HELL’S KITCHEN, Manhattan (PIX11) —- The executive director of Mayor Eric Adams’ Office of Nightlife joined community advocates on Wednesday to promote “safe Pride” celebrations in the wake of a  young social worker’s death in a taxi.

“Our nightlife places are really places where people can look out for each other,” Ariel Palitz from the Office of Nightlife said. “There are many risks to being out in New York and partying, specifically.”

Palitz joined with bar owners and political leaders in Hell’s Kitchen Wednesday to give specific safety tips, as thousands of people flooded into the city for June pride events. Ted Arenas, who owns The Spot on Tenth Avenue, shared some advice.

“Just watch out for one another,” Arenas said. “Make sure you’re not leaving your drinks unattended. Make sure we take care of one another.”

Julio Ramirez
Julio Ramirez, 25, was found unresponsive in the back of a cab on the Lower East Side on April 21, after a night out in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. (Family handout)

It’s still unclear exactly what happened to Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old gay man with a dual master’s degree from the University of Buffalo. He was last seen leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge on West 46th Street on April 21, before getting into a taxi with three men. Within 90 minutes, Ramirez was dead in the back of the cab on the Lower East Side, and police initially suspected a drug overdose.The Medical Examiner will need several months to complete in-depth toxicology testing to determine the cause of death.

PIX11 News learned Tuesday that homicide detectives are involved with the case and believe different robbery rings are operating in Hell’s Kitchen, possibly drugging victims with an intent to rob. Carlos Ramirez, who is the older brother of Julio, said investigators told him precincts in the Hell’s Kitchen area get calls almost every weekend from people who complain they were victimized by these rings. When Carlos Ramirez checked his late brother’s laptop, he discovered about $20,000 in cash transfers and charges had taken place in the hours and days after Julio’s death.

City Council Members Erik Bottcher and Chi Ossé issued a sheet of tips Wednesday, including reminders about safe sex and COVID vaccinations, followed by advice on how to plan a ride safely. The council members advised club goers travel with a friend when possible. The tips specify that people who hire a car should check the plate before they get in–and also have the driver say their name rather than giving it out.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said there’s a big concern about the deadly opioid, fentanyl, which is showing up in almost every type of drug. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s driving record-breaking overdose rates locally and nationally.

“We’re now losing one New Yorker every four hours,” Levine observed.

As a result, community activists in Hell’s Kitchen prepared Narcan bags containing life-saving Naloxone that can revive overdose victims. The kits also contain fentanyl strips that can detect the presence of the opioid in drugs.

“I’m asking bar owners to just make sure they’re extra vigilant,” Arenas said, “when they’re checking people’s bags, to make sure there’s nothing getting in that will ruin the party for others.”