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FDNY to spend $50 million for women's facilities at 47 firehouses

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul speaks about

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul speaks about her work in the FDNY on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, at a Manhattan fire house. Credit: AP / Craig Ruttle

The FDNY is planning to spend $50 million to finish installing facilities for women firefighters in the 47 firehouses that still accommodate only men, the fire commissioner testified Tuesday.

Renovations to install separate locker rooms, toilet facilities and showers have been completed in 168 of the city's firehouses, and the department hopes to be done with the job by the end of 2016.

Of the FDNY's more than 10,000 firefighters, just 44 are women, a number the department is working to increase, Commissioner Daniel Nigro told the City Council Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services.

Nationally, about 5.7 percent of firefighters last year were women, according to figures from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Until the renovations are done, the firehouses with single-sex facilities remain all male.

"There are no women assigned to those fire stations," Nigro told reporters after the hearing. "We do not assign women to stations without female facilities."

The money to bring the buildings up to date comes from the fire department's capital plan for fiscal years 2015 through 2018, said Javier Lacayo, a spokesman for committee chairwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens).

FDNY spokeswoman Elisheva Zakheim said the bathroom renovations are necessary, even though women currently make up less than half a percent of the firefighting force, because "we anticipate having many more female firefighters and therefore need to make this capital investment."

She said that further details of the spending "are not readily available."

The FDNY has said it is redoubling efforts to recruit women and pump up the ranks by giving less weight to physical tests that might disqualify candidates. Nigro said last year that the department plans to hire an outside consultant to speed the efforts.

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