Of roughly 11,000 firefighters in the city, only about 3 percent are black and 4.5 percent are Hispanic.
The city must change the FDNY's hiring practices that discriminated against minority applicants and possibly pay damages to thousands of victims, a judge ruled Thursday.
In a written decision in federal court in Brooklyn, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the city to develop new exams for entry-level firefighter positions. He also said that about 7,400 minority applicants who were victimized by discriminatory exams were eligible to file claims against the city and that nearly 300 applicants should be given priority hiring status and retroactive seniority.
"The best thing for the city to do is to realize they're wrong and then to move forward with correction," said firefighter John Coombs who's also president of the Vulcan Society, a group of minority New York City firefighters. "The correction is to diversify the department and not a continuum of the old boy's club."
The order follows a decision by Judge Garaufis earlier this month that found the fire department had intentionally discriminated against blacks. The FNDY has about 350 black firefighters out of 11,500 total.
Coombs adds that city residents are the real winners, "City residents deserve that more than anyone else. The world has changed, the city has changed and the FDNY should want to change as well."
In a statement Thursday, an attorney for the city's Law Department, Georgia Pestana said "An initial examination suggests that today's opinion does not fully address the complex constitutional issues presented, nor does it give proper weight to developments in this area of law.''
The city is analyzing and weighing the decision, but has not yet decided if they will appeal.