Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins passed away on Monday evening at 93 years of age at his home in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and lawmakers at every level in NYC weighed in on his impact and legacy.
Many black lawmakers pointed to his legacy as the city’s first black mayor, as well as his relentless pursuit of unifying the country during a time of racial strife, as being a source of inspiration for all.
“New York City has lost a great champion for people of color and a historic leader for a more inclusive city. Mayor Dinkins was not just the first Black mayor; he was not just a symbol. Through his actions on behalf of lower-income people, he was both our effective advocate and confirmation of a long-held hope that our lives mattered to our government,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Local leaders echoed his sentiment.
“During his mayoralty, he championed issues that disproportionately affected marginalized populations across our city,” said City Council Member Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn).
“As New York’s first Black mayor, he broke barriers and sought to unify New Yorkers during a tense time in our city’s past. Dinkins established the city’s first MWBE program, setting the course for minority and women entrepreneurs to prosper in the empire state. I am grateful for Mayor Dinkins’ contribution to our city, which helped pave the way for others, like myself, to serve,” said Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Brooklyn).
Council Member Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn) called Dinkins a “trailblazer” and a “compassionate public servant” who made history by being the city’s first African-American mayor.
Dinkins ran for Manhattan Borough President twice before winning the title on his third attempt. His mayoralty in the early in 1990’s was marked by a national recession and heightened racial tension that included the 1991 Crown Heights riots. Although the credit for driving down crime was given to his political opponent and successor Rudy Giuliani, it was under his mayoral term when the New York Police Department underwent a major expansion.
Perhaps known for using the phrase ‘gorgeous mosaic’ to refer to the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds of those living in NYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who got his political start and met his wife Chirlane McCray while both worked in the Dinkins Administration, spoke to what that term meant to Dinkins.
“That was sort of his signature phrase. And I don’t want anyone to miss the meaning of that because if you were around it, he would say it,” said de Blasio.
“He meant to say, first of all, how much he just loved people. He loved humanity. He saw the beauty in New Yorkers. He saw the gorgeous reality of the city. Even when it was tough, he still saw the good. And mosaic meant every one of us, every one of our communities, our cultures could shine through,” continued de Blasio.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said that Dinkins was a personal inspiration to her from her first run for city council to her campaign for public advocate and public general.
“The example Mayor David Dinkins set for all of us shines brighter than the most powerful lighthouse imaginable,” she said.
New York State Senator Senator James Sanders Jr. (D–Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Edgemere, Bayswater, Arverne and Far Rockaway) summed it up in a sentence, “He was a role model and inspiration too many and he will be greatly missed.”