Written by Derek Francis
(Reuters) – David Dinkins, who was New York City’s first and only African-American mayor during the 1990s, died Monday at the age of 93, police said.
There were natural causes of his death, Detective Adam Navarro told city police at Reuters.
He was born in 1927 in Trenton, New Jersey. Dinkins attended Howard University and Brooklyn Law School.
Eventually, he landed in Harlem, the historically black neighborhood of upper Manhattan, where he rose in the ranks of local politics.
“Mayor Dinkins has been leading our community with compassion and unparalleled commitment for decades,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “New York will mourn Mayor Dinkins and will continue to move his towering legacy.”
In Harlem, Dinkins belonged to a group of black power brokers known as the “Gang of Four,” which included the father of Congressman Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton, and Basil Paterson, the future governor of New York, David Paterson.
Dinkins defeated three-seat Democratic Mayor Ed Koch and Republican Prosecutor Rudy Giuliani in the 1989 mayoral race.
Giuliani, who returns to defeat Dinkins four years later, was among the first to salute.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins and the many people in New York who loved and supported him,” Giuliani said on Twitter. “He has served most of his life in the service of our great City.”
Under Dinkins ’mandate, New York struggled with high crime, a severe economic recession and an AIDS epidemic.
But his role in the 1991 Crown Heights riot determined his mayor the most.
The unrest in the racially divided Brooklyn neighborhood was triggered by the acquittal of a young black man, Lemrick Nelson, over the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Jewish student.
In his 2011 speech, Dinkins recalled one of his main regrets about dealing with the riot.
“I suppose what hurt the most was that some accused him of allowing – detaining police – and allowing young blacks to attack Jews,” Dinkins said in the New York Times.
“And it was unreal, inaccurate and not so, and it’s kind of painful. But if I repeated it, maybe 24 hours earlier I would have told the police, ‘What you’re doing doesn’t work,’ what I finally said.”
(Report by Derek Francis; additional report by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; edited by Robert Birsel)