Mayor Bill de Blasio has a big gift for his former boss: a 40-story piece of real estate downtown.
The Manhattan Municipal Building will be renamed for former Mayor David Dinkins, announced Mr. de Blasio—and his wife, Chirlane McCray, whom he met while they both worked for the 106th mayor of New York.
“Those of us who were lucky to serve in the Dinkins Administration had the honor of serving a leader who took challenges head on,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “He’s left an indelible impact on this city—and on Chirlane’s and my lives. We are so grateful for Mayor Dinkins’ decades of public service and everything he’s done to ensure a stronger, safer city. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute than to rename the Municipal Building, where he spent 14 years of his career, in his honor.”
Mr. Dinkins told the Observer he was “delighted” by the honor, but sought to share it with those who worked alongside him.
“I’m delighted. I see it as, really, a recognition of the work that so many others did, people with whom I was privileged to work—women and men who really got the job done,” Mr. Dinkins said in a telephone interview. “While it may bear my name, I will think of Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson and Bill Lynch and Charlie Rangel—who is still with us, the others have died—and all the women and men, I might add the current mayor and his bride, who worked with me at City Hall.”
The mayor often speaks of his time working for Mr. Dinkins—and about his good fortune meeting Ms. McCray at City Hall. Ms. McCray today thanked Mr. Dinkins not just for his work as mayor, but for bringing their family together.
“His legacy is a bright guiding light for me, my family, and countless New Yorkers,” Ms. McCray said in a statement. “Mayor Dinkins helped me understand that service to others is the rent we pay for time on earth. Throughout his career, he led with dignity, generosity and commitment. And by choosing a life of service, Mayor Dinkins helped grow another mayor, a first lady, and two smart, beautiful children.”
The building is at One Centre Street and is also home to the offices of the city’s comptroller and public advocate. It will formally be renamed on October 15. Mr. Dinkins worked in the building first as City Clerk, then as Manhattan Borough President. He moved across the street to City Hall for his single term as the city’s first black mayor.
“If they named a lamp post for me I’d be grateful, certainly,” Mr. Dinkins said. “This is a real tribute to all the people with whom I’ve worked over the years.”
It’s not the first city location to be renamed for a living mayor: the Queensboro Bridge was renamed for former Mayor Ed Koch in 2011, a few years before Koch died, despite 70 percent of Queens residents opposing the decision according to a poll at the time.
Today’s renaming seemed to stir up some of the debate that one did: former City Council Peter Vallone, of Queens, who is set to become a civil court judge, noted on Twitter he had wanted to name the Municipal Building, instead of the bridge, for Koch. “Stop naming stuff after living people!” he Tweeted today. (Mr. Vallone was opposed to renaming the bridge at all, arguing nobody would rename the Brooklyn Bridge.)
Mr. Dinkins said he was “very comfortable” with having something named for him while he is alive—but once again gave the credit for it to people who worked for him, this time citing Carl Weisbrod, who today is Mr. de Blasio’s Planning Commissioner and was tasked, under Mr. Dinkins, with cleaning up Times Square. The former mayor recalled that on the last day of the administration in 1993, Mr. Weisbrod walked into City Hall holding a memorandum of understanding to bring Disney into Times Square.
“What would most of us be doing on the last day of one job, and you don’t know where you’re going to be working next week?” Mr. Dinkins asked, going on to give Mr. Weisbrod much of the credit for negotiating the deal to keep the U.S. Open in New York. And then there was Milton Mollen, the deputy mayor whom Mr. Dinkins credited with helping to get the State Legislature to agree to a tax hike to hire 6,000 new cops through the “Safe Streets, Safe City” program.
“Nobody got anywhere alone,” Mr. Dinkins said. “Everybody stands on somebody’s shoulders.”
While Mr. de Blasio has often praised Mr. Dinkins’ legacy—from his launching Fashion Week to his hiring those 6,000 new police officers—the former mayor is also often associated with the racially charged riots in Crown Heights that contributed to his defeat at the polls. Mr. Dinkins served just one term before he was defeated by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who ran on a tough-on-crime platform and is not someone Mr. de Blasio would be likely to name anything after.
Mr. Dinkins is a professor at Columbia University and serves on the school’s board. He’s also a fixture at events like the Association for a Better New York’s breakfast speeches.
Updated with comment from Mr. Dinkins.