On Heels of Discrimination Suit, FDNY Aggressively Courts Minorities

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The FDNY has launched an aggressive campaign to attract minority applicants and get word out about its revamped exam following a judge's ruling last year that the city's test discriminated against blacks and Hispanics.

The new exam will be the first since a federal judge ruled last year that tests given between 1999 and 2007 discriminated against black and Hispanic firefighters by heavily weighing skills in which minorities historically perform worse than whites.

Only 9 percent of the city's 11,200 uniformed firefighters are black or Hispanic.

The department developed the new test with PSI, a talent-assessment firm that has written exams for other city fire departments.

The 5,000 top scorers on the exam will be placed on a list to fill department positions as they become available, the department said. The FDNY currently faces a deficit of 300 firefighters.

A similar list was compiled with top scores from the 2007 exam, but U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis banned the department from hiring from that list after ruling the old exam discriminatory, according to FDNY spokesman Jim Long.

The fire department will spend $1 million to advertise in more than 60 community newspapers as well as urban and Hispanic radio stations. Recruiting posters will also appear on fire department trucks and other apparatus.

FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano highlighted the department's flexible work schedule and pay when he brought the campaign to a black church in Queens on Sunday.

The city wanted to raise the exam application fee from $30 to $54, but a federal judge ruled against the increase last Monday, saying that a higher fee might discourage minority candidates from applying.

The application deadline is Sept. 15.