THE BRONX — New York State will invest $18 million in gang prevention in the wake of the killing of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz by a group of reputed gang members, state and local officials announced Thursday.
"'Justice for Junior' means that we have to come together — that we have to plan. That we have to get beyond the commentary [and] give our youth the hopes and opportunities so that they never have to find themselves in a situation where they have to join a gang or be a victim to gang violence," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.
The investment in opportunities for Bronx youth and prevent violence comes after Guzman-Feliz was chased, dragged from a bodega and set upon by a gang of men armed with knives and a machete. He suffered a lethal slash wound to his throat and tried to run to a nearby hospital but collapsed and died on the sidewalk the night of June 20.
Members of the Trinitarios gang are accused of mistaking the teen for a rival and ultimately killing him.
Guzman-Feliz's death sparked widespread community outrage and calls to end gang violence.
Diaz Jr. and Gov. Andrew Cuomo talked to a group of community members gathered on Thursday about the pursuit of “justice for Junior” — a rallying cry shared on social media after the teen's death — and put an end to children feeling the need to join gangs.
“The gangs are here to fill a void,” Cuomo said. “Lack of family support, opportunities, jobs, relationships. When you have that void, [joining a gang] feeds that need.”
With this investment, Cuomo hopes to “fill that void before it’s created.”
The state has worked with the Bronx to create a package of aid for Guzman-Feliz's community.
Cuomo said an $18 million investment will be made for programs and services that battle the gang problem from its root.
Included in the investment is $1 million to the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx for a computer lab, to keep the facility open late at night and give children an alternative place to go instead of the streets.
Another $250,000 each will be invested to the Police Athletic League Inc. (PAL) and community-based organizations in schools and in the neighborhood that can help inoculate children from the seduction of gangs and stop gang recruitment.
Mental health programs and counseling in schools will be given an investment of $250,000, and about $5 million will be invested into the Roberto Clemente State Park.
A family resource center that can treat the whole family and provided gang intervention will receive a $2 million investment for more community-based services.