Bronx is Grieving: Tremont Fire Kills 17


Photo Courtesy of Twitter

A fire in Tremont, a mere 10 minutes away from campus, took 17 lives on Jan. 9

On Jan. 9, a fire in the Bronx tragically killed 17 people in an apartment building, including eight children, and hospitalized at least 33 others. The Twin Parks North West building, located in Tremont’s Twin Parks affordable housing complex, became the site for one of the deadliest fires in New York City History.

On the night of the fire, Fordham University’s Office of the President sent an email announcement to all members of the Fordham community anticipating Fordham’s response to the tragedy. A Fordham News article published on the same night and written by Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, states, “This is obviously a terrible tragedy for our Bronx neighbors … I know you join me in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.”

Before 24 hours had passed, McShane provided a medium for concerned Fordham community members to help the victims of the fire. In another email, McShane wrote:

“The most expeditious way to get aid to survivors and the families of the victims is to give to Catholic charities, an organization that already has a sizeable footprint in the community, and a low overhead, [e]nsuring that your aid goes to those in need. This is a method fully supported by Father Cecero and the Division of Mission Integration he leads.”

As of Aug. 2, 2021, Rev. John J. Cecero, S.J., has been the vice president for Mission Integration and Ministry.

McShane’s correspondence, delivered to the inbox of all Fordham community members on the afternoon of Jan. 10, remains the only official response from Fordham University’s administration about the fire. The Fordham Ram reached out to Bob Howe, senior director of Communications Office, for further comment but received no response. Fordham University students have also taken it upon themselves to organize charitable drives to financially support victims of the fire.

On Jan. 12, the Fordham Ramblers and the Satin Dolls, two of the university’s a capella groups, announced a joint fundraising campaign via Instagram “to raise money for those that have been affected by the tragic fires in our community.” Members of both groups posted piano-themed bingo boards to their social media accounts and encouraged their followers to donate a specific amount of money listed on the individual piano keys, crossing off each key as they received donations.

“All of the funds raised will be donated to The Mayor’s Fund’s Bronx Fire Relief Fund,” reads the Instagram posting. Olivia Eguia, FCRH ’22, and Satin Dolls treasurer commented on why the club felt like it was important to organize a

“It just felt like the most natural next step was to use our platform on campus to help in whatever way we could, so we launched this fundraiser. Ultimately, the fundraiser was about raising as much money as we could for those affected by the tragedy, and by including the Ramblers we were able to increase the amount of people who heard about our fundraiser and donated. We ended up raising $920!”

Subsequent New York City Fire Department investigations concluded that the source of the fire stemmed from a malfunctioning electric space heater in one of the building’s 120 apartments. The 17 victims killed in the fire were determined to have died due to smoke inhalation. While the fire was contained to the same floor it started on, the investigations concluded that an open door between the floor and a stairwell allowed smoke to travel throughout the building. The FDNY and Mayor Eric Adams released public service announcements urging tenants to keep building doors closed.

A New York Times article stated that the owner of the building claimed that all locks on all automatic doors in the building had been functioning properly since the last inspection in July 2021, but investigations from FDNY revealed that “the door at the apartment where the fire started — and doors at a handful of other units — did not close as designed.” Official responses since the fire have gone towards enforcing safety codes and giving reparations to the fire’s victims.

On Jan. 14, Adams announced that the city’s relief plan would provide immediate payments of $2,250 to every family affected by the fire. In a statement, Adams said, “the city is acting now to provide immediate relief to impacted families, and we will continue to provide all of the support and resources we can to those affected.”

On Jan. 17, a group of elected officials announced a new bill for federal legislation to hold landlords accountable for malfunctions of or lack of adherence toward codes for building infrastructure. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Richie Torres and has since been supported by Mayor Adams and Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson.

According to ABC7, the new bill would “require installation of heat sensors so federal, state and local housing administrators can assess heat levels in real-time and prevent future fire tragedies, and improve fire safety and housing quality.”

Torres stated, “[i]t is no accident that the four worst fires in New York City history in the last thirty years have all been in the Bronx.” A large majority of the victims of the fire are low-income and working-class families. The West Bronx, where the building is located, contains some of the highest rates of eviction filings. In April 2021, The Gothamist named the West Bronx as “Ground  Zero for Eviction Filings.”

Based on a map published by the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, there are about 72 eviction filings for every 1,000 housing units in the same zip code where the Twin Parks fire took place, 10457.