Upper West Sider Jerome Koeing, a partner, friend and renowned expert on state petition law, died on Friday, Feb. 17 of a heart attack. He was 78 years old. He is survived by his brother Howard, his sister Sandy and Mary Geissman, who was his life partner for over 40 years.
Much of Koenig’s legacy resides in the field of New York State Election Law and Petitions. He was known as one of the top experts in the field, according to colleagues he worked with over the years. He provided counsel to the Codes Committee of New York State, and his knowledge had lawyers clamoring for his interpretations.
“He was never a lawyer, but everyone thought that he was,” said Council Member Gale Brewer, who knew Koenig for over 20 years.
Koenig dedicated many years to working for the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Elections, where he revised, clarified and rewrote much of the election law that is followed today.
“Jerry Koenig is not replaceable,” Brewer “He’s a real loss.”
His election knowledge was born out of a love of New York State politics. His friends have said he had a photographic mind. “He could tell you who ran against whom, the issues and the year,” according to Alan Handell, senior vice president at Astoria Graphics Inc., one of the largest democratic printing companies in New York, and a friend who worked with Koenig many times over 40 years worth of state elections.
His immense knowledge of legislative law and policies led to him be “known as the gold standard of election law,” Handell said.
Before Koenig passed, he worked as the petition coordinator for Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. He took the job in 2008 after retiring from the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Elections. Koenig was working on the election petitions for the Obama campaign up until his death; he finished his final petitions and died as they were ready to be filed, according to Handell.
Born in the Bronx in 1933, Koenig always had a spot in his heart for the sciences and his home borough. Koenig graduated from The Bronx High School of Science in 1950 and became heavily invested in The Bronx High School of Science Endowment Fund, where he sat on the board for many years.
“His generosity was legendary,” said Brewer. “He scrutinized everything for the good of the public.”
While Koenig was a man who supported his hometown, he also had great zeal when it came to his community. He constantly hosted meetings in his home for the many organizations he was involved in.
Koenig liked to be known as a progressive Democrat, according to Handell. He was a member of the Park River Independent Democrats for a few years, but he and Geissman eventually moved over to Three Parks Independent Democrats, a very energetic democratic organization.
“They took their policies and politics very seriously,” said Brewer. “They were not wallflowers; they were not the people who stood back.”
Koenig lived on West End Avenue in the same building Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan grew up in (he served as a treasure trove of information on her character when she was appointed for the position). He was very involved not only at work but at home, as well. He was a member of his co-op’s operating board, where he took the idea of civic engagement to heart. He scrutinized property tax bills, the water board taxes and other taxes for the good of his neighbors, according to Brewer. If there was ever a problem, Koenig would work tirelessly until the issue was resolved.
“He was a true West Sider,” Brewer said.
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