Dinkins Is Trying to Mend Torn City

Article excerpt

HE snared the 1992 Democratic convention for the Big Apple. He has taken a leading role in urging Washington, D.C., to restore aid to the cities.

Yet New York City Mayor David Dinkins is viewed by many voters here as much more of a caretaker and conciliator than a long-range planner with a 21st-century vision for the city.

In part, it's the political nature of the job. "There isn't much political capital for a mayor to engage in long-term planning - if you can do it NOW, you get the points for it," says Ester Fuchs, a political scientist at Barnard College and author of the forthcoming book, "Mayors and Money."

Also, Mayor Dinkins has faced an unusually tough fiscal challenge. He has cut spending, hiked taxes, and still hopes for labor "givebacks." His newest revision of the city's four-year financial plan is due this week. The business community wants it to include a tax freeze and a cut of 30,000 municipal workers.

"We'll see very soon whether this administration is thinking about the long-term or the short-term," says Citizens Budget Commission president Raymond Horton. "If they view the work force as a huge block of people who can't be reduced ... and made more productive, then they're saying, 'We're going to continue what we've done in the past.

Beset by day-to-day demands, Dinkins has only recently focused on some of his campaign pledges. Though so far unable to close large city shelters and welfare hotels for the homeless as promised, he has proposed building 20 to 30 small shelters for single adults in varied neighborhoods. The Not-in-My-Backyard (NIMBY) outcry was quick and loud but not universal.

"I think his plan is right on target," says George Richardson, a former heroin addict and strong advocate of more direct social-service help in the neighborhoods. …