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Mayor Signs Legislation That Aims to Diversify Ranks of FDNY, Requires Ethnic Breakdown of Firefighters at Each Firehouse

Mayor Eric Adams signed legislation today that aims to diversify the ranks of FDNY (Photo courtesy of NYC Council)

Nov. 28, 2022 By Christian Murray

New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed legislation today that requires the FDNY to diversify the ethnic makeup of its ranks and introduce anti-discrimination training.

The mayor signed a package of five bills that aims to increase the recruitment of underrepresented groups within the department. The legislation also requires the department to report the ethnic makeup and gender of all its firefighters—including by firehouse.

“Our FDNY frontline heroes keep our city safe day in and day out, and today we take another step to strengthen and support New York City’s Bravest,” Mayor Adams said. “New York City’s diversity is our strength, and these five bills will help build a more inclusive FDNY that is reflective of the millions of New Yorkers we serve.”

The FDNY, according city council data, is comprised of primarily white non-Hispanic firefighters. The data revealed that 54 percent of firefighters are white,13 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, 2 percent Asian and 23 percent are listed as unknown. The data also found that less than 2 percent of firefighters are female.

City Council Data on the makeup of firefighters at the FDNY (NYC Council)

However, the number of whites who apply to be firefighters is significantly higher than any other ethnic group—despite the city’s population becoming more diverse, with non-Hispanic whites making up 30 percent of New York’s population.

The number of white applicants who participated in a key exam to be a firefighter was markedly higher than any other group. For instance, there were 20,288 white applicants who took the computer-based recruitment exam, compared to 12,346 Hispanics, 11,404 Blacks and 2,032 Asians, according to data in the 2022 Firefighters Demographics Report.

Data from the 2022 Firefighters Demographics Report (FDNY)

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was a strong advocate for the package of bills.

“New York City’s firefighters protect our city and save lives every single day, yet it remains clear that FDNY is not representative of our city’s diversity,” Speaker Adams said in a statement. “I’m proud these new laws passed by the council and signed today help advance the department’s recruitment and retention of women and people of color from all communities as firefighters.”

Speaker Adams sponsored one of the five bills to become law, with her bill requiring the FDNY, in consultation with the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), to develop and implement a plan to recruit and retain individuals from underrepresented populations within the rank of firefighter.

Another bill, sponsored by Councilmember Kevin Riley and signed into law today, requires the FDNY to submit an annual report on the number of employees assigned to each firehouse or special operations unit, broken down by race and gender, as well as the number of individuals who reside within the immediate service area of each fire company, disaggregated by gender and race.

Riley also passed a bill that the mayor signed today requiring the FDNY to develop and implement a plan for providing ongoing training and education to all employees regarding diversity and inclusion, including training on the department’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.

“As co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, it is a priority for this city that all legislation passed through the council upholds a true means of diversity and inclusion that seeks to benefit and protect all New Yorkers,” Riley said. “I am honored to stand alongside the mayor and my colleagues at the signing of this legislative package that will transform the lack of diversity and inclusion within the FDNY.”

Meanwhile, Councilmember Nantasha Williams sponsored legislation that Adams signed today that requires the FDNY to submit an annual report on complaints filed with the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity office regarding potential violations of the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

“After receiving a number of complaints regarding diversity and discrimination in the FDNY, I was proud to sponsor this bill,” Williams said.

Councilmember Joann Ariola sponsored a bill that Adams signed that requires the FDNY to conduct a survey of each firehouse to see which ones need to be upgraded in order to provide the facilitates necessary for a mixed-gender workforce.

Upon completion of the survey, the FDNY will then be required to submit a report on the findings, detailing the upgrades necessary and any construction plans to make such enhancements.

“I am proud to sponsor legislation that will lead to upgrades for our fire houses to have adequate areas for both men and women to tend to their personal needs,” Ariola said. “I will continue to fight for the members of the FDNY in every aspect of their job.”

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