Thoughts From Koch on a ‘Fool and a Simpleton’

Just when you thought you had heard the last from Edward I. Koch, there’s more.

Additional interviews released by the LaGuardia Community College archives, some conducted as recently as a few months ago, reveal candid recollections by Mr. Koch and his colleagues in city government, both about one another and about their fellow public officials.

Some of the oral histories were not to be released until after the former mayor’s death. Mr. Koch died on Feb. 1.

In one of his more caustic comments, Mr. Koch offers a devastating appraisal of Stanley Simon, who was the Bronx borough president from 1979 to 1987. Mr. Simon resigned, was convicted in a federal racketeering case and was released from prison in 1991, after serving a little over two years.

As borough president, he cast two votes on the Board of Estimate, the powerful citywide body that was later abolished because it violated the principle of one-person, one-vote.

“Stanley Simon was a fool and a simpleton,” Mr. Koch is quoted as recalling, “and you could always count on his vote. I mean, all you had to do was to promise him to upgrade his personal private bathroom at Borough Hall, and he’d vote for anything.”

Mr. Koch recalled that the five borough presidents were much more susceptible to being corralled than members of the City Council.

“So if you could get the Board of Estimate, which was easier than the City Council, then the mayor could impose his will and therefore you wanted to line up these people,” Mr. Koch said. “Easy to line up Stanley Simon; a bathroom doesn’t cost much.”

In a recent interview, Mr. Simon suggested that Mr. Koch was only joking.

“I told him I didn’t like the competence of his supervision of the agencies, from the lowest to the top,” Mr. Simon recalled. “I was specific with him. I used the bathroom as an example.’’

“I believed in him,” he added. “That’s why I gave him the votes.”

Asked by an interviewer for the LaGuardia oral history project whether he was just kidding, Mr. Koch replied: “It’s true, it’s not a joke. I think we upgraded his bathroom at least two times, maybe three times.”

Mr. Koch had an opportunity to amend his remarks, but was apparently comfortable with his recollection. A transcript states, without elaboration, that he revised it twice.

A spokesman for the Bronx borough president confirmed that the bathroom was renovated at least twice during Mr. Simon’s tenure.

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