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Queens Chronicle

FDNY is hiring new crop of firefighters

Applications accepted through Sept. 15; some ‘bias’ testers may reapply

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Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:58 pm, Thu Aug 11, 2011.

The FDNY is seeking to hire a new crop of Bravest and will be accepting applications through Sept. 15. The exam they will take will be the first since a federal judge ruled that three previous tests were biased and ordered a hiring freeze until the problem was corrected.

The test is scheduled to be administered between Jan. 3 and Feb. 3, 2012. The current minimum salary for a firefighter is $39,370 annually, reaching $76,488 annually after five years of employment.

In January 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that written exams administered to FDNY applicants in 1999 and 2002 are invalid due to racial bias, as evidenced by the few minorities who passed.

The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters, who have consistently lamented the lack of diversity in the FDNY.

In August 2010, Garaufis also ruled that the 2007 test is biased, and ordered a hiring freeze, unless the city followed certain hiring procedures that he had outlined, which many people believed were just glorified hiring quotas.

One person who is against what he has called “forced diversity” is Paul Mannix, an FDNY deputy chief with Division 6 in the Bronx and the founder of Merit Matters, an advocacy group “dedicated to preserving merit in the FDNY testing, hiring and promotion process.”

“We want them to get a shot because they were harmed through no fault of their own,” Mannix, who is not a spokesman for the FDNY, said of the previous test takers. “We have bent over backwards to try and integrate this job.”

Three times as many black candidates as took the exam in 2007 have applied to take the new test — 640 compared to 187 — according to published reports.

Applicants who took any of the three exams that were thrown out can reapply and take the new test.Those who took the 2007 exam but are now past the hiring age limit of 29 will be granted a one-time exception, provided they are not older than 35, according to Julianne Cho, a spokeswoman for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the agency that administers the exams.

“The test continues to be developed by experts retained by the city, the Vulcan Society and the United States under the supervision of a special master appointed by the court,” Cho said in an email.

Mannix said he fears that if the new exam does not yield a racially diverse pool that meets Garaufis’ approval, it will be thrown out and the whole process will start all over again.

Testimony began this week in a trial which was prompted by the lawsuit brought by the DOJ and Vulcan Society. Revelations by FDNY officials reported in the press have made the department look less than stellar and have called into question whether it really tries to be ethnically diverse.

Patricia Kavaler, who was an FDNY assistant commissioner for personnel in 2004, testified in Brooklyn Federal Court this week that high-ranking officials have lobbied the review board asking them to overlook some bad behavior by white candidates, according to published reports. It was also revealed that the department had hired two of the four white police officers who in 1999 shot Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man whom they thought had a gun, the reports said.

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