Op-Ed: Fighting for Our Firefighters – DCAS Must Release Their Promotional Exam Scoring Criteria

By NYC Councilwoman Joann Ariola

As some of you may already know, one of my duties in City Hall is to serve as the Chair of the New York City Council’s Fire and Emergency Services Committee. In that capacity, I have the job of legislating and advocating on behalf of New York’s Bravest, representing the men and women of the FDNY and ensuring that they are able to do their jobs effectively. As the City Council representative for such a firefighter-friendly neighborhood like Rockaway – where I don’t think a single block exists without at least one FDNY family on it – this has been a true honor.

Recently, however, it seems some forces in City Hall are working overtime to disrupt the Greatest Fire Department in the World. I have found myself repeatedly un­able to get straight answers on relatively simple questions, and it feels as though some – especially those in the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) – are purposely hiding information that could be of great importance to the futures of our firefighters. In particular, I am talking about the completely mismanaged promotional exams for FDNY lieutenants.

For those unfamiliar, let me explain. In December 2022, thousands of firefighters took the promotional exam to become the department’s next generation of lieutenants. Nearly 900 were told they’d passed and would be on their way to a promotion, only for DCAS to step in and announce that the tests were scored incorrectly. DCAS subsequently released a new list of their own, which was quickly challenged by FDNY officials who demanded to know how DCAS was scoring the exams.

It was clear that there was a grading curve involved – the DCAS list awarded 1,678 firefighters with passing grades, nearly 700 more than on the original list. You would think that, as a city agency, they should have some record of how exactly they were weighing their scores and awarding all of these additional promotions. To date, however, DCAS has not explained how these scores were tabulated, and due to the challenge from the FDNY, both lists have been placed on hold, leaving hundreds of firefighters in limbo when it comes to the future of their careers.

This refusal from DCAS to give a clear explanation of how they are grading their exams is a grave concern for the men and women of the FDNY, and it should be a grave concern for all of us who rely on our firefighters to keep us safe.

The New York City Fire Department is the greatest fire department in the world, bar none. As such, it needs to be led by the greatest officers in the world. There can be no exceptions in this case – even the slightest moment of second-guessing, the smallest error, or the tiniest misstep can be a matter of life and death in the world of firefighting. We need to be sure that the next generation of officers is made up of men and women who are truly capable of leading and performing the tasks required of them, not of political appointees or less-than-qualified candidates. We need to be sure that the test scores are being fairly graded. We need DCAS to release their criteria.

The lack of transparency is despicable. It is a dishonor to the FDNY, and it is a dishonor to the people of New York City. I intend to keep fighting for transparency, and I will not rest until we are sure that the FDNY is being led by only the very best out there.

We cannot afford to settle for any­thing less.

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