Ed Koch's Newark

By Katie Colaneri, WBGO News
February 1, 2013

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Ed Koch at the podium with Sharpe James, right, at a 1987 conferece. Photo courtesy of Sharpe James

Long before he asked the Big Apple, ‘How’m I doin’?’ Ed Koch was a child of Brick City.

Ed Koch’s Newark of the 1920s and 30s was a city on the verge of change. He grew up in the South Ward which at that time was a "tree-lined, residential, predominantly Jewish community.”

Fellow South-sider and former Newark Mayor Sharpe James graduated from what is now Malcolm X. Shabazz High School more than 10 years after Koch.

Decades before they would cross paths as big city mayors, James says they were young men being shaped by race and a changing urban landscape.

In the 1940s, while most whites began leaving Newark for the suburbs, Koch went to New York.

“The Big Apple was always and attractive place for those who were ambitious had goals and had dreams of being more than just a family man.”

The city Koch left behind was seeing a major influx of African-Americans from the South which made Newark the place for young black politicians like James.

The two met in 1986 and duked it out over social issues like homelessness. But James remember Koch as both a formidable opponent and a good friend.  

“He could have been very rude to me. He could have attempted to stymie my career. Instead, he saw a young mayor from New Jersey and he tried to assist my career as being mayor and I’ll never forget that.”

Sharpe James says Ed Koch was his hero.


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