You are reading

City settles with family of Avonte Oquendo for $2.7 million


July 29, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

The city has agreed to pay a $2.7 million settlement to the family of Avonte Oquendo, a severely autistic 14-year-old boy who went missing from his school in October 2013, and was later found dead by the East River in January 2014.

Vanessa Fontaine, Oquendo’s mother, filed the suit against the city in June 2014 for failing to provide appropriate supervision for Oquendo, despite her warnings to them that his special needs would require extra attention.

The suit charged the Department of Education, the NYPD’s School Safety Division, and several specific school administrators with negligence.

“The law is very strange when it comes to children who die, it doesn’t allow for what I consider to be an adequate recovery and while $2.7 million is a lot of money it isn’t as much as it could have and should have been if the law was different,” said Fontaine’s lawyer David Perecman.

Perecman went on to add that the settlement is bittersweet. “It’s an end but there is no good end to something like this,” he said.

“You can’t replace a child with money, it’s really that simple, and while it’s over for [Fontaine], she still has feelings of frustration, feelings of anger because she doesn’t understand why the Department of Education allowed this to happen and why they didn’t reprimand anyone,” Perecman added.

Oquendo went missing from the Riverview School in Long Island City on October 4, 2013.

Oquendo was missing until January 2014, when remains were found washed up on the Queens side of the East River. They were badly decomposed, but were identified as his through DNA testing.

How Oquendo ended up in the river after leaving the school is unknown, though video footage showed him running through the halls of the school and past a security guard before exiting through a door that had been left open.

“The loss of a child is a tragedy no family should endure, and hopefully, the resolution of this legal matter will bring some measure of solace to Avonte’s family,” said Nicholas Paolucci, the city’s Law Department spokesperson, in a statement.

“The Department of Education has taken a number of steps and is dedicated to taking every measure possible to prevent something like this from occurring again,” he added.

Oquendo’s death resulted in the recent passing of Avonte’s Law on July 14 of this year, facilitating training and emergency protocols for schools dealing with autistic and disabled children to help prevent wandering. These protocols include installing alarmed doors that would be activated when opened. Avonte’s Law was championed in part by New York Senator Charles Schumer.

The suit was first filed in the Queens Supreme Court and was seeking $25 million.

The settlement was originally reported by the Daily News.


email the author:


Click for Comments 

It has nothing to do with money at all. They lost a child. Their lives were not only turned upside down, they are ruined. They can never be normal again. If you don’t sue the city nothing changes. The only way the government makes effective change is if you make them pay through the nose. To avoid paying again int he future, they will change policies. It’s the only recourse we are given to solve problems in this country. Money talks. Do you really think this mom cares about the money? Of course she doesn’t. She just wants her boy back. We all want our kids, not stupid money.


I don’t mean to come off as a prick, but how do you assign a cash value to a life? More importantly, are the millions the ambition of the parents or of the lawyers that are profiting of other people’s hardships.


Rest in peace Avonte. You didn’t deserve that fate and neither did your family deserve the pain and suffering.


Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation: A Journey through Katz’s Delicatessen

May. 22, 2024 by Jill Carvajal

In this episode of Schneps Connects, we delve into the captivating history and enduring legacy of Katz’s Delicatessen, a cherished institution in New York City since 1888. Jake Dell, the fifth-generation custodian of Katz’s, joins us to recount the deli’s evolution amidst the ever-changing landscape of NYC. From its iconic “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign to the traditional ticket system, Jake shares insights into the family business and invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, especially in the demanding restaurant industry of NYC. He unveils some of Katz’s secrets, including the meticulous pastrami-making process that sets them apart, and discusses the enduring allure that keeps customers lining up daily. From expanding catering services to international shipping, Jake reflects on the milestones and challenges of running Katz’s, highlighting his proudest achievements and future aspirations. With a nod to its celebrity following and film appearances, Jake offers a glimpse into the deli’s cultural impact and what lies ahead for this beloved New York institution.