Group of fireman forcibly held door shut
By: John Hollywood
A group of New York Fire Department officials and fireman have found themselves in a world full of trouble after an audio tape surfaced that appears to contain the voices of top FDNY brass covering up a series of “hazing” incidents.
The recordings relate a black rookie firefighter named Gordon Springs (27) who was touring Manhattan’s Ladder Co. 35/Engine Co. 40 near Lincoln Center, one day prior to graduating from the academy.
Apparently, his visit was part of a long standing FDNY custom whereby “probies” visit their new firehouse and bring desserts as part of getting to know the fellow fireman they’ll be working with.
According to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Springs and reported by the New York Post, the following took place:
“As the probies entered the Amsterdam Avenue firehouse, firefighter Peter Grillo whispered to Springs, “Our house is really gay.”
The post’s reporting goes on to share:
“Springs claims the probies were led to the gym, where four naked smoke-eaters — two identified in the complaint as Charles Swift and Pedro Aristy — were waiting.
Aristy ordered Springs to lie down on a workout bench, the suit says. The rookie, shaken, tried to leave, but the door was “forcibly held shut” by firefighters.
“Frozen stiff” with fear, Springs did as he was told. Aristy stood over the prone probie and “moved his penis and testicles close” to his face, then plopped them onto his forehead, according to court papers.”
The lawsuit does not state if the other two probies, one white and one black, were sexually assaulted.
Once Mr. Springs began working at the firehouse, the harassment apparently continued. So much so that a complaint was filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and in November, the agency determined there was “reasonable cause” to believe Mr. Springs was the victim of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
“Moved his penis and testicles close” to his face, then plopped them onto his forehead”
In October of last year, five firefighters and two officers were disciplined for violating FDNY’s zero tolerance policy on hazing.
The audio tapes reveal a secretly recorded conversation between a lieutenant, captain and chief where it appears at least one official was aware of the criminality issues:
““I can honestly tell you the cover-up is worse than the crime . . . Do not cover up. It’s not a secret. And the cover-up is not going to work.”
The recordings also seem to shine a light on other incidents that top brass tried to put the hush on. One person on the tape is heard saying: “There was another incident which was almost taken care of but more information came.”
Paul Liggieri, Mr. Springs attorney, stated the following: “The department can style this case as a hazing incident, but what happened to my client . . . was a sexual assault,”
The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the case.