Queens Gazette Crowley Leads Women's Effort to Become Firefighters by John Toscano
Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley was joined by other councilmembers and other advocates last week on the steps of City Hall, issuing a rallying call to the city’s Fire Department to hire more women firefighters.
Currently, Crowley said, there are only 44 female firefighters serving in the FDNY, comprising less than one percent of a 10,500-member workforce.
Where's the story?The rally included Crowley (D–Glendale), the chair of the Council’s Committees on Fire and Criminal Justice and also co-chair of the Women’s Caucus; the United Women Firefighters; Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal, Laurie Cumbo and Ben Kallos, and other advocates. The group was just warming up for a City Council oversight hearing at City Hall on increasing the number of women in the city’s Fire Department. The hearing would examine existing barriers keeping women out of the department, such as unfair and irrelevant testing methods that can prevent qualified female candidates from becoming firefighters, Crowley said. The hearing also considered Introduction 579, sponsored by Rosenthal, which would require the Fire Department to provide the City Council with information on the firefighter applicant pool, broken down by race and gender, along every step of the application process.
Crowley declared: “It’s time to shatter any barriers that still exist for physically fit, qualified women to become New York City firefighters. Cities like Minneapolis and San Franciscohave up to 30 times more women serving in their fire departments. 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.”
Rosenthal followed, saying, “The numbers just don’t add up: 18 percent of New York police officers are women, 13 percent of U.S. combat troops are women, 13 percent of San Francisco’s firefighters are women—and less than half of a percent of New York firefighters are women. I am eager to learn from the administration at today’s hearing what is so unique about being a firefighter in New York City that excludes women,” Rosenthal, who chairs the Contracts Committee, concluded.
Councilmember Cumbo, chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, noted: “Equal employment and opportunity preserve the diversity of our city and workforce, while strengthening our economy. Through our joint committee hearing, we can better assess the barriers that women face in most industries, especially public service, and identify concrete solutions to support women in the workforce.”
The President of the United Women Firefighters (UWF) Sarinya Srisakul testified:
“The FDNY is so behind the times that we would have to hire over 400 more women just to be at the national average. The mayor and the FDNY need to end their use of illegal and extraneous barriers that keep qualified women out. This is an important civil rights issue of which the resolution is long overdue. Decades of the FDNY being an ‘old boys club’ has to stop now.”
Also pitching in on the women’s alliance, Liz Holtzman, former congressmember and city comptroller said the city’s handling of the women firefighter issue was “deplorable”.
Holtzman, testifying on behalf of the UWF pointed out; “The city’s record on minority firefighters prompted the Justice Department and federal courts to intervene to stop that discrimination. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have an opportunity to step in on their own to stop the mistreatment of women firefighters and overhaul the FDNY’s programs on recruitment and training of women.”