Every home in a high-rise building in the Bronx, where a smoke fire killed 17 people last weekend, is about to receive $2,250 in immediate financial relief, Bronx Mayor Eric Adams said Friday.
Officials said the money will be distributed directly to residents of the 118 apartments in the building in the form of prepaid debit cards starting Saturday. A fund overseen by the mayor’s office has raised more than $2 million to support renters so far.
“The team is working 24/7 to spread the rest of the money, but we wanted to provide immediate relief,” said Kate Smart, a spokeswoman for Mr. Adams.
Mr Adams’ announcement came a day after a group of tenants, joined by community activists and religious leaders, held a news conference to complain that financial help was slow to arrive and that some were urged to return to the building too soon.
Speaking at the press conference, a local imam, Suleiman Konate, said the city’s relief efforts were disorganized and disorganized and complicated the tenants’ efforts to regroup in the wake of the fire. He called for direct cash relief so that people could make their own decisions about how to meet their needs.
“Fulfill your engagement or your promise,” said Mr. Konate. “We need you more than anything. Two days from now, you’ll be gone. We’ll be here, we’re not going anywhere, because there are people from our community—Muslims, Latinos, African Americans—we’re in this together.”
The financial assistance Mr Adams announced Friday includes $1,000 per family from Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, $1,050 from Bank of America and $200 from the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. The mayor’s fund will also cover the cost of home burials for those who died in the fire as well as repatriation of those who will be buried abroad.
Dozens of unofficial relief efforts emerged in the days following the fire, whose victims included eight children.
Neighborhood parks, political parties, breweries, coffee shops, celebrities, and activists have raised funds as well as clothes, diapers, milk, and other items that the building’s tenants might need. Artists ran a lottery for their work; Solicitors general provided free legal services. More from The Real Housewife of New York has been involved. Over $1.5 million has been raised via GoFundMe alone.
Indigenous Bronx rappers Fat Joe and Peter Jones have harnessed their star power to help with relief efforts. Fat Joe, who has teamed up with City Hall to raise the money, said in an interview that he was going through “the whole Rolodex” in his search for donations. Mr. Jones, owner of the Bronx bodega, distributed hot meals.
The scale of the relief effort has impressed and stunned the organizers, and many hope that the support will continue.
“People will need help not just in the first week, but for months, if not years,” said Ariana Collado, executive director of the Democratic Bronx.
Contributions with items such as food, clothing, and even pet supplies inundated local organizers, to the point that some collection sites began turning away donors. The Anthony Avenue Community Garden has posted several messages on its Instagram page asking donors to stop dropping off physical goods because there is no longer room for them. The Red Cross said it will only accept financial donations from now on.
While organizers of the relief effort had hoped the donations would be made in their best spirits, some non-cash donations were substandard, causing more pressure.
While most donations are “brand new, many people have used this opportunity to clean out their closet and basically donate trash,” one person posted on Instagram. “We only accept brand new items and do not accept clothes.”
The Gambian Youth, a local non-profit organization, started the GoFundMe campaign immediately after the fire broke out. Many of the building’s residents are of Gambian ancestry, as well as many who died.
After raising more than $1 million, the group has stopped receiving additional donations for now, and instead directs donors to other efforts, many of which focus on helping specific families.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New Administration
Mamadou Sowaneh, the group’s founder, said it was still determining how best to allocate the money it raised and expected to have more information for victims’ families and other residents on Monday.
Others seeking to help the residents of the building also try to figure out how to provide assistance to those who need it.
Some organizations, such as the Bronx Democratic Party, are working with city officials to replenish supplies at service centers set up in places like Monroe College and Bronx Community College.
Some people have complained that their efforts to help have faltered due to a lack of clarity where the supplies should go.
Leah McSweeney, a fashion designer who has appeared on the TV show “The Real Housewives of New York,” posted a message on social media asking for donations and was shocked by the overwhelming response. Now, though, she said she’s not sure what to do with the supplies given that several organizations have started disbursing donations.
“It’s obviously going to people in need, but obviously people who have donated with these families in mind, and we just want to send it to them directly,” Ms McSweeney said in an interview. “It is not the easiest thing. It seems that there is not a lot of infrastructure around this kind of thing.”
Despite the confusion, Sheikh Musa Darama, a community organizer, said in a video posted to Facebook on Friday that the fire victims are grateful for the outpouring of support.
“It was such a warm experience. As painful as it was, the New Yorkers came.” “They came. Donate. Volunteer. They gave everything. Pray. Because New York is where this thing can be mitigated.”
Kimiko de Freitas Tamura Contribute to the preparation of reports.