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...
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The numbers aren't great. The FDNY sent the AmNews their racial breakdown on request:

7372 white

314 Black

646 Hispanic

77 Asian

5 Native American

"The firefighters are still only 3 percent and the officers are 2 percent-less than 40 are Black officers. We want to increase the numbers of Blacks on the job," said Capt. Paul Washington, a 23-year vet who now works out of Engine 234 in Crown Heights.

City attorney Georgia Pestana, chief of the Labor & Employment Law Division of the New York City Law Department, determined, "We continue to have concerns about the Vulcans making unannounced visits to applicants' homes, but of course we will comply with the court's order."

John Coombs, president of the Vulcan Society, told the AmNews, "It's very important that all of the candidates who applied to join the New York City Fire Department do continue through the process. If they are to receive waivers, they must complete that form and they must complete the application form."

Coombs reflected on the many years it has taken and the many minds and hearts that toiled in the struggle to get Black men and women into a resistant FDNY. "Whatever it is the applicants need to do to continue the process that so many have worked hard and long for to ensure equality in the New York City fire department, they must do. This is an opportunity for the community as a whole to say thank you by at least doing their part."

"Around 3,000 out of 60,000 people have not finished their applications About 2,000 [of those] are Black," said Washington.

Last year's heavy recruitment drive resulted in 23 percent Black and 23 percent Latino applicants.

Stressing that the mission of the Vulcans has always been simply to address the racial imbalance in the FDNY, Washington said he is not worried about the perception that they are just pushing to get more Black folk on the job, since the numbers were so appalling in a city with a majority Black and Brown population. "A lot of Black candidates just don't know what a great opportunity this is. Many white candidates have family members on the job who can tell them how great a job it is. They can hold their hands and walk them through the process.

"We won this through Judge Garaufis, through the lawsuit," Washington said. "The city fought us in every stage, but the judge agreed with us about the FDNY's pattern of discrimination, and he appointed Mark Cohen to be the court monitor. We argued this plan of home visits in front of him, but the city said that they didn't agree and didn't want to give us the list of names of the candidates. The monitor sided with us."

Lt. Marshall, who works out of Engine 257 in Canarsie, said that applicants will be visited by Black firefighters and officers. "A lot of the Vulcans live in the areas where they work, in the same areas as many of the applicants."

"We just want to impress upon the people what a great job this is, and to have a Black firefighter there in person telling them this and explaining to them the great benefits has to be a bonus," Washington concluded.

"In the white community, they might have their father, their cousin or their uncle or their neighbor who is on the job. Not all, but the ones who are the most successful do have this. We just want to give a helping hand to the Black applicants who don't have this resource in their immediate family but do have it with us."'