NEW YORK CITY — The city will "immediately" move forward with hiring a new class of badly-needed firefighters, after a judge approved the FDNY's new hiring exam.
Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis issued a ruling Friday that the FDNY's latest version of the exam, which was taken by more than 41,000 candidates this spring, does not discriminate against minority candidates, as previous versions had.
The city has been barred from making new hires since 2010, when Garaufis ruled old tests blatantly discriminated against minority applicants — resulting in hundreds of department vacancies.
City officials hailed the decision, which comes after an aggressive effort by the FDNY to recruit minority applicants.
"The FDNY's strong commitment to diversity was evident in our recruitment campaign for this exam where 46 percent of the test takers were people of color — the same overall percentage of minorities at the top of this list," FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said in a statement.
"We're pleased that we can now begin hiring to fill the more than 650 current vacancies in the firefighter ranks," he said.
The FDNY will begin processing candidates "immediately" and expects to hire two classes of
firefighters every year for the next "several years," officials said.
The new classes are expected to be far more diverse than the existing force.
Between 2001 and 2007 the number of black firefighters held steady at just three percent of the force, despite the fact that blacks constitute one quarter of the city’s population, court documents show.
Judge Garaufis had been deeply critical of the Bloomberg administration, accusing the mayor of silently endorsing discriminator hiring practices by "ignoring" evidence of discrimination that "was obvious to anyone else who looked.”
The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the Vulcan Society, the black firefighters’ association, after it filed a series of complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission starting in 2002.