Many of NYC’s day-cares are safety hazards for children: investigation

Elijah Silvera died from a dairy allergy after his day care gave him a grilled cheese sandwich — and didn’t immediately call a hospital. GoFundMe

Little Elijah Silvera arrived at his new day-care center with everything he needed to stay safe.

The Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services had his medical records detailing his asthma and life-threatening allergy to dairy products, and they had his medications, including an EpiPen, should he ever suffer a reaction to a forbidden food.

Yet on Nov. 3, 2017, — just days after he started at the Harlem program — a staff member gave Elijah a grilled cheese sandwich. And instead of injecting him with life-saving medicine when he got sick or calling an ambulance, the day-care staff called his mom.

Dina Silvera rushed her son to the hospital, where he died of anaphylactic shock.

It was not the first time Elijah got sick at the hands of day-care workers.

Another program fed Elijah milk, a mistake that landed the tot in the hospital for a week, his father, Thomas Silvera, told The Post.

The city Department of Health, which licensed both centers, closed Seventh Avenue after Elijah died. But Silvera doesn’t know if regulators ever learned of the first incident and that day care is still open.

Since his son’s death, Silvera has been pushing for more oversight and better care at day cares. The city recently began requiring centers to have auto-injectors like EpiPens available and staff trained to use them.

“The Health Department needs to do more,” Silvera said Saturday. “There needs to be follow up to make sure everybody is on top of this and getting the adequate training so another tragedy doesn’t happen again like my son.”

The city said it will close down a center if there is an immediate risk to children, but said it does so rarely.

A Post analysis of DOH data reveals that nearly 2,500 day-care centers, preschools and camps in New York City have been cited for dangerous violations in the last three years — some dozens of times.

A memorial is set up for Elijah Silvera outside of his home.Robert Miller

Health inspectors found a disturbing 2,450 children centers — 75 percent of the total number of programs — had at least one critical violation, such as having no smoke or carbon-monoxide detectors.

More alarming, they discovered 1,825 — or 56 percent — had public-health hazards, which could mean anything from failing to do criminal and child-abuse background checks to peeling paint that could contain lead, the Post found.

The city licenses 3,255 day cares, preschools and camps.

The problems cross borough borders and socioeconomic lines, with violations existing at centers in working-class neighborhoods and at elite “Baby Ivies” where programs cost as much as a year in college.

Nursery North Too, the Harlem day-care center that allegedly gave Elijah milk, has had 16 serious violations in the last three years, including one, in September, for failing “to take any and all necessary action to eliminate potential hazards,” according to city records. The violation was corrected.

Lenore Levy Lupie, Nursery North’s owner, said she did not remember the incident with Elijah, but was absent from the center in 2015 and 2016 recovering from an injury.

Habitot, located on the second floor of a Bronx charter school, led the city with 84 violations over the last three years, according to a review of Health Department violation data covering January 2016 to January 2019.

The center racked up 44 public health hazard violations, including for peeling lead paint, having hallways or exits that were blocked and for failing “to maintain constant and competent supervision.”

Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services” at 711 Lenox Avenue in Harlem, NYBrigitte Stelzer

Over three years, 66 percent of the annual inspections at the center resulted in critical violations compared to a citywide average of 17 percent.

The city cited Habitot for 40 critical violations, including inadequate ventilation and for improperly stored toxic substances. The substances were not specified.

A Post reporter was able to walk into the center last month without security or anyone else stopping him.

Mom Talibra Harrison, who was dropping off her 3-year-old daughter, said inspectors might have missed a few things.

“They’ve got mice, obviously, they got a vermin problem,” she said. “They’ve got big-ass mice traps in the hallways.”

She called news of the violations “terrible.”

“I’m glad my baby’s getting out of here soon,” she said.

Mom Christina Dejesus said there’s no air conditioning in the summer.

“They basically had her take all her clothes off she was sweating so much,” she said of her daughter’s ordeal.

Habitot’s director did not return repeated requests for comment.

All of the violations have been corrected, city records show.

Inspectors slapped 82nd Street Academics in Queens — which gets city pre-K funding — with 68 violations over the last three years, 16 of which came in a Jan. 9 inspection that were still open as of Feb. 1. One was for being unable to document kids having required immunizations.

“I really don’t have any comment,” said Angela Miniutti, director of 82nd Street’s preschool and prekindergarten programs.

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