NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The FDNY Commissioner says the department has recruited almost twice as many black candidates for its upcoming exam as it did for the last one as it steps up its outreach to minorities.

The New York Times reports FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano testified in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. His appearance was the latest development in ongoing litigation about the lack of diversity at the nearly all white 11,000-member fire department.

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About 3 percent of city firefighters are black. Census figures show the city is about 23 percent non-Hispanic black.

Cassano says nearly 17,000 people applied to take the test and 15 percent were black — compared with only 8 percent for the last test, in 2007. The overall number of minority applicants stayed steady at 40 percent.

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The application period ends Sept. 15.

As part of the outreach, Cassano has been visiting black churches to speak about the benefits of working for the department.

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