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Vulcan Society lawsuit changes the face of FDNY testing

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Special to the AmNews | 7/13/2011, 4:25 p.m.

At 12:01 a.m. on July 13, new applications for the FDNY exam became available. With this new round of tests, change has finally come to the procedures to help diversify the ranks of the department.

The big change comes in the form of the inclusion of five bonus points for New York City residents. To be eligible for the bonus points this year, applicants must prove residency from July 2010 through July 2011.

Here's how it works: Applicants 21 years of age or younger can get the bonus points by showing two proofs of residency, one of which may be a high school diploma from a New York City high school. Those over 21 years of age must show three proofs of residency. These may include a W-2, utility, cable or phone bill or a mortgage statement.

This has been a long, hard-fought battle, beginning with City Councilman Leroy Comrie's introduction of Firefighter's Bill 061. Comrie also introduced a resolution calling upon the state to enact a law allowing the five-point residency credit for applicants living in New York City.

The Vulcan Society, an organization of Black firefighters, filed a much-publicized lawsuit against the city last year, charging that the current tests were biased against Black and Hispanic applicants. In August, Judge Nicholas Garaufis agreed and ordered the city to draft a new one. The residency points are a sweet bonus.

Capt. Paul Washington, former president of the Vulcan Society, expressed his sentiments about this victory with the Amsterdam News.

"We're very pleased that this great opportunity to apply has once again become available," he said. "We want to see people of color, particularly Black people, come out in droves to take advantage of this opportunity. It's not a good job, it's a great job and we should take advantage of it. For the first time ever, city residents are going to have a big advantage in getting this job because of the much-improved residency credit.

"Secondly, due to the Vulcan Society's lawsuit, we're expecting a much more fair test to be given-one that will be an accurate predictor of a firefighter's abilities," Washington continued. "Lastly, the fire department is doing a much-improved job of recruiting Blacks into this great career."

The firefighter's exam is given once every four years, and it costs $30 to apply. The next test will be offered for qualified applicants in January 2012. The FDNY will be offering tutoring to help applicants prepare for the written exam. Applicants may apply online or at select FDNY locations.

More information will soon be available at www.fdny.com.