Officials are investigating after video surfaced of a 3-year-old boy hanging outside his 13th-floor apartment window near the unit's air conditioner. Panicked bystanders rushed to the scene, some taking video, as the boy seemed to flail his arms and appear to try to crawl on the air conditioning unit.
Bronx resident Jennifer Mares told ABC News that she was at a nearby park with her own son when she heard bystanders yelling about the toddler. She first called the police to alert them to the situation, but then ran into the building out of fear that they wouldn't arrive on time. Mares said she was able to locate the correct apartment and banged on the door to let the residents know what was happening outside. The toddler's 14-year-old sister then went and pulled the boy back in the apartment to safety.
“I was losing my mind," Mares told a reporter with the station when asked about her reaction to seeing the toddler out on the air conditioning unit. "All I was thinking was about this baby falling and not making it.”
The mother, who has not been named, explained to the news station that her son, who has autism and a visual impairment, had snuck out while she was making dinner. He pushed the air conditioner to the side allowing him to crawl out.
The mother, who immigrated from Mali, told the reporter that she has been subjected to intense criticism since the incident from neighbors calling her a "monster" and "horrible mother".
"They were calling me names," she said. "You stupid, dumb, African lady. You don't know nothing. You think this is Africa? This is America. You will go to jail. God saved my boy and he will save me from these people."
The New York City Administration for Children's Services is investigating and the air conditioning unit has been removed and metal bars installed so the youngster will no longer be able to crawl out of the window.
“Our top priority is protecting the safety and well-being of all children in New York City,” a spokesperson for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services told PEOPLE in a statement. “As soon as this family came to our attention, we launched an immediate investigation.”