Following an alleged opioid exposure in the Bronx, which killed a toddler and hospitalized three others, Mayor Eric Adams blasted the pair of suspects and promised to lead an “assault” on fentanyl in the Big Apple.
“There needs to be a full national assault on this drug entering our city,” Adams said. “We’re not going to allow this incident to take place and ignore this as just another day and another tragedy in the city. It’s not acceptable.”
The horrific incident occurred at the Divino Niño Daycare facility in the Bronx last week, where police allegedly recovered around a kilogram of fentanyl just inches away from where children eat, sleep and play.
Police allege that the daycare owner, along with one other man, were using the location as a base for their drug-dealing operation.
According to investigators, several children came in direct contact with the fentanyl on Sept. 15, including 1-year-old Nicholas Feliz Dominici, who ultimately died from the exposure. Paramedics also rushed three other children to a local hospital, and treated them with Narcan.
Authorities arrested 36-year-old Grei Mendez, the proprietor of Divino Niño Daycare, and 41-year-old Carlisto Acevedo Brito on Sunday night — charging them with murder, along with a host of other violations.
“What happened three days ago in the daycare center is truly unimaginable. It’s a nightmare that these families will never wake up from,” said Police Commissioner Edward Caban. “The dangers of fentanyl cannot be overstated. This poison is extremely deadly, and if you traffic in it you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Mendez, who runs the daycare out of an apartment building, claimed at her arraignment that she had no knowledge of the drug operation, but simply rented a room in the building to Brito, who brought the illicit substances.
“Her only crime is renting a room,” a lawyer for Mendez said during her arraignment, where she pleaded not guilty.
But cops refuted her story, saying drug paraphernalia was littering the building, including drugs and kilo presses (a device commonly used by drug dealers when lacing substances with opioids). It would be highly unlikely for Mendez to lack any knowledge of the operation, according to police, who called her actions “depraved indifference” towards the lives of young children.
During a Monday afternoon press conference, Mayor Adams and members of his administration also defended their oversight of the daycare, which saw a surprise health inspection on Sept. 6.
“The inspectors did not go in and see a drug lab and ignored it,” Adams said. “They did not walk in and say ‘here’s a drug lab, let me walk past it.’ And so I don’t want to give that impression, and we need to be clear on that.”
“I’m very sorry, but one of the things that my child care inspectors are not trained to do is look for fentanyl. But maybe they need to,” said Ashwin Vasan, the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Vasan also spoke about the administration’s efforts to curb opioids, which killed 107,081 Americans last year, according to the CDC.
“A New Yorker dies of an overdose every three hours, and now it’s going to be less than that,” he said. “I cannot stress how dangerous this drug is in its synthetic form, its unexpected form.”
“I also want to emphasize what the Mayor said about Narcan. Narcan saved three babies’ lives. We have defibrillators behind every bar, in every business, in every public event. Increasingly, we have epinephrine pens, EpiPens, in public settings. Narcan has to be everywhere. You should be carrying Narcan right now.”
Adams, for his part, called on parents to do more in combating the deadly drug.
“The real message here, again, is for parents, that if you have someone in your home that is dealing with fentanyl, if you’re aware of someone in your home that’s carrying fentanyl in your home, if you are associated with someone that is dealing with fentanyl, you are endangering everyone in your household,” Hizzoner said.