New York

The FDNY, a “Bastion of White Male Privilege,” Placed Under Permanent Injunction by Judge


Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis laid down the law with the FDNY today, writing that the job of “New York City firefighter – arguably ‘the best job in the world’ – has remained a stubborn bastion of white male privilege.”

In a sweeping opinion, Garaufis concluded that after months (years, really) of testimony by the Vulcan Society of black firefighters, members of the FDNY brass, and the city that the Vulcans had proven their case in showing a discriminatory pattern of hiring and promoting people of color within the department. Though recent press coverage (including ours) has focused on the FDNY’s previous entrance exams and the new one which will be given in January, Garaufis’ opinion greatly expands the federal court’s role in forcing the FDNY to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (of, ahem, 1964). He expects that the court “will retain jurisdiction over the remedial phase of this litigation for at least ten years.”

Ironically, everything the Judge wrote about Mayor Bloomberg’s complete obstructiveness in this process makes his Young Men’s Initiative look absurdly hypocritical, which we reported on two weeks ago in “The White Mayor’s Burden.”

As the New York Post cited from Garaufis’s opinion, though this battle has been going for some 42 years, in the past decade the fault is largely the Mayor’s:

“The clear evidence of disparate impact that Mayor Bloomberg and his senior leadership chose to ignore was obvious to anyone else who looked. Instead of facing hard facts and asking hard questions about the City’s abysmal track record of hiring black and Hispanic firefighters, the Bloomberg Administration dug in and fought back.

“The only reason that the court today considers how to end the City’s discriminatory hiring practices and eliminate their lasting effects is that a coalition of black New York City firefighters and President George W. Bush’s attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, decided their only recourse was to sue the City of New York to make it stop.”

Rather than the federal court simply overseeing an overhaul of the next test (which has been coordinated by a Special Master, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White), the court will be overseeing hiring, promotion, and departmental practices for the foreseeable future.

Basically, the judge has ruled, the city has proven so incompetent and unwilling to “change the perception that the job is available only to white male candidates,” that if the FDNY wants to do anything other than wipe its nose, it will have to ask the federal government for permission.

A Court Monitor will be appointed to oversee Garaufis’s remedial order (and permanent injunction) he is placing the FDNY under. It is fair to say this is the most concrete action ever taken against the City of New York in the 42 years the federal government has been suing it for violating the Civil Rights Act.

Garaufis is soliciting names for who should be the Court Monitor on both sides. A hearing will be held on October 20th on the choice.

Related: A Q&A with Paul Washington, President of the Vulcan Society.


Here’s his full judgment:

FDNY Decision Oct 5 2011

And his draft remedial order:



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