NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – On January 1, 1990, the son of a maid and a hairdresser, David Dinkins, became the first – and so far only – African American to enter the Big Apple history books to win the election of New York City Mayor.
Dinkins died of natural causes on Monday aged 93, the NYPD confirmed.
“I intend to be mayor of all New Yorkers. This government will never lead to dividing, turning some of us against the rest of us, or favoring a group over others, ”said Dinkins when he took office.
Check out Marcia Kramer’s report –
As Marcia Kramer of CBS2 reported, Dinkins was a kind and worthy man who described the city’s diverse population as a “beautiful mosaic,” and he had a soft spot for children, all children, in his heart so much that he after Taking the oath He said he would devote his administration to improving the lives of children in New York.
“The measure of whether I fulfill my mandate will be how we treat those who begin life during my tenure,” said Dinkins.
Dinkins defeated Ed Koch and became the 106th Mayor of New York by promising to be tough on crime and more sensitive to racial issues.
“I stand before you today as the elected leader of the greatest city in a great nation, where my ancestors were taken in the hold of a slave ship, shackled and whipped,” said Dinkins.
However, his administration was marked by a number of polarizing events, including the boycott of a Korean-owned grocery store in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
Crime proved to be a difficult problem for Dinkins. A wave of murders and gun violence prompted the New York Post to petition, “Dave, do something”.
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Dinkins did something. He led state law to pass the Safe Roads, Safe Cities tax to hire thousands of additional police officers. This helped him drastically reduce crime and end a 30-year upward spiral.
Ironically, Dinkins was hurt by the perception that the crime had gotten out of hand during his tenure.
After shots were fired less than a block from a gun control press conference, Kramer spoke to Dinkins about his own safety concerns.
“Do you ever worry about your own safety?” She asked.
“There’s just not much you can do about that. Living in constant fear doesn’t mean living, ”said Dinkins.
PHOTOGALLERY: Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins over the years
Dinkins was known for its elegant dress. In the office, he held his suit pants in a press to hold the crease and walked around in training pants – and because of his personal toughness – partly the result of a stint with the Marines.
He once told a story about how his family stopped him from a “life of crime” at the age of 8 or 9 after stealing reflectors from license plates in Harlem.
“My mother and grandmother, who were domestic servants, usually only spoke to me when I was misbehaving. [They] I felt that in this case it was important to teach myself a lesson, strip myself and lay in a bathtub and beat myself with straps, and as I put it, I haven’t stolen a reflector since. “
Dinkins entered public life in the 1960s when he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He was the Democratic district leader for two decades. He was the first black man to head the city’s electoral board in 1972 and was on the verge of becoming the city’s first deputy mayor, appointed by then-mayor Abraham Beame, until it was found he had not paid his taxes for four years .
“There was an error. That should never have happened, ”said Dinkins.
MORE: Former New York First Lady Joyce Dinkins dies at the age of 89
It was only a temporary setback. In 1975 he became a town clerk and ran – and lost – for the President of Manhattan District.
He remained a prominent figure and performed with other black leaders like Jesse Jackson.
But Jackson’s association with Rev. Louis Farrakhan caused discomfort. When the black Muslim was accused in 1985 of making anti-Semitic remarks prior to a planned performance at Madison Square Garden, Dinkins was one of the few black leaders to publicly reprimand the controversial minister.
“A call for power and pride counted in relation to racial and religious bigotry can never offer true hope,” Dinkins said.
He was finally elected president of Manhattan borough in 1985 and won the city’s top job election four years later.
FLASHBACK: Manhattan Municipal Building renamed former NYC Mayor David Dinkins
One of the people who worked for Dinkins was a young man who was about to become mayor himself.
“David Dinkins believed we could be better. He believed we could or overcome divisions. He showed us what it is like to be a gentleman, to be a kind person, no matter what was thrown at him, and a lot was thrown at him, and he always tried to answer hatred with love, “said the current Mayor Bill de Said Blasio.
“I think this city will always be indebted to him and to this nation and certainly to this community,” added Rev. Al Sharpton. “He represented the best of us and never forgot the rest of us.”
Sharpton remembered the time when Dinkins, who was not in office at the time, came to him to protest police actions in the murder of Amadou Diallo. He was arrested because he was on his knees and refused to move.
“David Dinkins kneeled before Colin Kaepernick against the brutality of the police. David Dinkins never stopped standing up for what was right, ”said Sharpton.
Dinkin’s election was a moment of pride and a first for many in New York City.
“For many people in the white church, David Dinkins was the first black they ever voted for. Dave Dinkins was the path that ultimately led to the election of Barack Obama. “
“I’m confident that his mayor will take us a step further and we still have a long way to go, but there is hope from people like David N. Dinkins,” said former Congressman Charlie Rangel.
Rangel was one of Dinkin’s lifelong friends.
“You can’t have a boyfriend and know him while I know David Dinkins,” Rangel told CBS2’s Dick Brennan. “He would greet everyone as if they were long lost cousins, and if they had kids I would wonder when we will ever go to dinner.”
He says one of Dinkins’ happiest moments as Mayor was convincing Nelson Mandela to make New York City his first stop on his US visit.
“Some of his arguments were… we don’t know where Africa is. We have never been to Africa. Bring Africa to us, ”said Rangel.
Dinkins has left a lot of mark on the city. He signed the lease with the United States Tennis Association to build the Flushing Meadows Tennis Center, and also founded Fashion Week, Restaurant Week and Broadway on Broadway.
David Dinkins’ death comes more than a month after the loss of his wife, Joyce.
The former First Lady of New York City died on October 11 at the age of 89.
Joyce Dinkins was born in Harlem and graduated from Howard University in Washington with a degree in sociology, where she met her future husband.
She was a literacy advocate and founded Reading is Recreation at Gracie Mansion.
She and the former mayor are survived by their two children.
Dinkins’ family say a memorial service will be held sometime after the COVID pandemic ends.
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