Gang Violence Prevention Alternatives Possible in Local Communities with Cuomo’s $20 Million
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Oct. 29 that $20 million will be given to the Brentwood area to combat MS-13 gang violence by providing the communities at risk with the tools they need to end the violence.
The $20 million is being broken down into five main projects: $15 million going to build a new community hub in Brentwood, $2.5 million in park safety initiatives, $1 million for new law enforcement technologies, $1 million in apprenticeship programs for at-risk youth and $500,000 for mental health and social initiatives.
Non-profit organizations have been given the opportunity to submit a proposal in order to request a portion of the funding allocated to their work with youths. These programs will be run by local and national non-profits whose proposal has been approved by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.
“Young people are looking for opportunities. This initiative provides positive alternatives through job training, job placement and skills development,” said Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole in a press release. “This program will offer teens and young adults better choices than criminal activity – choices that will enrich them and lift up their communities.”
Family and Children’s Association, a local non-profit whose mission is to combat violence in the local community, is one of the many organizations that has been allocated a portion of the money to provide services to the communities in need.
“Unlike our President who traveled here to further demonize immigrants, the Governor has put up the dollars necessary to support a multi-faceted approach to the problem that includes increased law enforcement, but also social work, counseling, job development services, along with an economic plan for the towns and villages hardest hit by gang violence,” said Jeffrey L. Reynolds, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Family and Children’s Association.
“I think we often focus on the wrong aspects of gang violence, using a law enforcement approach rather than a public health approach. Gangs create a sense of safety, security, and family for so many and until we create meaningful alternatives for kids, we won’t make meaningful progress,” Reynolds added.
A sentiment shared by government officials, as well.
“I support any effort that may assist in combating these gangs,” says Angie Carpenter, Town of Islip Supervisor and co-chair of the planning committee for the new Brentwood community center. “The best option is to have all of us working together, the state, county, town, police,
schools, community groups etc., working together with the police. Any additional resources are always welcome and useful.”
Communities safe from gang violence bring monetary value to the area as well, spurring overall economic growth.
“It is imperative for companies and neighborhoods to feel safe in order to prosper and for Long Island to be an appealing destination for travelers,” said Matthew Cohen, Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications for The Long Island Association.
Long Island Report
Incumbent Congressman Thomas Suozzi (D – Long Island, Queens) and Dan DeBono (R), a former Navy SEAL running under the Republican banner, have been engaged in a bitter battle over the state of veterans in their campaign for New York’s 3rd Congressional District Seat (consisting of the majority of the north shore of Long Island and a small portion of Queens), with DeBono claiming Suozzi is using veteran issues as political ploy to improve voter turnout.
“You have been nowhere on veterans for the past two years until it came election time and you found you were running against a veteran,” DeBono said in an October debate hosted by News 12 Long Island as part of the “Island Vote 2018” debate series. “These are my colleagues,” he added. “These are my men. I know what they are going through. They need someone who genuinely cares about them.”
Suozzi created a Veterans Advisory Committee last February to help veterans transition from military to civilian life. Suozzi has also worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Northport VA Medical Center in recent months to raise millions of dollars to improve infrastructure. Last month, Suozzi attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Glen Cove for one of the new mobile medical units the Northport VA is using to expand patient care.
Suozzi’s actions have convinced Ralph Esposito, director of Nassau County’s Veteran Advisory Agency and chairman of the Elmont Board of Fire Commissioners, who disagrees with DeBono’s assertions.
“Tom Suozzi is the only one who went out and fought for us. He used to be my worst enemy, him and I always battled” Esposito said, alluding to disagreements Suozzi and Esposito had regarding the fire service. “but you know what, I respect the man.”
“I haven’t met a person who thinks we are taking good enough care of our veterans,” said Michael Dawidziak, a pollster and longtime political strategist based on Long Island. Dawidziak believes that in the end, the importance of veterans affairs will ultimately bring the parties together. “That is an issue where I’m sure they are going to find common ground.”
Long-Islander News - Cover Story
Students from across Huntington joined a national movement Wednesday, one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting killed 17, in memory of the victims, and as a call for change.
Student-led walkouts unfolded at high schools across Long Island, including at Commack, Half Hollow Hills East and West, Huntington, Northport and St. Anthony’s; the nation; and other parts of the world.
In Commack, hundreds of students walked out of classrooms and onto the turf field outside of the high school.
There, many with orange balloons in one hand, and pictures of the victims in the other, students stood for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the mass school shooting — including 14-year-old Jamie Guttenberg, whose family has roots on the East Northport and Commack areas; and 35-year-old Scott Beigel, who grew up in Dix Hills.
The Commack campus was closed for an hour from 9:40-10:40 a.m. during what district officials described as a “silent memorial walk.”
Rachel Cole, a Commack senior and one of the organizers of the walkout, said Wednesday afternoon that she wanted the movement to promote safety and honor the victims.
“Enough is enough when it comes to not having enough gun control,” she said.
From the sidewalk outside the campus stood Dean Nichol, a 1982 graduate of the school.
Nichol, of East Northport, delivered 17 orange balloons to students participating in the walkout. He said he’s familiar with the family of Jamie Guttenberg, whose father, Fred Guttenberg, grew up in East Northport and graduated from Commack.
Other local schools also participated in the walkout movement, including the alma mater of Scott Beigel, Half Hollow Hills High School East.
Beigel, for whom a memorial vigil was scheduled to be held Wednesday night in Huntington, taught geography and coached the cross-country team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Hills West senior Quinn Pearson, an editor for the school’s newspaper, penned a commentary on the walkout movement earlier this week.
“This walkout in particular not only represents a political change, but a humanitarian movement,” Pearson wrote. “During this walkout, recognize that our society has created the very monster harming us, recognize that we are all part of the problem, and recognize we all have the power to fix it.”
Half Hollow Hills Superintendent Dr. Patrick Harrigan commented on the protests in a statement emailed Wednesday, “We respect the right of our students to advocate for causes that are important to them and appreciate the way our students conducted themselves while allowing their civic voices to be heard.”
Huntington High School Principal Brendan Cusack issued a similar statement prior to Wednesday.
In a letter, he said, “While a school may not endorse a walkout, Huntington High School respects our students’ Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
Around 400 students participated in the walkout at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. Administration and faculty accompanied students outside to ensure their safety.
“Once students arrived at their destination outside the school, one of our Franciscan Brothers led the students in a special Franciscan prayer against violence, and also read the names of the 17 victims from the Florida shooting,” Assistant Principal Christina Buehler said in a statement emailed Wednesday.
Buehler added that St. Anthony’s staff has stayed neutral on the issues of gun control and the walkout itself, and did not encourage or discourage students from participating in the movement.
Back in Commack, Pastor Roslyn Lee of the Commack United Methodist Church ventured out on a “prayer drive” to visit local schools attended by members of her youth group.
“For me, it’s not about a single political affiliation or agenda. It’s more a presence of prayer and concern for our community,” Lee said. She added that she is “more hopeful than ever” for change led by this generation of students.
Her violin is taken out of its case, the bow is fastened firmly in her hand and she plucks the strings. She breathes deeply and then as her bow glides across the strings producing the first notes of a song, she shares a piece of herself in hope of helping others.
Sylvia Foldes - Berman, a junior Music Therapy major from Molloy College, is an experienced violinist. She has performed on the flight deck of the Intrepid, performed with Matthew Morrison, played at The Plaza Hotel and shook hands with Patti Lupone. But for Sylvia, those are just experiences; she finds true happiness and revels in the experiences where she is in a situation to help others through her music.
“Playing the violin for me is a tangible expression of myself; it is how I express myself, as a part of my Transylvanian culture and career.” As her violin makes sounds to portray the beauty of the song she is performing, she finds a beauty in her heritage that has shaped the woman she has become.
Sylvia is first generation Hungarian-American; growing up, her first and second languages were Hungarian and Romanian, with English following up those two. Her parents escaped communism in Transylvania and Romania, and Sylvia has immense pride in her Transylvanian culture, and without it, her life might have been quite different.
When Sylvia was two years old, a family friend visited from Romania and played the violin, “I was mesmerized by the violin, so my parents signed me up for beginner violin classes when I was 5 years old.” At times, the violin gets mentally and physically exhausting but she shares that the violin has become a part of her identity, just like her culture has, and she will do anything to overcome any obstacles in her way. To this day, she hasn’t put her violin down.
While growing up, she found a love for the violin but also for helping others. While in high school, she volunteered with her sister at a local nursing home playing music. “[I] was really touched by the [nursing home] resident’s reaction to the music.” As well, her grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s and Sylvia saw how music changed her entire demeanor.
High school came and went and Sylvia had to make the decision on what she wanted to study in college - performance, education or music therapy. With her prior experiences influencing her, she ended up deciding to study music therapy and shares that, “Without knowing too much about music therapy, I just felt that it was something that would be meant for me in the long run as it combined my passion for music, psychology and helping people.”
Molloy’s Music Therapy program and its tight knit community feel intrigued Sylvia and she decided to attend. With the ability to start her fieldwork sophomore year, it has allowed her to help people through her love of music all over NYC and Long Island, something she is grateful for.
An opportunity to help others that Sylvia will never forget is when she got to go teach music and English to middle schoolers in Hungary for ten days this past summer. “I absolutely loved every second of it, teaching them English through song analysis, lyrics, poetry, and guitar.” That experience and the many others, including playing in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel or being a contracted musician with Madison Theatre, all add to Sylvia’s world and expand who she is.
“Every single concert, performance, and venue has molded me into who I am today. Whether it is playing at a nursing home, performing a recital or playing a gig, I have learned not only how to play music but also how to interact with people, companies and create a name for myself.”
Along with the experiences she has had, she’s made friends from all over the world and shares that, “Since I was five years old, I have created friendships that I still have to this day, which I am so grateful for.” Just as the people she’s met and become friends with have made an impact on her, the same goes for the impact she’s had on others.
Christine Pedersen, a classmate of Sylvia’s, shares that, “She’s such a genuine soul and she really captures that in her music. She is a beautiful person with a heart of gold.” While Bethany Pincus, one of Sylvia’s best friends and a fellow Music Therapy major, says that “She’s one of the most motivated, talented, genuine and kind - hearted people I know. Everyone needs a person like her in their lives and I’m thankful to have her in mine.”
With every performance, whether in front of a huge crowd or one on one with someone she is helping, she has attempted to make an impact. As she glides her bow across the strings to finish the song, she still keeps her fingers on the strings to make the notes sing in harmony with one another, making an impact on the song.
An appreciation of what she has been able to do does not pass by her, “I sometimes really can’t believe how many opportunities music has given me and I am truly thankful for my family, friends, and God that helped me to get where I am today.” With beauty and grace, in her life and in music, Sylvia works every day to help others in any way she can.