Letter From Former Mayor Ed Koch to New York Archival Society
Regarding the Giuliani Papers
February 1, 2002
New York Archival Society
350 East 57th Street
New York, New York 10021
Dear Ms. Phillips:
I read with interest Saul S. Cohen's op-ed column of January 29, 2002, which was published in the
Daily News, entitled "Critics err -- Rudy papers will be open."
Mayor Giuliani's public papers, produced during his eight years as mayor, have
been physically removed from the Municipal Archives and transferred to the newly
created Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs Inc., of which Mr. Cohen is president.
Mr. Cohen does not dispute the fact that Giuliani's public papers belong to the
city. He says they will ultimately be returned to the Municipal Archives. In
defense of removing them from the city's custody, Mr. Cohen stated "The critics,
distressed by the Giuliani administration's successes, follow a double standard.
That is why New York has yet to hear one word from them about former Mayor Ed
Koch, who, although himself a vocal critic of the center's efforts, has refused
to let anyone except his biographer see his personal papers."
Mr. Cohen's response is so disingenuous it causes me to have even greater fears
concerning the transaction. He knows the difference between public and private
papers, yet treats them as though they were the same.
All of my public papers accumulated during my 12-year administration remain with
the Municipal Archives. The La Guardia and Wagner Archives, at La Guardia
Community College/CUNY, requested of me that my public papers be removed to its
site to join those of Mayors La Guardia and Wagner. I made the request of the
then Commissioner Eugene Bockman. The Commissioner denied the request to turn
over all of the public papers for the purposes of archiving, to be returned when
that was done. Instead, I am told by Richard Lieberman, Director of the La
Guardia and Wagner Archives, that a small number of cartons of the public papers
were turned over for indexing and microfilming. When the processing was done,
they were returned to the Municipal Archives, and a new set of cartons were
turned over until all papers were indexed and microfilmed.
I am told by Richard Lieberman that throughout the entire process, a limited
number of cartons were held by the La Guardia and Wagner Archives at any one
time, and they were still available for public inspection by anyone wishing to
see them, along with the bulk of the collection remaining at the Municipal
Archives. After the indexing and microfilming, all of the papers were returned
where they are today. Throughout the entire process, two city institutions were
involved and none of the people including Richard Lieberman and his staff were
paid by me or under my control.
That is totally different than the arrangements made by Mayor Giuliani with the
entire public collection in his possession subject to archiving and control by
people on his payroll taking instructions from him. My private papers, which
include oral histories taken from dozens of commissioners after my term in office
ended, by the Columbia University Oral History project, and all of my records and
correspondence covering periods before I became mayor and after I left office
were and are still being given to the La Guardia and Wagner Archives.
Jonathan Soffer, a writer and historian, is currently writing a book on the 12
years of my administration. I have given him exclusive access to these private
papers for a period of four years so that he can use the materials to write the
book not worrying about a competitor. His book is not an authorized biography. I
have no control over the final published product which is solely within the
discretion of the author.
I believe the appropriate procedure that should have been followed by Mayor
Giuliani was to copy the material in a similar way. If any of the Giuliani papers
are lost, we will never know that occurred. I suggest that the New York Archival
Society request an opinion from the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board on
whether it was lawful for Mayor Giuliani to enter into a contract with a
Commissioner whom he had the power to remove at the time and move to his custody
and control the original records of the mayoralty created during his term in
I am certain, if the Conflicts of Interest Board opines such a contract was not
permissible, Mayor Giuliani would immediately return those records and thereafter
microfilm them for his own use.
All the best.
Edward I. Koch