By ALAN FEUER
Under firm, if generally polite, examination, New York City’s fire commissioner defended his efforts to recruit minority candidates in court on Tuesday, saying the Fire Department has measurably increased its number of black applicants while rebuilding its ranks a decade after the losses from 9/11.
“Even as we’re improving, recovering and rebuilding, we’ve still had it in mind to focus on diversity,” the commissioner, Salvatore J. Cassano, testified at a two-hour proceeding in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
Mr. Cassano’s appearance before the presiding judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis, comes amid bitter litigation in which the city was found to have discriminated against minority candidates through the statistical effects of two prior entrance exams, in 1999 and 2002. His appearance was unusual; neither side had planned to call him as a witness, and the judge ordered it personally on Thursday.
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