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Judge says FDNY firefighters booing Letitia James reveals systemic problem

via NBC

A Brooklyn federal judge ordered the FDNY commissioner and NYC’s corporation counsel to appear before him regarding ongoing discrimination issues at the FDNY.

This comes after some FDNY members booed and chanted “Trump, Trump, Trump” when the state attorney general spoke at an event.

“I don’t know if you had an opportunity to just see the vile nature of these members even when we were at Christian Cultural Center where they started booing and saying ‘Trump, Trump Trump,’ while Letitia James was at the podium,” Vulcan Society President Regina Wilson said. “This behavior is who this department is. Not all of them, but a large portion of them. So when Black people go to work and have to deal with this and you don’t get any help or support really from the department, it’s horrific.”

The judge cited this incident as evidence of persisting racist culture at FDNY.

He directed officials to address long backlogs of EEO complaints and discrimination faced by Black firefighters.

“Get the EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] office straightened out. Take some of your brilliant lawyers from the Corporation Counsel and put them in there and start holding hearings. That’s not a request, that’s a direction,” Judge Nicholas Garaufis said. “I’ve lived in New York City all my life. I know what the problem is. And believe me, front and center is what happened the other day. This doesn’t have to do with politics, this has to do with race.”

The Vulcan Society has sued over discrimination, resulting in a $98M settlement.

Officials argued staffing shortages have slowed EEO investigations, but the judge said the city has ample legal resources to dedicate to resolving this issue.

“You have 900 lawyers sitting doing other things in the Corporation Counsel’s office and lawyers all over the city government. Put them on detail, they already work for you, and do it. One hundred eighty days is not acceptable,” Garaufis said. “And I want the commissioner here at the next meeting.”

“I don’t know what she’s doing, but she’s not working on this. And she’s a former judge. I doubt she’d be too happy about having her orders ignored and her instructions ignored,” Garaufis added.

“Commissioner Kavanagh and the FDNY is committed to providing a professional work environment free of discrimination and harassment for all Department employees, which is why we continue to work with our city partners so we can effectively re-staff the EEO office,” FDNY spokesman James Long said.

“The FDNY takes every EEO complaint seriously, diligently investigates each complaint, and is committed to addressing the complaint backlog,” Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci stated. “The court has previously expressed appreciation for the Corporation Counsel’s active engagement in finding solutions in the past, and continued to acknowledge that a lot of the city’s efforts have been done well. We’ll be updating the court on how we plan to further assist the FDNY EEO Office.”

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