Ed Koch’s 59th Street Bridge Song - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Ed Koch’s 59th Street Bridge Song
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New York City Mayor Ed Koch an the commissioning of the USS Lake Champlain in 1988 (Wikimedia Commons)

“How’m I doing?” Ed Koch famously asked New Yorkers. Almost a decade after the mayor’s passing, former supporters retroactively answer in the negative.

The New York Times published an article, “The Secrets Ed Koch Carried,” over the weekend that relied on gossip from several long-dead people to place the bachelor in the confirmed bachelor category. The allegations, which arose during Koch’s race for mayor in 1977 when supporters of his opponent held signs reading “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo,” strike as not newsworthy but terribly convenient to an ideological crusade to posthumously cancel Ed Koch. The Times endorsed Koch in 1981 and 1985. But he later endorsed Rudy Guiliani for mayor, George Pataki for governor, and George W. Bush for president. And, although he signed the first anti-discrimination ordinance including gays in the history of the city, Koch not doing what some AIDS activists wanted him to do puts a target on his back more than three decades after he last served in office.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, and Big Apple U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney, and Grace Meng all support stripping Koch’s name off the Queensboro Bridge.

Though usual suspects abound in this cancel campaign, several of the names, particularly Maloney’s, surprise.

“Among the most notable demanding Koch’s removal is Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney,” the New York Post explains, “who lobbied fiercely in 2011 to have the bridge named after Koch.”

In 2010, Koch endorsed Maloney as a younger, wealthier Democrat primaried her. Maloney now repays the favor from the man she called “one of NYC’s greatest leaders and public servants” by seeking to strip his name off a bridge. She explained her decision by telling the Post that she “listened to LGBTQ+ leaders.” One imagines she specifically listened to Allen Roskoff, a left-wing activist nursing a longstanding grudge against the nine-years dead Koch.

“The club continues to encourage all candidates we meet to support removing the name of former Mayor Ed Koch from the 59th St. Bridge,” Roskoff, the president of the LGBTQ-oriented Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, told TheVillageSun.com. “Practically everyone we have interviewed shared our view that this honor is unmerited for a mayor who stood idly by while the AIDS holocaust devastated gay New Yorkers and other marginalized communities, and who routinely ignored and insulted the city’s people of color.”

Koch, very liberal by national standards if a moderate by the standards of New York City, did not stand “idly by while the AIDS holocaust devastated gay New Yorkers” during his tenure as mayor from 1978 through 1989. He closed bathhouses. The gay Left hates him because he closed bathhouses. Maybe they should hate him because he listened to the gay Left for far too long and did not close bathhouses until late 1985, when Governor Mario Cuomo essentially forced his hand. But they hated him because he closed bathhouses.

“It’s tough stuff to read,” Koch said of reports from undercover agents that precipitated the closing of The Mine Shaft. “It must be horrific, horrendous in its actuality to witness.” Koch, who had earlier resisted efforts to crack down on such institutions even as AIDS killed more New Yorkers than inhabitants of any other city, outraged extremists by calling the activities in the bathhouses “suicidal behavior.”

“Bathhouses themselves do not cause AIDS,” Lori Behrman of Gay Men’s Health Crisis said in mouthing the talking points relied upon by proponents of the sex clubs. “Behavior does.”

Charles Ortleb, publisher of the New York Native, which found the reality of sex causing a deadly disease so jarring that it repeatedly published articles denying it, asked a San Francisco official: “Now that you’ve succeeded in closing down the baths, are you preparing the boxcars for relocation?”

“If I can’t join another man’s body to mine, then how am I gay?” Charles Jurrist asked in 1983 in ridiculing “hysterical voices” calling for an end to promiscuity in places such as bathhouses. “Liking Bette Midler is not enough.” His debating partner, bathhouse critic Michael Callen, prophetically asked: “What civil rights do dead men have?” Within a decade, Jurrist, a talented critic for the New York Daily News, paid for his position with his life.

Some of Koch’s critics on the gay Left project in blaming him for the especially pronounced AIDS outbreak in New York. Their championing of the bathhouse incubators of the disease, which unfortunately proved more difficult to shutter than Koch and Cuomo had imagined, remained but one example of their ignorance causing death.

The gay Left in New York, in the days before affordable testing, protested attempts by blood banks to screen out donations from at-risk groups as though protecting hemophiliacs amounted to bigotry. Once scientists developed an HIV test, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund and National Gay Task Force sued to block it. They found an ally in New York’s health commissioner.

“In New York City, gay leaders remained flatly opposed to gay men taking the test for fear of civil liberties violations,” Randy Shilts wrote in And the Band Played On. “Rather than enact laws protecting civil rights, a much more difficult task in New York than California, the strategy was simply to make it impossible for gay men to be tested. Without any public comment, Health Commissioner David Sencer filed a public order declaring that no laboratory in New York City would be permitted to conduct antibody tests except for scientific research. The order did not apply to blood banks.”

Sencer, whose campaign against swine flu in 1976 led to more deaths from the vaccine than the disease, followed this up by opposing bathhouse closures and banning the HIV test — perhaps the greatest life-saving tool in the fight against AIDS — in New York City. He did this not at the behest of Ed Koch but at the behest of gay extremists who hated Ed Koch. Shortly after Koch closed The Mine Shaft, Sencer resigned his position.

While Sencer presided over the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during the latter stages of the Tuskegee experiment and disastrous swine flu vaccination campaign, and opposed the HIV test to the point of unilaterally banning it by bureaucratic decree in the city that needed it most, the CDC named its museum in his honor. Nobody seeks to paint over his name on the museum’s signs.

Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website, www.flynnfiles.com.   
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