Mayor Edward I. Koch says his biggest regret as he leaves office is that blacks "do not perceive that I was their friend."
"I believe this administration has been more helpful to the black minority than all administrations before us," he said Tuesday. "I don't think we got credit for it."Koch, who lost his re-election bid to black Democrat David Dinkins, spoke at his annual year-end meeting with reporters, the last scheduled news conference of his 12 years in City Hall.
He appointed the city's first black police commissioner and the first black deputy mayor for economic development, and under his administration, the percentage of civil service jobs held by members of minority groups grew from 31 percent to 62 percent.
Yet, he noted, "Many people in the black community do not perceive that I was their friend."
He also discussed his statement during the 1988 presidential campaign that "Jews and other supporters of Israel would be crazy" to vote for Jesse Jackson. The remark caused a black backlash that carried into the 1989 Democratic mayoral primary, when Dinkins took 97 percent of the black vote.
Koch said the second half of his remark about Jackson went unheeded. It was, " . . . in the same way that blacks and supporters of black causes would be crazy to vote for George Bush."
Koch said he would try to refrain from criticizing Dinkins for the first six months after he takes office.
But the mayor did not refrain from criticizing South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, who will speak at Dinkins' swearing-in.
Koch said Tutu, who recently criticized Israel for its handling of the Palestinian uprising and called for a Palestinian state, was wrong for "singling out Israel when it's under attack."
After 25 years in city and federal government, Koch, 65, a former congressman and city councilman, said he won't consider re-entering politics.
Koch said the city is better off than when he took office in 1978 during a fiscal crisis that nearly bankrupted the city.
"I took the city and saved it from bankruptcy," he said.