In 1989, Dinkins set his goals higher by launching an initial bid against three-time mayor Ed Koch. The incumbent had easily won re-election four years ago, but his reputation had fallen due to a fall bad local economy and what for New York Times 1989 described as Fear of "drugs, resurgent crime, homelessness and AIDS". Koch started the campaign look weak against Dinkins, who argued that he could stabilize the city. However, while Koch managed to cut his deficit following a TV ad campaign, Dinkins defeated him with one convincing 51-42 margin and put an end to his hopes of becoming the city's first four-year mayor.
While New York City had not elected a Republican mayor since liberal John Lindsey in 1965, Dinkins faced a difficult challenge from former US attorney Rudy Giuliani. Dinkins made one early attempt to isolate After Giuliani's attacks, he said on the night of the primaries, "I intend to be the toughest crime mayor this city has ever seen," but the Republican led a vicious campaign that largely focused on Dinkins' personal financial situation. Dinkins won 50-48 in a competition where racing turned out to be the main mistake: About 60% of white voters supported Giuliani, while Dinkins won about 90% of black voters.
Dinkins inherited a very difficult financial situation, to which he responded with major budget cuts and passed the largest tax hike in the city's history. Crime remained a ubiquitous issue: the city's homicide rate reached an all-time high in 1990 with 2,605 murders fall during each remaining year from Dinkins' tenure, but headlines continued to focus on high profile crimes, portraying the mayor as incapable. Dinkins, however, had some notable successes with that Times & # 39; Robert McFadden wrote that he "kept public libraries open, revitalized Times Square and redeveloped homes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem".
But Dinkins' tenure would be indelibly marked by three days of violence in Crown Heights, a predominantly black neighborhood in central Brooklyn with a large Hasidic population that broke out in the summer of 1991. Long-standing tensions between the two communities escalated on the evening of August 19 when a 22-year-old Hasidic man, Yosef Lifsh, accidentally caused a car accident that killed a young black man named Gavin Cato and seriously injured his cousin Angela Cato.
After the incident, black youths started scolding by first throwing stones and bottles. Later that night, a group of about 20 young black men bullied and fatally stabbed a 29-year-old Hasidic graduate student from Australia, Yankel Rosenbaum. revolt took another two dayswith attacks on Jewish residents, houses and shops, in which many police officers were injured. Dinkins and his police commissioner Lee Brown have been heavily criticized an official state report later characterized as incompetent and ineffective.
Dinkin's handling of the riot became a central theme of his 1993 re-election campaign, which included a rematch with Giuliani. The Republican argued that he would be able to solve the city's problemsincluding his crime rate, and he benefited from confirmation from Koch. Giuliani too capitalized out of racist sentiment by running a commercial accusing Dinkins of "causing racial attacks"; Years later, Dinkins would write about his defeat"I think it was pure and simple racism."
Giuliani was supported in the Mayor's race in New York City by voters who no longer wanted to be part of New York City. Staten Island, where Giuliani had done very well in 1989, held a referendum on election day asking if it should split up and found its own town. The non-binding measure that passed with 65% of the votes, increased turnout in the republican strongholdwhat possibly made the difference on top of the ticket.
Ultimately, Giuliani won 51-48, provided with its edge by appearing on the line of the Liberal Party– an invention that enabled thousands of traditionally democratic voters to pull a "liberal" lever to support a candidate who was anything but liberal.
The Times wrote after the competition that both candidates had done largely the same thing with different demographics such as 1989, however, concluded that Giuliani had made gains with his Republican counterparts, and particularly high school voters. While New York City (which still includes Staten Island) remained a heavily Democratic constituency for the decades that followed, the Democrats wouldn't win another mayoral contest until Bill de Blasio prevailed in 2013.