David Dinkins, who became the first black mayor of New York City to break barriers but was sentenced to a single term by a rising murder rate, persistent unemployment and the abuse of a riot in Brooklyn, has died. He was 93 years old.
Dinkins died on Monday, the New York Police Department confirmed. The department said officials were called to the former mayor’s house that evening. The first signs were that he was dying of natural causes.
Dinkins’ death came just weeks after the death of his wife Joyce, who died in October at the age of 89.
David Dinkins became the first African-American Mayor of New York City to break barriers but was sentenced to a single term by a rising murder rate, persistent unemployment, and the abuse of a riot in Brooklyn [File: Jason DeCrow/AP Photo]A calm and courtly figure with a penchant for tennis and evening wear, Dinkins was a dramatic change from predecessor Ed Koch and successor Rudolph Giuliani – two combative and often aggressive politicians in a city with a world-class reputation for impatience and rudeness.
AIDS, guns, and crack cocaine kill thousands of people in New York each year. Unemployment rose. Homelessness was widespread. The city had a budget deficit of $ 1.5 billion.
Dinkins’ cautious, considered approach was quickly perceived as a mistake. Critics said it was too soft and too slow.
Dinkins has achieved a lot in the town hall. He raised taxes to hire thousands of police officers. He spent billions of dollars reviving neglected homes. His government prompted the Walt Disney Corporation to invest in the redevelopment of the then run-down Times Square.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (left) and former New York Mayors Rudolph Giuliani (center) and David Dinkins pay their respects to New York Mayor Ed Koch after his funeral in New York on February 4, 2013 [File: Seth Wenig/AP Photo]In recent years he has received more recognition for these accomplishments that Mayor Bill de Blasio should always have had.
However, the results of his accomplishments did not come fast enough to earn Dinkins a second term.
After defeating Giuliani in 1989 with only 47,000 of 1.75 million votes cast, Dinkins lost a rematch in 1993 by roughly the same margin.
Giuliani, now President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, has offered condolences to the Dinkins family. “He has spent a large part of his life in the service of our big city,” said the former mayor. “This service is respected and honored by everyone.”
My deepest condolences go to the family of Mayor David Dinkins and the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him.
He has spent a large part of his life serving our great city.
This service is respected and honored by everyone.
– Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani), November 24, 2020
Political historians often attribute the defeat to Dinkins’ handling of the Crown Heights uprising in Brooklyn in 1991.
The violence began after a black seven-year-old boy was accidentally killed by a car in the motorcade of an Orthodox Jewish religious leader. During the following three days of anti-Jewish rioting among young black men, a rabbinical student was fatally stabbed. Almost 190 people were injured.
David Dinkins’ election as mayor in 1989 came after two racially accused cases under Koch: the rape of a white jogger in Central Park and the murder of a black teenager in Bensonhurst [File: Frank Franklin II/AP Photo]A state report published in 1993, an election year, released Dinkins from the repeated accusation that he deliberately withheld the police during the first days of the violence, but criticized him for failing to act as a leader.
Dinkins was born on July 10, 1927 in Trenton, New Jersey and moved to Harlem with his mother when his parents divorced. However, he returned to his hometown to attend high school. There he learned a lesson in discrimination early on: Blacks were not allowed to use the school swimming pool.
During an accident in the Marine Corps as a young man, a bus driver from the south forbade him to get on a separate bus because the black section was full.
“And I was in my country’s uniform!” Dinkins related years later.
Back in New York with a degree in math, Dinkins married his college girlfriend, Joyce Burrows, in 1953.
David Dinkins married his college girlfriend, Joyce Burrows, in 1953 [File: Kathy Willens/AP Photo]Dinkins’ election as mayor in 1989 came after two racially accused cases under Koch: the rape of a white jogger in Central Park and the murder of a black teenager by a group of white youths in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst.
Dinkins defeated Koch in the Democratic primary with 50 to 42 percent. But in a city where party registration was 5 to 1 Democratic, Dinkins barely scratched the Republican Giuliani in the general election, winning just 30 percent of the white vote.
Meanwhile, the city’s homicide rate rose to an all-time high, with a record 2,245 murders in his first year as mayor. 8,340 New Yorkers were killed during the Dinkins administration – the bloodiest four-year drive since the New York Police Department began statistics in 1963.
In the final years of his tenure, record-high murders began a decline that lasted for decades. In the first year of the Giuliani government, murders fell from 1,946 to 1,561.
After leaving office, Dinkins was a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Dinkins is survived by his son David Jr., daughter Donna, and two grandchildren.