The shocking death of a Bronx toddler who inhaled fentanyl at a daycare that served as a front for a drug factory has shocked locals – and brought back memories of the “bad old days” when crack cocaine plagued the neighborhood and many sent promising youngsters to an early grave.
Some say the fentanyl epidemic — sparked by the cheap, extraordinarily deadly opioid — has already devastated the Kingsbridge neighborhood in the north Bronx, where 1-year-old Nicholas Feliz Dominici died and three other children were hospitalized after being exposed to the drug Friday.
“My heart breaks for this neighborhood,” Jorge Gonzalez, 62, told The Post on Monday, adding that he has “practically lived here my whole life.”
“I saw it at its worst when people were smoking crack in front of everyone,” he continued. “I thought those days were long behind us. Now it’s back.
“Just walk down Kingsbridge Avenue if it’s not raining,” Gonzalez said. “You have to step over the people lying all over the sidewalk. You can’t believe it’s happening, but it’s happening.”
Abnar Reynoso, a 40-year-old father of three, said it was hard watching his small part of the city slide downhill.
“Kingsbridge has never been the best area, but people have always had the opportunity to retain their dignity,” he said.
“When you see people on the sidewalks you just think…really? “The city will just allow this?” he continued. “This is a health crisis. Just because it’s self-inflicted doesn’t mean it’s not a health crisis. Addiction is a disease and the enablers enable it and no one is doing anything to stop it.”
It’s not just angry locals who say fentanyl has taken a huge toll on their neighborhoods.
According to police sources, there are numerous drug factories in the Bronx – including the 52nd Precinct, where the drug-fueled Divino Nino Daycare was located.
“Most of them go unnoticed because there isn’t much traffic in the places,” said a Bronx police officer. “But they are spread out in homes across the area – and no one would ever suspect they were dealing these deadly drugs.”
There is little doubt that the county has been affected by the spreading epidemic that has hit the Big Apple with unprecedented force.
In 2021, about 2,127 of the 2,252 opioid overdose deaths recorded in New York City involved fentanyl — or more than 94%, according to a report from the New York State Department of Health.
Bronx residents had the highest rate of fatal overdoses this year, with nearly 71 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to another report from the city’s health department.
The Bronx also has the highest percentage of drug poisoning deaths in the city, according to Frank Tarentino, special agent in charge of the New York Division of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
More than three-quarters were related to fentanyl, he said.
“It is imperative to warn New Yorkers that fentanyl is mixed with all illegal drugs — cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin,” Tarentino told The Post on Monday.
“It’s a big problem,” a police source said. “But no one seems to care.”
Ahmet Biberha, who worked for seven years at his family’s business – Brother’s Pizza – just around the corner from the daycare where little Nicholas died – said he has seen a drastic increase in drug use in the area during that time.
“I see them hunched over, slumped over, not knowing where they are,” said the 23-year-old. “It kills business. It causes the whole area to collapse. Now babies are dying!
“Forget the users – they are adults and have made their own decisions. But cutting up the stuff near a baby for them to breathe in? That’s ridiculous. If that’s not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is,” Biberha said.
“I don’t know what to say — fentanyl was the worst drug ever developed,” another local told The Post. “This could be a worse epidemic than crack cocaine. A family shouldn’t have to lose their child this way. They just took him to daycare.”
Additional reporting by Joe Marino and Desheania Andrews