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Maybe Minorities Aren’t Interested In Being Firefighters
October 17th, 2006

The New York City Fire Department announced earlier this week that it was extending the deadline to apply to be a firefighter, by three weeks — through Nov. 3 — in hopes of increasing the number of applicants, especially people of color. But an editorial in the New York Post implies that is unlikely to have much effect — just as spending millions on advertising, and relaxing its hiring requirements also did nothing change the make-up of a department that is overwhelming white and male. “There are fewer overall applicants than for the last exam, in 2002, and fewer minority-group members too,” the Post writes. Its conclusion? “Is it too much to hope that the bean counters at the Justice Department – and ambulance-chasing lawyers looking to make quick bucks filing discrimination suits – will at some point take the manifest minority lack of interest in applying for the FDNY into account? Certainly there should be no further dilution of recruiting standards.”

By on October 17, 2006, 9:12 pm
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Gotham City | 18 Comments »

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18 Responses to “Maybe Minorities Aren’t Interested In Being Firefighters”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    October 18th, 2006 at 7:12 am

    After the 40 percent in starting pay, new New York City firefighters will earn $25,000. But more double that amount must be set aside for the long stretch of time post-retirement when they are paid to do nothing.

    Reverse those figures, and you might attract more applicants from a variety of places. As it is, at great cost, you only attract those for whom firefighting is a family tradition, and/or who have other sources of income.

    The same is true for cops, teachers, etc. And worse, because we have no trouble attracting qualified firefighers, and substantial trouble attracting qualified teachers and cops.

  2. Chris Says:
    October 19th, 2006 at 1:41 am

    Maybe minorities do not want to become firefighters because they will not make enough money to pay for gold teeth, and 22″ rims on an escalade. If you do not want to become a firefighter, then don’t. Extending the test date and weakining the entrance requirements is only doing one thing, weakening the department! I dont want a woman to come to my rescue who doesent have the physical ability to pull my fat a$$ out of a fire, just because some lawyer wanted a comission. There is a reason NY’s Bravest is the best department in the country. If it aint broke, don’t dix it!

  3. Rich R. Says:
    October 19th, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    Probie firefighters in NYC start out making poverty wages. A guy with a family can actually qualify for food stamps. And for that they get the honor of risking their lives?
    Want to get more minorities to apply? Start by paying a living wage!
    The civil service process to become a firefighter is as color and gender blind as it can be. You take tests that measure your ability to perform the job, you score high enough, you get hired, simple.
    Lowering the standards is not the answer. It only weakens the fire department and endangers public safety.

  4. Pat D Says:
    October 20th, 2006 at 10:49 am

    The entrance exam to become a firefighter is discriminatory. It discriminates, as any test does, against those who are not qualified to pass it. The written exam is a straight forward reading comprehension multiple choice test. To pass this test, one must possess the ability to read in English, along with some logical common sense. This exam is relevant to firefighting in the fact that firefighters need to be able to understand department orders and regulations. These include training bulletins, firefighting procedures and evolutions, etc. which are published by the FDNY. In short, the department is constantly implementing new protocols and procedures, and the members must continuously familiarize themselves with these. The physical test is demanding, but it needs to be, in order to reflect the strenuous duties of firefighting. I find it insulting that there are so many lawyers and politicians fighting the FDNY to lower its standards in order to recruit more minorities. The FDNY is a low paying-high stress job. Why not force corporate America to reward more minorities with high paying office jobs? Why not lower the standards for the Bar Exam so that we have more minority lawyers? Will we make Med school easier so that we’ll have more minority doctors? This will not happen, because it is nonsense! The bottom line is that as a member of the FDNY, I need to know that the firefighter watching my back in a fire is the most competent, qualified person there is. If we lower the testing standards, this will not be the case. To those who disagree, I ask one question. Would you change your mind if it was your son/daughter/brother/sister in my position? Would you be willing to sacrifice their well-being in order to make the FDNY “more representative of the community”? This is a serious matter, probably more so to firefighters, rather than the general public, because it seems only we realize how important it is to depend on each other.

  5. lee Says:
    October 20th, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    i second cc’s question–what standards have been lowered? i looked at the FDNY application guidelines and then looked into the NYC statutory and regulatory codes to see if there had been any changes or even proposed ones and didn’t find any. where did you come up with that? who is arguing to lower the standards? couldn’t find any law journal article, news article, city or state news about anyone saying anything about lowering the standards. the bottom line is the pay scale sucks and minorities do not get promoted in the same way as others (found lots of cases and settlements against fire departments on this issue)

  6. KATHY PRITCHARD Says:
    October 23rd, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    MY GOD, I DONT BELIEVE ANYTHING SHOULD BE LOWERED FOR ANYONE. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT FDNY THESE ARE MEN AND WOMAN WHO RISK THERE LIVES EVERYDAY FOR OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. THEY RUN INTO HARMS WAY FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY.AND NOW LAWYERS THINK TO ACCOMADTE OTHERS THE STANDARDS SHOULD BE LOWERED WHYYYYYYYYYY???????????? IF YOU CANT CUT IT THE WAY IT IS MOVE ON PAL.

  7. Pat D Says:
    October 23rd, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Lee, you need to do better research,
    NY DAILY NEWS Oct 16th
    In May, with the department’s hiring practices under investigation by the Justice Department, the FDNY launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to lure more minority-group firefighters. In August, it relaxed its hiring requirements.”

    NY DAILY NEWS Oct 17th
    The new test will now be graded pass or fail instead of on a point system, potentially allowing more people to pass the test.

    And Lee, I can’t speak for other departments, but within the FDNY, minority firefighters receive promotions the exact same way white ones do. They must pass a written examination.

  8. Peter Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 9:22 am

    One of many new small high schools in the heart of East New York is sponsored by the Fire Department (FDNY High School) – the kids will graduate with EMT certification – and almost ten kids apply for each slot – all minority kids!! a logical path for FDNY minority recruitment is to sponsor more small hs in other boros …

  9. Larry Littlefield Says:
    October 25th, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    (MY GOD, I DONT BELIEVE ANYTHING SHOULD BE LOWERED FOR ANYONE.)

    Even if it means richer pensions after shorter careers? In 1995, then-Mayor Giuliani and the teacher’s union agreed to a temporary incentive to allow thousands of veteran teachers to retire early with full benefits. These were replaced by green, uncertified teachers, at lower wages, in the middle of an enrollment surge. The only loss was in the quality of education. Did anybody care?

    The state legislature passed a huge pension enrichment in 2000, and more afterward, diverting $billions in tax dollars away from wages for new employees. So the city and unions responded by agreeing to deep cuts in pay for new hires. That won’t hurt the quality of public services in the suburbs, where people who matter live, or in Florida, where they are going, will it?

    This happens over and over and over. Project it forward. In the end, we’ll get teachers who haven’t graduated from high school and firefighters who can’t climb a flight of stairs, all paid min. But our taxes will still be through the roof, because those already on the job will be allowed to retire at age 28 and 3/4 pay! It will help the politicians and union leaders get re-elected.

  10. Pat D Says:
    October 29th, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    Larry, you must remember that in regards to firefighting, a 20 year career is considered a long career. This is not a job meant for middle-aged people. Firefighters’ bodies take a tremendous beating. In fact, recent data stated that the average lifespan of an FDNY firefighter after he retires is 7-10 years. Remember that when firefighters first take the job they are in better shape and health than 90% of the population. I believe you are taking this fact too lightly. Your article seems to imply that firefighters are not deserving of their pensions.
    Also keep in mind that politicians (Guiliani for 1) diverted millions of dollars away from pension funds when the stock market was at an all time high. As the market went down, pension costs became a hot issue again.
    Finally, taxes in nyc are the lowest in the area (Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester). Yet, we have the best Fire Department in the world. There are many projects within the city’s budget that are far more deserving of your harsh criticism. Do you know how much nyc will spend this year on other projects – ballparks in conjunction with the new Yankee stadium, for example? Over $100 million! Check out the city’s website. The numbers will astound you.

  11. Haile Rivera Says:
    November 1st, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    This is a very delicate topic. Some argue that we should not ask less of those applying now then those who are now Firefighters. Others argue that this is a great way of attracting more minorities to the FDNY.

    Personally, we should begin my increasing the starting salary and we should review how promotions take place and who makes those promotions.

    I would also suggest that applications are made available in all firestations. I would also suggest that a training course is established, either by the union or the Department, even if there is a small fee for it.

    As a Dominican-American, I always dreamed of becoming a firefighter. Life took me in other directions.

    Without question, we need to have more minorities in the Fire Department, including the rank and file.

    Respectfully,

    Haile Rivera
    Bronx, NY

  12. Mike Hunt Says:
    February 16th, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Lowering standards is a dumb rule. that is why they set standards to begin with!! If they can not pass then they do not deserve to be firefighters. When you lower standards you are hurting the integrity of the Dept. AND the public you are sworn to protect. If you cannot properly protect them…then my be sworn to do so..sounds like an oxymoron to me!!

  13. Alex Says:
    March 9th, 2007 at 2:14 am

    Umm Dummying down the department to hire minorities?? Blacks Hispanics and everyone else should be insulted.. If you cant pass the test the way it was meant to be i dont know but i would say you do not belong there.. if you can not do well on the physical you are not meant to go there.. simple as that.. its a compromise of lives property and taxpayers dollars to “fix” historical injusticies… because there was slavery and whatever else does not mean a black person should be given a job over a white person when the other is more qualified.. i think this whole issue should be looked at as affirmative action at its worst… if you cant do well on the test oh well peace… these civil service tests are very simple .. there is no rocket science involved.. reading comprehension simple math and basic knowledge.. and besides that firefighting is very physical.. sure women have been handed the short end of the stick for years however when it comes to tough grueling jobs such as firefighting most women cant cut it… i took the C-Pat in the Connecticut fire academy when i was going for the job in norwalk.. im in very good shape and have been working out running etc for years and it was tough.. the two females who took the test could not get past the first event.. todays average male victim is going to be over 200 pounds and if he cant move guess what its dead weight… thats if you are on the ladder if you are on the engine umm handling a 1″ 3/4 line while its charged with 130-160 discharge pressure from the pump coming at you after you factor in the friction loss guess what its tough even with 2 or 3 people on the line… its a tough job if you can not perform or are not able to pass the tests required to get in hey you do not belong there.. it might be racist of me but cmon baseball is mostly hispanic maybe they are better baseball players basketball is mostly black maybe they are better basketball players majority of firefighters are caucasian maybe caucasians are better firefighters lol i dont know

  14. Bethel G. Says:
    March 14th, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Cease and desist folks!

    We all agree that relaxing the hiring requirements for ANY job; ESPECIALLY this one, is both insulting to the prospective applicant and ultimately deems ineffective as a hiring strategy.

    However, any Native New Yorker, and I’m talking residency from over the past 40 years (newbies in gentrified neighborhoods don’t count), knows that certain city and state jobs were EXTREMELY difficult for persons of color to obtain.

    For example, the FDNY, Court Officers, Sanitation, LIRR conductors and motormen,just to name a few. These were positions that were held predominantly by white males, and although “minority” applicants were qualified, their applications were “overlooked” when it came to hiring.

    White males within those city and state agencies admonished change and preferred the status quo to remain as it were. Persons of color were relegated to the MTA as city bus drivers, and subway operators, and only until twenty years or so ago, track workers.

    So, instead of being the defendant in a lawsuit brought on by the EEOC, the FDNY had to scurry and get their numbers right.

  15. Mrs. O Says:
    November 11th, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Right on Pat D! I am a hispanic woman. My husband took the physical test before it was changed which was based on the strongest and fastest getting the higher marks and the test now is based on pass/fail not taking into account the strongest and fastest, all the person had to do was get the task done in the allowed time. This is appauling. In a fire the flames are not going to allow you a certain amount of time to get out. Our firefighters need to get us and themselves out fast. I wouldn’t mind if my hero was black, white, man or woman. Just as long as they were the smartest, fastest and strongest of the applicants to carry my a$$ out of a fire!
    As far as pay goes, you better have a second job as most firefighters most likely do or a spouse with a high paying job as well. A person has to have the desire to be a firefighter, it’s not just a job it’s a calling. My husband left a top paying position when he was called and I was on maternity leave having had our first child only one month prior.

  16. vern Says:
    March 4th, 2011 at 1:50 am

    we all risk our lives on the job why do firefighters think there so special that they van rob the tax payer

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