A Brooklyn federal judge yesterday made permanent his earlier decision to bar the city from hiring new firefighters based on an entrance test he said unfairly discriminates against black and Hispanic applicants.
"The Fire Department’s use of discriminatory testing procedures is a decades-old problem," wrote Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in his ruling.
Garaufis emphasized that the city can still hire the personnel it needs if it uses one of five court-approved methods for ensuring that firefighter recruits better represent a cross-section of the city's diverse population.
In September, the city had rejected the options, arguing that they represented “some form of race-based quota” contrary to the city's public-policy interests and the law.
The city had also argued that the judge's earlier temporary ruling was creating a manpower shortage for the world's second largest fire department, endangering the public's safety.
The judge countered in his opinion today that the city lacks credibility when it claimed that a personnel shortage will risk lives, given that the fire department is weighing plans to close firehouses and reduce staffing levels due to its current fiscal circumstances.
Garaufis' decision now makes permanent the interim order he issued this summer.
While blacks represent nearly 26 percent of New York City’s population and Hispanics account for 27 percent, black and Hispanic firefighters comprised just 3.4% and 6.7%, respectively, of the city's 8,998 firefighters when the civil-rights lawsuit was filed in 2007, the judge stated in his ruling.
The federal discrimination lawsuit, filed by the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization for black firefighters, claimed that two previous tests used to screen firefighter applicants discriminated against minorities.
The Fire Department declined to comment on the judge's ruling and directed calls to the city's legal division. A call to the city's Law Department requesting comment was not immediately returned.
In a written statement, Georgia Pestana, an attorney with the city Law Department, said that the Administration plans to take the matter to a higher court.
"The City will now file its appeal and will, of course, comply with the order pending the appeal," Pestana said.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.