The Municipal Building in lower Manhattan was formally renamed Thursday for former Mayor David N. Dinkins, the city's first black chief executive and a leader hailed at the ceremony for describing the city's diversity as a "gorgeous mosaic."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who got his start in local government as a young aide in Dinkins' City Hall, said, "We're celebrating a truly good man."
Dinkins, 88, and the city's oldest surviving mayor, envisioned that the New York City mayor two decades from now might be the daughter of a Mexican or Dominican immigrant who would look at the Municipal Building plaque bearing his name and wonder to herself who he was.
"I'm counting on you to explain our shared history," he told the audience. "Hopefully, you will say that I and we believed in municipal government of the people, by the people and for the people. A government that lifts all of us up and does not beat any of us down, that inspires rather than discourages."
Dinkins was the last Democrat in the office until de Blasio. He served as mayor from 1990 through 1993. Weakened by the Crown Heights riots and high crime rates, who promised to lead a crackdown against both street violence and quality-of-life offenses such as the harassment of motorists by "squeegee men."
De Blasio said his mentor guided the city through a dangerous time and laying the groundwork for the city to turn the tide on crime.
"When this mayor took office in 1990, this was not a safe city, it just wasn't," de Blasio said. "And someone had to make the change."
He credited Dinkins with introducing the "Safe City, Safe Streets" program that increased the NYPD head count.
De Blasio also thanked Dinkins for introducing him to his wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, who was a speechwriter in the administration.
"His joy in lifting up all New Yorkers, especially those who have been left behind, was contagious, and I was so proud to work for him," McCray said.
She shared her favorite quote from Dinkins: "Service to others is the rent we pay for our time on Earth."
De Blasio similarly tipped his hat to some Dinkins-esque turns of phrases: "one ought not" and "the children are the future."
Many who spoke at the ceremony Thursday