There were a lot of serious problems for New Yorkers when Ed Koch was mayor.
If you did not live here then it may be hard to imagine the problems of the Koch administration. This cartoon originally done for The City Sun, The Black Alternative. At that time Koch was holding press conferences about cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke, what he called the biggest problem in the city.
By that time his kingdom was built of building blocks of many major problems.
Looking at this castle. Donald MANES is no longer one of the blocks in it. The distraught Queens borough president had been caught in several scandals and was under indictment for several felonies. This was par for the course in NYC in those days. At one point 23 of the 25 city commissioners were under multiple federal felony indictments, often for embezzling tax dollars in large amounts. Donald Manes was locked away at this time. Unfortunately later released for a family visit, he committed suicide.
Other city officials, mostly in the NYPD, also committed suicide. The news was full of shameful stories.
23 of THE SHADY COMMISSIONERS RESIGNED in disgrace. Many KICK BACK SCANDALS were part of the problem.
Koch had allowed a brutal system of policing in the city. At the 106th PRECINCT and another Queens precinct police were allowed to TORTURE people—mostly all Black men with electric Stun Guns on the genitals. There was an epidemic of police killings of Black New Yorkers. EDMUND PERRY, a straight-A student was gunned down by the police, ELEANOR BUMPURS was blasted twice with a shotgun at close range for being 2 months late with the rent. MICHAEL STEWART died from kicks and beatings in front of onlookers. Police were charged with choking him to death with a night stick. The coroner stole the eyeballs from Mr. Stewart’s corpse. If his eyes showed signs of pressure, that would have proved that the illegal choke hold had been what killed him. A report was released listing 468 Black people killed in police custody and police encounters on the streets.
During the first two terms Koch was in office, in such an atmosphere of violent racism, a civilian Bernard GOETZ shot at 4 young Black men on a subway. He tried to justify this by saying that they looked scary to him. Right-wingers raised millions for GOETZ’s defense and full-page ads in NY papers.
Meanwhile the police ran many violent FORCED EVICTIONS of elderly tenants throughout the city.
Another infamous form of Koch Administration racism was his closing of city hospitals in poor, predominately Black neighborhoods. SYDENHAM was the first. Protesters and medical people locked themselves inside while supporters outside would risk arrest tossing food in through the windows. The HOSPITAL CRISIS clearly affected poor and non-white people the worst. So did the SOUTH BRONX CRISIS, GENTRIFICATION, high UNEMPLOYMENT, the JOBS CRISIS, and over-crowding RIKERS CRISIS—which some years had over 160% of the legal number of inmates.
The SOUTH BRONX CRISIS was often caused by the ARSON FOR PROFIT, almost daily fires adding to the 60,000 HOMELESS. The HOUSING CRISIS seemed worse since there were thousands of apartments empty. Landlords were WAREHOUSING empty buildings to raise the price of rents. Huge empty old army buildings had hundreds crowded in, sleeping on cots or floors with only one or two toilets—this was ARMORY HOUSING. Photojournalists from around the world took pictures of the uncivilized mess.
Other very serious scandals included Koch spending $5 MILLION tax dollars on a new bedroom set. While the price of a bus ride went from 60 cents to 75 CENTS TO 90 TO $1, while the MTA CRISIS and some of the HRA CRISIS were brought on by BUDGET CUTS for services to average New Yorkers, Koch added luxury and tax breaks for people like BUILDERS HELMSLEY SPEAR AND DONALD TRUMP. Koch meanwhile lead a sarcastic and racist BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY campaign.
Governor Mario Cuomo’s “DEINSTITUTIONALIZATION” forced mentally ill, mentally retarded—people who could not take care of themselves, out on to the cold streets of NYC. Many ended up fighting green-grocers and cops for fruits and bread. NYC was soon part of this rationalization of budget cuts called “PLANNED SHRINKAGE” which cut back on fire trucks, teachers, bus lines and added giant pay raises to city commissioners and big shots. On top of al this President Reagan was expanding the navy and had planned to base the USS IOWA with nuclear weapons in NYC .
All of these problems brought out all kinds of protests but Koch ignored protests and finally announced that cigarettes are a problem.