Tag Archives: College Point

Avonte Oquendo’s mom files suit against city: reports


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

The mother of Avonte Oquendo has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, charging various agencies and individuals with negligence leading to the death of the 14-year-old autistic teen, according to published reports.

Vanessa Fontaine reportedly filed the suit last week in Queens Supreme Court blaming the Department of Education, NYPD and members of Avonte’s Long Island City school for her son’s death.

Among the Center Boulevard School individuals are school safety agent Bernadette Perez and principal Susan McNulty, reports said.

The 14-year-old was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River last October. Surveillance footage caught the teen running through the halls unsupervised before leaving the building. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

The lawsuit does not have a dollar amount, according to reports, however family attorney David Perecman previously said the family would be seeking $25 million.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Overcast. High 51. Winds E at 15 to 25 mph. Tuesday night: Considerable cloudiness. Occasional rain showers after midnight. Low around 45. Winds E at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Mookie Wilson book signing

Join Barnes and Noble Fresh Meadows as it welcomes New York Mets World Series legend Mookie Wilson for the signing of his new book “Mookie- Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets.” Wristband distribution begins at 9:00 am. Book signing starts at 7 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Suspect tried to kidnap teen off College Point street: cops

A man tried to grab an 18-year-old girl off a College Point street Sunday and force her into his car, police said. Read more: The Queens Courier

State Assembly advances bill for more speed cameras in NYC, Long Island

The New York State Assembly voted Monday to authorize hundreds of new speed cameras for school zones in New York City and Long Island. Read more: CBS New York

City Council members set to reform discretionary funds

City Council members are set to introduce legislation Tuesday that would make the distribution of discretionary funds more equitable, sources told The Post. Read more: New York Post

New York graduation rate slightly below national average

A new report on high school graduation rates shows that 77 percent of New York state’s Class of 2012 graduated on time, slightly below the national average. Read more: AP

Users bemoan NYC e-cigarette ban

A law in New York City making “electronic cigarettes” subject to the same regulations as tobacco is taking effect Tuesday, and their sellers and users are steadfast in their opposition. Read more: NBC New York

 

Suspect tried to kidnap teen off College Point street: cops


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

A man tried to grab an 18-year-old girl off a College Point street Sunday and force her into his car, police said.

The victim was walking down 25th Avenue toward 126th Street around 12:15 a.m. when the suspect drove up to the teen and asked her if she wanted a ride, cops said.

She refused and continued walking down the block. The suspect then parked his vehicle at the corner of 25th Avenue and 124th Street, grabbed the victim around the waist, put his hand over her mouth and tried to drag her back to his car, police said.

The girl fought off her would-be kidnapper and he ran back to his vehicle, then drove off northbound on 124th Street, according to officials.

Police have released a sketch of the suspect and describe him as a Hispanic man, approximately 30 to 35 years old and 5 feet six inches tall, with a slim build, light beard and mustache, and short, dark spiked hair. He was wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt.

A photo of the four-door sedan he was driving has also been released. The vehicle has damage to the passenger side area.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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New footage shows Avonte Oquendo tried to escape day before disappearance: reports


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Newly released video surveillance footage shows teen Avonte Oquendo tried to run away from his class just a day before he dashed out of his school never to be seen again, according to published reports.

The 14-year-old autistic teen had tried to escape October 3 when he was being brought down from the fifth floor to the second floor of the Riverview School in Long Island City with group of students. Avonte broke away from the group and ran to the first floor, revealed NYPD documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reports said.

The Riverview School shares space in the building known as the Hunters Point Campus across the street from the East River.

The day of his disappearance, Avonte was heading back from the cafeteria with a group of students and three school employees when he slipped away. He was last seen through surveillance footage running out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

A report previously released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District investigation says Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte’s mother, expressed her concerns to her son’s teacher about him being a “runner.” The teacher never shared the information with school administrators, the report said.

The investigation also found Avonte ran out of the building through a door left opened by an unidentified man.

 

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Avonte Oquendo’s brother shares family’s experience, thanks volunteers in blog post


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

One of Avonte Oquendo’s older brothers is sharing what his family went through in the four months during the 14-year-old’s disappearance.

“Every minute we spent in the dark about the whereabouts felt like years of torture,” wrote Daniel Oquendo Jr. in a March 21 blog post for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

He recounted the fear and pain his family felt as they tried to find Avonte, who was autistic and could not verbally communicate. He described how during the first few days the family did not sleep, barely ate and felt as if they had nowhere to turn.

The teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River last October. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

According to Oquendo, Avonte entered a frightened and panic state after running out of his school and possibly jumped into the East River and drowned. The medical examiner has ruled the cause and manner of Avonte’s death as undetermined.

Oquendo wrote that as his family was “overcome with grief and hopelessness,” they turned to the people of New York City to work together and gather volunteers to search for Avonte. As word began to spread, they encountered help through New Yorkers and out of state volunteers, who he thanked for all their dedication and prayers.

“It turns out that before it was all said and done Avonte did indeed become the beloved son of the city,” Oquendo wrote.

 

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Two Queens men charged in rash of burglaries


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Two Queens men have been arrested for a series of burglaries across the borough over the last six months.

Randolph Ardila of Maspeth and Raheim West of Long Island City are both charged with separate, various accounts of burglary, attempted burglary and criminal possession of stolen property, according to District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Ardila, 29, allegedly acted as the lookout for several Glendale and Ozone Park attempted apartment burglaries on Feb. 21. Later, at the time of his arrest, he was allegedly carrying a blue plastic contained filled with change, which had been reported missing from the Ozone Park apartment, Brown said.

In his car, police allegedly found a box containing the cremated ashes of a tenant’s mother, reported missing from a second Ozone Park location, according to the district attorney.

West, 37, was allegedly busted on tape breaking into the Promise Christian Academy Church in Flushing and making off with over $2,000 in cash last September and is additionally accused of stealing $160 from an employee at Flushing’s Asian Community Care Management earlier this month.

The LIC resident is also a suspect in two residential burglaries in Corona and another in College Point throughout February. Pry marks on the College Point residence allegedly match those made by West’s pry bar, Brown said.

When West was arrested, police recovered the pry bar, a screw driver and work gloves from his vehicle.

Ardila faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted and was ordered held on $150,000 bail. West, who faces 28 years, is being held on $200,000 bail. The pair will return to court March 10.

 

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Bill proposed in State Assembly to cover GPS tracking devices for kids with autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone introduced a bill in the State Assembly that would require insurance companies to offer GPS device tracking coverage for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The bill comes after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4, when he ran out of the school, located just across from the East River. His body was found on January 16, washed up in College Point.

“The tracking devices are crucial in finding lost children quickly and safely,” said Titone. “Unfortunately, such devices can be expensive and difficult to maintain.”

Titone also added that insurance companies would be responsible for covering the costs of the equipment and monitoring services.

In January, Senator Charles Schumer introduced a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with ASD or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common.

Later that same month, the Department of Justice agreed to take existing funding which already helps track seniors with Alzheimer’s and expand it to children with ASD.

The funding will become available to police departments or other local law enforcement groups that would be able to provide tracking devices to parents, schools and legal guardians interested in the program.

 

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Man found dead at College Point park


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A man’s body was discovered at a College Point park Tuesday afternoon, police said.

The unidentified male was found about 1:15 p.m. in Hermon A. Macneil Park near 119th Street and 5th Avenue, according to the NYPD.

Cops said there were no signs of trauma on the body and the person appeared to be homeless.

The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

 

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City’s largest window manufacturer is not moving out of Queens: CEO


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The head of the city’s largest window manufacturer is refuting claims the Queens plant will hightail it out of the Big Apple.

Crystal [Window and Door Systems] is not moving,” CEO Steve Chen said. “The company’s headquarters and main production facility in the College Point Corporate Park in Queens will remain where it is for the foreseeable future.”

A news report, in a headline Wednesday, said the glass company was “moving due to city’s high costs.”

To clarify, Crystal officials said the 31-10 Whitestone Expwy. facility would stay the same, but they are considering expanding in Westchester.

“We already have other facilities in Chicago, California and even Missouri. We are just expanding,” said Steven Yu, the company’s marketing manager. “We are looking to add another plant.”

Chen said the company has explored expansion out of state, in the city and in other parts of Queens, but has not yet secured the right industrial site “at a cost effective price.”

“All of these expansion initiatives were intended to increase Crystal’s production capacity and have never been intended to replace the Queens facility,” the Crystal boss said.

The report also tied Chen’s decision not to expand in the city to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to increase minimum wages and mandate paid sick leave benefits.

But Yu said the company’s 380 employees all already earn above the proposed new minimum wage.

“Somehow the story got twisted,” he said.

 

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Senator Charles Schumer introduces ‘Avonte’s Law’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Charles Schumer's Office

A day after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest, one politician announced legislation that could help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4 when he ran out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday he will be introducing a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices.

“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrated that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s.”

The bill would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice allowing the agency to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations wanting to provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The funds would also help provide training and other resources to schools allowing them to be prepared to react to a situation like Avonte’s.

The new program would be modeled from the federal program already being used to help track seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“Avonte’s Law” will authorize $10 million in federal money to purchase the voluntary tracking devices and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement. The program would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement and would provide training on how to use and maintain the devices. 

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

“The tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo hit home with parents in New York and across the country,” said Liz Feld, president of autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “We need to raise awareness and increase education so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

 

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Avonte Oquendo remembered as smiling, courageous boy at funeral


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Cristabelle Tumola / Avonte Oquendo photo: handout

ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND CRISTABELLE TUMOLA 

After the search for autistic Rego Park teen Avonte Oquendo ended tragically, hundreds of mourners came out to say goodbye at his funeral Saturday, where he was remembered as a silent yet always smiling, courageous boy.

Family and friends gathered at a private ceremony held at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home in Manhattan, where a “beautiful silence” took over the room, said Leslie Burch, a close family friend. Also among those paying respects was actress Holly Robinson Peete, whose son has autism.

Avonte’s father is consoled before a service for his son at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home.

Mourners then made their way to St. Joseph’s Church, just a few blocks away, where a public mass was led by former Archbishop of New York Edward Michael Egan.

“He was a strong, courageous young man who handled the struggle with autism with tremendous greatness and true nobility,” said Egan, standing next to a large portrait of Avonte wearing a blue striped shirt, which was also handed out on prayer cards.

Egan also took the time to thank and recognize the efforts that went into the nearly four month search for the missing 14-year-old after he was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.

Avonte’s mother waits to place a white rose on her son’s casket.

Officials confirmed Tuesday that remains found washed up along the East River in College Point last week were those of Avonte. The cause and manner of  death are pending on future tests, according to the medical examiner.

“Police officers and various agencies of our beloved city made it no less clear that they too knew how precious Avonte was,” said Egan.

Although Avonte’s family decided not to speak during the services Saturday, his mother, together with his brothers and other mourners, laid white roses on top of his white casket following the release of doves outside of the church.

Another family member that attended the service was Avonte’s cousin and best friend 20 –year-old Noah Javan Conti from Woodside who is mildly autistic.

Rocopra Conti, who raised Noah and also attended the funeral, remembers the last time he saw Avonte. That day the teen grabbed Rocopra’s face and gave him one last look.

Noah Javan Conti, Avonte’s cousin and best friend, and Rocopra Conti.

“That was the last moment we shared,” said Rocopra. “I knew how to love him, I knew what he was feeling. I just wish I could have done more.”

Family attorney David Perecman, who spoke at the funeral mass, said that even though the search was concluded, the story is not finished yet.

“I must ask all of you, I ask that this not be the last chapter in this very sad story. We must have at least one more,” said Perecman. “This loss that this family has of Avonte cannot be in vain, we must find out how to fix our schools, we must find out how to fix the system of security that failed this boy.”

There have been conflicting reports on how Avonte, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave his school the day he went missing.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to court records.

Fontaine filed the court action demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte, according to published reports.

Perecman also said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education, for wrongful death.

 

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Funeral set for Avonte Oquendo, mom files suit against city


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After human remains found in College Point were identified as missing teen Avonte Oquendo earlier this week, funeral plans have been set for this Saturday.

A private ceremony, opened only to friends and family, will be held at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home located at 199 Bleecker St. in Manhattan from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

A funeral mass will follow and be open to the public, beginning at 11 a.m., at St. Joseph’s Church, at 371 Sixth Ave.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that the remains found washed up along the East River in College Point last week were those of the missing teen, according to the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Avonte was last seen almost four months ago at his Long Island City school.

The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and are pending on future tests, according to Bolcer.

Following the identification of her son, Vanessa Fontaine filed suit against the City of New York on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, according to court records.

Fontaine filed the court action demanding the NYPD release records relating to the disappearance of Avonte, according to published reports.

After a passerby found an arm and legs on the evening of Jan. 16 near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, as well as clothing Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to cops.

Police said most of the body had been recovered as of Monday.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Earlier this month, the family’s attorney David Perecman obtained a Department of Education (DOE) occurrence report which showed a timeline of what happened before, during and after the boy went missing – but only left larger question marks.

Perecman said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the DOE, for wrongful death.

 

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Remains IDed as missing teen Avonte Oquendo


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 4:27

BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO, MAGGIE HAYES, CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE M. CULLEN 

The search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo has come to a devastating end for his family who never gave up hope that he would return home alive.

Almost four months after he was last seen at his Long Island City school, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner has confirmed remains found washed up in College Point are those of the missing autistic teen.

The cause and manner of the death has not yet been determined and is pending on future tests, according to spokesperson Julie Bolcer.

After a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday night near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police began to comb through the area. Clothing discovered with the remains seemed to indicate that the search for Avonte could soon be over.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers found with the remains matched those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Over the weekend, authorities also recovered more body parts, including a skull, another arm, jaw and rib bones, as well as a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s older brother Daniel Oquendo Jr. took to Instagram Tuesday afternoon to remember the teen.

“Rest in peace little brother. This world never deserved you. I will long for the day I can join you in paradise. Forever in our hearts, prayers, and mind. Love You,” he said in the post.

Oquendo also took the time to thank all who helped the family search for his brother during the past few months.

“The tenacity the world, especially NYC, has shown in regards to finding Avonte and spreading awareness has been unmatched in comparison to any other missing child investigation. For that we are forever grateful to you,” he said.

At the end of the post, Oquendo asks everyone to respect his family and give them both space and time as they mourn Avonte. 

“Thank you for the prayers. God bless, and may Avonte rest in peace,” he said.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier her son was afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who could not verbally communicate and was supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Earlier this month, Perecman obtained a Department of Education occurrence report which showed a timeline of what happened before, during and after the boy went missing – but only left larger question marks. 

Perecman said he will be filing a $25 million negligence claim against the city, focused on the Department of Education (DOE), for wrongful death. 

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña released a statement Tuesday saying the school community is in mourning and extended her deepest condolences to Avonte’s family. 

“Over the past several months, I have been among the countless New Yorkers who have been holding our breath in hope that Avonte Oquendo would be found unharmed. And I am among the many who are heartbroken to learn the news today,” said Fariña. “As Chancellor, I am determined that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again. Let Avonte remind us how important it is that we continue to look out for one another.”

 

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Attorney postpones $25M lawsuit as Avonte Oquendo’s family awaits test results


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File Photo

Updated 2:52

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

As tests are underway to determine if the human remains and clothing found in College Point belong to missing teen Avonte Oquendo, the family’s lawyer has decided to hold back on the lawsuit until the results are known.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police also found jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said. Another arm and a skull were additionally found over the weekend. As of Monday, the search is continuing at the scene in College Point. 

Police said most of the body has been recovered.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Avonte’s family is still remaining hopeful, even though the developing investigation have been “weakening” for them, said Perecman.

“They’re a strong group so they’re doing the best they can,” said Perecman. “A small window has opened up of recognition of the grim reality. But they are still holding on hope.”

Perecman said they hope to have the test results by Wednesday.

He initially said on Friday that he would be filing a lawsuit Monday, focused against the Department of Education and school safety, seeking $25 million. Yet now he said he will be holding off with the lawsuit until the test results come in because the “nature of the lawsuit could change.”

The autistic teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

 

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More remains found potentially belonging to Avonte Oquendo


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

College Point

CRISTABELLE TUMOLA, TERENCE CULLEN, ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND MAGGIE HAYES

Authorities continue to search the College Point site this weekend where human remains and clothing possibly belonging to missing teen Avonte Oquendo were found, as tests are underway to determine the body’s identity.

The search began when a passerby found an arm and legs Thursday near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place about 7:15 p.m.

Police later turned up jaw, shoulder, collar and pelvic bones, ribs and several vertebrae, the NYPD said.

Another arm was additionally recovered over the weekend and the search is continuing Sunday, according to published reports.

A pair of size 16 jeans and size 5 ½ Air Jordan sneakers were found with the remains, matching those belonging to Avonte, said David Perecman, the family’s lawyer.

Authorities also recovered a white shirt with gray stripes similar to what Avonte was wearing when he went missing, according to police.

Tests to determine if the body is Avonte will take “days,” cops said Friday.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Oct. 4. The school is just across from the East River.

His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said her 14-year-old son is afraid of the water and thought he “wouldn’t go near it.”

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Perecman will file suit on Monday, seeking $25 million in a civil suit focused against the Department of Education and school safety.

 

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