He Broke Barriers as New York City's First Black Mayor

David Dinkins dead at 93
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2020 2:40 AM CST
NYC's First Black Mayor Dead at 93
In this Thursday, Oct. 28, 1993, file photo, President Bill Clinton holds up four fingers signifying four more years as he appears at a Democratic Unity Rally in support of Mayor David Dinkins, right, in New York.   (AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)

David Dinkins, who broke barriers as New York City’s first African-American mayor but was doomed to a single term by a soaring murder rate, stubborn unemployment, and his mishandling of a riot in Brooklyn, has died. He was 93. Dinkins died Monday, the New York City Police Department confirmed. The department said officers were called to the former mayor’s home in the evening, the AP reports. Initial indications were that he died of natural causes. Dinkins' death came just weeks after the death of his wife, Joyce, who died in October at the age of 89. 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, Rudy Giuliani—two combative and often abrasive politicians in a city with a world-class reputation for impatience and rudeness.

In his inaugural address, he spoke lovingly of New York as a “gorgeous mosaic of race and religious faith, of national origin and sexual orientation, of individuals whose families arrived yesterday and generations ago, coming through Ellis Island or Kennedy Airport or on buses bound for the Port Authority.” But the city he inherited had an ugly side, too. AIDS, guns and crack cocaine killed thousands of people each year. Unemployment soared. Homelessness was rampant. The city faced a $1.5 billion budget deficit. Dinkins’ low-key, considered approach quickly came to be perceived as a flaw. But Dinkins did a lot at City Hall. He raised taxes to hire thousands of police officers. He spent billions of dollars revitalizing neglected housing. His administration got the Walt Disney Corp. to invest in the cleanup of then-seedy Times Square. (More on his life and career here.)

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