Pink balloons, lit devotional candles and stuffed animals have filled a make-shift shrine at the entrance to 720 Hunts Point Ave., in honor of the two babies who were severely burned and killed by steam from the radiator in their bedroom on Wednesday afternoon. Copies of smiling baby pictures of 1-year-old Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose were pasted to the building.
Neighbors and strangers gathered at the building when they heard the news, and then held an impromptu vigil yesterday afternoon led with a prayer from Sandra DeJesus, the parents association president at PS 48. Jose Rodriguez, who works at the Hunts Point Warehouse, stood with a sullen look in front of the shrine, staring, he said, in disbelief.
“It hits you hard, even if you’re not from the neighborhood,” said Rodriguez. “It shouldn’t have to be this way. Two young girls shouldn’t have to die like this.”
Peter and Danielle Ambrose — the parents of the two girls – have lived on the first floor of the building for about a year and two months, according to neighbors. Majora Carter, the founder of StartUp Box and the Birch Coffee franchise on Hunts Point Avenue, said the family had just bought a car and wanted to move to Florida. On occasion, they would visit the coffee shop, and had mentioned that they were originally from Maine.
Elizabeth Irish – the sister of Peter Ambrose, has started a GoFundMe page to help the family. The hope is to raise $10,000, and DeJesus urged residents to donate if they can.
“This is what we need more of – unity,” DeJesus said. “We need more unity in this Hunts Point neighborhood.”
Dwayne Barrett knew the family from the neighborhood, and walked over to the building to find out when the funerals would be. Barrett said he never saw the mother without her children.
“Wherever the mom went, the older daughter was right next to her,” Barrett said. “She literally had the little one on her chest.”
David Tyson, 24, a barista at Birch Coffee just down the street, said Danielle Ambrose would buy blueberry muffins and cut them into small pieces for her daughters.
“She was always nice with the kids,” Tyson said.
DeJesus, who also works at Carepoint Pharmacy, said she quickly became close with the toddlers’ mother, who purchased formula at the pharmacy.
“She came in practically every day,” Dejesus said. “I never knew she was in a shelter.”