clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looking Back at Ed Koch's Legacy of NYC Gentrification

New, 22 comments


[Ed Koch discusses changes in the East Village, via EVG.]

Former New York City Mayor Edward Koch died this morning at age 88, leaving behind a loud career legacy and a changed New York. Koch's terms as mayor lasted from 1978 through 1989, a period that saw a significant amount of gentrification in the city. Koch himself?who began his mayoral career from his $475/month rent-controlled Greenwich Village apartment?listed gentrification as a goal in his first inaugural address. In fact, the process was already underway in the city, with the rental vacancy rate dropping 30 percent betwen 1978 and 1981 and the median rent jumping 26 percent, as Jonathan Soffer explains in Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City. Still, city residents were skeptical: "The mind boggles at the very notion" of an NYC renaissance, writer Blake Fleetwood said in the Times magazine in January 1979.

Koch launched a housing program that continued long after the end of his administration. He began, as the Times explains, with 10,000 abandoned or city-seized properties, and by the time he left office, 3,000 apartments had been created in those buildings, with another 33,000 in various stages of completion. (Another 200,000 apartments followed over 15 years, until just 800 of those 10,000 abandoned buildings remained.)

The Koch administration had goals beyond housing, too. As Soffer explains:

The Koch administration created a new spatial order for New York City in the late 1980s by promoting gentrification and privatizing public space, the later accomplished through the creation of private groups that raised money and ultimately took over management of significant parts of the park system. A controversial system of tax incentives encouraged office building construction and subsidized big companies to keep their headquarters in Manhattan. City hall also carried out redevelopment of seamy areas of the city, notably Times Square, in an effort to attract tourists and improve those spaces for residents.

And, of course, Koch helped the cause by eating in the dozens of new restaurants that sprung up along Columbus Avenue.
· Edward Koch, Former Mayor of New York, Dies at 88 [NYT]
· Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City [CUP]
· Ed Koch coverage [Curbed]