BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, N.Y. (CBS 2) — Lawyers in New York City are promising to fight the decision made by a judge to halt the hiring of new firefighters after stating that the FDNY entry exam discriminates against minority applicants.
A hiring freeze was in effect as of Thursday morning in the City’s fire department, which was set to offer 300 new jobs.
But U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garafus, who’s overseeing a discrimination lawsuit against the Department, says the third court ordered revision of its entrance exam is still unfair to black and Latino applicants.
“The fire department has been all white, Lilly white, for almost 150 years now,” said Fire Capt. Paul Washington. “It was to end.”
And the numbers say he’s right.
The Department was 92 percent white eight years ago – in a city that was 24 percent black. In fact, blacks made up only 2.8 percent of the FDNY.
“The fire department, on one hand, is tremendously heroic,” said Suzanne Goldberg of Columbia Law School. “The whole world knows about its heroism. And on the other hand, we have this singular embarrassment.”
Critics say the discriminatory nature of the test itself is institutionalized, often providing an advantage to white applicants who are already immersed in the department’s culture: Fathers, for instance, or uncles who were also firefighters – putting black and Latino firefighters at a distinct disadvantage.
The City says that it “disagrees with the court’s finding that these tests were discriminatory,” and that it intends to file an appeal.
“I find it shocking the city is fighting the decision and threatening appeal,” said Goldberg. “Rather than going ahead and giving the City the Department it deserves.”
“I want to see black New Yorkers share in this job because, like I say, it’s not a good job,” said Washington. “It’s a great job.”
Judge Garafus says he plans to schedule a hearing to give New York City a chance to explain its position.