Former Mayor Edward Koch, who presided over New York City during the turbulent late 1970s and ’80s and came to personify the city with his wry and outspoken style, died this morning at the age of 88. The Bronx-born World War II vet came of age in Greenwich Village reform politics, taking on the remnants of the Tammany Hall Democratic machine as a self-described “liberal with sanity.” He won his first mayoral campaign in 1977. Koch positioned himself as the unexpected champion of the middle class. Under his leadership, the city regained its financial footing and underwent a building renaissance. He won a third term with an astounding 78 percent of the vote against two competitors in 1985. But his three terms in office were also marked by racial tensions, corruption among many of his political allies, the rise in AIDS and HIV, homelessness and a high crime rate.
As mayor from 1978 to 1989, the forceful, quick-witted Koch, with his trademark phrase “How’m I Doing?,” was a polarizing figure and the city’s constant promoter. In the graffiti community he will forever be remembered for his role in the seminal documentary Style Wars. Part of his job of cleaning up the city in the late 1970s and ’80s includes a war on graffiti, making him a villain to writers at the time. Below we included a clip from Style Wars as well as a famous anti-graffiti poster he was featured in and some legendary responses from the graffiti community during his years in office.