UPPER WEST SIDE — An FDNY dream job turned into a horror show for a black rookie firefighter who claims he was racially and sexually harassed during a twisted hazing ritual, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
On his first day on the job in May 2015, Gordon Springs, now 27, brought cakes and pies to the West 66th firehouse, as his drill instructors advised, according to the suit.
But when he got to Ladder 35 Engine 40 near Amsterdam Avenue, he was told by firefighter Peter Grillo, “Our house is really gay,” the suit charges.
He and three other probationary firefighters were then taken to the gym, where Springs was ordered by firefighter Pedro Aristy to lie down on a bench and grab a pair of dumbbells, according to court papers.
Springs tried to leave, but the doors were held shut by other engine company members. That’s when Aristy, completely naked, “moved his penis and testicles very close” to Springs, the suit alleges.
Springs also had to watch a naked firefighter doing pull-ups in the gym. Aristy later told him, “I know you liked my balls in your mouth,” according to the suit.
Springs, whose parents died when he was 2 and who was homeless for a period when he was 18, was distraught and afraid, his lawyer, Paul Liggieri, told DNAinfo.
“Gordon Springs is an individual who has persevered through tough times that most people haven’t. He was literally living on the streets,” Liggieri said.
“He pursued his dream of becoming an FDNY firefighter because he felt it would be the family he never had. It’s just a shame his dream became a nightmare.”
Two weeks after the hazing incident, Aristy pulled Springs off to the side and told him, “I don’t like you… blacks getting on the job this way. You don’t have good work ethic,” according to court papers.
Aristy also told Springs that if he complained, no one would have his back. “I could punch you in the face, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” the suit charges.
In other incidents his first year, Springs was hit over the head with a loaf of bread and doused with water and breadcrumbs after being ordered to climb a pole. Springs slipped and badly injured his back, according to court papers.
He complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner that fall and was ordered to complete some retraining by a supervisor. He also had his uniform destroyed as a result, the suit alleges.
Spring has since been transferred twice.
“I want everyone to know this is not an indictment against the brave men and women of the FDNY, who put their lives on the line every day,” Liggieri said. “This is an indictment against the negligence of the FDNY and against a few bad apples of the FDNY who committed these egregious, unlawful acts.”
The lawsuit names Aristy, Grillo, a lieutenant, another firefighter and FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro as defendants and seeks unspecified damages.
It was first reported by the New York Post.
"The Department aggressively investigated this incident, punished those involved, and will continue to mete out appropriate discipline to anyone who violates our anti-hazing policy," FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said in a statement.
The Law Department refused to comment citing the pending suit.