The year had barely begun when New York City suffered its deadliest bronx fire in more than three decades. The fire, which occurred in the Bronx on January 9th, claimed 17 lives, eight of which were children. All the victims of the fire were members of the African diaspora.
What caused the Bronx Fire
The fire, caused by a space heater on the 3rd floor, took place in the Twin Parks building. The tragedy saw a commendable reaction from the New York City community. City officials and politicians made a pledge to assist in the aftermath of the fire. Sincere speeches were given at funerals while promises and donations were made. According to reports, the donations made to a city-managed fund for the bronx fire victims reached an estimated $4.4 million. Survivors of the fire have questioned why the majority of the donations have not been dispersed and used to assist those who need them most.
The former occupants of Twin Parks have suffered from various problems following the fire including struggling to find suitable housing, schools for the children, and affording food. 150 families lived in Twin Parks. Over 90 of those families have applied for housing in a new building called La Central. Only 60 families have had leases in La Central approved.
Bronx Fire Victims Want New Apartments
While the option of moving back into Twin Parks is available, tenants that did move back in have noted remnants of the fire as still present in the building. Notably, they have complained of the smell of smoke still lingering in the building. “You spray Lysol on the walls, but after a while, it comes back out from the vents or something,” said a former tenant of the building who had returned to his apartment. He mentioned how he was afraid of possibly contracting diseases such as bronchitis.
Some families have struggled to find housing and are still living in hotel rooms. Ms. Campbell is one of the victims of the bronx fire that has been living in two hotel rooms with her six children. She asked where the city was in their moment of need. Campbell has made several efforts to get suitable housing for her family only to find out that she does not qualify. “I’m trying to get things happening but it’s insane. It’s crazy. The worst part is the lack of communication. You don’t know what’s happening. Nobody’s telling you anything,” she said.
In the aftermath of the bronx fire, donations and pledges were made. Mayor Eric Adams called for donations to be made to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The fund managed to donate $2,250 per household. According to reports, there were no further donations after that. The Mayor’s Fund did not share how much was available for aid until reports were published detailing how victims of the fire felt forgotten. That is when the revelation was made that $4.4 million had been donated, of which close to a million was spent on cash assistance, food, and burials amongst other expenses.
The remaining financial aid is planned to be distributed as cash assistance amongst the 150 families according to the mayor’s office. This will be done by the non-profit organization BronxWorks. BronxWorks was brought in to provide caseworkers and distribute aid to survivors of the fire. Eileen Torres, the executive director of the organization, applauded the efforts made by all the parties who came together to help those who needed assistance. She said while she understood the anguish and loss caused by the bronx fire, each household had received vouchers worth $10,000. “All of these organizations need to be applauded for the fact that at a moment’s notice, every single group that I know of tried to figure out, what can we do to support these families,” she said referring to the community’s response.
Representative Richie Torres of the Bronx was more scathing of the management of funds. He said the Mayor’s Fund was meant to allow easier access and flexibility when it came to accessing funds. Instead, citizens faced no communication and red tape.