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Letter From Former Mayor Ed Koch to New York Archival Society Regarding the Giuliani Papers

February 1, 2002

Anne Phillips
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 office.

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


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Defending the archives contract: Saul Cohen, President, Rudy Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs