After Pleas for Help, Tenants of Bronx Fire Building to Get Cash Aid

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Each household in the Bronx high-rise where a smoky fire killed 17 people last weekend is about to get $2,250 in immediate financial relief, Mayor Eric Adams said on Friday.

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

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

Mr. Adams’s 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 had been slow to arrive and that some of them were being urged back into the building too soon.

Speaking at the news conference, Souleimane Konaté, a local imam, said the city’s aid efforts had been disorganized and roundabout and had complicated 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,” Mr. Konaté said. “We need you more than anything. A couple days from now, you will disappear. We will be here, not going anywhere, because there are people from our community — the Muslims, the Latinos, African-Americans — we’re in this together.”

The financial help announced by Mr. Adams on Friday includes $1,000 per household from Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, $1,050 apiece from Bank of America and $200 from the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. The mayor’s fund will also cover the cost of domestic burials for those who died in the fire as well as repatriation for those to be buried overseas.

Scores of unofficial relief efforts have emerged in the days since the fire, whose victims included eight children.

Neighborhood gardens and political parties, breweries and coffee shops, celebrities and activists have all collected money as well as clothes, diapers, formula and other items that the building’s tenants may need. Artists have raffled off their work; public defenders have provided free legal services. More than one Real Housewife of New York has pitched in. Over $1.5 million was raised via GoFundMe alone.

The rappers Fat Joe and Peter Gunz, Bronx natives, have tapped their star power to aid the relief efforts. Fat Joe, who collaborated with City Hall to raise money, said in an interview that he had been going through his “entire Rolodex” in his search for donations. Mr. Gunz, an owner of a Bronx bodega, has given out hot meals.

The scale of relief efforts has both impressed and overwhelmed organizers, many of whom hope the support continues

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

Contributions of items like food, clothing and even pet supplies have deluged local organizers, so much so that certain collection sites have started to turn donors away. The Anthony Avenue Community Garden posted several messages on its Instagram page asking that donors cease dropping off physical goods because there was no more space for them. The Red Cross has said it will only accept financial donations from now on.

While organizers of the relief effort had hoped that donations were being made in the best of spirits, some noncash donations have been subpar, creating even more strain.

While most donations “are brand new, many people used this an opportunity to clean out their closet and donate basically garbage,” one person posted on Instagram. “We are only accepting BRAND NEW ITEMS and NO clothes.”

The Gambian Youth Organization, a local nonprofit organization, started a GoFundMe campaign immediately after the fire. Many of the building’s residents are of Gambian descent, as were many of those who died.

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

Mamadou Sawaneh, a founder of the group, said it was still determining how best to allocate the money it had raised and expected to have more information for victims’ families and other residents on Monday.

Others seeking to help the building’s residents are also trying to figure out how to get aid to those that need it.

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

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

Leah McSweeney, a fashion designer who appears on the television show “The Real Housewives of New York,” posted a message on social media seeking donations and was shocked by the enormous response. Now, though, she said she was unsure what to do with the supplies given that so many organizations had begun to turn donations away.

“Clearly, it will go to people who are in need, but obviously, people donated with these families in mind, and we just want to get it directly to them,” Ms. McSweeney said in an interview. “That’s not the easiest thing. It seems like there’s not a lot of infrastructure around this kind of stuff.”

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

“This has been 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 New York is where this thing can be mitigated.”

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura contributed reporting.



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