What If Bella Abzug Had Been Mayor?

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

“The despair was so thick you could cut it with a knife in the Seventies,” Fred Siegel, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and scholar in residence at St. Francis College recalls. “Ed Koch saved New York. There is just no question of this. Imagine if Bella Abzug had become mayor in 1977,” he adds. 

But, Siegel recounts in a phone conversation today, after the mayor’s run for governor in 1982, he began to lose focus. “You have to fight the public-sector unions and interest groups with all your might or you lose,” Siegel says. And Koch didn’t. “As the boom came,” Siegel recounts, “he no longer attempted to hold back the interest groups that were able to fiscally eat the city alive.”

“Koch gave New York a future,” Seigel emphasizes. But “unfortunately he undermined the city” in re-inflating “vast government expenditures and a vast government work force.” It wasn’t ideological, Siegel says, he simply “gave in.”

Siegel adds what so many have said today: “Koch loved being mayor.” And comments: “Koch’s worst is Bloomberg at his best.”