A woman is on the brink of crashing the famously "all boys club" FDNY, clawing her way to the top of a short list of contenders to succeed retiring Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, The Post has learned.
Lawyer Mylan L. Denerstein, the executive director for social justice in Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office, has already been interviewed by City Hall and is under serious consideration for the top spot, multiple sources say.
"She is definitely a leading contender," said an official familiar with the inner workings of the FDNY.
Denerstein, who has never been a firefighter, would be the first woman to run the department in its 110-year history -- and just the 33rd on the current payroll of 11,300.
That number has declined since a high of 40 in 1982.
A graduate of the University of Virginia and Columbia Law School, Denerstein was formerly the top lawyer for the FDNY, having served as the agency's deputy fire commissioner of legal affairs from 2003 through 2006.
"She is remarkable. She would be a brilliant fire commissioner," said Susan Butler Plum, a longtime friend and director of the prestigious Skadden Fellowship Program, which in 1994 awarded Denerstein an academic stipend.
"She's very smart. She thinks before she speaks. She's very analytical, composed. Hugely, broadly experienced. She's . . . one of our stars."
As an African-American, Denerstein's appointment could also help combat the FDNY's racial issues -- highlighted in July when a Brooklyn federal judge green-lighted a civil-rights lawsuit filed by the Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of black firefighters.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that from 1999 through 2007, the FDNY 's written examination "unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified people of color" from being considered as firefighters. The case is still pending.
Until 1977, women weren't even allowed to apply for jobs as firefighters, and it wasn't until 1982 that women finally passed the physical. Brenda Berkman, who retired in 2006, filed a lawsuit against the city in '82, arguing the exam discriminated against women and that some of the tougher requirements were unnecessary for the job. She won and was one of 47 women who passed a revised physical exam.
But times have changed, according to Uniformed Fire Officers Association president Alexander Hagan.
"The men and women of the FDNY are much more open-minded than they're generally portrayed to be," he said.
"We know [Denerstein] has a great résumé and if she is offered the job. We hope she takes it."
Denerstein, the daughter of a Jewish father and a black mother, is married to a schoolteacher, has two children and resides in Brooklyn's Flatbush section, sources say.
FDNY insiders said Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano, a 40-year veteran who when he turns 65 -- the usual retirement age -- in January would need an age waiver from the mayor, is also a strong contender.
Denerstein and a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg declined to discuss the selection process.
Additional reporting by Ginger Adams Otis and Murray Weiss