At the heart of the battle is Chief of Department James Leonard, 59, a tough-talking officer who started as a firefighter in Brooklyn’s Engine 310 in 1979 and is now the highest-ranked uniformed officer in the agency — second only to Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
But for all his success, what some in the FDNY call Leonard’s abrasive and aggressive manner — and allegations he sometimes uses misogynistic slurs — have put him out of step in a department striving mightily to get into the 21st century, sources told The News.
Kavanagh’s rise in the FDNY has nearly outpaced Leonard, and some say she’s making a power play of her own against him. She joined the department as a mayoral appointee in 2014 after working as a senior advisor on Mayor de Blasio’s election campaign — and enjoyed two rapid promotions thereafter to become one of Nigro’s top advisers.
In recent years, the FDNY has increased the number of women on staff to 87 — an all-time record, but still less than 1% of the 10,000 strong force.