NY 1 - December 19, 2010by Amanda Farinacci
Hundreds of would-be firefighters sat for the New York City Fire Department's entrance exam back in 2007, hoping to fulfill a dream of become members of New York's Bravest. Many aced the exam, but that test, and two others before it, were thrown out because federal judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled they illegally discriminated against blacks and Hispanics.
No firefighters have been hired since and the city can only hire candidates from the invalidated test if the court signs off on the method used. Four years have passed and now many candidates are too old to take a new test that's currently being drafted by the city.
"Without changing the age limit I don't get to change the next test. Plain and simple. I'm 29, there's no way around it," said FDNY candidate Rebecca Wax.
"It's definitely frustrating for them to say that not enough of us did well on the test, to have the test be a validated test. But that's like saying that what we did and the preparation that we did and to get the results that we did doesn't matter," said FDNY candidate Ahyende Sandy.
Under the current rule, candidates must be under 29 years of age on the day of the test. NY1 has learned that on Monday, a bill that would formally change that age requirement to 35 will go before the City Council.
Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano supports the age extension and even met with some candidates to tell them he's behind them.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Junior drafted the bill and says Garaufis' ruling has taken many casualties.
"Not only did this judge blow a hole in the city's budget and rip money from the budget, it ripped these kids' dreams away, and we need to fix that," said Vallone Jr.
Sources say it's not likely the FDNY will give a new entrance exam until sometime late 2011. Based on its hiring practices in the past, it will take about a year and a half to hire from that list, which means it could be a very long time before the fire department sees any probationary firefighters among its ranks.
Still, candidates say they're gearing up for a second round with the FDNY entrance exam.