Power of community brings aid after devastation of Bronx fire


At one point, donations to aid families after the apartment fire in the Tremont section of the Bronx overwhelmed the organizations collecting.

On Jan. 9, the Bronx was devastated by a horrific fire in Tremont, a few short blocks away from District 34. This tragedy—the worst the Bronx has experienced in 40 years—left an undeniable mark on the Bronx and New York State, reminding us that there is much work to be done in order to ensure that all New Yorkers, especially our working class, immigrant, Black and brown communities, have access to the safe and affordable housing they deserve.

In the midst of such devastation, another truth became incredibly clear—the power of our community. Within hours of the fire, numerous organizations and individuals across District 34 stepped up to offer a helping hand. Groups such as the Pelham Picture House, the Riverdale Jewish Center, SAR Academy, the Anthony Avenue Community Garden and many others immediately mobilized to collect and distribute donations for the impacted families.

Donations quickly piled up at collection sites across our district to the point where organizations had to cease collecting donations because they were at capacity—a true testament to the generosity and selflessness of our community. I was taken aback by the immense kindness and empathy of our community, and received continual messages from neighbors eager to help out, whether it be through collecting supplies, raising funds or volunteering to distribute donations.

Many financial relief efforts also emerged—most notably the Gambian Youth Organization. A local grassroots organization led by many neighbors, friends and family members of those directly affected by the fire, the Gambian Youth Organization organized a GoFundMe that collected more than $1 million in donations and mobilized to serve as the headquarters for relief efforts–collecting, distributing and organizing donations and relief efforts, and ensuring that the needs and voices of the survivors were centered at all times. I had the honor of connecting with the leadership of the Gambian Youth Organization and was incredibly grateful for how organized, committed and steadfast they were in such a time of crisis.

I was also honored to connect with BStrong—an incredible relief initiative which provides real-time emergency assistance to those in crisis. Upon learning of the fire, BStrong immediately committed to raising $150,000 for Visa gift cards for the families, $125,000 of which has already been distributed, and distributing survival kits with necessities to those impacted. For families who lost everything in the fire, receiving direct and immediate financial assistance could not be more necessary, and I’m incredibly appreciative to BStrong for recognizing that and providing immediate relief.

These incredible organizations and individuals are only a handful of those who helped out, as our community received a tremendous outpouring of support and love. It has been remarkable to witness the entirety of District 34 come together to help our neighbors rebuild, and I could not express my gratitude and appreciation enough.

It is moments like these that make me feel incredibly proud to be your state senator, and I couldn’t feel more honored to serve such a loving and generous community. Thank you all for your incredible generosity and aid, and your unwavering dedication to our beloved borough and its members.

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat, represents the 34th District, which includes portions of the Bronx as well as the Town of Pelham.