Aiming to diversify, FDNY administers new entrance exam

402730810384305053e5c022e9992418
SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES

Decades of discrimination and litigation regarding the FDNY’s hiring practices will be tested this week when the department administers their new entrance exam.

The road to the new exam has been long and bitter, starting with a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice in 2007 that alleged the entrance exam unintentionally discriminated against blacks and other minorities.

Currently, the department is 89 percent Caucasian, 6 percent Hispanic and just 3 percent black, according to the FDNY.

“The reasons behind these numbers can be nothing but a discriminatory or bias attitude,” said Kenneth Cohen, Director of the NAACP metropolitan council. “The numbers are so absurd in this day in time.”

In 2009, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that the test was indeed discriminatory because white applicants consistently scored higher. That same judge later ordered the FDNY to develop a new exam with the help of an outside, equal opportunity consultant.

So far, 61,439 people have registered to take the new exam this Thursday, triple the average of years past and the highest amount of applicants in the exam’s history, according to the FDNY.

Cohen is hoping that the new exam will break down the barriers. “I want to see a fair balance,” Cohen said.

@font-face {
font-family: “Cambria”;
}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

The city has fought the court’s decision every bit of the way, even trying to have Garaufis removed from the case.

That fight has left some to question whether the city wants to diversify the FDNY.

“It doesn’t give you the impression that they’re willing to correct the exams,” said Michael Marshall, vice president of the Vulcan Society, an organization that advocates for black firefighters.

The FDNY responded to Marshall’s comment by pointing out that in the last decade, the FDNY has tripled its rate of minority hires from the previous ten year span.

“The most recent class of Probationary Firefighters in December of 2008 was the most diverse in the Department’s history, with 35 percent of its members coming from a minority background,” FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said.

A black firefighter weighs in

Canarsie native Philip Sylvester, 27, is the only black firefighter in his Flatbush engine. Sylvester said that when he applied, he wasn’t aware of the lack of diversity.

“Often times I’m one of the only black people on duty,” he said. “Of course you want to see someone who looks like you … from your same background.”

He said that he’s never experienced any racism, but people outside the department are often “shocked” that he’s a firefighter.

What’s fair?

Some people disagree whether or not race was ever a factor in the entrance
exam.

FDNY Deputy Chief Paul Mannix, 49, of Long Island insists that the test was
fair to begin with.

“The city and the FDNY has nothing to apologize about,” said Mannix.
“Individuals who prepare will do well on this test.”

Mannix leads the group “Merit Matters” that opposes minorities receiving
special treatment in the FDNY’s recruitment process.

The FDNY’s black and Hispanic targeted recruitment practices are unfair, Mannix says, and Vulcan Society leads those efforts.

“They’re not seeking equal treatment, they’re seeking preferential treatment,” Mannix said.


Judge: city must pony up cash over discrimination

Last week, a federal judge ruled that the city could be on the hook for up
to $128 million in damages because of the FDNY’s discriminatory exams.

Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis came up with the figure by
determining that if the 1999 and 2002 hiring tests had been fair, nearly 300
more blacks and Hispanics would have become firefighters.

Applicants that passed the test but were not hired and firefighters that
were eventually hired can file for lost wages.

The city plans to appeal the decision.

“When all the proceedings have been completed, the damages, if any, that the
city will have to pay will be far less than $128 million,” City Corporation
Counsel Michael Cardozo said in a statement.

How did the test change?

The major difference between past FDNY entrance exams and Thursday’s test is reading comprehension, Vulcan Society vice president Michael Marshall said.

Before, reading comprehension was a major part of the test and statistically, minorities did poorer than whites, Marshall said.

“This is a physical job, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do this,” said Marshall.
The Vulcan Society pushed for a more basic, general exam to even the playing field, said Marshall.

The following are sample questions the city posted for Thursday’s exam. According to the samples, there is a video lesson and then test takers are asked to answer the following questions:

What areas of the body are subject to permanent damage caused by the dangerous chemical discussed in this lesson? (click one or more)
    — Skin (burning)
    — Eyes (blurred vision)
    — Ears (hearing damage)
    — Lungs (breathing problems)
    Answer: Eyes and Lungs

Which of the following is TRUE about the dangerous chemical discussed in the lesson? (Click one or more)
    — It may be found in buildings constructed between 1950 and 1975
    — It is produced by lead paint
    — It can cause eye irritation
    — It cannot be detected
    Answer: It may be found in buildings constructed between 1950 and 1975, and it can cause eye     irritation.

Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyAEpstein


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.