10/02/2012 11:53 am ET

FDNY Diversity Recruitment Prompts Protests From White Firefighters

Some white firefighters in New York City are angry about a new FDNY entrance exam which they say lowers standards to accomodate for diversity. The new exam allows the department to hire new firefighters for the first time in five years.

The Daily News reports more than 200 firefighters rallied outside a Brooklyn courthouse on Monday to protest Judge Nicholas Garaufis' efforts to create a more diverse department. According to the News, Garufis ordered the FDNY conduct "retroactive seniority and priority hiring of 293 minorities."

However, only 36 of the 180 speakers expected to speak inside the courthouse to air their grievances showed up.

Of the 36, one white firefighter said, "Seniority was earned in the dead of night when these benefactors were home sleeping."

Last Friday, Garaufis ruled hiring would begin "immediately" .

City officials, including FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, applauded the decision.

"The FDNY's strong commitment to diversity was evident in our recruitment campaign for this exam where 46 percent of the test takers were people of color-the same overall percentage of minorities at the top of this list," Cassano said.

Despite Monday's protests, Garaufis' decision marks a major victory for minorities seeking equal employment. Only 3 percent of New York's firefighters are black. 91 percent are white.

Increased attention on the lack of minorities sparked the Department of Justice to join an organization of black firefighters, the Vulcan Society, to sue the city over what they claimed were racially biased exams that prevented minorities from being admitted.

In 2011, Garaufis criticized the Bloomberg administration for ignoring the lack FDNY's lack of diversity.

"The evidence adduced in this case gives the court little hope that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg or any of his senior leadership has any intention of stepping up to the task of ending discrimination at the F.D.N.Y.,” Judge Garaufis wrote, according to The New York Times.

He added, “Instead of facing hard facts and asking hard questions about the city’s abysmal track record of hiring black and Hispanic firefighters, the Bloomberg administration dug in and fought back.”