Ridgites band together to help 81st Street fire victims

St. Anselm’s Parish alumni (from left) Eileen Downing, Robert Howe, and Lynn Savage, join parish pastor Monsigneur John Maloney at St. Anselm’s 90th anniversary celebration, held at the Bay Ridge church on Saturday.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Two 81st Street residents have united Bay Ridge to help a pair of families through tragedy.

In the wake of a four-alarm fire that tore through homes belonging to Merchants of Third Avenue President Robert Howe and John Railey in the early hours of June 21, Howe’s neighbors Christie Marrone and Christina Marotto from across the street have begun organizing fundraisers to aid the victims through the difficult time.

Marotto said she was in shock when she witnessed her neighbors’ homes destroyed in the blaze, but immediately set about trying to provide relief.

“We started with just a few neighbors saying we wanted to take up a collection, and then a few neighbors became people from around the corner,” Marotto said. “When I realized that we could get people around the block to help, we could get the whole community to help.”

Marotto, who grew up alongside the Howes’ children, said that much of her and Marrone’s desire to help their neighbors came out of the care and support the two families had given them recently when the two young women lost loved ones to cancer.

“There wasn’t any questioning, we knew we had to do something,” said Marotto.

The two created a Facebook page to gather money to help the Howes and Raileys recover some small part of what the fire destroyed, as well as essential items like clothes and shoes to tide the couples over as they stay with relatives. Donations have come pouring in, Marotto said.

“People have dropped stuff off, people have made monetary donations. The community has come together and really been amazing,” said Marotto.

Items can be dropped off during work hours at Councilman Gentile’s office on Third Avenue between 87th and 88th streets, State Sen. Golden’s office on Fifth Avenue between 74th and 75th streets, at Play Days and Parties on Third Avenue between 66th and 67th streets, and at Gabriel Pediatrics on Fourth Avenue between 77th and 78th streets. After 5 pm, donations can be made at 169 81st Street, between Colonial and Ridge Boulevard. There are also plans in the works for special fundraising events in the weeks to come. To find out what kind of things are needed most, visit the Facebook page, or call (917) 923–3127 or (917) 642–8152

Robert Howe at happier times.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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