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USA/Africa: Bronx Fire Devastates Gambian Community

AfricaFocus Bulletin
January 19, 2022 (2022-01-19)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

“This is the heart of the problem. If housing vulnerable people is an asset class – not a social good, or a human right – then generating returns for investors will always be in a zero-sum relationship with providing safe housing for those people. Landlords will always be in the middle; and when they’re taking sides, as they must in housing for profit, investors will always win.” - Annia Ciezadlo

New this year in AfricaFocus. See “AfricaFocus Plus” below for an update on new features (beyond this periodic Bulletin) that I am experimenting with.

The article by Annia Ciezadlo, writing in The Guardian about the Bronx fire that killed 19 people earlier this month, continues like this:

“When housing is a commodity, and making repairs is a cost – and like any cost, it needs to be minimized so that profit can be maximized – no law changes that basic fact,” says Henríquez [director of litigation at Legal Services of New York]. “Providing safe and decent habitable conditions for your tenants falls on the cost side of your balance sheet. And so that already creates an incentive to do as little as possible. To keep that cost as low as possible.”

Touray Tower in the Bronx, as the apartment building that burned was known in the neighborhood, and Trump Tower in Manhattan are in different asset classes of real estate. Yet another class, but only a walk away from Trump Tower, is the residence of Rick Gropper, the real estate developer who is the principal owner of the Camber Group that manages Touray Tower and sits on an advisory board for Mayor Eric Adams.

Mid-Manhattan is a preferred location for foreign investment in real estate often used for money laundering, while the real estate market in the Bronx and northern Manhattan focuses on “affordable housing” for working families in New York, where immigrant communities are often concentrated.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a summary article on the Bronx fire from the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief, a publication I highly recommend.

But the best detailed coverage has been in the New York Times: for a search and for a compilation of PDFs shared on Google drive for AfricaFocus subscribers, click here.

Other sources I found helpful for this AfricaFocus Bulletin include:

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on issues related to migration, visit

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on the USA and Africa, visit

For ongoing coverage of USA/Africa relations, visit and


AfricaFocus Plus

As mentioned in a message to readers in October (, and as you will have noticed, I am publishing the Bulletin less frequently on the web and by Mailchimp email. But I am exploring new ways to reach out through other online media to continue sharing my reading and reflections with wider audiences.

If you use Facebook or Twitter or read books, I invite you to visit these sites:

AfricaFocus now has over 10,000 followers. How many people it reaches is unpredictable (only Facebook knows really). As we all know, Facebook is not anybody's friend and its goal is profit, although it has made some still largely token efforts to respond to recent critiques and whistlebrower leaks. But it does have the widest audience of any social media around the world, with almost 2.9 billion users. See The latest AfricaFocus post also automatically appears on the home page of

Twitter's 400 million users worldwide are much fewer than Facebook's, almost at the bottom of the comparative list in the link above. but its users are heavily concentrated among journalists, policy analysts, and policy makers themselves. So it is more useful than Facebook in reaching decision-makers or influencers. However, its culture can be every more toxic to the user, and the pace is unbearable if you use twitter's own interface. However, it can be managed if you only follow a few others who have content you are interested in. And you can visit the link even if you are yourself not signed up for Twitter.

The only way I can tolerate using it myself in by not going to directly and seeing the torrent of irrelevant clutter they send you, but by using another twitter product ( which enables you to curate exactly what you see, including priority accounts you choose to follow closely as well as specialized lists on a particular topic as well as sites that retweet your tweets. I have created a custom list that I follow on tax justice,and another on the Sudan.

By turning off notifications to your screen or your email, you can choose when to check tweetdeck and make better use of your time. I've been doing this more lately for AfricaFocus, and AfricaFocus now has almost 700 twitter followers.

This is of far more interest to me personally than twitter, and I spend hours each day reading books while I probably spend less than 15 to 20 minutes total in a day on twitter (email and the web are probably 5 to 6 hours a day).. is a not-for-profit B-Corporation which is dedicated to supporting independent bookshops around the United States. It's not yet international, although they have set up stores in the UK and Spain. In addition to raising almost $18.7 million for independent bookstores in their first two years, they pay 10% of the list price of each book they sell to “affiliates” that create their own shops on the site. Anyone can be an affiliate, from book stores to publishers to NGOs to individuals who simply like to recommend books to their friends.

One of my recent lists was featured on the home page of on January 18.

I haven't earned much money from it yet (about $140), but the main point in any case is publicizing books that I think people might be interested in and/or should read. I obviously haven't read all the books I list, but I have read a fair number, and if so I have noted my opinion in an annotation (otherwise just quoting a review or the publisher's description.

Another list I recently created noted ten of the best books that I read in 2021.

Original articles in other publications

In 2020 and 2021 I have also given particular attention to writing articles for other publications, often co-authored with others. These include,, and I have also written or edited on a number of the web pages and posts at

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Victims of a 19-story building fire in New York were mostly from the Gambia

By Alexander Onukwue

Published January 11, 2022

An apartment building fire that killed at least 17 people in the Bronx borough of New York on Sunday (Jan. 9) has left members of the city’s Gambian community in shock.

Three children and two parents were from one family, the Dukurays, who lived on the top floor of the 19-story Twin Parks North West building. The fire was caused by a faulty space heater on the third floor, city officials said. Smoke traveled upstairs through a malfunctioning open doorway, making it difficult for many residents who left their apartments to escape.

Built in 1972 and praised as an affordable housing experiment, the building did not have a sprinkler system—a legal requirement—nor did it have outdoor fire escapes, according to the New York Times.

“This is very unfortunate, and I think I dare say that the majority of the victims apparently have their roots from Gambia,” Dawda Fadera, the Gambia’s ambassador to the US, said at a news conference held by New York City mayor Eric Adams. “Our country is currently in a state of shock.”

Bronx building was home to west African communities

A GoFundMe fundraiser by the Gambian Youth Organization, whose office is located close to Twin Parks, had an initial target of $200,000 but has passed $700,000 after at least 15,000 donations, at time of writing.

The outpouring of support shows the closeness of the community of Gambians within the Bronx. Immigration from the small west African country of 2 million people to the US became popular during the late 1980’s. They gravitate to existing tight-knit communities in cities like Chicago and New York, and form family ties around shared cultures like Gambian jollof rice on Ramadan nights, and regular worship at the neighborhood mosques.

“This building is the cornerstone for us in this community,” Haji Dukuray, a 61-year old relative of the deceased family of five, said of Twin Parks. The community also includes Malians, and people from other African countries.

Eric Adams promises an investigation

The Bronx fire is one of the first tests of leadership for Eric Adams, who visited Ghana for a spiritual retreat in December ahead of the start of his tenure on Jan. 1. A former police captain, he said the fire was one of New York’s deadliest in modern times and wants to know how it could have been prevented from becoming fatal.

Some of the problems with the Twin Parks building have begun to emerge in the wake of the incident.

Residents say the building’s doors are faulty, creating a situation where they stay open unless someone deliberately closes them. Also, space heaters are a fire risk because the building’s heating just wasn’t functioning well enough to keep residents warm. “If you don’t use a space heater then you use your oven,” a resident told the New York Post.

Adams said New York City laws required doors to close automatically, and fire marshals will investigate. He also wants to run public service announcements that, he says, should help people prevent future tragedies: “We’re going to double down on the closing the door PSA that I knew as a child, and we want other generations to understand that.”

For victims’ families, however, the feeling is a struggle between heartbreak, disbelief, and anxiety. Some residents are still missing, and the first step towards closure is for relatives to receive their bodies for immediate burial in accordance with Muslim rites.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter. For an archive of previous Bulletins, see,

Current links to books on AfricaFocus go to the non-profit, which supports independent bookshores and also provides commissions to affiliates such as AfricaFocus.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. To subscribe to receive future bulletins by email, click here.

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