UPDATE 5-Ed Koch, New York's colorful longtime former mayor, dies

* Bold, blunt and abrasive, he was city's biggest booster

* Credited with New York's fiscal recovery in late 1970s

* New Yorker to the core, Koch remained a political force

(Adds details throughout)

NEW YORK, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Ed Koch, the voluble three-term

mayor who helped bring New York back from the brink of fiscal

ruin in the 1970s and came to embody the city with his wry,

outspoken style, died on Friday at the age of 88.

As mayor from 1978 to 1989, the forceful, quick-witted Koch,

with his trademark phrase "How'm I Doin?," was a natural showman

and tireless promoter of both himself and the city. He could

also be a deeply polarizing figure.

Koch died of congestive heart failure at about 2 a.m. (0700

GMT) at New York-Presbyterian hospital following a year of

repeated hospitalizations, George Arzt, his spokesman, said.

Koch was credited with lifting New York from crushing

economic crises to a level of prosperity that was the envy of

other U.S. cities. Under his leadership, the city regained its

financial footing and underwent a building renaissance.

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. In

1989, he lost the Democratic nomination for what would have been

a record fourth term as mayor.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Koch a quintessential New

Yorker and one of the city's great mayors.

"In elected office and as a private citizen, he was our most

tireless, fearless, and guileless civic crusader," Bloomberg

said. "His spirit will live on not only here at City Hall, and

not only on the bridge the bears his name, but all across the

five boroughs."

Tall and mostly bald, Koch had a quip for every occasion and

once said he wanted to be mayor for life. He was the only U.S.

mayor to have a bestselling autobiography that was turned into

an off-Broadway musical.

This week, "Koch," a documentary about his City Hall years,

premiered at the Museum of Modern Art but Koch was unable to

attend. The film opens in theaters nationwide on Friday.

Bloomberg joked about the timing, saying, "Leave it to Ed to

leave just in time to maximize interest in ticket sales" of a

movie about him.

The film begins with Koch describing how, as mayor, he would

delight in looking out at the New York City skyline and remark

to himself, "This is all mine. It's extraordinary."

"Here was a mayor who was a combination of a Lindy's waiter,

a Coney Island barker, a Catskill comedian, an irritated school

principal and an eccentric uncle," New York writer Pete Hamill

said in a 2005 discussion of Koch's legacy. "He talked tough and

the reason was, he was tough."


Born into a Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx on Dec. 12,

1924, Edward Irving Koch went on to attend City College and earn

a law degree from New York University.

He entered politics in the 1950s in Manhattan's Greenwich

Village neighborhood, winning a seat on the city council, and

later went to Washington, where he served four terms in the U.S.

House of Representatives.

In 1977, he ran for mayor of New York City, and proved to be

an agile campaigner. To combat rumors he was gay, former beauty

queen Bess Myerson began appearing by his side at campaign


Koch later admitted the two were never romantically

involved. Koch remained a bachelor all his life and refused to

answer questions about his sexuality even in his later years.

After two successful terms in office - he was returned for a

third term with 70 percent of the vote - Koch's star had begun

to fade. A corruption scandal involving his ally, Queens Borough

President Donald Manes, never implicated Koch, but it damaged

his reputation with voters.

Koch's attempt at a fourth term failed when he lost his

party's nomination to Manhattan borough president David Dinkins,

a man as quiet and deliberative as Koch was outspoken and

abrasive. Dinkins would go on to be the city's first black


"People became tired of Koch's personality," said Mitchell

Moss, the director of the Urban Research Center at New York

University. "He was a remarkable mayor but one with a big mouth.

After 12 years you have to change the lyrics."

After leaving office, Koch wrote articles on everything from

Middle East politics to movie reviews, hosted a radio show and

served as a judge on television's "“The People's Court." His

book about another former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani,

was titled "Giuliani: Nasty Man."

He remained a formidable figure in New York politics until

his death, endorsing candidates and offering political

commentary on the local NY1 television station. He has been a

supporter of New York's current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and in

2010 he formed New York Uprising, a political action committee

designed to fight corruption in state politics.

In 2008, Koch announced he had secured a plot in Manhattan's

Trinity Cemetery, telling the New York Times: "The idea of

leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me."

(Additional reporting by David Storey; Editing by Jackie Frank

and Doina Chiacu)

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