On Monday night, the New York Post first reported that David Dinkins, the first and only Black mayor in New York City’s history, died at the age of 93. Two senior NYPD officials have confirmed with NBC New York that “Dinkins’s health aide found him unresponsive in his Lenox Hill apartment Monday night, having apparently died of natural causes.”
Born in 1927 in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins served in the Marine Corps shortly after World War II and moved to New York after graduating from Howard University in 1950. Through the next four decades, he would rise in the city’s political sphere, becoming the president of the New York City Board of Elections, the New York City clerk, and Manhattan borough president before his successful primary of Democratic mayor and three-term incumbent Ed Koch in 1989. In the general, Dinkins defeated then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani by 47,080 votes to become New York’s 106th mayor, in the closest mayoral election in the city’s history.
As mayor, in the midst of a recession, Dinkins achieved several important goals, including the initiation of the Times Square cleanup; investing billions of dollars into dilapidated housing in northern Harlem, the South Bronx, and Brooklyn; and signing a 99-year lease with the United States Tennis Association on parkland in Queens, which is estimated to generate $750 million annually for the city in direct economic impact.
With the AIDS crisis ballooning and crime rates beginning to dip from their all-time highs, Giuliani challenged Dinkins again in 1993. Criticized for a slow response to the Crown Heights riot — and facing a Republican candidate condemning a civilian commission to investigate allegations of NYPD misconduct — Dinkins lost his reelection bid. After his time in office, he taught at Columbia University and joined the boards of several arts and humanitarian organizations, including the Jazz Foundation of America, the Children’s Health Fund, and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. After the police shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999, he was among 14 protesters arrested outside police headquarters in lower Manhattan.
Dinkins’s wife, the education advocate Joyce Dinkins, died at home, at 89, just over a month ago. The couple had been married for 67 years.