Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, the self-appointed King of the New York Fire Department, continues his war against the health, safety and financial well-being of city residents. In his latest salvo against the people, fired last week, he declared that the city must pay out up to $128 million to FDNY candidates who failed the department’s most recent exams and therefore were not hired — at least those who are not caucasian.
That’s right. These are reparations for minorities only. And the figure is double what the judge had said it would be just a few weeks earlier. It supposedly represents what up to 2,200 failing candidates would have earned had they been hired.
The order is just the latest affront to come from Garaufis as a result of the employment discrimination case he’s been hearing. Over time he’s decided that a higher proportion of minorities fail the FDNY test because of intentional discrimination on the part of the city; thrown out the three most recent exams as a result; forced a hiring freeze on the department; threatened to impose outright hiring quotas — two black candidates and one Hispanic among every five new hires — if the city didn’t follow his every wish; and allowed minority applicants who did not complete their forms, or paid their fees, on time to go over deadline and complete everything with the help of current members of the department, while white candidates were told tough luck.
All of this stems from what certainly is a noble and worthy goal — diversifying a department that is more than 90 percent white. But the ends don’t justify the means. Expanded outreach to the minority community is fine, and has been done. Holding test prep classes in minority neighborhoods is fine, and also has been done. These are legitimate applications of affirmative action. Quotas, reparations and reverse discrimination are not.
Forcing the taxpayers to pay people for work they never did, at a job they didn’t earn, is outrageous. Also, those eligible for the payments include candidates who scored as low as 25 on the test, when the department usually hires those who score 95 or above.
We would like to see a Fire Department as diverse as, say, the Police Department. We don’t want any New Yorker to feel discriminated against on the basis of race. But we don’t buy the judge’s argument that the city has purposely tried to keep the FDNY lily white, and we certainly don’t agree with his drastic rulings that are somehow meant to remedy the situation.
Candidates will begin taking a new test that the judge approves of this week. We hope that afterward hires will be made solely on the merits of each applicant, and that stewardship of the FDNY will be returned to the administration, where it belongs.