DAVID N. DINKINS BUILDING — Mayor Bill de Blasio renamed the Municipal Building at 1 Centre St. after the city's first black mayor, David Dinkins, Thursday saying the city doesn't appreciate all that the 106th mayor accomplished during his time in office.
"History still doesn’t accurately identify what this mayor did for this city. It just doesn’t," said de Blasio who worked in the Dinkins administration where he met his wife Chirlane McCray.
De Blasio considers Dinkins a mentor.
Some of Dinkins' accomplishments include creating the city's Economic Development Corporation, launching the "Safe City, Safe Streets" initiative, which many credit with putting New York City on the path toward its recent record crime lows and building many units of affordable housing.
"It’s a great day for the city because we’re celebrating a truly good man," de Blasio said. "We’re celebrating someone who has always reminded us of how to live and how to serve others."
But many thought Dinkins, who had also served as city clerk and Manhattan Borough President, wouldn't get elected because of his skin color, said de Blasio.
"I remind you, in 1989...there were many, many people in this city who thought it was impossible to elect an African-American mayor," de Blasio said. "Mayor Dinkins didn’t fall for that. He believed – and he blazed a trail."
McCray, who worked as a speech writer in the Dinkins administration, teared up while giving her remarks. She said Dinkins had inspired her and de Blasio to work for a "more just, equal, and unified" New York City.
In spite of his accomplishments, Dinkins' one term was marked by the Crown Heights riots, which were used to portray him as an ineffectual leader. He lost his re-election bid to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
It wasn't until years later that many began acknowledging Dinkins' legacy.
"Today is a giant step toward that end," state Sen. Bill Perkins, who credited his career in public service to Dinkins, said after the ceremony.
Dinkins' name will now be enshrined in plaques on the 100-plus year-old landmark building which houses several city agencies and thousands of workers each day.
Dinkins said his parents, a domestic worker and a barber, could never imagine that he would end up as mayor.
He said his goal was to have a "government that lifts all of us up and does not beat any of us down, that inspires rather than discourages."
Dinkins said the older he gets, the more he realizes that the city is a "gorgeous mosaic" and that he was just a tile in that mosaic.
"Mayors come and mayors go and a city must and will endure," Dinkins said.
What he hopes will persist are the ideals he will leave behind.
"In the same way I know that a child will be born today, maybe in Bellevue Hospital or Harlem Hospital, perhaps the baby daughter of a Mexican or a Dominican immigrant, and God-willing, she will go on to become the mayor of this great city," Dinkins said.
"Twenty years from now...she may ask who was David Dinkins. And looking at this young, strong audience, I'm counting on you to explain our shared history."