Rudolph Giuliani, a mob-busting former prosecutor, defeated incumbent Mayor David Dinkins on Tuesday to become the city's first Republican mayor in a generation.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Giuliani had 50 percent of the vote, or 857,570 votes, to Dinkins' 822,844 votes, or 48 percent.
Voter Research and Surveys, which conducts exit polls, projected Giuliani the winner early this morning.
Exit polls showed Giuliani had about three-fourths of the white vote, while Dinkins had nearly all the black vote. Dinkins also took about two-thirds of the Hispanic vote.
Giuliani spent the early evening in a steak house with his wife. His supporters gathered at a midtown hotel, some of them wearing buttons reading "Re-elect Giuliani in '97."
They chanted "Rudy!" and cheered when someone held up a copy of today's Jewish Press with a "Giuliani Wins" headline.
Dinkins supporters gathered in a ballroom at another midtown hotel. Upstairs in a suite watching election returns on television were the mayor, his wife, their children and grandchildren, and about 100 VIPs.
Dinkins, the city's first black mayor, called race the campaign's "silent visitor" as he tried to hold together the coalition that narrowly put him in office four years ago.
Giuliani, seeking to become the city's first GOP mayor since John Lindsay was elected in 1965, attacked Dinkins' competence and portrayed himself as a crimefighting ex-prosecutor and efficient administrator.
Tensions between the two were so high that they couldn't even agree on a format for a debate.
In 1989, Dinkins beat Giuliani by just 2 percent _ 50,000 votes _ in one of the closest mayoral elections in city history.
Race was a big factor. Most blacks supported Dinkins; most whites, Giuliani. At a Dinkins fund-raiser earlier this fall, President Clinton chided voters for being "unwilling to vote for people who are different than we are."
Giuliani, 49, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan, claimed that race was not important, but often brought up the subject.
He reminded voters that the mayor was slow to condemn a black boycott of a Korean grocery store in 1990. He also focused on a state report that faulted Dinkins' handling of a racial disturbance in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section two years ago, when police were slow to stop black rioters' attacks on Jews.
Dinkins, 66, became New York City's first black mayor after defeating three-term incumbent Edward I. Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary and going on to beat Giuliani. A Democratic Party stalwart, Dinkins worked his way up the ladder one rung at a time _ clubhouse worker, assemblyman, district leader, city clerk, borough president.
In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5 to 1, Dinkins made much of his party ties, touting visits from the Clintons and other top Democratic politicians and celebrities.
Giuliani, who played up endorsements from prominent local Democrats, including Koch and Robert Wagner Jr., the son of former Democratic Mayor Robert Wagner, attacked Dinkins' competence and lackluster administration.
While Dinkins balanced every budget, $2-billion gaps are forecast for the next three years. And while crime is down, many New Yorkers don't feel safe.