Hundreds gathered at the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx on Sunday — both inside, and outside in a tent that was set up for an overflow of mourners — to honor 15 of the 17 people killed in last Sunday’s deadly apartment building blaze.
Mayor Eric Adams, State Attorney General Letitia James, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were among those in attendance.
The cause of the fire was believed to be a faulty space heater in a third floor apartment. Eight of the 17 victims were children, and all were killed by smoke from the fire. The building where the tragedy occurred is at the heart of the Bronx’s Gambian community.
Sheikh Musa Drammeh, the community leader who organized the funerals, said he opened them to the public with a purpose in mind.
He said he wanted leaders of New York City to understand the reason for the fire wasn't just a faulty space heater, but apartments that have been neglected with poor heat that required a space heater to be used in the first place.
“Let everybody see 15 caskets of their fellow Bronxites being buried because of the condition in which they lived,” he said. “If these 17 victims lived in Midtown Manhattan, we would not have burial services today, they would not have died." During the funeral, he told those gathered, "We are number one for everything bad... We are having this funeral today because they lived in the Bronx."
Adams also spoke at the funeral, saying, "What is happening here in the Bronx, it is what is happening across our city, where the communities with Black, brown and immigrant people are. It’s time to end those inequalities so we don’t have our babies and our families torn apart by tragedy."
Residents of the building have complained about substandard conditions in the units, although the city said the heat is on and working now.
Kamara Mamadou is an imam at a Mosque in the Bronx where one of his members lost five relatives in the fire.
“We have to be here to support him, and to tell them that they’re not alone,” Mamadou told WNYC/Gothamist.
Read More: A Close Community Begins To Grieve After Bronx Fire
Governor Kathy Hochul announced Sunday that she had created a new fund worth $2 million dollars that will be available to help displaced tenants of the building. An intake center is being set up at nearby Monroe College for people to apply.
“All those affected are part of our New York State family, and we will help give them the support they need to recover. I want those impacted to know that we will not forget you, we will not abandon you, we are here for you," Hochul wrote in a statement.
The city said it will also give each of the 118 households of the residential building a debit card worth $2,250. Adams also set up a relief fund for victims, which has already raised more than $2 million dollars. The Gambian Youths Organization has raised another $1 million as well.