Rating a Mayor of New York

New Yorkers have an uncanny knack for electing the right mayoral candidate at the right time. In the racially charged urban climate agitated by a bombastic Edward I. Koch, the balm-throwing David N. Dinkins presented himself in 1989 as an ideal alternative: a black politician campaigning for conciliation.

Mayor Dinkins, Chris McNickle writes in “The Power of the Mayor: David Dinkins, 1990-1993” (Transaction Publishers, $39.95), balanced four budgets in a period of economic distress, presided over a city in which crime began its decline and left the school system no worse off than when he took office.

But Mr. McNickle, the managing director of a financial services firm and author of a previous book on New York mayors, renders a verdict on Mr. Dinkins that is a timely reminder for voters and candidates on the brink of another mayoral race: appearances count, too.

Despite the achievements that he accomplished or inspired, Mr. McNickle writes, “David Dinkins failed as mayor” because his “administration managed its accomplishments in ways that diminished confidence in the mayor’s ability to govern.”

In 2006, Wilbur C. Rich’s “David Dinkins and New York City Politics” explored the administration largely through the lens of news coverage. Mr. McNickle’s cleareyed book is the first in-depth exploration of the sort that has been accorded to the mayors Mr. Dinkins was sandwiched between: Mr. Koch and Rudolph W. Giuliani.

J. P. Partland, a journalist, is more than a cycling enthusiast. A native New Yorker who toured all five boroughs in a single day when he was 12 and now rides his bike almost daily, he has produced a nifty guide for people looking for exercise, adventure, sightseeing or commuting alternatives.

His “Where to Bike New York City” (BA Press, $29.95), the latest in a series of site-specific guidebooks, includes 58 recommended rides accompanied by maps, terrain guides and practical advice, along with safety tips for navigating city traffic.

“Most of my city rides were rides to places, not rides where the point was to take a loop within a borough,” Mr. Partland writes. “It’s a big world, but many don’t stop to check out their own backyard, myself included.” In researching this book, he has done just that, and offers the benefit of his experience.

Speaking of getting around the city, “The Wheels That Drove New York” (Springer, $69.95) delivers a comprehensive account of how mass transit evolved and its profound impact on the city’s development over time.

Written by two engineers, Roger P. Roess of Polytechnic Institute of New York University and Gene Sansone, the retired chief mechanical officer for New York City Transit, the academic book is heavy on technical detail and is described by the publisher as a tract — not the most inviting characterization. Maps and other illustrations enliven the text. An index would have helped, too.

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