David Dinkins, who was elected New York City’s first black mayor in 1989 and famously referred to the nation’s largest metropolis as a “gorgeous mosaic,” died Monday night. The former mayor passed away due to natural causes at his Upper East Side home at around 9:30 p.m. He was 93 years old.
Dinkins — who defeated three-term incumbent Ed Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary — beat Republican Rudy Giuliani that year to become the city’s 106th mayor. “David was a historic mayor. He showed that a black candidate can win biracial support in a city-wide race,” said former Gov. David Paterson, who became the first African-American governor. “There’s a special appreciation for him. He tried very hard to be the mayor of all the people.”
Dinkins led the nation’s largest city two decades before Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president. “David Dinkins was a forerunner to Barack Obama. He was elected saying the same things,” said civil right activist Al Sharpton. “He helped to change the psychology of American politics, making it more inclusive and more progressive.”
Whether residents agreed or disagreed with his liberal politics, Dinkins was loved by many. “He maintained dignity, class and gentlemanly-ness so rare in today’s world,” said Ken Sunshine, who served as Dinkins’ first chief of staff . “He was almost too nice to be mayor of New York,” Sharpton said.