$20M plan takes aim at MS-13 with community center, youth initiatives

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BRENTWOOD -

New York state and Suffolk County officials announced funding Monday for new initiatives in Brentwood that aim to curb MS-13 gang violence.

Officials unveiled a $20 million plan that includes security upgrades and new ways to keep young people busy in an effort to prevent them from joining gangs.

"We're going to make Brentwood the model of the right way to do it, and we're going to do it together," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The plan includes $15 million toward building a new community center in Brentwood to offer recreational and educational opportunities for the community. Another $2.5 million will seek to boost park safety by adding new lights and surveillance cameras.

MORE COVERAGE: Gangs on Long Island

Officials say $1 million will be spent on new law enforcement technologies, and another $1 million will be put toward apprenticeship programs for at-risk youth. The remaining $500,000 will be allocated to mental health and social service initiatives in schools.

Some in the community who spoke with News 12 gave the plan the thumbs up, saying it will be positive for young people.

For Robert Mickens, the effort comes too little too late. His daughter, Neesa Mickens, and her friend Kayla Cuevas were killed, allegedly by MS-13 gang members.

"I just wish they would have done this sooner," he says. "It shouldn't take a tragedy in order for people to go forward with plans that should have been started."

The county is going to identify possible spaces for the new community center, and among the sites being eyed is a 12-acre site at Brentwood State Park. Officials say the center will take about a year and a half to build.

Once constructed, some say the center should be dedicated to anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez, who was the mother of Kayla Cuevas. Rodriguez was struck and killed by an SUV last month ahead of a memorial service marking the second anniversary of her daughter's death.

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