David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City who worked to unite a divided city as it battled a high crime rate, died Monday at 93, the Wall Street Journal reports. Dinkins, a Democrat, was elected mayor in 1989 at the end of a scandal that plagued then-Mayor Ed Koch’s third term. He defeated Koch in a primary and went on to beat the Republican candidate, U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani. Dinkins’s message of unity and the programs he launched—including a popular after-school program for students and an advisory board to field police complaints—were overshadowed by a high crime rate, a fiscal crisis and race-related riots.
New York City recorded 2,245 murders in 1990. In 1991, riots broke out in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, after a Hasidic Jewish man accidentally ran over two Black children. A Jewish student was stabbed to death as retaliation. The riots lasted days. He said his legacy would be tied to what happened in Crown Heights, predicting it would be in the first line of his obituary. He lost a re-election bid in 1993 to Giuliani, who seized on high crime rates and quality-of-life issues. Ken Sunshine, Dinkins’ former chief of staff, said, “It’s better when you win, but the fact that he lost by a hair to Giuliani doesn’t besmirch a wonderful one term and a long career after that as being one of the wise elders in New York politics”