The Slatest

David Dinkins, the First Black Mayor of New York City, Dies at 93

Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins attends a 2018 ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City.
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins attends a 2018 ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former New York City mayor David Dinkins, the city’s first Black mayor, died Monday night at his Manhattan home. Dinkins served as mayor from 1990 to 1993, breaking the color barrier for the city’s highest office by defeating three-term incumbent Ed Koch in the Democratic primary before winning the mayorship against Republican challenger Rudy Giuliani. Dinkins was 93 when he died and his death comes just weeks after his wife, Joyce Burrows, passed away at the age of 89.

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“Dinkins, a calm and courtly figure with a penchant for tennis and formal wear, was a dramatic shift from both his predecessor, Ed Koch, and his successor, Rudolph Giuliani—two combative and often abrasive politicians in a city with a world-class reputation for impatience and rudeness,” the Associated Press notes. “Dinkins’ low-key, considered approach quickly came to be perceived as a flaw. Critics said he was too soft and too slow.” New York City at the time was plagued by multiple crises: soaring crime, racial tensions, high unemployment, homelessness, the AIDS epidemic, all made more difficult to tackle by the fact the city was essentially broke and facing a billion-dollar budget deficit.

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“[Dinkins] was a compromise selection for voters exhausted with racial strife, corruption, crime and fiscal turmoil, historians say, and proved to be an able caretaker rather than an innovator of grand achievements,” according to the New York Times. “He inherited huge budget deficits that grew larger. He faced some of the worst crime problems in the city’s history and dealt with them by expanding the police to record levels. He kept city libraries open, revitalized Times Square and rehabilitated housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. But the racial amity that was his fondest hope remained a distant dream, and his lapses in responding to the Crown Heights crisis became an insurmountable legacy.”

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