By MOSI SECRET
Published: September 28, 2012
A federal judge approved a new entrance exam for New York City firefighters on Friday, ending a long stalemate over hiring practices and increasing the likelihood that the department will hire thousands of minority applicants.
The ruling will allow the city to hire firefighters for the first time in five years. More than 90 percent of firefighters in the city are white.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn approved the test after the city submitted data showing it did not discriminate. “We’re pleased that we can now begin hiring to fill the more than 650 current vacancies in the firefighter ranks,” Salvatore J. Cassano, the fire commissioner, said in a written statement.
In response to a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and the Vulcan Society, a fraternal order of black firefighters, which accused the department of discrimination against minority applicants, Judge Garaufis in 2010 prohibited the city from using earlier entrance exams to hire new firefighters.
All parties in the lawsuit agreed that the new exam would produce no difference in hiring between minority and white candidates.
“The Vulcans are very pleased and proud that their work over all these years has finally come to the point that there is a test that is both fair and is a better instrument of hiring firefighters than ever before,” said Richard A. Levy, a lawyer for the Vulcan Society. “The bad news is they had to fight so damn hard to do this. They kicked and screamed the whole way.”
More than 41,000 candidates took the new exam this year.
The city expects to hire or promote more than 9,000 firefighters from those who took the exam: 53 percent white, 20 percent black, 23 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian, according to court documents filed by the city in keeping with rates that all parties agreed upon.
The city projects that 97 percent of the new firefighters will be men.
A special master appointed by the court, Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney in Manhattan, supervised the design of the new test.
Judge Garaufis cautioned in the order that allowing the testing to proceed does not mark the end of the long-running case. The city remains under court order to put into practice a post-examination hiring process, overseen by a court monitor, that does not discriminate, the judge said.