Black Firefighters Are Permitted Door-to-Door Outreach

The federal court monitor charged with diversifying the city’s Fire Department is allowing black firefighters to go door to door to persuade black applicants to join the department, over objections from city lawyers.

As part of a pilot program that was described in papers filed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, members of the Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters that sued the city for discrimination, will be provided with a list of black applicants whose applications are incomplete, so that Vulcan members can visit their homes and encourage them to follow up.

The Fire Department’s recruitment office already makes phone calls to applicants, and in a letter filed with the court, the city argued that this outreach was sufficient and that further efforts would violate the applicants’ privacy and cause confusion.

But the court monitor, Mark S. Cohen, found value in the home visits, hewing closely to an earlier ruling by the presiding judge in the case, Nicholas G. Garaufis.

After a bench trial, Judge Garaufis found that “the evidence shows that white firefighter candidates are significantly more likely to have friends or family members in the FDNY maintaining contact with them and encouraging them to persevere through FDNY’s inordinately long hiring process,” and that “black firefighters are significantly less likely to have similar informal support mechanisms available to them because of the city’s history of discriminatory testing procedures.”

By Dec. 1, there were 4,414 pending applications for the Fire Department exam, according to a letter the Vulcan Society filed in court. Nearly 52 percent of those were from black applicants. The next exam is scheduled for Feb. 27.

The court will permit the Vulcan Society to make home visits on three weekends in January. The monitor will reassess the effort after the pilot period ends.

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