David Norman Dinkins (born July 10, 1927) is an American politician who served as the 106th Mayor of New York City, from 1990 to 1993. He was the first and, to date, only African American to hold that office.
Before entering politics, Dinkins served in the U.S. Marine Corps, graduated cum laude from Howard University, and received a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. He served as Manhattan borough president before becoming mayor. Under the Dinkins administration, crime in New York City decreased more dramatically and more rapidly than at any time in previous New York City history. After leaving office Dinkins was named professor of public affairs at Columbia University. Dinkins was a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Tennis Association, and a member of The Jazz Foundation of America. He serves on the boards of the New York City Global Partners, the Children's Health Fund (CHF), the Association to Benefit Children and the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF). Dinkins is also on the Advisory Board of Independent News & Media and the Black Leadership Forum, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.
Early life and education
Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Sarah "Sally" Lucy and William Harvey Dinkins, Jr. His mother was a domestic worker and his father a barber and real estate agent. He was raised by his father, his parents having separated when he was six years old. Dinkins moved to Harlem as a child but returned to Trenton and attended Trenton Central High School, where he graduated in 1945 in the top 10 percent of his class. After graduation, Dinkins attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but was told that a racial quota had been filled. After traveling the Northeastern United States, he finally found a recruiting station that had not, in his words, "filled their quota for Negro Marines". He became a Marine, but World War II was over before Dinkins finished boot camp. He served in the Marine Corps from 1945 through 1946, and was among the Montford Point Marines awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
Dinkins graduated cum laude from Howard University with a degree in mathematics. He received a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.
Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party organization in Harlem, beginning at the Carver Democratic Club under the aegis of J. Raymond Jones, and became part of an influential group of African American politicians that included Denny Farrell, Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, and Charles Rangel; the latter three together with Dinkins were known as the "Gang of Four". As an investor, Dinkins was one of fifty African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971.
Dinkins was a member of the New York State Assembly (78th D.) in 1966. He was nominated as a Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was ultimately not appointed. Dinkins was President of the Board of Elections from 1972 to 1973, and City Clerk from 1975 to 1985. He was elected Manhattan borough president in 1985 on his third run for that office. Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City on November 7, 1989, defeating three-term incumbent mayor Ed Koch and two others in the Democratic primary and Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani in the general election. Dinkins came to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, seeking his blessing and endorsement.
Dinkins was elected in the wake of a corruption scandal that involved several New York City Democratic leaders. Mayor Koch, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was politically damaged by the corruption in his administration and his handling of racial issues, and among the candidates Dinkins was his greatest challenger. Additionally, the fact that Dinkins is African American helped him to avoid criticism that he was ignoring the black vote by campaigning to whites. While a large turnout of African American voters was important to his election, Dinkins campaigned throughout the city. Dinkins' campaign manager was noted political consultant William Lynch, Jr., who became one of his First Deputy Mayors.
Dinkins entered office pledging racial healing, and famously referred to New York City's demographic diversity as a "gorgeous mosaic." Under Dinkins' Safe Streets, Safe Cities program, crime in New York City decreased more dramatically and more rapidly, both in terms of actual numbers and percentage, than at any time in modern New York City history. The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, made consecutive declines during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30-year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued beyond his term. Despite the actual abating of crime, Dinkins was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration. Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%. The New York Times reported, "He obtained the State Legislature’s permission to dedicate a tax to hire thousands of police officers, and he fought to preserve a portion of that anticrime money to keep schools open into the evening, an award-winning initiative that kept tens of thousands of teenagers off the street."
During his final days in office, Dinkins made last-minute negotiations with the sanitation workers, presumably to preserve the public status of garbage removal. Rudy Giuliani, who defeated Dinkins in the 1993 mayoral race, blamed Dinkins for a "cheap political trick" when Dinkins planned the resignation of Victor Gotbaum, Dinkins' appointee on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing Gotbaum's replacement six months in office. Dinkins also signed a last-minute 99-year lease with the USTA National Tennis Center. By negotiating a fee for New York City based on the event's gross income, the Dinkins administration made a deal with the US Open that brings more economic benefit to the City of New York each year than the New York Yankees, New York Mets, New York Knicks and New York Rangers combined. The city's revenue-producing events Fashion Week, Restaurant Week and Broadway on Broadway were all created under Dinkins.
Dinkins's term was marked by polarizing events such as the Family Red Apple boycott, a boycott of a Korean-owned grocery in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and the 1991 Crown Heights riot. Lemrick Nelson was acquitted of murdering Yankel Rosenbaum during the riot. Regarding the Nelson verdict, Dinkins said, "I have no doubt that in this case the criminal-justice system has operated fairly and openly." Later he wrote in his memoirs, "I continue to fail to understand that verdict."
A 2009 report in The New York Times looking back at the Dinkins administration summarized its achievements, noting:
- Significant accomplishments in lowering New York City's crime rate and increasing the size of the New York Police Department, and the hiring of Raymond W. Kelly as police commissioner;
- The cleanup and revitalization of Times Square, including persuading the Walt Disney Corporation to rehabilitate an old 42nd Street theater;
- Major commitment to rehabilitation of dilapidated housing in northern Harlem, the South Bronx and Brooklyn despite significant budget constraints—more housing rehabilitated in a single term than Mr. Giuliani did in two terms;
- The USTA lease, which in its final form New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called "the only good athletic sports stadium deal, not just in New York but in the country";
- Mental-health facility initiatives; and
- Policies and actions that decreased the size of the city's homeless shelter population to its lowest point in 20 years.
- Purdum, Todd S. (January 2, 1990). "Mayor Dinkins; Dinkins Sworn In; Stresses Aid to Youth". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- Dinkins, David N.; Knobler, Peter (2013). A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-301-0. Riggio, Len, Foreword, page xi
- Barrett, Wayne (June 25, 2001). "Giuliani's Legacy: Taking Credit For Things He Didn't Do". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved November 15, 2007.
- ^ Powell, Michael (October 25, 2009). "Another Look at the Dinkins Administration, and Not by Giuliani". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2009.
- Roberts, Sam (August 7, 1994). "As Police Force Adds to Ranks, Some Promises Still Unfulfilled". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2007.
- Siegel, Fred, The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005) p. 90
- Taylor, John (December 7, 1992). "The Politics of Grievance: Dinkins, the Blacks, and the Jews". New York Magazine. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
In 1993, Dinkins lost to Republican Rudy Giuliani in a rematch of the 1989 election. Dinkins earned 48.3 percent of the vote, down from 51 percent in 1989. One factor in his loss was his perceived indifference to the plight of the Jewish community during the Crown Heights riot. Another was a strong turnout for Giuliani in Staten Island; a referendum on Staten Island's secession from New York was placed on the ballot that year by Governor Mario Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Dinkins defeated Giuliani handily in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, but Giuliani's margin in the other two boroughs was large enough to win the election.
Citywide tickets on which Dinkins ran
- 1989 NYC Democratic ticket
- Mayor: David Dinkins
- City Council President: Andrew Stein
- Comptroller: Elizabeth Holtzman
- 1993 NYC Democratic ticket
- Mayor: David Dinkins
- Public Advocate: Mark J. Green
- Comptroller: Alan Hevesi
- Purdum, Todd S. (November 3, 1993). "Giuliani ousts Dinkins by a thin margin ...". The New York Times.
- Shapiro, Edward S. (2006). Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn Riot. Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press, University Press of New England. ISBN 1-58465-561-5. Retrieved October 20, 2007.
Dinkins is a Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Since 1995, Columbia has hosted the annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. Forum keynote speakers have included prominent New York and national leaders such as Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Rangel.
Although he has not attempted a political comeback, Dinkins has remained somewhat active in politics, and his endorsement of various candidates, including Mark J. Green in the 2001 mayoral race, was well-publicized. He supported Democrats Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 New York mayoral election, Bill Thompson in 2009, and Bill de Blasio in 2013. During the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, Dinkins endorsed and actively campaigned for Wesley Clark. In the campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Dinkins served as an elected delegate from New York for Hillary Clinton.
Dinkins' memoirs, A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic, written with Peter Knobler, were published in 2013.
Dinkins is married to Joyce Dinkins (née Burrows). They have two children. The couple are members of the Church of the Intercession in New York City. Dinkins' radio program "Dialogue with Dinkins" can be heard Saturday mornings on WLIB radio in New York City.
Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi ("the Boule"), the oldest collegiate and first professional Greek-letter fraternities, respectively, established for African Americans. He was raised as a Master Mason in King David Lodge No. 15, F. & A. M., PHA located in Trenton, New Jersey in 1952.
Dinkins was hospitalized in New York on October 31, 2013, for treatment of pneumonia. He was hospitalized again for pneumonia on February 19, 2016.
Dinkins sat on the Board of Directors and in 2013 was on the Honorary Founders Board of The Jazz Foundation of America. He worked with that organization to save the homes and lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, including musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. He serves on the boards of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), the Association to Benefit Children and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF). Dinkins is also Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.