Bronx council member helps raise $20K for Albania earthquake relief, plans to fly out engineers

Rescuers search a damaged building in Durres, western Albania, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. The death toll from a powerful earthquake in Albania has risen to 25 overnight as local and international rescue crews continue to search collapsed buildings for survivors. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

After Albania was rocked by a devastating earthquake this week, a New York City Councilman is looking to his fellow New Yorkers to help in the recovery and rebuilding effort. 

In times of tragedy, New Yorkers bring relief and compassion in ways that others simply do not, according to Bronx City Councilman Mark Gjonaj. Constituents have flooded his Bronx office asking how they could provide aid after the devastating 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked Albania’s western shoreline yesterday—some even started bringing supplies to his Morris Park base of operations, he said.

“We’ve been flooded with calls, people have come in with cases of water,” said Gjonaj, who is of Albanian descent.

For the time being, online donations will go further than supplies for earthquake relief the councilman noted, saying that the GoFundMe page that he and other Albanian New Yorkers created has grown to over $20,000 in the past day—all thanks to both local and global contributions.

People have donated up to $1,000 on the page in the past day, including fellow councilman Ritchie Torres, Bronx Congressman Adriano Espaillat, and Gjonaj himself.  

“Seeing the way that this city comes together when another nation suffers a tragedy is something like no other,” Gjonaj said.

Many in that Albanian and Italian Bronx neighborhood of Morris Park are joining Gjonaj in collecting relief funds to transfer over to the Eastern European nation too, according to Morris Park Community Association President, Al D’Angelo.

“They’re our neighbors and our friends, whatever we can do to help we will,” he said.

The earthquake also hurts the Bronx council member personally, he said while noting his extended family that’s in the area of the now leveled Durres, Albania.

“It doesn’t just effect me, it effects so many New Yorkers,” Gjonaj said, mentioning that he intend to travel out to Albania as early as Black Friday.

He also said that there is a working plan in place to fly out at least two Albanian structural engineers from The Bronx back to their native nation in the effort of helping those displaced from the earthquake back into their homes safely,

“However we can help we will,” the council member said.

Alex Mitchell