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After cries for help, Bronx Fire Building tenants get cash assistance

Every household in the Bronx skyscraper, where a smoky blaze killed 17 people last weekend, is set to get $2,250 in immediate financial relief, Mayor Eric Adams said 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 so far raised more than $2 million to support tenants.

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

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

Speaking at the press conference, Souleiman Konaté, a local imam, said the city’s relief efforts had been disorganized and diverted and had complicated tenants’ efforts to regroup in the wake of the fire. . He called for direct cash assistance so people can make their own decisions about how to meet their needs.

“Keep your pledge or your promise,” Konaté said. “We need you more than anything. In a few days, you will disappear. We will be here, we will not go anywhere, because there are people in our community – Muslims, Latinos, African Americans – we are in the same boat.

The financial assistance Mr. Adams announced on Friday includes $1,000 per household from the Mayor’s Fund to Move New York City Forward, $1,050 each 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 the repatriation of those who will be buried overseas.

Dozens of unofficial relief efforts sprung up in the days following the fire, whose victims included eight children.

Neighborhood gardens and political parties, breweries and cafes, celebrities and activists all raised money as well as clothing, diapers, formula and other items including building tenants might need. The artists raffled off their work; public defenders provided free legal services. More than one Real Housewife of New York participated. Over $1.5 million was raised through GoFundMe alone.

Bronx native rappers Fat Joe and Peter Gunz have harnessed their star power to help relief efforts. Fat Joe, who worked with City Hall to raise funds, said in an interview that he went through his entire “Rolodex” in his search for donations. Mr. Gunz, a Bronx bodega owner, handed out hot meals.

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

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

Contributions of items like food, clothing and even pet supplies flooded local organizers, so much so that some fundraising sites began to refuse donors. The Anthony Avenue Community Garden posted several messages on its Instagram page asking donors to stop depositing physical goods as there was no more space for them. The Red Cross said it would now only accept cash donations.

While organizers of the relief effort had hoped the donations were made in the best of spirits, some non-monetary donations were below average, creating even more tension.

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

The Gambian Youth Organization, a local nonprofit, launched a GoFundMe campaign immediately after the fire. Many residents of the building are of Gambian origin, as are many of those who have died.

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

Mamadou Sawaneh, one of the group’s founders, said he was still working out how best to allocate the money he raised and expected to have more information for the families of the victims and other residents on Monday.

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

Some organizations, like the Bronx Democratic Party, are working with city officials to restock service centers set up in places like 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 are going.

Leah McSweeney, a fashion designer who appears on ‘The Real Housewives of New York’ TV show, posted a message on social media asking for donations and was shocked by the huge response. Now, however, she said she doesn’t know what to do with the supplies since so many organizations have started to refuse donations.

“Obviously it’s going to go to people in need, but obviously people donated with those families in mind, and we just want to get it to them directly,” Ms McSweeney said in an interview. “It’s not the easiest thing. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of infrastructure around this stuff.

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

“It was a heartwarming experience. As painful as it was, New Yorkers came,” he said. ” They passed. They made a donation. They volunteered. They gave their all. They prayed. Because New York is where this thing can be toned down.

Kimiko of Freytas-Tamura contributed report.

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