A man in New York man is finally realizing his dream to become a firefighter — 18 years after failing his initial FDNY entrance exam in 1999.

The New York Post reports probationary firefighter Hazim Tawfiq joined a federal lawsuit that successfully accused the FDNY of racial discrimination. He was awarded a cash settlement and a second chance to be hired, but the city rejected him because of his criminal record — Tawfiq sued again.

Tawfiq — who turns 45 in September — has settled his second suit with the city and is finally realizing his dream.

The Post reports some skeptics think firefighting is career for the young.

“He’s starting at an age when some people are retiring from the department,” an insider tells the Post. “It’s a grueling job — a job for the young.”

Normal protocol states people no one over the age 29 apply to take the FDNY entry exam. However the Post reports, a 2007 discrimination suit filed against the city by the Vulcans, a fraternal group of black firefighters, and the US Justice Department resulted in exceptions for minority applicants passed over after taking the exam in 1999 and 2000.

The Post says the city settled that case for $98 million in compensation to black and Hispanic applicants. In 2013, the FDNY started admitting those “priority hires,” many in their 30s and early 40s.

However, the city disqualified Tawfiq because of four arrests ranging from gun possession to defeating subway fares — between the ages of 19 and 32. The FDNY believed he lacked “good character” and “moral integrity.”

The Post reports Tawfiq had several run-ins with the law.

In 1992, as a 19-year-old student at SUNY Plattsburgh, he questioned a friend’s arrest after a fight broke out and he too ended up in cuffs. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a $205 fine.

In 1996, at age 23, Tawfiq was arrested in upstate Ithaca on charges including 3rd degree criminal possession of a weapon — a violent felony — resisting arrest, and marijuana possession. Tawfiq claimed he went to protect a cousin who was threatened by drug dealers, and was caught with a friend who brought guns.

He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of gun possession, and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

He was busted again at age 24 for turnstile jumping.

And in 2005, at age 32, Tawfiq was charged with “aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle” after his license was suspended for failing to pay tickets for speeding and other moving violations. Tawfiq claimed financial hardship.

The Post reports he appealed FDNY’s rejection in 2013, describing a tragedy-filled youth. His mother, a nurse at Harlem Hospital, was killed on the street when he was two, his father died when he was 16, and one of his four brothers, Hamza, was murdered four years later.

“My life spiraled down with grief,” he wrote in his appeal, but added: “I realized that your past heartache or misfortune is not an acceptable (excuse) for criminal behavior and poor decisions.”

Tawfiq told the Post he wanted to emulate his older brother, Hisham Tawfiq, who also got in trouble, but joined the Marines. After serving in Desert Storm, Hisham joined the FDNY — applying after Hazim gave him a recruitment postcard.

Older brother Hisham, who is also a model for the FDNY’s beefcake calendar, retired after 20 years in 2015 to pursue acting. He’s a regular on NBC’s “The Blacklist.”

Recruit Tawfiq is asking people to judge him on the last 16 years of his life, not the mistakes he made in the past telling the Post, “I have made great contributions to my community, I am a good citizen.”

Tawfiq was recently contacted by the Post outside his Harlem apartment but would not speak to the reporter. A Legal Aid lawyer who represents him declined to comment.

Last year, Tawfiq received nearly $183,000, including his $39,370 firefighter salary.

The rest is “back pay” he won in the federal settlement for time the court ruled he should have been firefighting. He will also start with up to 10 years in seniority.

The Post reports the FDNY has not yet announced assignments for the graduating class.

 

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