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Local artists host uplifting fundraiser for families displaced by Jackson Heights fire

Artists and vendors came together for a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Height fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Community artists and residents gathered in Travers Park on Saturday, April 10, for an afternoon of dance, art and treats — all to benefit the hundreds of families who were displaced by a massive fire at a nearby apartment building.

Kaleidospace, a Queens-based arts collective, hosted the event to fundraise for the GoFundMe created on behalf of the 89-07 34th Ave. building’s tenants association, 89th Street Tenants Unidos. The funds will go toward the 240 families of the six story, 133-unit apartment building who lost their homes as a result of an eight-alarm fire that broke out on Tuesday, April 6.

“We just really want to be able to supply everything that we can with the love that we have for our community by using art and our voices to uplift the people that need it the most,” said Kaleidospace founder Manuela Agudelo. “These are essential workers. These are low-income communities of color who are just like us, and they deserve our love.”

Agudelo was one of the performers, captivating the several dozen attendees with her Cumbia dance as Maraca Bruja, a Colombian band, kicked off the event with their Afro-Indigenous music.

Manuela Agudelo performs at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Maraca Bruja performs at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
(Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Many of the artists and organizers at the event have been on the ground collecting donations and supplies for the families who were displaced by the fire.

(Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Community activist Daniel Puerto, who created the GoFundMe on behalf of the tenants association and has organized additional relief efforts, said that although they met their initial goal of $250,000, “the need is higher.”

“To put it into context, there are more than 400 people who have been displaced,” Puerto said, explaining that many units housed more than one family. “$250,000 is not enough.”

Daniel Puerto speaks at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

He added that the tenants association will distribute the funds among the families who were placed in hotels, shelters and other homes across the city. The families affected by the fire will have to register with the Department of Housing Preservation to receive housing services, including hotel extensions past April 13.

Mark Saldana, an artist and organizer with Kaleidospace, had family living in the building. He said that luckily, his family members, including one cousin who is disabled, were rushed out of their apartment before anyone got hurt as a result of the fire.

“There were a lot of people in there, and all of them lost everything,” Saldana said, adding that they lost some pets and important documents. “But I’m so happy that my whole family is safe.”

The fire first broke out inside an apartment on the building’s sixth floor on Tuesday afternoon, and later spread into a small section of the next door building, according to the FDNY. It took 12 hours and more than 300 firefighters to bring the fire under control.

Six residents and 64 firefighters were injured by the flames, with most of the injuries reported as non-life-threatening, according to the FDNY.

Fire marshals have not yet entered the building to determine what caused the fire, but they say it isn’t suspicious. According to the FDNY, there was a delay in calling 911 and the door of the apartment where the fire originated was left open, causing the fire to spread to the hallway.

Almost immediately after the fire, many community members in Jackson Heights organized aid for the tenants.

Agudelo said Kaleidospace was able to raise $1,000 in a day to give some of the families gift cards. Saldana worked with the NYC Brown Berets to collect and distribute clothing, and said he was encouraged to see how neighbors quickly united to help the families not only with donations, but also to understand the information they were given by the Red Cross.

“It’s been a rough, rough week,” Saldana said. “I’m so glad the community just stuck together and pulled through to help these families in the past few days.”

Manuela Agudelo and Mark Saldana speak at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Manuela Agudelo and Mark Saldana perform at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

While Saturday’s event featured multiple dance and artistic performances, it also had tables set up with print and photography pieces made by local artists on sale, including Eric Teran of City Prints NYC and Jorge Pardo Denning of Sine Shooter.

Artist Erick Teran sells his prints at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)
Photographer Jorge Pardo Denning sells his prints at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Parva Bakeshop and Cafe, located at 8201 Northern Blvd., donated pastries and teas, while Sulcet Perez of Suceltlicious Sweets offered chocolate bars and cake pops.

Perez, who also performed, commended Kaleidospace for bringing the community together.

“We’re just here to help everybody and make sure everybody has a home after this,” Perez said.

Sucelt Perez of Suceltlicious Sweets sells her treats at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

The Jackson Heights Community Fridge was also there with a food drive to collect non-perishable items for the fridge and the families. Organizers Tahia Islam and Amy Pinilla talked about how they’re all connected in their mutual aid efforts.

“The best way we could take part as the community fridge is to make sure we’re a vessel to collect food for them once they’re all settled and also to keep it in the refrigerator for the rest of our community,” Islam said. 

Jackson Heights Community Fridge collects donations at a fundraiser hosted by Queens arts collective Kaleidospace for the victims of the Jackson Heights fire. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Andrew Sokolof Diaz, co-president of 89th Street Tenants Unidos, said they are “immensely grateful” for Kaleidospace’s support and their use of art as a way to heal.

“It means much more than just supporting our families, this is for our families to rebuild,” Sokolof Diaz said. “We’ve been decimated by this at a very critical moment. It’s a crossroads because these are immigrant people, these are essential workers in our buildings, and now is the time to see what the city does next for us. We’re grateful that the community has had our backs.”

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