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Queens Chronicle

City rules in favor of black firefighters

Vulcan Society exam preparation classes were private, not public

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:20 am, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

The city’s Commission on Human Rights has rejected a claim by a white FDNY applicant that an organization representing black firefighters was guilty of discrimination when it initially denied him entrance to an application test tutoring session in 2012.

Martin Tubridy of Arverne filed the complaint this past January, claiming that the Vulcan Society, which is made up of current and former African-American firefighters, discriminated against him because of his race.

But in a seven-page ruling issued on Oct. 8, the NYCHR ruled that the Vulcan Society is a private club and that the tutorials for the FDNY entrance exam were not a public accommodation as defined by law, and therefore do not come under the commission’s jurisdiction.

Tubridy’s complaint states that he went to JHS 72 in Rochdale Village on Feb. 29, 2012, where the Vulcan Society planned to offer tutorials to potential FDNY candidates who had identified themselves as black on their applications.

Tubridy said he and other white applicants were shunted to one side of the room while black applicants who were confirmed as invited guests were located in another.

The applicants were invited by email and were required to respond to receive confirmation that they would attend.

The commission also determined that the Vulcan Society did not advertise the tutorials on its website or elsewhere.

“The commission finds that the ... tutorials were not a public accommodation ... because they were distinctly private in nature and thus, not within the jurisdiction of the [New York City Human Rights Law],” it ruled.

It found that the Vulcans are a private club, funded solely by membership dues, and that those signing up for the tutorial were guests being invited to a private function. It ruled that the process followed by the Vulcan Society made every effort to keep the event “distinctly private.”

The commission also ruled that white applicants were not discriminated against by the Vulcans when ordered to leave the site of the tutorial, as they were ordered to do so by officers from the NYPD and were only ordered to leave after they allegedly became unruly and disruptive.

Neither the Vulcan Society, the FDNY nor representatives of the group Merit Matters responded to messages seeking comment on this story.

Merit Matters is an organization of firefighters who have been openly critical of lawsuits like the one filed against the city aimed at increasing minority hiring within the FDNY.

They have accused the Vulcan Society and others of attempting to achieve diversity within the department’s ranks by lowering FDNY testing-and-hiring standards at the cost of public safety.

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, ruling on a lawsuit against the city, found that black and Hispanic applicants were discriminated against on FDNY tests issued in 1999 and 2002 because they had lower passing rates than whites.

He also ruled that the exams were not sufficiently job-related.

A federal Appeals Court this past May completely reversed Garaufis’s finding of intentional discrimination against minority applicants.

It remanded the matter back to U.S. District Court and also ordered that Garaufis be removed from any further participation in the case.

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