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David Norman Dinkins (born July 10, 1927) is a former politician from New York Citymarker. He was the Mayor of New York City from 1990 through 1993, being the first African American to hold that office.

Early life

Dinkins was born and raised in Trenton, New Jerseymarker by his mother and grandmother, his parents having divorced when he was seven years old. He attended Trenton Central High Schoolmarker, where he graduated in 1945 in the top 10 percent of his class. After graduation, he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but was told that a racial quota had been filled. After serving briefly in the United States Army he joined the Marines.

Dinkins graduated from Howard Universitymarker with a degree in Mathematics, graduating magna cum laude, and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, the nation's first inter-collegiate fraternity for African American men. He later graduated from Brooklyn Law School.

Political career

Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party organization in Harlemmarker and became part of an influential group of African-American politicians that included Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, Denny Farrell, and Charles Rangel. As an investor, Dinkins was one of fifty African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971. He served briefly in the New York State Legislature and for many years as New York City Clerk.

He was named Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was ultimately not appointed. He was elected Manhattan Borough President in 1985 on his third run for that office. He was elected the city's mayor on November 7, 1989, having defeated three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch and two others to win the Democratic nomination and going on to narrowly defeat Rudy Giuliani, the Republican candidate.

In 1990, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Dinkins was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.


Dinkins entered office pledging racial healing throughout what he called the "gorgeous mosaic" of New York's diverse communities. Many New Yorkers felt that his low-key personality, which contrasted so sharply with that of his predecessor, along with the symbolic aspect of his being the city's first black mayor, might ease racial tensions. Instead, Dinkins's term was marked by polarizing events including the 1991 Crown Heights Riot and the boycott of a Korean-owned grocery in Flatbush. He was accused of restraining the police during the Crown Heights Riot.

His critics have described him as weak and indecisive, if well-intentioned, at best. He was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration, although crime actually declined 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 well beyond his term. Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%.

Economic policy

Dinkins became mayor with a $1.8 billion budget deficit when he entered office. He attempted to balance the budget and raised taxes. High oil prices due to the Gulf War and an overall downturn in the economy did not help the economic health of the city. 300,000 private sector jobs were further lost during Dinkins's administration, eroding the city’s tax base. His handling of the city's finances was criticized as being too beholden to unions and other lobbying groups. Investment was at an all time low.

His integrity came under fire, as well as his efficacy. In response to his failure to file (or pay) income taxes for five years earlier in his career, Salon magazine later reported, Dinkins said, "I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."

In 1991, New York was unable to pay city employees. The Dinkins administration proposed unprecedented cuts in public services, $1 billion in tax increases and the elimination of 27,000 jobs. He cut education by $579 million, marked 10 homeless shelters for closing which was opposed by the city council. Just a year later, however, the city had a $200 million dollar surplus.

In 1991, Dinkins signed a law which made it illegal for companies in New York City to do business with companies in Northern Irelandmarker that discriminated against Catholics. In that same year, he hosted an unprecedented open house event in which 1400 people came to City Hall to speak with city officials. 1,058 suggestions, 216 problems, and 258 other comments were recorded. Fewer than one percent of the suggestions were considered for implementation.

1993 election

In 1993, Dinkins lost to Republican Rudy Giuliani, earning only 46 percent of the vote, down from 51 percent in 1989. Dinkins's departure from office at the end of 1993 made him the last Democratic mayor of New York City , a city where party affiliations are overwhelmingly Democratic. One factor in his loss was his perceived indifference to the plight of the Jewish community during the Crown Heights riot. In the 1993 election, Dinkins's support from Jews, whites, Asian Americans, and Hispanics declined substantially.

During his final days in office, Dinkins made last-minute negotiations with the sanitation workers, presumably to preserve the public status of garbage removal. Incoming mayor Giuliani blamed Dinkins for a "cheap political trick" when Dinkins planned the resignation of Victor Gotbaum, Dinkins's appointee on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing his replacement six months in office. Dinkins also signed a last minute 99-year lease with the USTA National Tennis Centermarker, including strict limitations on flights in and out of neighboring LaGuardia Airportmarker during the US Openmarker. A less restrictive lease was renegotiated after he left office.

Later career and legacy

Dinkins was subsequently given a professorship at Columbia University. 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. In some of his actions, such as the Green endorsement, he has been in conflict with Al Sharpton. He supported Democrat Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 New York mayoral election.

In the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, he served as a delegate for Hillary Clinton in New York.

In the 2009 mayoral campaign, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg running as Independent/Republican for a third term against Democratic candidate William C. Thompson, Jr., former mayor Giuliani campaigned for Bloomberg. On October 17 at the Jewish Community Council breakfast, Giuliani was quoted as saying "This city could very easily be taken back in a very different direction — it could very easily be taken back to the way it was with the wrong political leadership." The comment and others in the speech were taken as an unfavorable allusion to the Dinkins administration. An ensuing report looked back at the Dinkins administration, suggesting the comparison may not be as negative as Giuliani seemed to be implying, noting about the Dinkins administration: the accomplishments on crime later in the administration, including 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 rehabilitating 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 Mayor Bloomberg called "the only good athletic sports stadium deal, not just in New York but in the country"; and mental-health facility initiatives.

Personal life

Dinkins is married to the former Joyce Burrows and they have two children. The couple are members of the Church of the Intercessionmarker 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.

Humanitarian Causes

David Dinkins sits on the Board of Directors of The Jazz Foundation of America. . Dinkins also sits on the Honorary Founders Board, having worked with the Jazz Foundation to save the homes and the lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians including musicians that survived Hurricane Katrina since it’s inception.

Citywide tickets on which Dinkins ran

1989 NYC Democratic ticket

1993 NYC Democratic ticket


  1. Cheers, D. Michael. "Mayor of 'The Big Apple': 'nice guy' image helps David N. Dinkins in building multi-ethnic, multiracial coalition - New York City", Ebony , February 1990. Accessed September 4, 2008.
  2. A Memorial Tribute to Harrington, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 23, 1990.
  3. Siegel, Fred The Prince of the City (San Francisco, Encounter Books, 2005) pp. 90
  4. "Stumping With Mayor, Giuliani Stirs Old Fears" by David W. Chen with reporting contributed by Michael Barbaro, The New York Times, October 18, 2009 (Oct. 19, 2009 p. A21 of the NY ed.). Retrieved Oct. 26, 2009.
  5. "Political Memo: Another Look at the Dinkins Administration, and Not by Giuliani" by Michael Powell, The New York Times, October 25, 2009 (p. A19 of Oct. 26, 2009 NY ed.). Retrieved Oct. 26, 2009.
  6. 1190 WLIB - Your Praise & Inspiration Station - Praise Team: On-Air Schedule
  7. 2009-05-10. URL: Accessed: 2009-05-10. (Archived by The JFA at
  8. 2009-05-10. URL: Accessed: 2009-05-10. (Archived by The patrick mcmullan at

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