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David Dinkins: New York City’s first black mayor dies


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The first and only black mayor of New York City, David Dinkins, has died at the age of 93.

Officers were called to his home on Monday evening, New York police were quoted by the Associated Press (AP) as saying. Initial indications were that he died of natural causes.

The son of a barber born in 1927 in New Jersey, he studied at Howard University and Brooklyn Law School.

He later went on to serve as the city’s mayor from 1990 to 1993.

His successor, Rudy Giuliani, paid tribute to Mr Dinkins on Twitter on Monday night, saying he had given a “great deal of his life in service to our great City. That service is respected and honoured by all”.

I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him.

He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City.

That service is respected and honored by all.

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) November 24, 2020

Having grown up in New Jersey, he eventually came to Harlem, where he rose through the local politics ranks.

At the time he took office, Mr Dinkins described the city 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 at the time was also plagued by a number of problems, including a growing murder and crime rate, racial unrest, unemployment and homelessness.

During his time, he revitalised Times Square and spent millions of dollars to rehabilitate housing in some of the most deprived parts of the city, such as Harlem and the Bronx.

His approach was also described as low key and sometimes perceived as too soft.

“Dave, Do Something!” said one New York Post headline in 1990, during his first year in office, the AP reports.

And his consequent defeat at the ballot box is put down to his handling of the race riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991, after a young black boy was accidentally killed by a car in the motorcade of an Orthodox Jewish religious leader.

In a 2013 memoir, Mr Dinkins acknowledged missteps during his term, including a failure to contain the Crown Heights riots, the New York Times reports.

But he explained the narrowness of his victory in the 1989 mayoral election, and his defeat four years later to Mr Giuliani to the fact that he was black.

“I think it was just racism, pure and simple,” Mr Dinkins said in A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic, written with Peter Knobler.

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