Suffolk County officials plan to build a workforce training facility...

Suffolk County officials plan to build a workforce training facility at 350 Crooked Hill Rd. in Brentwood. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A workforce training center planned for Brentwood will boost educational and career opportunities for Suffolk County residents and establish a pipeline for lucrative jobs, county officials said. 

The Suffolk County Legislature in March approved a plan for the county to purchase a $1.46 million state-owned property to build a workforce training facility on Crooked Hill Road. The Center at Brentwood, Suffolk County officials said, will be the first of its kind on Long Island and will drastically expand opportunities for residents, particularly those between the ages of 14 to 24. 

Suffolk Department of Labor Commissioner Rosalie Drago said the project's vision includes the creation of a community-centered space that expands access to “economically empowering work” and educational advancement. Paid hands-on work, training and apprenticeships in different trades could be offered, she said. The county has already secured partnerships with several organizations for the center, including offshore wind farm company Orsted. 

The project, in its early stages of planning, could include career labs and expand current county programs for job seekers, Drago said. 

County officials said the center, which will be across the street from the Brentwood Union Free School District freshman center, will strengthen the local economy and career pipeline. Superintendent Richard Loeschner said he hopes it will provide “career readiness opportunities for our students.” 

The project is made possible by a $15 million state grant, which was pledged in 2018 in an effort to curb gang violence in the hamlet. It’s unclear when the center, first envisioned as a community resource center, will open. Suffolk Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman said he expects to have a clearer timeline later this year. After the county acquires the six-acre property, the National Offshore Wind Training Center will relocate to the hub, Drago said. The relocation will serve as one of the first project partners. 

"One of the great needs for this region is alternative energy specifically related to wind, offshore wind," Kaiman said, adding that the re-imagined project meets the longterm needs of the county. 

Drago’s department already works with approximately 1,200 youth, including 200 from Brentwood, for workforce training. She said the hub will be an expansion of those efforts. Approximately 1,000 Brentwood students hold jobs while in school, she said, and at least one adult per household in Brentwood is in search of a job. 

“We have amazing training facilities and educational institutions, but the key is really making sure that there’s awareness and a pipeline into those institutions to get people jobs,” Drago said. 

Legis. Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) praised the initiative, calling it “the best idea, best location, for this project, for the community, for our children.” Brentwood, which is almost 72% Hispanic or Latino, is stigmatized because of the MS-13 violence, Gonzalez said. He anticipates the hub will change the public perception of Brentwood's residents.

“It’s become my passion to make sure that our kids are prepared,” he said. “I think this is going to break the stigma of what people think about Brentwood.” 

Brentwood workforce hub

Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pledged $15 million to Suffolk County for the creation of a new community center in Brentwood. Initial plans included resource-based offerings, but county officials said they realized the county needed additional workforce training and an expansion of programs already offered by the county.

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