Defaced image of President Obama placed next to picture of Unabomber on toolbox at Bronx firehouse

(NY DAILY NEWS)   A Bronx firehouse is feeling the heat after officials discovered an image of President Obama was painted on a toolbox – and then defaced with the word “hustler.”

An iconic picture of the President above the word “BELIEVE” appears to have been stenciled on a large toolbox visible inside Engine 45, Ladder 58 in East Tremont.

Right across Obama’s face is the word “HUSTLER” in big red letters.

And underneath the image, someone scrawled “Allah Akbar” – “God is great” in Arabic – in black ink.

Lt. Kenneth Durante refused to comment on the images when questioned at the firehouse Monday.

FDNY officials said last night they launched an internal probe after the Daily News brought the images to their attention.

“This matter is under investigation,” said FDNY spokesman Jim Long.

He declined to go into detail on how long the investigation might take or what disciplinary action some of New York‘s Bravest could expect to face.

On an adjacent panel of the toolbox was the famous police sketch of the Unabomber and words that had been covered with black tape until only “ET ME” was visible.

The images are a direct violation of FDNY rules that prohibit firefighters from displaying vulgar or offensive material in the firehouse or on their lockers.

The president of the Vulcan Society, the organization of black firefighters, said he was disappointed that the image was on display.

But he said he was not surprised.

“Racism is alive and well in America, and the Fire Department is evidence of that,” John Coombs said.

“Whoever the supervisors are, they need to be suspended, and real examples made [of them].”

“The day it went up, it should have been taken down,” he added.

“It’s anti-Fire Department policy . . . we’re fighting institutional racism, but it’s actually deeper than that, it’s cultural,” Coombs said.

The flap comes at a sensitive time for the FDNY, which is under federal scrutiny for a lack of diversity.

Of the roughly 11,500 firefighters working in the city, 91% are white and only 350 are black.

It was unclear if the city has any Muslim firefighters. Unlike the NYPD, the FDNY does not have a fraternal organization for Muslim members.

In January, a federal judge ruled the force’s entrance exam intentionally discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and called the practice “a persistent stain on the Fire Department’s record.”

cboyle@nydailynews.com

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