The Press

New York mayor’s suc­cess in re­duc­ing crime was over­shad­owed by racial strife

- David Dink­ins politi­cian b July 10, 1927 d Novem­ber 23, 2020 Crime · U.S. News · Politics · New York · Queens · Queens College · United States of America · US Open · Crown Heights · Brooklyn · Republican Party (United States) · Rudy Giuliani · Nelson Mandela · Nelson · New York City · York City F.C. · New York County, NY · Manhattan · Trenton · New Jersey · Trenton · United States Marine Corps · Howard · Washington · Raymond Kelly · Michael Bloomberg · Victor · David Dinkins · Crown Heights · Charles B. Rangel · Percy Sutton · Basil Paterson · David Paterson · Gang of Four · Brooklyn Law School

David Dink­ins, who has died aged 93, was New York’s first and so far only black mayor, whose strug­gles with civil un­rest and racial strife in the early 1990s over­shad­owed his suc­cess in be­gin­ning the city’s two-decade trend of re­duced crime.

Dink­ins coined the phrase ‘‘gor­geous mo­saic’’ to de­scribe New York­ers’ tol­er­ance and re­spect for eth­nic di­ver­sity. His con­tri­bu­tions in­cluded his role in cre­at­ing the pri­vately fi­nanced Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­tre in Queens, where the US Open is played. He suf­fered ir­re­vo­ca­ble po­lit­i­cal dam­age dur­ing three days of ri­ots in Au­gust 1991, af­ter a black child was ac­ci­den­tally killed by a

Jewish mo­torist in Crown

Heights,

Brook­lyn.

Dink­ins won elec­tion as the city’s 106th mayor in 1989, beat­ing Repub­li­can Rudy Gi­u­liani by 47,000 votes, the nar­row­est mar­gin in New York his­tory. He lost a re­match to Gi­u­liani by 53,000 votes four years later, af­ter Gi­u­liani, a for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tor, vowed to re­or­gan­ise the po­lice de­part­ment in awar against crime. Dink­ins spent his post-may­oral years re­but­ting crit­ics whom he said un­fairly blamed him for con­di­tions he in­her­ited.

‘‘One would have got­ten the im­pres­sion that on De­cem­ber 31, 1989, there was no crime, and on the next day, when I took of­fice, the homi­cide rate was over 2000 a year, as though it had oc­curred overnight,’’ Dink­ins wrote in his 2013 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, AMayor’s Life.

Dink­ins said his big­gest achieve­ments in­cluded ‘‘keep­ing each branch li­brary open at a time when we had lit­tle or no money’’, at a cost of US$47 mil­lion, and per­suad­ing the state leg­is­la­ture to en­act an in­come-tax sur­charge to pay for the hir­ing of thou­sands of po­lice.

His favourite mo­ment as mayor was the

1990 visit of Nel­son Man­dela. ‘‘He’s one of my all-time he­roes, as you might imag­ine,’’ Dink­ins said at a 2011 ap­pear­ance be­fore the As­so­ci­a­tion for a Bet­ter New York, a civic or­gan­i­sa­tion of real es­tate de­vel­op­ers and cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives that he helped cre­ate.

Dink­ins be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer as a New York state as­sem­bly­man in 1966, then be­came pres­i­dent of the New York City Board of Elec­tions be­fore the city coun­cil ap­pointed him city clerk in 1975. He was elected Man­hat­tan bor­ough pres­i­dent in 1985.

Dink­ins helped or­gan­ise and en­hance African-Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in New York City and state as one of four Har­lem­based lead­ers who be­gan their­work in the

1960s. Dink­ins joined with Charles Rangel, for­mer Man­hat­tan bor­ough pres­i­dent and broad­cast­ing ex­ec­u­tive Percy Sut­ton and Basil Pater­son, a labour lawyer and fa­ther of for­mer gov­er­nor David Pater­son. They were known as the Gang of Four.

David Nor­man Dink­in­swas born in Tren­ton, New Jersey. Af­ter serv­ing two years in the US. Ma­rine Corps, he en­tered Howard Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton, where he stud­ied math­e­mat­ics. He re­ceived a law de­gree in 1956 from Brook­lyn Law School.

As mayor, Dink­ins, who had char­ac­terised him­self as a racial con­cil­ia­tor, found him­self em­broiled in eth­nic strife through­out his term. In Au­gust 1991, three days of ri­ots in Crown Heights en­sued af­ter a 7-year-old black child, Gavin Cato, died when hit by a car in a mo­tor­cade car­ry­ing Rabbi Me­nachem Men­del Sch­neer­son, leader of the Lubav­itch Ha­sidic move­ment based in the neigh­bour­hood. Hours later, about 20 black youths sur­rounded Yankel Rosen­baum, 29, an Aus­tralian ex­change stu­dent, who was stabbed to death.

In 1992, a state in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the episode con­cluded that Dink­ins ‘‘did not act in a timely and de­ci­sive­man­ner’’ in or­der­ing ad­e­quate po­lice de­ploy­ments to quell the vi­o­lence. He spent much of his re­main­ing years de­fend­ing him­self against crit­i­cism stem­ming from the in­ci­dent.

‘‘If I had it to do over again Imight have said to po­lice 24 hours ear­lier, ‘What you’re do­ing isn’t work­ing,’ which I fi­nally said,’’ Dink­ins said in 2011.

Elected in 1989, at the height of a crime wave fu­elled by crack co­caine use in poor neigh­bour­hoods, Dink­ins added about 5000 of­fi­cers to the po­lice de­part­ment, in­creas­ing staffing to about 40,000, which helped start what has be­come more than two decades of de­creas­ing vi­o­lent crime.

Mur­ders fell to 1927 in 1993, Dink­ins’ last year in of­fice, from a high of 2262 in 1990, un­der the lead­er­ship of Ray­mond Kelly, whom Dink­ins ap­pointed po­lice com­mis­sioner. Cit­ing Kelly’s per­for­mance as Dink­ins’ ap­pointee, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg chose him for a sec­ond stint in 2002.

‘‘It was Mayor Dink­ins’ mis­for­tune that most of the po­lice re­cruits ar­rived dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Mayor Gi­u­liani, who took credit for an ex­pan­sion en­abled and paid for en­tirely through the Mayor Dink­ins’ lead­er­ship,’’ said Vic­tor Kovner, who headed the city’s law de­part­ment un­der Dink­ins.

Dink­ins’ wife, Joyce Bur­rows Dink­ins, died last month. They had two chil­dren. –

 ?? AP ?? David Dink­ins de­liv­er­ing his first speech as mayor of New York City in Jan­uary 1990.
AP David Dink­ins de­liv­er­ing his first speech as mayor of New York City in Jan­uary 1990.

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