New York City's first and only Black mayor dies at 93

© Agence France-Presse

New York City's first Black mayor David Dinkins greets US President Barack Obama in 2011

New York (AFP) - David Dinkins, New York City's first and so far only Black mayor, has died at 93.  

The Democrat served as leader of the city from 1990 to 1993 after defeating Rudy Giuliani and Edward Koch.

His tenure was marked by racial strife -- most notably the Crown Heights riots -- and criticism that he was not up to the job.

Dinkins died from natural causes at home on Monday, the New York Times reported, less than two months after his wife Joyce also passed away.

Current Mayor Bill de Blasio paid tribute to "a truly great man."

"David Dinkins simply set this city on a better path," he wrote on Twitter.

Michael Bloomberg, New York mayor from 2002 to 2013, said Dinkins' mayoral victory in 1989 "helped New York City turn an important corner in racial equality."

A compromise candidate who remains New York's only Black mayor, he inherited a city marked by racism, poverty and violence.

More than a million New Yorkers were on welfare following a recession, and more than 1,000 murders were reported annually. 

Dinkins was elected as a stabilizing force, and famously described New York as a "gorgeous mosaic," but he struggled to make headway.

Responsible for enlarging the police force to combat crime following the murder of a Utah tourist, he slashed the city's budgets for education, housing, health and social services.

Dinkins also appointed one of the city's most diverse cabinets -- including numerous women, and New York's first Puerto Rican fire commissioner and an openly gay Black psychiatrist as its mental health commissioner.

But he was incapable of controlling the headstrong personalities, the New York Times said, and he was heavily criticized for the subsequent policy gridlock.

Known for his tailored linen suits and unfailing courtesy, critics often suggested that Dinkins was "too nice" to lead the city.

'We have made history'

Born July 10 1927, Dinkins grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, the New York Times reported.

In 1945, he joined the Marines and later attended the historically Black Howard University, where he majored in mathematics.

He married classmate Joyce,  and the couple moved back to New York, where Dinkins practiced as a lawyer after putting himself through Brooklyn Law School, the New York Post reported.

He was appointed City Clerk in 1975 and served for a decade, the Times said, before winning as mayor in 1989.

Dinkins was ousted by Giuliani after only a single term in office, but in his concession speech, the Washington Post said that he told the crowd: "My friends, we have made history. Nothing can ever take that away."

After his stint in office, he taught at Columbia University and hosted a local radio program, the Post added.

He is survived by his children, Donna and David Jr., and two grandchildren.