Councilwoman Crowley Wants Mayor to Add More Women to FDNY

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has a message for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his new FDNY commissioner: Hire more women, now.

Ms. Crowley, the chair of the City Council’s fire and criminal justice committee, wants Mr. de Blasio and Daniel Nigro, who is reportedly set to become the city’s new fire department commissioner, to fill the FDNY’s ranks with more women. Women currently make up less than 1 percent of the department.

“I don’t think Mike Bloomberg made it a priority and I think Bill de Blasio will make it a priority,” Ms. Crowley, a Queens Democrat, told the Observer today. “It starts with recruitment.”

Ms. Crowley still heaped praise on the outgoing commissioner, Sal Cassano, but hinted that she would have liked to have seen the status of the longtime FDNY head resolved sooner. She declined to criticize Mr. de Blasio for waiting until May to fill the position–Mr. de Blasio has been knocked repeatedly for his slow pace of appointments–and said she was glad just to see a decision being made now.

“Publicly people started calling [Mr. Cassano] interim and that might have been disrespectful,” Ms. Crowley said.

Ms. Crowley, an outspoken critic of the city’s 911 call system and past attempts to close firehouses, also said Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Nigro could start to add more women to the fire department by recruiting more to take the grueling exams to become firefighters. (The city’s fire department has come under scrutiny on other diversity issues; Mr. de Blasio’s administration recently settled a major lawsuit accusing the FDNY of discriminating against African-American and Hispanic recruits.)

“You should be looking to diversify the amount of females taking the test,” Ms. Crowley explained. “Whether they recruit women out of the military or women in sports programs in high schools or colleges–there’s a problem in society, in New York, because from an early age people in New York don’t think you can be a firefighter and a woman. It’s a cultural thing.”

Ms. Crowley said she is working with a women’s group within the department, the United Women Firefighters, to get more women to take the test and train in advance for the physical components.

“We want them to do pre-training,” Ms. Crowley said “That’s where you lose women, it’s a high intensity test and you need to get certain muscles in the body prepped and ready and get more women participating in a training program about a year before the test.”

“The profession pays a good amount of money. It’s a fulfilling, challenging and heroic profession,” she added.