The city needs you: FDNY seeks Black recruits

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 3/21/2013, 11:08 a.m.
In certain realms, Vulcans hold a curious fascination for those of the Comic-Con faith. But...
Black FDNY firefighters

In certain realms, Vulcans hold a curious fascination for those of the Comic-Con faith. But in New York City, they are known to be a band of brothers and sisters in the fire department who not only protect and rescue city residents and property but also take on the legal fight when needed in order to ensure that a decent number of Black folks can get hired.

The Vulcans scored a victory recently when they won their lawsuit determining that the FDNY must get more Blacks and Latinos on the job.

"It is our victory," said Fire Captain Paul Washington, former president of the Vulcan Society. "We want as many Black men and women to take advantage of this as possible. This was a battle royale for the better part of a decade," said Washington. "The city would not acknowledge the blatant discrimination."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not respond to an AmNews request for comment.

Washington continued, "We really started in 1999 when we took legal, media and political action because of the appallingly low numbers of Blacks in the fire department. It was 3 percent then and it still is. It's been that way for 150 years."

With much fanfare, this month Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano announced the launch of an aggressive advertising and recruitment campaign to attract a diverse group of men and women to apply for the firefighter's exam, which is scheduled to be given in January 2012. You can apply if you are between ages 17-28. Qualified applicants can go online to file to take the test before the Sept. 15 deadline.

"There is no more rewarding career than to work as a firefighter and serve the people of New York City," said Commissioner Cassano, a 41-year veteran of the department. "We offer a very attractive salary and benefits package that, combined with a great work schedule and the pride that comes from serving others, offers one of the most exciting and rewarding careers available anywhere."

The summer application rush should be on in the Black community, Washington, a 23-year vet of the FDNY, urged. The process occurs about every four years, and, he said, "We anticipate that there will be a fairer and more accurate determination of who is a good firefighter and they won't just disqualify Black applicants arbitrarily. The application won't be easier but we are hoping that now, after all these legal victories, it will be fairer."

Washington explained to the AmNews that, in 2002, in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Vulcans filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-it was that first legal action that led to the lawsuit.

"The judge found that our grievance was legitimate but the FDNY refused to meet with us," said the activist firefighter. "So the case was turned over to the Justice Department in 2004. They, too, found our claims legitimate, the FDNY refused to meet with them, and so the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2007-that is the lawsuit that exists now. The Vulcans are interveners in that lawsuit. So it was us and the Justice Department against the city.