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City Rejects Judge's Alternative Hiring Proposals for FDNY

Friday, September 17, 2010

New York City won't be hiring new firefighters anytime soon, even though city officials say they are needed to keep the city safe. On Friday, the city rejected all five of the hiring plan options laid out by a federal judge. Judge Nicholas Garaufis proposed the alternatives this week to allow the city to hire more than 300 firefighters who took an exam he had ruled was discriminatory.

But in a statement, Michael Cordoza, corporation counsel with the New York City Law Department, said all of the proposals are "bad public policy," and include "race-based quota" options. He said the city had no other choice but to reject them.

"The citizens of this city are entitled to firefighters who are hired based on their ability rather than on race or ethnicity," he said. "We are committed to ensuring that only the most qualified applicants become New York City firefighters while at the same time doing our very best to recruit the most diverse group of firefighters possible." Cardozo added that hires from the current applicant pool would have represented the city's most diverse yet, had the city been allowed to hire the test's top scorers without using any of the judge's proposals.

The discrimination suit against the city was originally filed by the Vulcan Society, which was represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Darius Charney, an attorney with the center, said he was surprised by the city's decision on Friday, especially since officials say they need to hire more firefighters. "The longer that they fight this case, the longer they fight the judge's rulings, the longer it's going to take to get to a point where we do have a fair hiring system that ensures a diverse and excellent firefighting force," he said.

Charney's group is pushing for a new exam, and he hopes the situation won't turn into a prolonged legal battle. "I like to think that the city shares our goal of creating a diverse fire department that represents the face of this city, and that also is full of qualified, excellent firefighters," he said.

Georgia Pestana, chief of the Labor & Employment Division of the New York City Law Department, says today's decision won't compromise public safety -- but it will cost money. "It costs an additional $1.8 million a month to pay the overtime to staff the fired department," she said. "So, it's a question of economics, and the city will have to find a way to deal with that economic hardship."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in on his weekly radio show on WOR on Friday, reiterating comments he's made in the past. "I want the best person taken from the top of the list, period," Bloomberg said. "We are playing with people's lives here. And we are playing with, what I think, one of the basic tenets of America. That everybody has equal opportunity."

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Comments [7]

Richard from The Bronx, NY

By the way, thanks to the judge, the city and the Vulcan Society, hundreds of people, myself included, are now ineligible to re-take the test, as I have passed my 29th birthday. Thanks a lot guys! Appreciate it.

Nov. 14 2010 02:19 PM
Richard from The Bronx, NY

I am a minority who scored a 99 on the test and I don't feel that the test was a biased one at all. The problem stems from the schools within the areas where poorer minorities are raised. They do not have access to better education and are thus not prepared to take exams such as these. I am against quotas, but I understand that they are an attempt to correct this disparity. No one seems to have found a foolproof answer. The end result is that the groups hurt are minorities who scored high on this test, as well as whites who scored well. Neither the judge in this case nor the city has an answer to this situation.

Nov. 14 2010 02:15 PM
joelle from New York

The Center for Constitutional Rights has always done wonderful work. However, it is wrong here.

Sep. 20 2010 08:03 AM
Sarah Whittier from Santa Cruz, CA

I applaud the City of New York for saying "no thanks" to Judge Garaufis's five cups of poison. I know one of the high scorers who was in line for the next academy class, and this decision means he may have to say goodbye to his chances of becoming a NYC fire fighter (he'll age out in April). Even so, he supports the city's taking a stand for merit. Give in on this one and we give up on standards altogether. Bravo to the young men and women who earned their places through study and hard work. They can be proud, at least, of their achievement.

Sep. 18 2010 10:50 PM
rico from Brooklyn

The current test list resulted in 37% minority representation. The only true goal of the Vulcans is to establish a pernamanent quota system for all future tests. The minorities who fairly passed the current test and deserve to become firefighters are being victimised by the Vulcan Society, shame on Paul Washington a true racist.

Sep. 17 2010 09:37 PM
Heywood Yablowmee from Sliding down the fire house pole

So I took the Fire Dept. test.
I took out my nine-inch pencil with a big eraser at the top.
The test examiner said, "Wow. But did I say to begin?"
I replied, "I thought the rule was: WHEN IN DOUBT, WHIP IT OUT."
The test proctor looked at me, smiled, and said, "True dat."

Sep. 17 2010 04:02 PM
Bean from NY

Saying that the FDNY test is discriminatory is saying all standardized testing is discriminatory: SAT's, ACT's, MSAT's, MCAT's, Educational Testing, etc. If there is any test that does not have a bias, it is a pencil and paper. Last I checked, these were inanimate objects without judgement. But, then again, perhaps that is why I did not do well on my 2nd grade spelling test, my paper and pencil were judging my race...

Sep. 17 2010 03:49 PM

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