After pleas for help, Bronx Fire Building tenants to get monetary relief

Every household in the Bronx’s high-rises, where 17 people died in a smoky fire last weekend, are on the cusp of receiving $2,250 in immediate financial aid, Mayor Eric Adams said Friday.

The money will be distributed directly to residents of the building’s 118 apartments from Saturday in the form of prepaid debit cards, officials said. A fund overseen by the mayor’s office has so far raised more than $2 million to support the tenants.

“The team is working 24/7 to distribute the rest of the money, but we wanted to provide immediate assistance,” said Kate Smart, a spokeswoman for Mr. Adams.

Mr. Adams’ announcement came a day after a group of tenants, accompanied by community activists and religious leaders, held a press conference to complain that financial aid had been slow to arrive and some of them had been forced back into the building too soon. .

At the press conference, Souleimane Konaté, a local imam, said the city’s relief efforts had been disorganized and tenants’ attempts to regroup in the wake of the fire were complicated. He called for immediate cash assistance so that people can make their own decisions about how to meet their needs.

“Keep your promise or your promise,” said Mr. Konaté. “We need you more than anything. You’ll be gone in a few days. We will be here, not going anywhere, because there are people from our community – the Muslims, the Latinos, African Americans – we are doing this together.”

The financial aid Mr. Adams announced Friday includes $1,000 per household from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, $1,050 each from Bank of America and $200 from the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. The mayor’s fund also covers the costs of domestic funerals for those who died in the fire, as well as the repatriation of those buried abroad.

In the days following the fire, countless unofficial relief efforts were launched, including eight children.

Community gardens and political parties, breweries and coffee shops, celebrities and activists have all raised funds, as well as clothing, diapers, formula, and other items needed by the building’s tenants. Artists have raffled their work; public defenders have provided free legal services. More than one real New York housewife participated. More than $1.5 million was raised through GoFundMe alone.

Bronx rappers Fat Joe and Peter Gunz have tapped into their star power to support relief efforts. Fat Joe, who worked with City Hall to raise money, said in an interview that he had gone through his “whole Rolodex” in his quest for donations. Mr. Gunz, a Bronx bodega owner, has been distributing hot meals.

The magnitude of the relief effort has both impressed and overwhelmed the organisers, many of whom hope the support continues

“People are going to need help not just for the first week, but for months, if not years, to come,” Ariana Collado, executive director of the Bronx Democratic Party, said in an interview.

Contributions of items such as food, clothing and even pet supplies have inundated local organizers, so much so that certain collection sites have started rejecting donors. The Anthony Avenue Community Garden posted several messages on its Instagram page asking that donors stop delivering physical goods because there was no more room for them. The Red Cross has announced that from now on it will only accept financial donations.

While the aid campaign’s organizers had hoped the donations were being made in the best mood, some non-cash donations were below par, causing even more tension.

While most of the donations are “brand new, many people took this opportunity to clear out their closets and basically donate trash,” one person posted on Instagram. “We only accept BRAND NEW ITEMS and NO clothing.”

The Gambian Youth Organisation, a local non-profit organization, launched a GoFundMe campaign immediately after the fire. Many of the building’s residents are of Gambian descent, as are many of those who died.

After raising more than $1 million, the group has stopped taking additional donations for now and is instead redirecting donors to other efforts, many of which are focused on helping specific families.

Mamadou Sawaneh, one of the group’s founders, said it was still determining how best to allocate the money raised and expects to have more information Monday for the families of the victims and other residents.

Others who want to help the residents of the building are also trying to figure out how to get help for those who need it.

Some organizations, such as the Bronx Democratic Party, are working with city officials to replenish supplies at service hubs set up in places such as Monroe College and Bronx Community College

Some people have complained that their efforts to help have been hampered by a lack of clarity about where supplies should go.

Leah McSweeney, a fashion designer featured on the TV show “The Real Housewives of New York,” posted on social media asking for donations and was shocked by the massive response. Now, however, she said she wasn’t sure what to do with the supplies as so many organizations started rejecting donations.

“Obviously it’s going to those in need, but it’s clear that people donated with these families in mind, and we just want to give it directly to them,” Ms McSweeney said in an interview. “That’s not the easiest thing. It seems there isn’t much infrastructure around this sort of thing.”

Despite the confusion, Sheikh Musa Drammeh, a community organizer, said in a Facebook video on Friday that the fire victims were grateful for the outpouring of support.

“This is a heartwarming experience. As painful as it is, New Yorkers came,” he said. “They came through. They donated. They volunteered. They gave everything. They prayed. Because this can be mitigated in New York.”

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura reporting contributed.