Judge Orders City to Pay Millions to Black, Latino FDNY Applicants

By Jill Colvin on March 9, 2012 10:18am 

Firefighters rescued a man from a collapsed trench on East 122nd Street March 2, 2012.
Firefighters rescued a man from a collapsed trench on East 122nd Street March 2, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

MANHATTAN — A judge has ordered the city to shell out nearly $129 million in back pay to black and Latino candidates who took FDNY tests deemed discriminatory.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis has long maintained the FDNY intentionally discriminated against minority groups for decades by using entrance exams designed to keep them out of the department.

The money is intended to compensate applicants who took the exam in 1999 and 2002 for the salary and benefits they would have received had they been hired at that time.

“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,” Garaufis wrote in a ruling issued Thursday, which he blamed on “the City’s decision to ignore clear violations of federal law.”

Despite recent efforts, the city's firefighters remain overwhelmingly white.

Between 2001 and 2007, the number of black firefighters held steady at just three percent, despite the fact that blacks constitute one quarter of the city’s population, the judge had previously said. There are currently about 350 black firefighters among the 11,500 in the department — a number far short of the African-American presence in other uniformed services.

The city has long insisted that it has done everything in its power to ensure new tests are fair and to aggressively recruit minority candidates.

"We believe the Court's latest opinion is erroneous, and, in any event, is the first step in a lengthy process,” city lawyer Michael Cardozo said a statement. “As the Court itself noted, any damages the City ultimately must pay will be reduced by the amount each member of the class earned. When all the proceedings have been completed, the damages, if any, that the City will have to pay will be far less than $128 million."

Mayor Bloomberg told WOR's John Gambling Friday that the city intends to appeal the ruling.

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