FDNY to make diversity push with 5 new laws
The department must implement a plan to hire more women and non-white firefighters and upgrade stations to accommodate women’s privacy
By Michael Gartland
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — The FDNY’s efforts to diversify its ranks are likely to pick up steam under five new measures Mayor Eric Adams signed into law Monday morning at the department’s Randalls Island training facility.
The laws — all of which went into effect immediately after being signed — require that the FDNY implement a plan to hire more women and non-white firefighters, upgrade firehouses to accommodate women’s privacy and submit an annual report focused on the demographic composition of firehouses around the city.
The new laws also include a requirement that the FDNY provide ongoing diversity training and that it submit an annual report on complaints filed with its Equal Employment Opportunity division.
The bill signing comes a month after Adams announced his decision to make then-acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh his permanent pick to that post, making her the department’s first woman commissioner in its 157-year history.
“This is a very special day for me. This is an issue that I have worked on — not just at the fire department. My entire career has been about creating positive change for the city of New York and certainly positive change for an already great place, the New York City Fire Department,” Kavanagh said Monday. “I have said this over and over since I was appointed a few weeks ago: Change and tradition can live side by side.”
The fire department’s struggles with race and inclusion have been going on for decades — and have taken on many forms. In 2014, the city agreed to pay $98 million in back pay and benefits to aspiring minority firefighters in a court settlement with the Vulcan Society, which represents Black firefighters and which accused the city of discrimination in a 2007 lawsuit.
As part of that case, a judge appointed a federal monitor in 2011 to oversee the FDNY’s recruitment and hiring methods.
What it means to really commit to a diverse and inclusive fire department
Consistency and persistence of inclusive values will help the fire service leaders move beyond hollow proclamations of diversity
More recently, a Black firefighter charged in a federal lawsuit last year that he was suspended for opposing an order to turn fire hoses on George Floyd protesters, a heavy-handed tactic used decades ago by white police against civil rights protestors in the South.
Mayor Adams — himself a former NYPD captain who pushed for change when he served as a cop — acknowledged that some have criticized policies to diversify as going against tradition.
“When we are moving in that direction, people tend to believe we want to tarnish tradition. It’s not,” he said. “I appreciated every day of wearing the uniform of the New York City Police Department, watching my kid brother follow me and several of my first cousins followed me. And it was a rich tradition, but it needed some change. And I advocated for that change.”