned to pass on living in Gracie Mansion, but changed his mind soon after being elected mayor. "I said to myself, 'Anybody who can live here and doesn't has got to be nuts," Koch told the Times of Gracie Mansion. "So I changed my mind. ... People who live there every day provide a warmth and a special air to that house. That makes it even more interesting to the people who live in this city." Current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg disagreed, saying recently that Gracie Mansion belongs to the public and should not be used as a private mayoral residence.
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