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Editorial: FDNY lawsuit settlement is best outcome

Firefighters with de Blasio.

Firefighters with de Blasio. Credit: Getty Images/ NYC Mayor's office

Mayor Bill de Blasio acted in the best interests of all New Yorkers yesterday when he reached an agreement with the Vulcan Society, settling a 2007 lawsuit that proved discriminatory hiring within the fire department.

Time to put this smoldering case to rest and move on.

The deal will cost the city almost $100 million in back pay and medical benefits to about 1,500 black and Hispanic applicants who've shown they were unfairly denied jobs.

While the litigation has a long history, some troubling points stand out. When the suit was filed in 2007, a mere 3.4 percent of FDNY fire fighters were black and just 6.7 percent were Hispanic -- in a city where 25 percent of residents were black and 27 percent were Hispanic.

Until yesterday, the city's position was that any discrimination in entrance exams was unintentional -- you know, just one of those things.

It's hard to view such abysmal percentages as anything other than a flashing and persistent alarm that something within the process was gravely wrong. The city's other uniformed services have done better. The lawsuit said that in 2000 black police officers were almost 17 percent of the NYPD. Nearly 25 percent of the Sanitation Department workforce was black as were 62 percent of correction officers.

While the FDNY will compensate specific victims of its discriminatory policies under the deal, it will also create programs to head off future bias. That's a great idea because the FDNY is 86 percent white, 9 percent Hispanic and 5 percent black. That's still not what we'd call a showcase of diversity. A lot of work remains.

This case has burned like a painful wound over the years, tarnishing the FDNY's otherwise extraordinary record. It's time for the city to settle up some long-pending accounts payable and for the FDNY to become an even better organization.