Scores for Blacks and Hispanics Soar on Newly Revamped FDNY Test

John Marzulli, NY Daily News, September 26, 2012

Blacks and Hispanics scored significantly better on the newly revamped FDNY exam, a shift that could lead to firefighter jobs for as many as 42% of the minority-group test-takers, city officials revealed Tuesday.

The would-be minority-group firefighters far outscored those who sat for the previous three exams—the results of which were deemed discriminatory and tossed out by a judge.

Bravest hopefuls who nail a grade of 97 or higher are considered likely to be hired by the FDNY over the next four years.

Nearly half—42.3%—of minority-group members who took the test cleared that hurdle, officials said.

That’s much higher than top-scoring minorities who took the 1999 exam (14%), the 2002 exam (16%) and the 2007 exam (33%).

The results of all three earlier tests were thrown out by Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis in response to a 2007 lawsuit from the Justice Department and the Vulcan Society of black firefighters.

Based on the new data, the city’s top lawyer is now urging Garaufis to sign off on the exam so the FDNY can quickly begin hiring 300 new firefighters for an academy class tentatively set for January. The FDNY is 650 firefighters below its budgeted staffing level because it has been blocked from hiring new people.

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A record number of minorities took the written test last spring after an intense public relations campaign by the city geared toward reversing a trend that had left the FDNY more than 90% white.

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There’s now a total pool of 9,417 candidates who reached the 97 mark and are likely to be considered for hiring within four years. Of these, 5,045 are white, 1,859 are black, 2,131 are Hispanic, 31 are Asian and 351 are from other groups.

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A spokeswoman for the city Law Department noted that the new exam was crafted over 18 months to ensure that it was “job-related, fair and valid.”

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If approved by the judge, the first group of firefighters hired will be drawn from among a group of 873 FDNY medics and paramedics who took the exam. The exam’s pass rate was high. Of the 42,231 people who took the test, 40,426 passed with a score of 70 or above.

FDNY Battalion Chief Paul Mannix, an outspoken critic of the judge’s decision who believes the original lawsuit was bogus, said he still has questions about how the experts scored the exam.

“On the face of it, I have no confidence in the test and the list that will come of it,” Mannix said.

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