Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some sad news to report.
New York City’s first Black mayor David N. Dickens died on Monday night at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was 93 years old. His death was confirmed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. It comes less than two months after Dinkins’s wife, Joyce, passed away.
Dickens became New York City’s first Black mayor on the wings of racial harmony but who was turned out by voters after one term over his handling of racial violence in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He became a compromise selection for voters who were exhausted with racial strife, corruption, crime and fiscal turmoil; according to historians, and proved to be an able caretaker rather than an innovator of grand achievements.
He inherited large budget deficits. He faced some of the worst crime problems in New York city’s history and dealt with them by expanding the police to record levels. He kept city libraries open, revitalized Times Square and rehabilitated housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. But the racial amity that was his fondest hope remained a distant dream, and his lapses in responding to the Crown Heights racial crisis became an legacy.
Dinkins acknowledged in a 2013 Memoir about his missteps during his term, including a failure to contain race riots in Crown Heights in 1991, for which he blamed his police commissioner, and his refusal to break a prolonged Black boycott of a Korean owned grocery store in Brooklyn in 1990. But he spoke on the narrowness of his victory in the 1989 mayoral election, and his defeat four years later that he believes was due to the fact that he was Black. “I think it was just racism, pure and simple,” Dinkins said in “A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic,” written with Peter Knobler.
Dickens was a Harlem Democrat who climbed to City Hall through relatively minor elective and appointive offices. Secured in history as the city’s first Black mayor, Mr. Dinkins became a quiet elder statesman in later years, teaching at Columbia University, hosting a radio talk show on WLIB and attending receptions, dinners and ceremonies.