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Battle Erupts Over Who Gets First Dibs In FDNY Hiring Effort

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While the city has been given the green light to begin hiring a new class of FDNY firefighters following a four-year dispute over the department's entrance exam, a new battle is now brewing over how to proceed.

At issue is whether the 293 black and Latino firefighters who previously took the test in 1999 or 2002 should be given priority on the list of eligible candidates.

Firefighters representing both sides of the issue met at Brooklyn federal court on Monday to present their arguments to a judge.

"They're going to get the opportunity to pass the new test and to pass the tests in the academy and the C-PAT. Whereas people that scored better than them on the original written tests won't solely because of the color of their skin. White people who scored better than them won't get that chance," said Paul Mannix of Merit Matters.

"How dare they think that they deserve any entitlements? They are the ones who ask and constantly receive entitlements. Let's talk about that. Let's look at the New York CIty Fire Department. It's 97 percent white male. You mean to tell me in a city of 10 million people we don't have a more diverse pool to choose from," said Vulcan Society President John Coombs.

The city revamped the FDNY entrance exam after a judge ruled it discriminated against minorities.

"Nothing in life is free. I want to be able to earn it but I just want the chance to earn it," said aspiring firefighter Daniel Vasquez.

"If you're motivated to do something you will do it and you will do everything you can to do it. And if you fail, then you have no one to blame but yourself," said Brooklyn firefighter Jimmy Condit.

Also at issue is whether minority candidates would be eligible for back pay, something that could cost the city up to $128 million.

The Brooklyn judge said he would weigh all of the public's comments before making a decision on all of these issues. Public testimony was expected to pick back up on Tuesday.

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