A federal judge on Monday listened to FDNY smokeaters’ complaints about the new policies he’s ordered to diversify the nation’s largest fire department.
Speakers aired objections at a public hearing in Brooklyn federal court, condemning a plan to give priority hiring status — and retroactive seniority — to minority firefighter applicants who took entrance examinations the court says were discriminatory.
The move to award retroactive seniority to firefighter applicants who weren’t hired due to discrimination was one of the chief targets of criticism.
Jim Byrnes, an FDNY lieutenant who’s assigned to Ladder Company 29 in the Mott Haven section of The Bronx, said the seniority issue was “going to cause a lot of resentment.”
Applicants given seniority — despite their lack of field experience — could result in a person becoming a supervisor without the depth of knowledge that firefighters glean from years of battling blazes, he said.
“Experience counts, and you can’t give it away,” Byrnes said after the hearing.
Paul Mannix, an FDNY deputy chief who heads the anti-quota advocacy group Merit Matters, said hiring policies should be colorblind and benefit those most qualified for the job — people of all races and both genders.
But FDNY Capt. Paul Washington, an African-American firefighter and former president of the Vulcan Society, which sued to force the changes, said the new policies represent a proud achievement for his advocacy group and will alter the face of the FDNY — which he said is composed of “90 percent white males.”Judge Nicholas Garaufis will preside over more hearings that will continue through Thursday.
Although 177 people were scheduled to speak, only 36 took to the microphones — with some apparently deciding not to appear because the speaking time was limited to only two minutes, Mannix said.
Republished with permission of The New York Post