(CNN)David Norman Dinkins, the genteel first and, to date, only Black mayor of New York City who dedicated much of his public life trying to improve race relations in the nation's largest city, has died at age 93.
David Dinkins, New York's first Black mayor, dies at 93
Dinkins died Monday evening at his residence on Manhattan's Upper East Side in Manhattan, the New York City Police Department told CNN.
The department had received a call from Dinkins' residence about an unconscious person having difficulty breathing, according to the New York City Police Department.
Current Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed Dinkins' death to The New York Times. On Tuesday morning, de Blasio remembered Dinkins on social media as a mentor and friend.
"Chirlane and I are mourning a truly great man. David Dinkins simply set this city on a better path," he tweeted with a photo of the pair. "He was my mentor, he was my friend, and his steadfast commitment to fight for that "gorgeous mosaic" inspires me every single day. We'll keep up his fight," de Blasio tweeted.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday also shared a photo of himself with Dinkins on Twitter, writing "NY lost a remarkable civic leader."
"The first and the only Black mayor of NYC, he cherished our "gorgeous mosaic" & served the city & state over a career spanning decades with the hope of unity and a deep kindness," he wrote. "My friend, you will be missed."
Speaking frequently of what he called New York's "gorgeous mosaic" of racial, ethnic and religious diversity, Dinkins championed economic equality and education for people of color, and offered the city a calming alternative to the brash leadership of Ed Koch, whose tenure in office was often marked by strained race relations.
But high crime, a national recession and several episodes of racial conflict largely defined Dinkins' mayoralty in the early 1990s. Although it was under his leadership that the New York Police Department underwent a major expansion that would be credited with playing a significant role in driving down crime, he was ousted from office in 1993 in a close race by his political nemesis, Rudy Giuliani, who successfully painted Dinkins as an ineffectual leader unable to tame the city's high crime.
Giuliani tweeted Tuesday that Dinkins "gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City" and added, "That service is respected and honored by all."
"I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him," the former mayor wrote.
Dinkins was a genuine trailblazer in New York City history. As a member of the "Gang of Four" -- an informal group that included longtime US Rep. Charles Rangel, the civil rights attorney Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson, New York's first Black secretary of state -- he was part of a new wave of Black leadership that came to prominence in the 1960s and '70s and greatly increased Harlem's political influence in the city. When Dinkins denied Koch's bid for a fourth term in the 1989 Democratic primary and narrowly edged out Giuliani in the general election, he became the city's 106th mayor and its first one of color.
Acutely aware of the delicate political balance necessary to govern as a Black mayor in a largely White city, the soft-spoken, bow-tie-wearing Dinkins repeatedly pledged to heal racial divisions, which had worsened toward the end of Koch's term, while emphasizing a commitment to serve all New Yorkers.
"I intend to be the mayor of all of the people of New York. This administration will never lead by dividing, by setting some of us against the rest of us or by favoring one group over others," he said in a speech at City Hall shortly after he took office.
While in office, Dinkins expanded affordable housing to combat homelessness, pushed for measures to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis and took several steps to address the city's high crime rate, which reached its nadir in 1990 when the city recorded more than 2,200 murders that year.
Most notably, Dinkins pushed for a major expansion of the NYPD, dubbed the "Safe Streets, Safe City" program, and by the time he left office, the city's crime rate had already begun to drop, a trend that lasted for nearly three decades.
Also of note was the move by Dinkins, a hu