FORDHAM HEIGHTS, the Bronx — A leader of the Muslim community of the Bronx has confirmed that 15 of the 17 people who lost their lives will have a large-scale funeral Sunday at 10 a.m. — exactly one week since their tragic passing.
That is one new development in the ongoing story of the deadly fire. Another is that some survivors of the tragedy are saying that they’ve been asked to return to living in the building, as well as being asked to leave their temporary housing in emergency hotels. They also said that assistance in finding and paying for other places to live has been too slow in coming.
Joyce Anderson is a long-time resident of the 13th floor of the 19-story building at 333 East 181st Street. She said that she’s frustrated by the latest developments.
“We have no place to live,” she said. “I’m not going back to the building. I’ve lived here fifty years, since 1972. I don’t feel safe sleeping in there, I don’t feel safe walking in there. But nobody seems to know anything.”
She’s among dozens of displaced residents who said they’re disappointed.
They said that assurances given by everyone from Sen. Chuck Schumer to Mayor Eric Adams that clear information about housing alternatives was forthcoming is falling short.
A group of community activists, led by Mona Davids, the head of Social Impact Strategies, held a news conference in front of the building on Thursday afternoon.
“The families are not getting all the support that they need,” Davids said at the event.
She and other activists said that details about available housing, as well as vouchers and other means to pay for it, remain elusive to families.
The activists did, however, single out the Gambian Youth Organization for helping them. It raised more than $1 million with a GoFundMe campaign, and was the driving force behind efforts to provide toiletries, clothing, and other necessities to displaced residents.
A couple hours after the activists’ event, the local council member, Oswald Feliz, and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson showed up at the building and specifically responded, saying they and their staff have been clear that help is on the way soon, and that nobody will be left without housing in the meantime.
The biggest concern expressed by residents all day was being told that they may have to return.
Ken Otisi, who’d lived on the 12th floor of the building, said that his employers — Pepsico and Cushman and Wakefield — had provided him long-term temporary housing. By contrast, he said, most other residents don’t have the alternative lodgings that he does.
Instead, he and others said, the building’s owners and managers overseeing the recovery effort, have asked them if they want to go back to their homes.
“I do not believe that it’s right that they’re forcing people to come back to this building,” Otisi said. “Some people are actually living here now, which is crazy. Someone who does not want to come back, they should be allowed not to, and should be linked to service to get to someplace safe.”
Late Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson from Mayor Adams’s office responded to PIX11 News’ inquiry into the situation.
In a statement, they said:
“While affected families are receiving notifications about if they can reoccupy their homes—no one is being forced or asked to leave hotels. Lodging remains available to any resident who would like to stay in emergency hotels. The City continues to provide support and resources to all families affected by Sunday’s fire.”
Meanwhile, Sheikh Musa Drammeh of the Bronx Islamic Center confirmed Thursday afternoon that the large-scale funeral for 15 of the victims will be held at the center, which is located at 371 East 166th Street, between Teller and Clay avenues.
A burial will follow in Queens, according to Imam Musa Kabba, of the Ar-Rahama Mosque, the local house of worship for the 15 residents — all of whom were originally from the same community from Gambia, in West Africa.