2012-02-17 / Letters

FDNY Press Release

Dear Editor,

While the lawsuit against New York City and the FDNY has produced some truly ridiculous and confusing arguments, one thing has remained consistent: the apparent contempt held by Judge Nicolas Garaufis for firefighters and the FDNY. Two issues related to firefighting in NYC seem to particularly gall him – the racial makeup of the FDNY and the fact that firefighters have a habit of recommending the job to friends and family. In criticizing us for these sins, however, Judge Garaufis is throwing stones in a glass courthouse.

According to him, because the expensive and extensive efforts to integrate the FDNY (including quota hiring in the 1970s and more than $20 million spent on recruitment since 1989) have not produced a racial balance he is comfortable with, the FDNY is “a student bastion of white male privilege.” But be advised, what has been stubborn is the city’s repeated attempted to integrate, and our employment is not viewed as a privilege, but something precious to work hard for and earn.

White males comprise approximately 90% of the firefighting ranks in the FDNY – almost exactly the percentage of white males in the Federal judiciary. There is a critical difference, however. Firefighters earn their jobs via a competitive civil service merit system; Federal judges are appointed via a patronage system where crony politics often intrude. Now that this similar racial and gender imbalance has been pointed out, perhaps Judge Garaufis will avoid charges of hypocrisy and resign so as to provide an opportunity for a member of an underrepresented group to be appointed. After all, this is what he has imposed on firefighter candidates.

As glaring as the hypocrisy just outlined is, it pales in comparison to the scathing criticism Judge Garaufis has thrown at the FDNY as it relates to friends and family. According to him, any advice or help given by current FDNY members is out of bounds although it is well known that the Vulcan Society also engages in this practice. Let’s examine how friends and family of the Judge are connected to his recent appointment of a Special Monitor for the FDNY.

What happened on the 19th floor at 800 Third Avenue in Manhattan? Well, on November 2, 2011 (one week before Mark Cohen was announced as Special Monitor) it was announced that the law firm of Cohen and Gresser signed a 10 year lease for that floor, adding to their offices on the 20th and the 21st floors. In what I am sure is a complete coincidence, Mr. Cohen’s employment as Special Monitor is expected to last 10 years.

Where does all this information leave us? Should a Special Monitor be appointed to review and approve all aspects of selecting federal judges? Should the CBC, government agencies or members of the media ask a few questions about the aspects related to the selection of Special Monitor Cohen and the network of family and friends surrounding it? I at least have one request for Judge Garaufis. If he decides not to resign so as to increase diversity, he should at least have the decency to stop delivering sanctimonious lectures to us on this topic.

Anyone who would like to learn more or have any other questions, feel free to contact me at: 516-848-9847


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