Finally: Judge Orders NYC To Do Something About the Racist FDNY It Ignored For a Decade

The Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters, first fired a complaint about the Fire Department of New York's (FDNY) racist hiring in 2002, but only today will the FDNY be held accountable for a decade of documented racism. On Thursday, federal judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that the FDNY must hire 186 black firefighters and 107 Latino firefighters, and held the City of New York responsible for paying $128 million in reparations to black and Latino applicants turned away, or hired late off the eligibility list, from the 1999 and 2002 firefighter exams.

It's no accident that the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) is 90% white in a city where non-Hispanic whites account for only 35 percent of the population. In fact, two years ago, Judge Garaufis ruled that the FDNY engaged in a "pattern, practice, and policy of intentional discrimination" -- the key word being intentional -- by ignoring calls to change a testing procedure previously determined to be racist. 

Indeed, what is most shocking about the case is how long city officials sat on their hands, even after they were well-aware of problems.  “It has been in the City’s power to prevent or remedy the need for damages proceedings for a decade, and it has not done so,” Judge Garaufis wrote in his ruling, adding that reparations are “consequences of the City’s decision to ignore clear violations of federal law.”

Though long-awaited and well-deserved, the reparations are not all positive. The gross total does not include compensation for damages or medical coverage, and will be subject to reductions for the earnings of each plaintiff during the period examined.  

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Vulcan Society. While the groups consider today's ruling a victory, they still lament the time during which New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not attempt to remedy clear racism. 

CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy said in a press release, “We are gratified that this case has finally forced the Fire Department and the City to reckon with the NYFD’s decades-long legacy of discrimination and that it sends a strong message that access to the City’s best jobs must be open to all.”

But taxpayers, not Bloomberg, are paying for the racism the Mayor ignored.  In his 2010 ruling, Garaufis called the FDNY a "stubborn bastion of white male privilege," and said of Bloomberg:

Instead of facing hard facts and asking hard questions about the city's abysmal track record of hiring black and Hispanic firefighters, the Bloomberg administration dug in and fought back [against efforts to end discrimination]. Today - four years of litigation and two adverse liability rulings later - the city still doesn't get it.  

It is unlikely, even now that racism will affect New York City's wallet, that Bloomberg will pay more attention to what he should have given a damn about years ago. New York City's institutionalized racism is clearly evident in the city's stop-and-frisk record, which shows that almost 90% of those interrogated by police are black and Latino, with the slimmest minority of them doing anything wrong. What's more, in NYC, 86% of the city's annual marijuana arrestees (which are closely linked to stop-and-frisk) are black or Latino, even though whites use the drug at slightly higher rates. Bloomberg has made no moves to address these pressing issues, and given his track record, it is doubtful he ever will.  

Read more about the judge's ruling on the FDNY here.

Read a comprehensive report on Bloomberg's racist New York here

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at March 8, 2012, 10:00am

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