Controversy has kicked up around last week's reports that the city was considering Mylan Denerstein to replace Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who resigns at the end of the year. Denerstein, 42, a former federal prosecutor, would be the first female head commissioner, as well as one of the first African-Americans to hold the job. However, firefighters and department sources interviewed by the Post about her possible hiring yielded a tinderbox of negative reactions.
One department source said that a boys-club mentality (only 33 out of 11,300 firefighters in the city are female) and sexism would keep her from being effective: "You know how the rank and file feel about women historically...There are still elements of misogyny." A Queens firefighter added, "Some guys will feel that, no matter how skilled and smart she is, they're looking to make a political statement because she's a woman and black. If they make a political decision to deflect criticism of a force that's perceived to be white and male-dominated, it's pretty crappy."
Other sources say that her race could be an issue, with the FDNY involved in a class-action, racial-discrimination lawsuit, while others aren't happy that she was never a "smoke eater" herself. However, unlike her fellow non-smoke eater, outgoing Commissioner Scoppetta, Denerstein served as the deputy commissioner for legal affairs from 2003 to 2006, effectively making her the FDNY's top disciplinarian, and familiar with the department and top brass. Still, other anonymous department sources of the Post's "bristled at some of the tough moves she made to crack down on firefighter misbehavior." You can't please anyone any of the time in some Post stories, it seems.