NEW YORK (AP) — City officials on Friday said the Fire Department of New York won’t hire any firefighters until a new entry exam is created to replace one a federal judge said discriminated against minorities, which is expected to take at least a year.

A federal judge had ordered the city to choose one of five temporary methods for selecting applicants who had already passed the rejected exam as a way of adding to the department in the meantime. But the city’s law department said in a letter to the court that they wouldn’t select one because they all involved some sort of race-based quota.

“The hiring quotas … are bad public policy, and we believe not justified by the law,” said Corporation Counsel head Michael Cardozo.

It was the latest setback in a lengthy legal dispute with the federal government over discrimination claims at the mostly white fire department. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled in August that the exam was unfair to black and Hispanic applicants after the Justice Department sued on their behalf in 2007.

Garaufis said the city used the exams to appoint more than 5,300 entry-level firefighters between 1999 and 2007, cheating at least 1,000 minority firefighters of chances to join a force of roughly 11,000 at the nation’s largest fire department. Of the 3,100 black candidates and 4,200 Hispanics who took the exam, the city appointed only 184 black and 461 Hispanic to the FDNY.

The judge said black and Hispanic applicants had disproportionately failed the written examinations and those who passed were placed disproportionately lower down the hiring lists than whites.

The city is appealing the decision.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgantheau had been asked to work with the city in developing the new test, but later resigned. Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney with the Southern District, took over.

She is tasked with developing a procedure for screening and selecting applicants who want to become firefighters and created the five temporary proposals that the city rejected.

Cardozo said 33 percent of the top test-takers waiting to be hired were minorities, which would have made for the most diverse class in the department’s history.

“Hiring candidates from that list would’ve had guaranteed that the city hired the most qualified firefighters while at the same time increasing the department’s diversity,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his radio program Friday morning that accusing the fire department of racism was unfair, and he spent years working with the commissioner to recruit diverse applicants.

“The bottom line is we just could never get … we were making progress … but we never got as diverse a group applying,” he said. “And if you had a big diverse group applying, you would have diversity in the results coming out the other end. We worked with schools, we had companies give us advertising content and creative, and distribution, pro bono. We worked very hard.”

Of the 11,214 uniformed members of the FDNY, 355 are black, 722 Hispanic, 82 Asian and 6 Native American. Most city residents are minorities.

As the new test is being developed, city officials said they’ll make up the difference by paying overtime to current firefighters — which costs nearly $2 million a month, attorneys have said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (14)
  1. Auburn Dale says:

    It’s not about minorities per se. The problem is that CITY residents aren’t hired as firefighters because the FDNY reserves those spots for suburbanites (who happen to be mostly white and related to current firefighters).

  2. JohnP says:

    There were minorities that were ALREADY waiting to be hired from this eligible
    list. Talk about CONFUSING. Maybe they should sue for not being hired. The judge is a nutjob!

  3. Johnny says:

    What did everyone expect when you have a court full of liberal left leaning judges? Now that we all share the wealth, we should share the intelligence!

  4. Chrisie Shaw says:

    North, South, East, West. If you have gone to college and gotten a degree to teach, then teach you will. It is up to those students in the North, South, East and West who either willing to or who are unwilling to learn. I am so sick of everyone making excuses for eveything under the sun. If you can’t pass a test, you can’t pass a test and you don’t get the job no matter who you are. Don’t go expecting a new test to be written because you don’t have the brains to pass the one given.

  5. JF says:

    That’s not fare for the people who passed the test. But if you can pass the first test the second will be easystreet. CJ keep your head up. God watching……..

  6. storm says:

    Judge Garaufis blew it big time. He isn’t qualified to judge a soapbox derby. If feels the way he does then he should resign and give his seat on the bench to a minority.

  7. DM says:

    What was wrong with the original test? Did it require them to speak and understand English? Or expect that they had an IQ higher than 20?

    This is exactly the reason I left law enforcement. I was tired of working the streets with people who had received preferential hiring status , but then were too stupid to figure out which end of the gun to point at the armed felon.

  8. CJ New York City says:

    Sorry, this has nothing to do with a new test. I saw the old test; any high school graduate of any background could pass it in the high 80’s or 90’s. My son has worked his butt off passing the test getting a high mark 89%, achieving his EMS certificate. This is about nothing more than it’s my club and you cannot play in it. OK, now we all know how the racist are don’t we. The judge’s ruling the mayor of NYC should be ashamed!

  9. Confused says:

    -Sounds like this judge is suffering from a severe case of “White Guilt”. Please tell me how on Earth a test can be Racist?

  10. Chrisie Shaw says:

    Wow, what a disgrace. Someone please tell me how this is unfair?? I thought that when we all went to school, we were all there learming the SAME thing and it was taught to every single person in that classroom REGARDLESS of race. Nobody was taught according to skin color and I am sure that you did not get separate tests based on what you were learning because of your skin color either. I know I didn’t. If you decided not to go to school and learn while someone else did and you now decide to take this test and can’t pass it, don’t blame it on someone’s skin color, blame it on your own stupidity. I hope that there will be pictures next to the questions to help in answering them or else, heaven help us.

    1. calvin says:

      you/re right….ha…ha….ha…

    2. Julio. Ex-FDNY. says:

      Chrisie, to facilitate a child’s education, several factors must be met. Not having an education may seem like a choice for some, when in fact, it may simply not be an option for others. Conditions of poverty at home, along with an unsafe environment, lack of support, lack of jobs, lack of emotional stability can greatly influence your desire to even want a job. The FDNY exams demands a skillset only kids from stable homes can meet, the new test will attempt to establish fairness in its questioning so as to give every applicant a chance to do better, not just a select few.

    3. chavonne says:

      This isn’t a question of stupidity. That’s too easy folks. Take this fact that students in Northern states do much better on standardized tests than students in the east and west. All do better than students in the south. This is because standardized tests are created in Northern states as that is where the Board for these tests are. Students have an edge in vernacular, geography, sciences, etc even if they themselves don’t realize it. My professor was on the Board and explained as much. The South, which is STILL suffering from the civil war is much poorer and not as much $ can be spent on education (good teachers, etc). If you read the article it is the WRITING section which is in question; a questionable section as it’s results are highly based on personal opinion. FDNY has some culpability as it’s a closed, mostly Irish, knit group with little diversity (just as they like it).

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