Commits $15 Million to Build New Community Hub in Brentwood
Launches $2.5 Million in Park Safety Initiative — Lighting, Surveillance, and Dedicated State Police Patrols
Provides $1 Million for New Law Enforcement Technologies
Invests $1 Million in Apprenticeship Programming for At-Risk Youth
Awards $500,000 for Mental Health and Social Service Initiatives
Over $45 Million Invested Under Governor Cuomo to Combat Gang Violence on Long Island
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York is investing $20 million in new initiatives to combat MS-13 gang activity on Long Island. Specifically, New York will grant $15 million in capital funding to support the creation of a new community hub in Brentwood to provide a one-stop shop for social services, as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the community. Additionally, $2.5 million will be dedicated to improving park safety through the installation of new lighting and surveillance cameras, and $1 million will be used for new surveillance cameras and other law enforcement technology to assist Suffolk County Police Department. Finally, $1 million will be spent to support apprenticeship programs that teach at-risk youth both job and life skills, as well as $500,000 to strengthen mental health and social services programs across Long Island. By taking this holistic approach, the State is not only helping to curb gang violence in the short-term, but it is also addressing many of the underlying factors that lead to its spread. More information is available here.
AUDIO of Governor Cuomo's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. good morning to everyone. Let's give Rob Mujica a big round of applause for putting this together. County Executive Steve Bellone, whose leadership has been phenomenal all across the board, but especially in this area, Steve Bellone. Superintendent George Beach from the State Police, thank you very much, Superintendent. Sheriff Tulane, thank you for everything you're doing, let's give the Sheriff a big round of applause. To Angie Carpenter who, once again, steps up to the plate and makes everything happen, Angie Carpenter. And to all my colleagues in the legislature and local officials who are here. The County Executive went through the acknowledgement list and if you start you get into trouble.
These are difficult days that we are focusing on. Not just MS-13, but obviously the past week has really been frightening and atrocious on a very basic level. Just when you think you've seen it all you realize there's even more hatred, more anger, more violence than you thought imaginable. So if you don't mind, let's start with a few moments of silence for the victims of violence over this past weekend in Pittsburgh and Kentucky and their families who are enduring the pain and suffering right now. Thank you.
Thank you very much. The theory—commonality, when you look at a lot of these issues—it's complicated. There's mental health issues. There's a misunderstanding. There's an anger that's boiling. There's a hatred that is festering, that is then communicating and feeding on itself through various communication networks. And there are people who wrap themselves in the flag, as Americans, and then go out and do violence in the name of America.
And there are people who wrap themselves in the flag as Americans, and then go out and do violence in the name of America, and in the thought and belief that they are Americans, they're acting the way true Americans should act. In school, one of the first things we learn about America is when the students are asked to raise their hand and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance, and I would ask everyone just to remember what that Pledge of Allegiance says about America. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which is stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Whether you believe in the Jewish faith, if you are African American, whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, indivisible. That's the Pledge of Allegiance. And if you are an American, that's what that flag means. And if you want to honor the flag, and you want to be an American, then honor that pledge. And anyone who seeks to divide, anyone who seeks to separate, anyone who tries to segregate, who is worthy and who is unworthy, that is not an American as we have defined it in this nation, and let's remember.
So, we offer our prayers, and lord knows we have work to do, but we also have work to do here today. In Suffolk, in Brentwood, and we have things to accomplish, not just prayers but things to do. I believe my religion, when you die you get to the pearly gates, you meet our maker at the pearly gates, and he says, well what have you done with your time on earth? Your x number of years. In my case, if I were to die today, your 21 years. What did you do with your 21 years? He doesn't ask, what did you try to do? He doesn't ask, how many press releases did you put out about what you may do. He or she asks what did you actually accomplish? And depending on that answer, I believe you either go up, or you go down.
So it is about accomplishments. Those of us in public service, we get in to public service, what, because that is a vehicle to make a difference. You can actually get something done. Yes, you can advocate, and you can give a speech, and you can fight, but you can also get it done. You can make things happen. And what we need more than anything now is to make things happen.
MS-13. It is a scourge, yes. It has taken too many young lives. It has affected too many innocents. The work that has been done here by the advocacy community, the community groups, working with law enforcement, all that coordination has been magnificent. But, it still exists, and we still have more to do.
First issue is law enforcement. Because public safety is job one. And every child, every parent, has to know that we are protecting their life, and their liberty, and that is a law enforcement task, period. We have seen tragic killings, brutal, savage killings. Nisa Mickens, Kayla Cuevas, children. Children. And any group, any thug that would kill children, that is a public safety risk like no other. And we're going to respond with the most sophisticated, coordinated public safety response that we have had. And it's going to be the State Police, working with County Police, working together with community groups, working together with schools, all together to have the single best most coordinated law enforcement response ever in the state of New York. From the parks police putting in lights, and cameras. Some cameras you'll see, some cameras you won't see, so be careful what you're doing in the parks. Just assume you are on camera. I'll leave it at that. Parks Police working with the State Police. State-of-the-art technology. So much of law enforcement is about the technology. License plate readers on cars, surveillance cameras that go back to a central dispatch, cameras that can be viewed and monitored on a screen in a police car. That's the technology that we're paying for. So the most sophisticated law enforcement response ever and we've already started but now were going to do more and we're going to do it in partnership and coordination and that is job one.
Job two is saying our response is going to law enforcement is not enough because this is a complicated complex, multi-faceted issue. You have a lot of unaccompanied minors, a lot of lost youth who get sucked into the gang. There's a void that the gang fills. It's a dysfunctional relationship but it gives a young person a sense of belonging and they prey on those who are weak and those who are alone where there's a void. They actually spot them and they prey upon them. We have to fill that void before the gangs fill that void. We have to get there first and it's not enough to say to a young person, no, don't do this. No, don't do this. No, don't do this. There has to be something to be able to say yes to. Don't do this. I get it! But where's my future, where's my hope, where's my direction, where's my role model, where I am going? Give me some positive as opposed to just the negative. That is our challenge especially for any young people who come here who don't have a base of support, don't have a friendship group. They are not comfortable with the language and they are easy to get some of these gangs.
That, my friends, is just a hard a task and just as essential of a task as public safety. Phil Ramos, phenomenal representative, former police officer, talked about MS-13, talks about police, but talks just as vociferously about the social service and apprenticeship program and the mentoring, and a safe place to go at night, and a coordination of resources so we're all doing this in one unified way instead of 20 agencies each doing their own thing, with no comprehensive or realistic approach. That's what the community center building is going to be all about. It's not just a building. It is the hub, the coordinative mechanism, where we can all work together and we can coordinate and synchronize those services and the apprenticeship program and the mental health program, so we have in one place everything that we need to do. And that's why the state is pleased to pledge $15 million to that community building because it is just as important, it is an essential component, just as important as the police cars and the cameras and the monitors and the technology. And we're going to do both. And we're going to make Brentwood a model of the right way to it. And we're going to do it together.
And my last point is this, I want to applaud the members of the legislature, who approved this funding, approved this budget, I'm only the Governor, I get to recommend to the legislature and then we have discussions, troves of fun, and positive and upbeat, I love them, I live for them, my favorite time of year, when we have those conversations. On this issue, there was no debate. There was no debate. We said we need to invest in police officers, we need to invest in community services, we need to do both, there was no debate. Why? Because it is right, and it is true, and it is smart. And it's not just smart for Brentwood or Suffolk or Nassau, or Long Island. It's smart for the state of New York. If we don't reach out and connect with these young people now, at 14, 15 years old, you lose them. And you don't lose them for a little bit of time, you lose them for the rest of their lives. The cycle starts. Believe me I've seen the cycle for too long for too many years I've seen it, I've seen the repeat, starting with the juvenile facility and then an alternative program and then prison. And once you're incarcerated and you come out and you try to rehabilitate, you try to get skills but you have a record and you have to get a person a job. We can't fail. If we fail, then at this point, we lose them for life.
And that's—that human potential lost is then a burden and a cost to the taxpayers of this state, if you want to just be totally practical. You know how much it costs to keep a person in a prison cell? $60,000 per year, in a prison cell. $60,000 per year. Why is the state investing $15 million, $20 million in MS-13 and helping young people? I would much rather invest in a young person and a positive future, than pay $60,000 a year to lock a person in a cell for the rest of their lives. So I thank the legislature for their support. I thank the first responders who are doing a fantastic job. I thank the community groups who have all been trying in their own way, with few resources and trying to cobble together a sustainable program. And, I'm proud that we can say MS-13 in Brentwood, unlike any other place in the country, because it's not just a New York problem, right? MS-13 and this type of gang violence is all across the country. Nobody, nobody is doing as much as we are, and no one is doing it as smart as we are. Thank you, and God bless you.