Friday, March 14, 2014

Former city fire commissioner blasts FDNY for culture of racism, homophobia ahead of testifying at civil trial


Thomas Von Essen, who served as FDNY commissioner under Rudy Giuliani from 1996 to the end of 2001, revealed the racism, 'gay-bashing, anti-Semitism and sexism' within the department to an audience in Stamford, Conn.












Exported.;

LOUIS LANZANO/AP

Former FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen (left, in Oct. 2001) served for more than 5 years under Rudy Giuliani.

The bravest got a scathing rebuke — accused of everything from racism to anti-Semitism — from a man who used to be one of its own.
Thomas Von Essen, the city’s former fire commissioner, told a rapt audience in February that firefighters were mired in a “culture of incivility.”
All manner of slurs were routinely tossed about inside neighborhood firehouses, said Von Essen, who served 51/2 years under Rudy Giuliani.
Members of the Vulcan Society, representing black firefighters, show their support for changes in testing that they said favored white applicants outside Federal Court in Brooklyn.

Todd Maisel/New York Daily News

Members of the Vulcan Society, representing black firefighters, show their support for changes in testing that they said favored white applicants outside Federal Court in Brooklyn.

RELATED: BLOOMBERG MAY BE CALLED AS WITNESS IN FDNY BIAS TRIAL
“The talk routinely gets rough and the biases and intolerances come out,” he told about two dozen guests during a recent speaking engagement at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn. “It is often aimed at anyone with a darker skin, although gay-bashing, anti-Semitism and sexism get air time, too.”
The shocking admission, based on his experiences with the FDNY from more than 15 years ago, comes as the 68-year-old Von Essen is expected to testify at a civil trial to determine whether the city intentionally discriminated against minority FDNY applicants.
'The talk routinely gets rough and the biases and intolerances come out.'

Simmons, Howard

'The talk routinely gets rough and the biases and intolerances come out.'

Von Essen also said the NYPD is far more tolerant of gays and people of color.
RELATED: FIREFIGHTER SAYS SHE LOST PROMOTION AFTER CRITICIZING FDNY CHIEF
“While the New York Police Department is far from perfect on this score, it is a lot better than the New York Fire Department,” he said during the Feb. 25 speech, part of Sacred Heart University’s “Civility in America” series.
Von Essen hopes that the culture within the FDNY has changed, but isn't confident that it has.

Maisel, Todd

Von Essen hopes that the culture within the FDNY has changed, but isn't confident that it has.

“A big part of the reason is that the NYPD has far more women and minorities and people of different religions than the FDNY which, until the most recent class of firefighters graduated, was 90% white and mostly Catholic.”
The FDNY’s ranks are now 86% white, 9% Hispanic and 5% black, according to the department’s latest figures. The NYPD is 52% white, 27% Hispanic and 16% black.
RELATED: 5TH VICTIM IDENTIFIED IN EAST HARLEM EXPLOSION
Von Essen was fire commissioner during the 9/11 attacks, where 343 firefighters were killed. He left the FDNY at the end of 2001.
An FDNY spokesman said Von Essen was talking about a department that existed “decades ago.” But Von Essen stuck by his guns.
“I don’t regret anything I said,” Von Essen said Thursday. “I hope it’s better today that it was years ago, but I’m not so sure.”
Post a Comment