City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) is seeking to snuff out what some say are FDNY hiring practices that disfavor women.
Crowley called for the Fire Department to employ more women during a rally on City Hall steps last week, shortly before the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee held a hearing on the department’s recruiting, training and staffing procedures.
The councilwoman, who is chairwoman of the committee and co-chair of the Council’s Women’s Caucus, said there are 44 women in the FDNY, which amounts to less than one-half percent of the department’s ranks. Nationwide, advocates say women account for an average of 4.5 percent of fire departments’ ranks. They have blamed the department’s decision to use an obstacle course once reserved for training only into a timed test and what they describe as other unnecessarily physical exercises for keeping women out of the FDNY.
“Cities like Minneapolis and San Francisco have up to 30 times more women serving in their fire departments,” Crowley said in a statement. “The city not only needs to increase and rethink its recruitment efforts, it needs to answer serious questions regarding testing methods in the Fire Academy that may be keeping female probationary firefighters from graduating.”
The hearing also took up legislation introduced by City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) that would require FDNY to release statistics on the background and gender of those seeking to join the FDNY through every phase of the application process, from the written exam to graduation day at academy.
The FDNY settled a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against blacks and Latinos earlier this year.
Twenty-five of Rosenthal’s colleagues have signed onto the bill, including City Council members Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Crowley.
Much of the hearing focused on an obstacle course called the functional skills training known as FST. Sarinya Srisakul, president of the United Women Firefighters, said the department used the exercise solely as a training tool when she went through the academy. But beginning in 2008, she said the department began to time and grade the obstacle course, and used a constantly changing average time to decide who passes and fails the exercise.
A copy of FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro’s testimony before the Council details his commitment to diversity within the department. He cited as an example Elizabeth Casico, whom he appointed executive officer, and said an outside consultant would help the FDNY assess its Academy in 2015.
Nigro said FST is no longer used to nix applicants but is factored into trainees’ overall grades.
Srisakul, however, questioned this.
“In practice the instructors there still adhere to these arbitrary times for the probational firefighters to pass,” she said.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at stran
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