Mayor Bill de Blasio acted in the best interests of all New Yorkers yesterday when he reached an agreement with the Vulcan Society, settling a 2007 lawsuit that proved discriminatory hiring within the fire department.
Time to put this smoldering case to rest and move on.
The deal will cost the city almost $100 million in back pay and medical benefits to about 1,500 black and Hispanic applicants who’ve shown they were unfairly denied jobs.
While the litigation has a long and convoluted history, some deeply troubling points stand out.
When the lawsuit was filed in 2007, a mere 3.4 percent of FDNY firefighters were black and just 6.7 percent were Hispanic — in a city where 25 percent of all residents were black and 27 percent were Hispanic.
Until yesterday, the city’s official position was that any discrimination in the entrance exams was unintentional — you know, just one of those things.
But really. It’s hard to view such abysmal percentages as anything other than a flashing and persistent alarm that something within the process was gravely wrong.
The city’s other uniformed services have done better.
The lawsuit said that in 2000 black police officers were almost 17 percent of the NYPD. Nearly 25 percent of the Sanitation Department workforce was black as were 62 percent of corrections officers.
While the FDNY will compensate specific victims of its discriminatory policies under yesterday’s deal, it will also create new programs to head off future bias. Great idea.
At the moment the FDNY is 86 percent white, 9 percent Hispanic and 5 percent black. That’s still not what we’d call a showcase of diversity. A lot of work remains.
This case has burned like a painful wound over the years, setting rival groups of New Yorkers against each other and tarnishing the FDNY’s otherwise extraordinary record of bravery, toughness and achievement.
It’s time for the city to settle up some long-pending accounts payable and for the FDNY to become an even better organization.