Posted on September 27, 2022

FDNY Firefighters Are Overwhelmingly White Men. The City Council Wants to Change That.

Jake Offenhartz, Gothamist, September 19, 2022

New York lawmakers announced new legislation on Monday that would require the FDNY to hire more women and minority firefighters, the latest push to diversify an agency that has been repeatedly sued for discriminating against non-white applicants.

The legislation would require the FDNY to develop and implement a plan by March 1st to ensure firefighters “reflect that of the city’s population as a whole.” Currently, more than three-quarters of firefighters are white men, and less than 1% are women.

The package would also broaden transparency requirements within the department, while mandating the FDNY survey each firehouse to identify facility upgrades needed to achieve a safe environment for a mixed-gender workforce.

The bills follow several other legislative attempts to solve the agency’s diversity problems – a threat not just to equity, but to the “fundamental safety of all New Yorkers,” according to Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

“The credibility of our agencies is connected to their being reflective of those they serve,” Adams said at a hearing on Monday. “And the FDNY is a pivotal agency to public safety.”

Since 2011, a federal monitor has overseen the fire department’s recruiting practices, after a judge found the agency “remained a stubborn bastion of white male privilege.”

The ruling followed a suit brought by the Vulcan Society, a Black firefighters group, accusing the department of discriminating against minorities through its civil service exam.

In her testimony on Monday, the FDNY’s acting fire commissioner, Laura Kavanaugh, who is also the first woman to lead the department, said she supported the council bills.