2010-10-22 / Top Stories

Fed Judge Puts FD Hiring On Hold

By Howard Schwach

Under the ruling made Tuesday, the city’s fire department can’t hire new firefighters from existing lists unless it uses a quota system, something the mayor has turned down. Pictured, Rockaway firefighters in action in September. Under the ruling made Tuesday, the city’s fire department can’t hire new firefighters from existing lists unless it uses a quota system, something the mayor has turned down. Pictured, Rockaway firefighters in action in September. Federal judge Nicholas Garaufis on Tuesday made permanent his earlier decision to bar the city from hiring new firefighters based on an entrance test he said discriminates against blacks and Hispanics.

Garaufis, who also ruled that many of the adult homes that dot the Rockaway peninsula restrict the freedom of their patients and ordered that they be moved into assisted living situations throughout the community, had earlier ruled in the fire department case that the city could move on hiring only by setting up a quota system that would allow for more minority hires.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had determined to go along with the judge’s ruling, but then reversed course and refused to set up a quota system.

He hoped that the judge would reverse his ruling and allow for some hiring from the disputed list, arguing that new hires were necessary to maintain manning levels and to keep control of overtime.

Garaufis made clear that he wasn’t buying the mayor’s argument.

“The Fire Department’s use of discriminatory testing procedures is a decades-old problem,” wrote Garaufis in his ruling.

He emphasized that the city can still hire the personnel it needs — as long as it uses one of five court-approved methods for ensuring that firefighter recruits better represent a cross-section of the city’s population.

In September, the city had rejected the options, arguing that they represented “some form of race-based quota.”

The city had also argued that the judge’s earlier temporary ruling was creating a manpower shortage, endangering the public’s safety.

The judge countered in his ruling that the city’s argument lacks credibility, given that the FDNY is considering closing firehouses and reducing staffing levels.

The decision now makes permanent the interim order issued this summer.

The mayor’s office declined to coment on the ruling.

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