For the first time in almost five years, a new class of firefighters was sworn in Tuesday, and they look very different than those who’ve come before. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
The FDNY swore in 318 men and women into the department's first new class of firefighters since 2008 -- the fruits of a concerted effort by city officials to attract more minorities.
“42 percent of this class' members are Latino, African-American or Asian, making this our most diverse probie class ever,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The new class is 24 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black and 4 percent Asian.
By contrast, the department is currently 89 percent white, even though whites make up just a third of the city’s population.
“It shows that hard work by so many in this department to diversify our ranks, and better represent the city we serve, has paid off," Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano said.
Hispanics account for just 7 percent of firefighters versus 29 percent of the population, and blacks make up just 3 percent in a city that’s 23 percent black.
The new, more diverse class sworn in Tuesday will now undergo an 18 week training course and eventually begin to replenish a department currently down about 800 firefighters.
A federal judge had barred new hires, ruling the FDNY entrance exam was racially discriminatory. Though a redesigned exam and minority recruitment effort have cleared the way for more diversity, some are still unhappy with the results.
The black fraternal organization that originally brought the lawsuit, the Vulcan Society, says more can be done.
“All of this progress that we’re seeing in the fire department came through the efforts of the Vulcan Society," Paul Washington of the Vulcan Society said. "The mayor and the fire commissioner did none of this willingly. All of this was put upon them.”
Going forward, the FDNY hopes to hire two classes of firefighters like this one every year until the department is back at full strength.
They hope to swear in the next class in July.