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Mayor Eric Adams on Monday signed into law a package of bills intended to diversify the FDNY, the nation’s largest fire department, and better reflect the demographics of the city it serves. The legislation also provides firefighters with protections against harassment, discrimination and bias.
“Our city is changing. Our city is evolving, I think it's evolving for the better,” the mayor said before signing the bills. “And when we allow the change to embrace the tradition we make ourselves a better place. No matter who we are in these various places of profession, at one time we were locked out. At one time, we were denied access, and through the change of time, we were allowed to open the doors to all groups and we produced a better product because of that.
Policymakers have been trying to diversify the FDNY for decades. More than three-quarters of firefighters are white men, and 40 years after the department began accepting women into its ranks, just over 1 percent of uniformed firefighters are women.
“This is an issue that I have worked on not just at the Fire Department, my entire career has been about creating positive change for the City of New York and certainly positive change for an already great place, the New York City Fire Department,” FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said prior to the bills' signing. “I have said this over and over since I was appointed a few weeks ago, change and tradition can live side by side, and I know that because I have lived it.”
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams noted the department's gender imbalance and also that just 8 percent of firefighters are black, 13 percent Latino and 2 percent Asian.
“Taken together, the racial and gender disparities are not just staggering, they're bad for the department, the communities they serve, and public safety,” she said. But, the speaker added that she was “proud” of the Council’s achievement. “Our work is not done, but we're another step closer to achieving the equity that we deserve and is needed to make us safer.”
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