NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Who Called Acquittal of Yankel Rosenbaum’s Murderer “Fair,” Dies at 93

By Staff Reporter
Posted on 11/24/20 | News Source: MATZAV

David Norman Dinkins, the former mayor of New York City, has died. He was 93 years old.

Born July 10, 1927, Dinkins 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.

During his tenure, New York City dealt with the infamous Crown Heights riots in 1991.

Before entering politics, Dinkins was among the more than 20,000 Montford Point Marines (trained 1942–1949; Dinkins’ service was 1945–1946); he graduated cum laude from Howard University; and he received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School (1956).

Dinkins began his political career by serving in the State Assembly (1966), eventually advancing to Manhattan borough president before becoming mayor.

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After leaving office, Dinkins joined the faculty of Columbia University.

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.

Dinkins moved to Harlem as a child before returning to Trenton. He attended Trenton Central High School.

While maintaining a private law practice from 1956 to 1975, Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party organization in Harlem, beginning at the Carver Democratic Club under the aegis of J. Raymond Jones.

Dinkins briefly served as 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. Thereafter, Dinkins served as president of the New York City Board of Elections (1972–1973) and as New York City Clerk (1975–1985).[13] He was elected Manhattan borough president in 1985 on his third run for that office. On November 7, 1989, Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City, defeating three-term incumbent mayor Ed Koch and two others in the Democratic primary and Republican nominee Rudy Giuliani in the general election.

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 entered office in January 1990 pledging racial healing, and famously referred to New York City’s demographic diversity as a “gorgeous mosaic”. The crime rate in New York City had risen alarmingly during the 1980s, and the rate of homicide in particular reached an all-time high of 2,245 cases during 1990, the first year of the Dinkins administration.  The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, then declined during the remainder of his four-year term. That ended a 30-year upward spiral and initiated a trend of falling rates that continued and accelerated beyond his term.However, the high absolute levels, the peak early in his administration, and the only modest decline subsequently (homicide down 12% from 1990 to 1993) resulted in Dinkins’ suffering politically from the perception that crime remained out of control on his watch.

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. When Lemrick Nelson was acquitted of murdering Yankel Rosenbaum during the Crown Heights riots, 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.”

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 indifference to the plight of the Jewish community during the Crown Heights riot.