Governor Cuomo: "You have to wonder, if you had a state in the United States that went 36 days without power, what kind of reaction you would have? It would be on the TV news every night. People would be outraged, and people tend to forget that Puerto Ricans are Americans, and they really do deserve a better response than they're getting."
"The Governor himself may come as early as next week to take a tour of what we've done in terms of resilience and to design that into a plan for Puerto Rico. So, that would be silver lining to this terrible situation."
This evening, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo returned from a second relief mission to Puerto Rico. Earlier today, the Governor announced new efforts to address two of the largest issues that the island continues to face - access to clean water and restoration of its power grid.
The Governor announced that through the Empire State Clean Water Fund, New York is pledging $1 million to support the purchase of water filtration systems for households and communities that continue to lack access to clean water. Additionally, a 28-member Tactical Power Restoration Team specializing in the supervision of transmission and distribution system recovery will assist ongoing efforts to address the island's power crisis and mobilizing 15 specialized contract accountants to expedite FEMA filings and reimbursements. More information can be found here.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks at JFK is available here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks at JFK is included below.
Thank you. Good evening to all of you. We had a very productive trip to Puerto Rico today. I want to thank Delta Airlines that has been extraordinary in their generosity and the UPS and UNICEF.
We brought back with us New York State Police officers under the supervision of Lieutenant Tom Paton who just spent two weeks in Puerto Rico. We want to thank them very much for their service. It was above and beyond. It's a tough duty being away from home for two weeks, and Puerto Rico really does need help and they were very, very appreciative. I want to thank Major Tony Plata and the National Guard who have been there since the hurricane started, in rotation. We also have 78 medical personnel that are coming back tonight that have been there for two weeks. Nurses and doctors form the Greater New York Hospital Association, from 1199 and from the New York State Nurses Association.
I would love to be able to say that there's been tremendous progress since the first time we were in Puerto Rico, which was basically the day after the hurricane to today, but that is not true. The situation is still deplorable in Puerto Rico. You have about 80 percent of the people without power. You have about 30 percent of the people without clean drinking water. And it is still a critical situation. Governor Rosselló wanted me to extend his thanks to the people of New York. We sent over 3,000 palettes of donated goods. It's really been extraordinary the way New Yorkers have stepped up to help. And Governor Rosselló wanted to extend his personal thanks.
The fact that the recovery has been as slow as it is in Puerto Rico, in my opinion they deserve much better, and we should have made more progress by now. 36 days and you still don't have power to 80 percent of the island is incredible. We went through Hurricane Sandy if you remember on Long Island, and three, four days without power was like a lifetime. This has been now 36 days without power. You have to wonder, if you had a state in the United States that went 36 days without power, what kind of reaction you would have? It would be on the TV news every night. People would be outraged and people tend to forget that Puerto Ricans are Americans, and they really do deserve a better response than they're getting. I told the Governor and the officials of Puerto Rico, the Army Corps of Engineers is heading up the power recovery effort with the Power Authority of Puerto Rico. New York utilities would send down hundreds of crews and we would do that in days form the utility companies if the Army Corps of Engineers wanted that assistance under what is called the Mutual Aid Program. But there is no excuse for the delay in my opinion.
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Governor Rosselló, is also very interested in using this as an opportunity to build in resiliency into Puerto Rico. There's no doubt that a lot of the systems that were there needed help - the power system, the communications system. And there's also no doubt that after you go through a crisis like this, it is an opportunity, not just toreplace what was there but to rebuild and to rebuild better. We have the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy coming up this Sunday, and the amount of resilience work and improvement work that we did during Hurricane Sandy recovery is really remarkable. The power system is different. The way we build homes are different. The way we rebuild the sewage treatment plants is different. The way we rebuilt our tunnels in Manhattan are different. And Governor Rosselló is very interested in developing that kind of resiliency plan for Puerto Rico. I told him we'd love to work with him on that. The Governor himself may come as early as next week to take a tour of what we've done in terms of resilience and to design that into a plan for Puerto Rico. So, that would be silver lining to this terrible situation. If you could actually build back a Puerto Rico that was better than the one that existed. I think there's an opportunity to do that. I'm looking forward to the governor's visit. I'm looking forward to working with Puerto Rico on this resiliency project. The help that we are providing is still necessary and I told the governor on behalf of all the people of New York, as long as their road to recovery is, we will walk with them every step of the way.
I want to thank again the New York State Police, the National Guard, the nurses, all the New Yorkers who have been so kind and so generous and given their time. Two weeks in Puerto Rico is a long two weeks because they need a tremendous amount of help and I thank, from the bottom of my heart, as governor of the state, all of the great New Yorkers who have been giving help to the people of Puerto Rico. They desperately need it.
Thank you very much, and thank you for taking the time.