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Transcript: Mayor Adams Gives Update on Deadly Fire in the Bronx

January 10, 2022

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Mayor Eric Adams: I am Mayor Eric Adams and I'm joined here by members of the FDNY, EMS, law enforcement. I'm joined, as I stated, by my colleagues in government that are also here, Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Congressman Richie Torres, Councilman Oswald Feliz, and I'm sure there's more that's here. If I miss you, I apologize.  

We are going to continue to remain vigilant to address this just horrific tragedy that we're facing. The ME modified the numbers of those who lost lives, we have 17 lost, nine are adults and eight our children. This is a really an evolving crisis, and so as it evolves, and as we get new information, we're going to share it with you, as well so you can let the public know what we're going through. We said this yesterday, and we will continue to say this is an unspeakable tragedy. Early this morning, I was joined with the Chancellor, we visited every school in the area where the children, our young scholars, lost their lives. We sat down with the principal and the teachers, and just wanted to have a private moment to let them know that we are here to support them as they go through this tragedy. They shared just personal notes of these children, and it was something that we heard universally about each child that we lost is how much they smiled, how much they brought life to the school, and not only did this fire leave a burning pain in the hearts of people in this community, but it has left a burning pain in the children and the teachers and the faculties of these schools. We will support these schools in every way possible in the coming months, educators, students, staff, all of them realize that they're going through a traumatic moment, and we want to be here for them, and it is clear that these families and the entire community is receiving support from across the country.  

Just a few moments ago, I received a call from President Biden and he has made it clear that whatever we need of the White House is going to be there for us. He has just sent a very strong message that this is on the radar of the entire globe, what has happened here. The Consulate General of the Dominican Republic is here with us and his team. This is a global tragedy, because the Bronx in New York City is representative of the ethnicities and cultures across the globe, and so everyone is feeling the pain of what we are experienced. But I will tell you this, and I say over and over again, we got to get through this moment. We're going to get through this moment and we're going to get through it together. And this tragedy is not going to define us. It is going to show our resiliency as we help the families through this. In the middle of such pain, we have witnessed such a high level of heroism, from the hospital staff, the doctors, the nurses, the administrators who are already going through crises with the pandemic. But we also witnessed a high level of heroism through those first responders, the EMS, the firefighters, I will say this over and over again, watching them go in the building and even without having a full air tank still pushing through the dark smoke and rescuing in families in this building, our firefighters and first responders really showed why it is imperative to give them the support they need, and I want to thank Commissioner Nigro for just really leading this charge yesterday, being out here throughout the day, leading his men and woman to do what was needed to save as many families as possible. And to every grieving family, 8.8 million New Yorkers see you as their family members and we are here together to push through this.  

And so some clear messages we want to send, one, for those who want to help, please do not drop donations of the fire stations and EMS stations, let them do their jobs. They're real outlets, our elected officials are here, you can drop them off at the offices or other facilities that we will put in place if you want to do so. If you want to help financially, we have the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York, every dollar raised will go directly to the family members that are involved so this way we can help families in a real way. And if we take one message from this, that Commissioner Nigro has mentioned several times, close the door. Close the door. That was embedded in my head as a child watching the commercials over and over again, we're going to double down on that message. My conversation with the Chancellor this morning, we're going to send out communications to all of our schools and state that we want our children to receive the same level of reinforcement. Muscle memory is everything and if we can drill that in, we can save lives by closing the doors not only in the city, but across the entire globe. This painful moment can turn into a purposeful moment as we send the right message of something as simple as closing the door, and we want to really thank all the communities, leaders that are here in this community, a large member of the African diaspora of – in recognizing some of the communication gaps, building those bridges, having the community come together as a whole, to make sure that we provide the services that are needed for this community to get on the road of healing from this devastating event. No one wants to hear about the loss of life, and that is even more impactful when the lost consists of children of this level and this magnitude. Before turning it over to the other representatives who are here, I want to turn it over to the Chancellor who visited the schools with me today and thank him for showing the infrastructure support to the educators in the school. They were appreciative of your presence and showed how serious this matter is to all of us. Chancellor Banks. 

Schools Chancellor David Banks: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. It was certainly my pleasure to join the Mayor this morning, as we visited four schools, two traditional public schools and two charter schools, and I think it's important to note that. That when it comes to moments like this, there's no separation between us. These are all of our children, and to hear the heartbreak from the principals of each one of those schools, the teachers, the school safety officers, the custodial workers, we came there to thank them, to let them know that we are here for them, but they each one of them also told us about each one of the young people who died. They're not just a name. They told us stories about each one of them, and my heart broke as we heard just about how passionate each young person was and how they came to life for us. One teacher read a letter that he had just gotten a few days ago, and it was just it was just heartbreaking. And so I want to say also we sent out – I sent out a letter to every school principal and educator across the city this morning, asking that we all take time to reflect on this tragedy, but also to make sure that we are providing opportunities to talk about fire safety. During this winter season there are a lot of people in their homes and in their apartments were using these heaters and unfortunately we have these kinds of active accidents, and certainly nothing as tragic as this, but this is the time to make this an educational moment. And as the Mayor said, something as simple as closing the door, and our young people need to be taught that, they need to be reminded of that and take that as something that they will take with them for the rest of their lives as well. And so I just simply want to thank all of the personnel at all of our schools that had been affected, the teachers, the principals, the administrators, the librarians, the custodians, the school safety workers, the nurses, everyone has been impacted by this. It’s a monumental tragedy and we just send prayers and all of our deepest thoughts with the families who are going through so much. God bless. 

Mayor: Thank you, and as indicated, there is a large Gambian community here and we have the Ambassador here of Gambia, please allow him to come up and say a few words. 


Mayor: Thank you. Thank you, we'll be here for you. So we know we want to get to the Commissioner to answer any questions, but I just want to allow those electeds who are here and was here all night for the most part to respond to this, we want to have the Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, then Bronx BP Vanessa Gibson, then Congressman Richie Torres, and then finally Councilman Oswald Feliz.


Mayor: Thank you. We're going bring on the Fire Commissioner Nigro and the Deputy Commissioner of OEM for if there's any updates on what we're doing and as we mobilize and move forward. 

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Thank you, Mayor. The investigation continues. As I said yesterday, we're certain that the fire started with a faulty electrical heater, portable heater. The fire was contained to the hallway just outside this two story apartment, but the smoke traveled throughout the building and the smoke is what caused the deaths and the serious injuries. So, our fire marshals teams are here. They've been here. They've been examining the building, they've been examining videotape, they will do a complete investigation as to how this occurred, why this occurred, and we're confident of that. As the Mayor stated previously, patients were taken to seven different hospitals. There was a bit of a double count, and I guess it's a bit of good news that the number isn't 19 But 17, but don't forget there are many people fighting for their lives in the hospital who were transported. So this number could unfortunately increase again. So our prayers are with them and the prayers continue to be with the families of those we lost. I will let OEM discuss more about the continued operations for the families. 

First Deputy Commissioner Christina Farrell, Office of Emergency Management: Thank you. So last night the building was totally vacated. No apartments were habited last night. We, through the American Red Cross, with Housing Preservation and Development, and with the building management, about half of those units, so about 60 different families, stayed in area hotels. We were able to house everyone in the Bronx, and the rest, as they said, there are people still in hospitals and people also went to friends and family. Ongoing is registration with the Red Cross, people are still – people coming out of hospitals, people were at work or somewhere else. So it's never too late. People can continue to register with the Red Cross. We worked with the Department of Education, they were able to help to get the children back – as was noted – back to their schools this morning, and they will continue to help them until people are back in the building. It does look like many of the apartments will be able to be reoccupied as the week goes on, which is good news. There are a certain number of apartments that will be, you know, not habitable for quite some time, and so we will continue to work to find long term housing with the State and with the City. We moved out of the school since the school opened this morning, there is now a service center at Monroe College which is close by. We have several different agencies there. It opened at 12 o'clock. It's open till 8 pm. It'll be open this week, so residents can come by there and continue to receive services. We have interpreters there. There has been an outpouring of support, as everyone said, the Borough President, everyone else, there's a lot of food and other resources that we have been able to share with the families. Thank you. 


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