De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising was named best album and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” was named best single in the Pazz & Jop Music Critic’s poll.
Dance Theater Workshop is awarded a special citation at the Obie Awards.
Spike Lee releases his breakout film, Do the Right Thing. It is story of racial tensions in New York that climax in an Italian neighborhood of Brooklyn.
A 28-year-old investment banker is badly beaten and raped while jogging in Central Park. The victim is known as the “Central Park Jogger,” and her story is touted in the media as an example of rampant crime in the late 1980s. The crime is initially attributed to a gang of youths practicing a ritual they called “wilding,” but DNA evidence later clears them of responsibility when a convicted serial rapist confesses to the crime.
Yusef Hawkins, a 16-year-old African American boy, is shot and killed by a mob of youths in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood when he and three friends inquire about a used car for sale. The incident strains the already-tense relations between Italian-Americans and blacks. Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever is dedicated to the memory of Hawkins. (Hawkins’ killer, Joseph Fama, receives 32 years to life in prison).
Village Voice writers Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett publish City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York. The book investigates the corruption under Mayor Koch of Democratic county leaders, including Donald Manes, Stanley Friedman, and Meade Esposito.
New York City elects David Dinkins to be its first (and to date, only) African-American Mayor. Dinkins, a member of the Harlem Democratic Organization, beats three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch and two others to win the Democratic nomination, going on to narrowly defeat Rudy Giuliani.