His death came just weeks after the death of his wife, Joyce, who died in October at the age of 89.
Dinkins was a calm and courteous figure with a penchant for tennis and formal wear, and his tenure represented a radical departure from his predecessor, Ed Koch, and his successor, Rudolph Giuliani – both combative and often abrasive politicians.
However, he was doomed to a single term by a skyrocketing murder rate, stubborn unemployment, and his mismanagement of a Brooklyn riot.
Giuliani wrote on Twitter Monday evening that Dinks had given “much of his life in the service of our great city. This service is respected and honored by all.
In his inaugural address, Dinkins spoke of New York as a “magnificent mosaic of race and religion, national origin and sexual orientation, of individuals whose families arrived yesterday and generations ago, via Ellis Island or Kennedy Airport or on destination buses. the Port Authority ”.
But the city he inherited also had an ugly side. AIDS, guns and crack have killed thousands of people every year. Unemployment has skyrocketed. Homelessness was rampant. The city faced a budget deficit of $ 1.5 billion.
Dinkins’ low-key and thoughtful approach was quickly seen as a flaw. Critics said it was too soft and too slow. “Dave, do something!” shouted a New York Post headline in 1990, his first year in office.
Dinkins accomplished a lot at Town Hall. He raised taxes to hire thousands of police officers. He has spent billions of dollars revitalizing neglected housing. His administration convinced Walt Disney Corp to invest in cleaning up the then shabby Times Square.
In recent years, he has been given more credit for these accomplishments, credit which Mayor Bill de Blasio said should always have been owed to him. De Blasio, who worked in the Dinkins administration, named the Manhattan Municipal Building in honor of the former mayor in October 2015.
“The example Mayor David Dinkins set for all of us shines brighter than the mightiest lighthouse imaginable,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, who herself broke barriers as the first woman state black woman elected to a statewide office.
“I was honored to have held the Bible to her during my inaugurations because I and others stand on her shoulders,” she said.
However, the results of his accomplishments did not come quickly enough to earn a second term at Dinkins. After beating Giuliani by just 47,000 votes over 1.75m in 1989, Dinkins lost a rematch by roughly the same margin in 1993.
Political historians often trace the defeat to Dinkins’ handling of the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn in 1991. The violence began after a seven-year-old black boy was accidentally killed by a car in a motorcade. Orthodox Jewish religious leader. During the three days of anti-Jewish riots that followed, a rabbinical student was fatally stabbed. Nearly 190 people were injured.
A state report released in 1993, an election year, cleared Dinkins of the repeated persistent accusation that he intentionally detained police in the early days of the violence, but criticized him for not becoming a leader .
In a 2013 memoir, Dinkins accused the police department of letting the disorder get out of hand, and also took some responsibility, on the grounds that “the responsibility ended with me.” He blamed his election defeat on prejudice, saying, “I think it was just racism, outright.”