Fire Prevention Panel
Fire Safety Roundtable
Fordham University faculty, staff and students joined local community members, civic leaders and representatives from local government for a conversation to acknowledge and address the fire at Twin Parks West on January 9 that took countless lives from the Bronx community.
On Wednesday, April 6th, Fordham University faculty, staff and students joined local community members, civic leaders and representatives from local government for a conversation to acknowledge and address the fire at Twin Parks West on January 9 that took countless lives from the Bronx community.
Conversation topics ranged from testimony of personal experience, to discussions of policy and best practices, tangible needs in the Bronx and resources that the City of New York and Fordham University, as well as local non-profits, can utilize and collaborate with to examine and find solutions to direct and underlying causes of tragedies such as the January 9th fire. Moderators were Kujegi Camara, Assistant Director for Community Engagement and Operations, Fordham Center for Community Engaged Learning and Dr. Julie Gafney, Executive Director of the Fordham Center for Community Engaged Learning.
Two residents spoke about their experience since January 9th, including Fordham freshman Fatoumatta Kamara. Mr. Dukaray spoke about the loss of 5 family members and his interest in making sure this doesn't happen again, as well as resources to engage in the community, such as local mosques. He also spoke about the need for more oversight, lots of inspections and issues securing visas for loved ones abroad.
The Roundtable discussion took place as the New York City Council held a hearing that day on proposed legislation to address many of the issues that were discussed, such as a bill to reduce the amount of time for a landlord to correct a violation to keep or maintain self-closing doors from 21 days to 10 days.
Representatives from City agencies, including Ira Tanenbaum from NYCEM and FDNY: Captain Michael Kozo, participated in the conversation, conveying Information from about the City’s coordination agency for response efforts and efforts to educate community schools on fire education, such as in building and virtual info sessions. He spoke about special training for all ACS workers in fire safety and prevention. He conveyed benefits of info coming from trained professionals including trained interpreters, and concerns about using outsider interpreters and potential information lost in translation. Fire safety classroom presentations at Department of Education schools was mentioned, and capacity to doing 16 classes a day at a site.
In addition to outreach for advocacy for policy reform and landlord action, Ms.Spitzer and Ms.Saltares from BronxWorks spoke about the resource of Tenant Groups who are comfortable with neighbors speaking to neighbors in comparison to law/city enforcement professionals such as ACS workers. The resource of social service orgs with physical presence in buildings were discussed, as tenants get to know the organization and their /workers and feel comfortable being open with them. Also discussed with Mr. Tannenbaum and Captain Kozo was a need for interpreters if outsiders (city agencies, etc.) coming in and the need for basic fire safety education for families, as parents often learn from their kids who learn in schools. The next phase of programming was discussed, including English language education, job development, immigration, mental health services and domestic violence issues.
- Naison suggested organizing two surveys: First, find out what languages are spoken in the African immigrant communities that are near the university. Second, identifying people at Fordham who are familiar with those languages and make those individuals available to the community
- Naison offered that the The Bronx African American History Project can do the language survey but not to organize the advocacy program and mentioned he will be hiring new students to work on this and will offer Fatoumatta Kamara a position if interested.
Professor Hinze offered this reflection: “Regarding today's conversation specifically, I was thinking about many of the discussions I have with students in my Immigration Politics class about immigrant communities and trust in authorities. What Captain Kozo was talking about in terms of lack of community trust is something that is discussed frequently in conversations about undocumented immigrants and policing. ICE raids in particular (and especially during the Trump years, when they increased in frequency) have done their part in seriously eroding what little trust there was within immigrant communities. I wonder whether helping immigrant communities like the one in the Twin Parks building and beyond better understand their rights would help them build trust with uniformed officers that are not trying to harm them, like the FDNY. To that end, I wonder whether organizing workshops or distributing materials would at all help the community understand which uniformed officers to worry about and which ones to seek out for help. This is perhaps something I could work on with students in my classes. Please let me know how I can be of further help or get involved, as an individual, instructor, or as Urban Studies Director. Thank you so much for all your work!”
Ms. Miranda-Alarcon spoke about CERT training for Fordham Community to interested parties, a campaign for the creation of Tenant Associations to empower and inform tenants of rights, and an Emergency Preparedness Fair at Fordham Plaza.
Ms. Camara offered a number of ideas for Fordham collaborations on the matters discussed:
- increase CBO capacity of Gambian Youth Organization, a community run organization on the front lines responding to crises, known to building residents, community informed/driven/run through a CEL class that helps with non-profit writing, etc, or academic resources in psychology, counseling and social work looking to provide counseling opportunities to families, casework/case management capacity
- creation of a Fordham CERT team that can be deployed during emergencies/crisis in NYC, can also help with cultural responsive emergency education in communities throughout NYC
- Professor Naison: language survey, actually create a Fordham language co op of Fordham Students who speak various languages, willing to "donate" time to serve as interpreter in various settings/help immigrants with paperwork, etc. Could be in partnership with language DEPTs.
- Urban Studies Program or History: create a course on Bronx is burning history/fires in the bronx since the 1970s and urban housing in the borough using recent fire as case study in real time
- Storytelling through classes, other avenues at Fordham to tell this community we care about you, and show care through properly telling the story
- Creating a student led task force in the Bronx; it can be a culmination of these efforts/report out on these endeavors while amplifying students impacted such as Ms. Kamara or other Bronx residents facing similar housing issues/crisis and advocacy
City Council legislation and hearing information: https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=937618&GUID=00F2E407-5599-4653-B76E-E2026997B337
News about the City Council Hearing: https://www.cbsnews.com/newyork/news/city-council-looks-to-strengthen-fire-safety-rules-in-wake-of-bronx-high-rise-blaze/
BronxWorks helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being. From toddlers to seniors, we feed, shelter, teach, and support our neighbors to build a stronger Bronx community. Bronxworks.org
New York City Community Emergency Response Team (NYC CERT) members are dedicated volunteers who undergo a training program that provides basic response skills needed for fire safety, light search and rescue, community disaster support, disaster medical operations, and traffic control. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/volunteer/nyc-cert.page
Share space program: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/ready/share-your-space-survey.page
Ready NY program: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/ready/ready-new-york.page
The NotifyNYC program : an app with emergency information in your neighborhood.
FDNY Fire Safety notice for Non-combustible/fireproof buildings: http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/pdf/rcny/rcny_form_fire_safety_notice_non_combustible.pdf
FDNY Smart: The FDNY Fire Safety Education Unit provides videos, podcasts and literature on all aspects of fire safety. The literature and website are available in over 20 different languages. They also provide in person and virtual presentations. www.FDNYSmart.org
Safe Kids Worldwide: This nonprofit organization works to help families and communities keep children safe from injuries, and offers the following fire safety guidance and tips for parents: