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David Dinkins: NYC's first and only Black mayor dies aged 93

Initial indications suggest death related to natural causes

Louise Hall
Tuesday 24 November 2020 10:51 GMT
New York City Mayor David Dinkins speaks during a ceremony to rename the Manhattan Municipal Building to the David N Dinkins Building, in New York, 15 October, 2015
New York City Mayor David Dinkins speaks during a ceremony to rename the Manhattan Municipal Building to the David N Dinkins Building, in New York, 15 October, 2015 (AP)
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David Dinkins, New York City’s first and only ever Black mayor to date, has died at age 93.

Dinkins died on Monday, the New York City Police Department confirmed after officers were called to the former mayor’s home in the evening.

Initial indications suggest that Dinkins died of natural causes.

The former mayor’s death comes just weeks after the death of his wife, Joyce Dinkins, in October at the age of 89.

Born in 1927 in New Jersey, Dinkins was a son of a barber who climbed to City Hall through relatively minor elective and appointive offices and eventually served as the mayor of New York City from 1990 through 1993.

He attended Howard University and earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and was elected to the state Assembly in 1965.

When Dinkins came to office in 1990, crime and homelessness was rampant in the city of New York and the city faced a $1.5bn budget deficit.

In his inaugural address, Dinkins called New York City 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.”

To combat the city’s issues, Dinkins raised taxes to hire thousands of police officers, spent billions of dollars revitalizing neglected housing and pushed the clean up of Times Square.

His approach, described as low-key and considered, drew scrutiny from critics who said he was too soft and too slow.

A New York Post headline in Dinkins’ first year in office demanded: “Dave, Do Something!”.

His predecessor Ed Koch and his successor, Rudolph Giuliani were seen as two combative and often abrasive politicians that provided a stark contrast to Dinkins.

In 1993, Dinkins lost out on a second term to Rudy Giuliani, after beating him by a fine margin in 1989.

Many historians trace Dinkins loss to the handling of the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn in 1991, an incident which he acknowledged as a misstep in a 2013 memoir, The New York Times reported.

However, the newspaper noted that Dinkins attributed the narrowness of his victory and subsequent and his defeat four years later not to missteps but to the fact that he was Black.

“I think it was just racism, pure and simple,” Dinkins said in A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic, according to the newspaper.

In recent years, Dinkins has received more credit for his accomplishments. After leaving office, the former-mayor was a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

 Dinkins is survived by his son, David J , daughter, Donna and two grandchildren.

Reporting by the Associated Press

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