The Vulcans are landing: Black firefighters to visit homes of new applicants

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 1/5/2012, 10:32 a.m.
It is quite likely that some inner-city residents may be visited by the Vulcans this...
Firefighters still fighting discrimination federal class-action lawsuit

It is quite likely that some inner-city residents may be visited by the Vulcans this weekend.

The Vulcan Society wants you.

The national organization of Black firefighters is making sure that applicants who filled out the paperwork to take the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) entrance exam scheduled for next month don't get lost in the shuffle and fall off the map.

Starting this Saturday, Jan. 7, Black firefighters will be knocking on doors of Black applicants to encourage them to follow through and complete their applications.

"There are about 2,000 Black applicants for the Fire Department of New York who haven't finished the paperwork for their applications or completed their waivers," said Mike Marshall, first vice president of the Vulcan Society.

During the recruitment drive last year, the city stated that people who were unemployed or in receipt of public assistance could get a waiver so they would not have to pay the $25 fee to apply to take the FDNY exam.

"They had to send in their ID and get a notarized letter stating that they were unemployed. These 2,000 people will not be eligible to take the test if they don't complete their paperwork by the end of January. We don't want to lose 2,000 Black applicants," said Marshall, who works out of Engine 257 in Canarsie.

"We don't want to lose 2,000 applicants just because they didn't fill out the paperwork and can't take the exam," he said.

The volunteering Vulcans will be knocking on the doors of applicants for the next three Saturdays. "We will be in teams of two going to certain addresses of people who have not completed their waivers or applications," Marshall explained.

Citing the city's "pattern and practice of discrimination against Black firefighter candidates," as well non-whites already on the job, Brooklyn Judge Nicholas Garaufis sided with a lawsuit brought against the FDNY by the Vulcan Society and the Justice Department.

In November, the federal judge appointed former federal prosecutor Mark S. Cohen as a court monitor to ensure diversity in the FDNY's hiring practices.

The city objected, but the appointment stayed and will be in place for the next 10 years.

"The whole lawsuit was about the city diversifying the FDNY," said Marshall, a lieutenant with 30 years on the job. "The Vulcans always wanted to help, but the city has always been reluctant. What we are doing, the city could be doing."

When asked about the city making phone calls to applicants, Marshall was not particularly moved. "Well, sometimes they have gotten no answer or answering machines or the numbers were not correct," he said. "But we are going to try to assist the FDNY in their efforts. We want to be in touch with the people who have not completed their applications. We want to help them get on the job."

While the FDNY isn't exactly in love with the idea, officials recognize that in order to redress the imbalance in a city that is over 60 percent Black and Brown, but with membership of 3 and just over 6 percent, respectively, something's got to give.