City Council moves to diversify majority white male Fire Department by passing several bills

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaking to reporters at pre-Stated Meeting press conference ahead of passing package of bills aimed at diversifying the FDNY. Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

In a bid to address the longstanding lack of racial, ethnic and gender diversity at the New York Fire Department (FDNY), the City Council passed on Thursday a legislative package aimed at transforming New York’s Bravest to better reflect the “gorgeous mosaic” of the city it serves.

The package includes bills that would require the FDNY to develop a plan for diversifying the department; determine which firehouses across the city need upgrades to support all genders; report annually on the department’s demographics; train its employees on diversity; and produce a report on complaints filed with the department’s employment office.

All of the bills passed the council unanimously during its Stated Meeting Thursday afternoon.

At a press conference preceding the stated meeting, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said the bill package will help diversify the majority white and male Fire Department.

“The overall lack of diversity within the FDNY is something we must address and as a council, we are committed to advancing solutions that can help correct this historic injustice,” the speaker said. “This critical set of bills we’re voting on today are focused on boosting diversity in the department by requiring the implementation of substantial efforts confronting exclusionary practices that undermine diversity and increasing transparency on the FDNY inability to maintain a diverse workforce free from harassment and discrimination.”

City Council Member Crystal Hudson standing in front of a sign with a demographic breakdown of the city’s firefighters. Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.Photo courtesy of Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

According to the speaker, a little over three quarters of the city’s firefighters are white, while only 13% are Latino, 8% are Black and just 2% are Asian.

And although Mayor Eric Adams, just last week, appointed Laura Kavanagh as the FDNY’s first woman commissioner, Speaker Adams said women make up just 1% of the department.

“We cannot deny that the fire department still does not accurately reflect the rich diversity of our great city,” the speaker said. “The statistics are striking, the department is still disproportionately made up of white men.”

A bill sponsored by Speaker Adams, Intro. 516-A, would direct the FDNY to draw up a plan to recruit firefighters from groups who are underrepresented in the department – such as women and people of color. The department would also have to issue an annual report on its recruitment and retention diversity efforts.

“My legislation is focused on requiring the type of planning and implementation for recruiting and retaining firefighters from groups that are underrepresented in the FDNY,” Speaker Adams said. “It also includes important transparency about these efforts and their outcomes. And the council will be in the position to hold the administration and the FDNY accountable.”

City Council Member Kevin Riley (D-Bronx) sponsored two pieces of legislation in the package, Intros. 552-A and 553-A. The first requires the Fire Department to report annually on the demographics of the firefighters in each fire company as well as the surrounding areas.

City Council Member Kevin Riley speaking to reporters at pre-Stated Meeting press conference. Thursday, Nov. 11, 2022.Photo courtesy of Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

The other bill calls for the FDNY to provide ongoing inclusion, diversity and anti-harassment training to all of its employees. For firehouses that had multiple reported incidents of harassment and discrimination, additional trainings will be required.

““I am honored to lead with my colleagues to push this legislative package that will transform the lack of diversity and inclusion within the FDNY,” Riley said in a statement. “My bills further support this goal through annual demographics reporting and ongoing training for all fire department employees – opening clear measures for transparency and accountability.”

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