Mayor Eric Adams has pledged to provide an additional $3 million in direct cash to survivors of the Twin Parks fire in the Bronx, reversing a plan that would have reserved the funds for long-term services.
BronxWorks, a community care organization, will be tasked with dispersing $3 million in cash assistance for victims of the Jan. 9 blaze, which killed 17 people and left hundreds displaced from the Twin Parks North West building. The remaining $500,000 in the Mayor’s Fund will be set aside for “services and longer-term support” for tenants over the next year, according to a press release.
The roughly 150 families who survived the fire would “soon see an additional $3 million begin to roll into their pockets,” Adams said. He declined to provide an exact timetable for the funds, though, only saying that BronxWorks would “cut the bureaucratic red tape” and “serve as a single point of contact” for families in need.
“Since January, BronxWorks has provided ongoing case management services to families affected by the fire to assist them in rebuilding their lives after this devastating and traumatic event,” said Eileen Torres, executive director of BronxWorks, in a statement. “We are grateful to Mayor Adams and the Mayor’s Fund for bolstering this response and engaging with us to ensure families have the long-term support they need.”
The announcement came as the Adams administration faced scrutiny over its slow distribution of the $4.4 million that it raised after the fire. The Mayor’s Fund established the Bronx Fire Relief Fund in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy to help the victims recover. While the mayor had vowed to provide tenants with every dollar that was donated, the city had sent just $270,000 in direct payments as of last week – all of it in the form of a one-time gift card of $2,250 that each household received in January.
The mayor said about $937,000 of the funds raised have already been spent on providing victims with “cash assistance, food, burial services, and more.”
In response to Gothamist inquiries, mayoral spokesperson Fabien Levy said last week that the administration planned to distribute the remaining funds “in a holistic manner that supports the needs of families in the long-term.”
That comment drew a sharp rebuke from some tenants, who accused the city of taking a paternalistic approach that ignored their immediate short-term needs.
“If you want to help me you’re going to give it to me right then and there, you’re not going to tell us what to do with my money,” said Tony Jonson, a 64-year-old resident of Twin Parks, who said he planned to spend the money on transportation to his chemotherapy appointments.
Dana Campbell, a mother of six whose home was destroyed in the fire, said the additional relief would help her as she tries to move her family out of a hotel and into a permanent home.
But she remained skeptical, she said, pointing to the city’s promise to help families find new housing – something that several tenants said has been far more difficult than they were led to believe.
“When the cameras were running, they made all these promises, and none of them were kept,” Campbell told Gothamist on Wednesday. “I won’t believe it until the check is in my hand and the money has been deposited. I have no trust in my city any longer.”