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

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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‘Devastated’: Crowds Throng Funeral Service for 15 Bronx Fire Victims

A line of black hearses began pulling up outside the doors of the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx just after 10 a.m. on Sunday. They maneuvered past throngs of distraught mourners who had flocked to the mosque to say a final goodbye to friends, children, parents and cousins killed in a fire that took the lives of 17 members of a close-knit Gambian community.

Indoors, women consoled each other in a second-floor prayer space as the men gathered downstairs. Outside, two tents were filled with families watching the funeral service on a livestream.

Aminata Sillah, 42, had arrived early. She laid a blue prayer rug on the ground in the frigid morning air, tugging anxiously at her boots.

Ms. Sillah’s aunt, Fatoumata Drammeh, was among those who died on Jan. 9 as acrid smoke filled the apartment building on East 181st Street, suffocating people as they tried to flee the 19-story complex. Ms. Drammeh’s three children also died and were among the 15 people being honored during Sunday’s communal funeral service.

“I’m devastated,” Ms. Sillah said. “It’s been a restless week.”

An imam urged people to clear a path as the coffins, draped in black velvet cloth and held aloft by more than two dozen men, were carried inside the mosque.

“It’s just painful,” Haji Dukuray, 60, said before falling silent as a tiny, child-size coffin was placed near where he sat in the front row on a green prayer rug.

“All this innocence, these young kids,” Mr. Dukuray said. “They have no business being here.”

Yahya Sankara, 33, who lost his sister and two nephews, sighed loudly as his eyes began to tear up.

“My heart is done,” Mr. Sankara said. “I have nothing to say.”

New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams; the state’s attorney general, Letitia James; and Senator Chuck Schumer were among the elected leaders who attended the packed funeral service.

The fire, ignited by a space heater, was the city’s deadliest blaze in decades.

The blaze began just before 11 a.m. on a similarly chilly Sunday morning a week ago. Eight children were among the dead.

As the service started, the imam, Sankung Jeitteh, said he was struggling to control his emotions as he listed the names of families — Dukuray, Drammeh, Jambang, Konteh, Tunkara, Toure — decimated by the blaze.

“When the Lord asks for something, we have no choice but to agree,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to control myself.”

Family members started to quietly sob.

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New York Governor Offers Hopeful Sign as Daily Cases Fall by 47%

Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned on Sunday that the Omicron surge of coronavirus cases had not yet peaked nationally, saying that the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country as hospitalizations and deaths rise.

In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Dr. Murthy noted the “good news” of the plateaus and drops in known cases in the Northeast, especially in New York City and New Jersey.

But “the challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace,” he said, adding “we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the coming days.”

“The next few weeks will be tough,” he said.

The highly contagious Omicron variant has fueled an explosive surge of known cases, with an average of more than 800,000 new cases a day reported on Saturday, according to a New York Times database.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concerns that the next several weeks would overwhelm hospitals and staff. “Right now we’re at about 150,000 people in the hospital with Covid,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.”

In addition, Omicron has brought into sharp relief the longstanding lack of adequate testing supplies, with consumers now depleting pharmacies of costly rapid tests — a boxed set of two tests ranges from $14 to $24 — and creating long lines at testing sites.

The federal government has promised to distribute one billion rapid at-home coronavirus tests to Americans, limiting each household to request four free tests. And new federal rules require private insurers to cover up to eight at-home tests per member a month.

But with the test orders and reimbursement processes hampered by delays, Americans will likely not have tests in hand for weeks, which may be too late in some places where demand is high as infections spread.

“We’ve ordered too few testing kits, so our testing capacity has continued to lag behind each wave,” Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s too little and too late, but noteworthy for the next wave.”

While many people infected with Omicron have had no or mild symptoms, others — especially those who were not vaccinated and those with chronic conditions — suffered more serious illnesses that were already overwhelming hospitals in some states late last year.

Dr. Murthy disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision last week that rejected President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers that would have applied to more than 80 million workers.

“Well, the news about the workplace requirement being blocked was very disappointing,” Dr. Murthy said. “It was a setback for public health. Because what these requirements ultimately are helpful for is not just protecting the community at large; but making our workplaces safer for workers as well as for customers.”

Nearly 63 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but only 38 percent of those have received a booster shot, which some have argued should be the new definition of full vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed the definition of full vaccination, but said recently it considers three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines to be “up-to-date,” as well as Johnson & Johnson’s shots with a second dose, preferably of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.

Last week, the C.D.C. finally acknowledged that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as a surgical mask or respirator, which some experts have urged the agency to recommend for the general public.

“Please, please get vaccinated,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC, issuing a reminder that the shots still provide good protection against severe illness. “It’s still not too late.”

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Homes That Sold for $520,000 or Less

Each week, our survey of recent residential sales in New York City and the surrounding region focuses on homes that sold around a certain price point, allowing you to compare single-family homes, condos and co-ops in different locales.

The “list price” is the asking price when the property came on the market with the most recent broker. The time on the market is measured from the most recent listing to the closing date of the sale.


This 700-square-foot postwar co-op has hardwood floors, a southern exposure and an open kitchen with a breakfast bar in a non-doorman elevator building with a live-in superintendent.

20 weeks on the market

$375,000 list price

1% below list price

Costs $643 a month in maintenance

Listing broker Keller Williams

Connecticut | 2 bedrooms, 3 baths

This 45-year-old, 2,026-square-foot, semidetached condo has an open floor plan, a kitchen with granite counters and island seating and two decks in a complex for those aged 55 and over.

12 weeks on the market

$439,900 list price

Less than 1% above list price

Costs $9,543 a year in taxes; $463 a month in common charges

A 577-square-foot prewar condo with hardwood floors, an eat-in kitchen with granite counters, a bedroom with French doors and a windowed walk-in closet in a non-doorman walk-up building.

31 weeks on the market

$435,000 list price

6% below list price

Costs $5,168 a year in taxes; $405 a month in common charges

Listing broker Triplemint

Long Island | 2 bedrooms, 2½ baths

This 36-year-old, 1,305-square-foot, townhouse-style condo has a living room with a stone fireplace, two walk-in closets and two decks in a complex with a pool and tennis courts.

17 weeks on the market

$499,000 list price

4% above list price

Costs $13,209 a year in taxes; $350 a month in common charges

Listing broker Douglas Elliman

Westchester | 1 bedroom, 1 bath

A 32-year-old, 774-square-foot condo, with hardwood floors, a pass-through kitchen that has granite counters, and a washer and dryer in a high-rise doorman building with a gym, indoor pool and pond.

21 weeks on the market

$389,000 list price

6% below list price

Costs $4,911 a year in taxes; $569 a month in common charges

Listing broker Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty

A 350-square-foot prewar co-op, with a bath, hardwood floors, two closets and a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances (but no dishwasher), in an elevator building with a doorman and gym.

14 weeks on the market

$325,000 list price

17% below list price

Costs $840 a month in maintenance

Listing broker Keller Williams

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