Governor Cuomo: "One of our proudest accomplishments as a State is going to be how we responded to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico when they had their time of need at Hurricane Maria. We were literally there on day one, first plane to land in Puerto Rico after the hurricane was a plane of New Yorkers. You will always have New York as your champion. Somos familia."
At the SOMOS conference in Puerto Rico, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo accepted the SOMOS Leadership Award for his outstanding support for the people of Puerto Rico. Assembly Member Maritza Davila, Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, presented the award to the Governor. The Governor also announced earlier today that New York State is providing significant design and engineering expertise to build a state-of-the-art power system in Puerto Rico, helping modernize and strengthen the island's electric grid following the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of Governor Cuomo's remarks is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Good evening. Buenos noches. How great is it to be in Puerto Rico? How proud are we of Assemblywoman Maritza Davila? Let's give her a round of applause. Who says you can't go home again? The hometown girl did good. She really did. Let's give her a round of applause.
To all distinguished friends here today - we have Speaker Carl Heastie, let's give him a round of applause. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Attorney General Tish James, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. We have Robert Mujica, budget director, who did a great job during Hurricane Maria. Gil Quiniones from NYPA, who was here more than FEMA. Angela Fernandez. Havidán Rodríguez, who was our proud president of SUNY Albany, and I'm proud to announce is now head of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute.
Congratulations to the SOMOS board. And it's a pleasure to be with all our colleagues from the Puerto Rican government. To my friend, former Governor of Puerto Rico, and he was such a joy and professional to work with, Governor Alejandro García Padilla, standup, let us give you a round of applause. Senate Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos Santiago, pleasure to be with you. We have Mayor Delgado and Mayor Márquez with us, pleasure to be with you. Let's give them all a round of applause.
And let me say this to our hosts this evening, I know I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say we are New Yorkers, so we are proud. It comes in part of the DNA of being a New Yorkers, and we're proud to be the most progressive state in the United States of America by what we have gotten done, not what we say. We are proud of passing the first $15 minimum wage and free college tuition and paid family leave and the DREAM Act and the Green Light bill and criminal justice reform. We're proud of all of it.
But I think when the day is done one of our proudest accomplishments is going to be how we responded to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico when they had their time of need at Hurricane Maria. We were literally there on day one, first plane to land in Puerto Rico after the hurricane was a plane of New Yorkers, Congresswoman Velasquez and Assembly Member Marcos Crespo. We had 1,000 utility workers who came to Puerto Rico - 1,000 utility workers. I was in San Juan and all you saw in San Juan were Con Edison trucks which we had barged down from New York State and I remember talking, I was talking to Gil Quiniones, the head of NYPA, and ConEd and said, are there any more Con Ed trucks we could bring down? And the Con Ed person said, no, they're all here. And Governor, you better hope nothing happens in New York because they're all here. We then brought SUNY students and CUNY students who came down and took their time, hundreds of them, to rebuild houses. We worked on developing the plan that was submitted to Congress on behalf of Puerto Rico to get their fair share. We have a congressional delegation that fights for Puerto Rico like no other delegation in the United States, Greg Meeks and all our congressional friends, let's give them a round of applause.
And it wasn't just government. The people of the state rose up and responded because New Yorkers know the Puerto Rican community, because they grew up with the Puerto Rican community, and they love the Puerto Rican community, and we had sights all across the state, millions of dollars donated, 4,400 pallets of goods sent to Puerto Rico because people love Puerto Rico in New York. It's that simple. And we're building a beautiful memorial at Battery Park City to the people who lost their lives in Hurricane Maria right in the gaze of the Statue of Liberty. And we're proud of that, and we can't wait for that to be finished. As Maritza said, there's more to do and I met with Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced this afternoon, we're going to help out in two ways. First, we are going to work on designing a state-of-the-art electric grid for Puerto Rico, a digital grid, more efficient, resilient, sustainable, so they will have the best and this will not happen again. And second, tourism numbers are still down from New York from the pre-Maria number--they're down about 25 percent. So, we're going to do a joint tourism campaign between Puerto Rico and New York to spur tourism to Puerto Rico. I am going to start, lead by example, my colleagues know I don't like to leave the state - I'm superstitious. I think if I leave something's going to happen. So I very rarely leave the State, I can count the number of times on one hand. But, I'm bringing my family down, we're going to celebrate Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico this year.
And I want you to know that I speak for all New Yorkers when I say your loss is our loss, your pain is our pain, your tears are our tears. That we share the same spirit and we share the same heart, and we are as hurt and outraged at what the federal government has done to Puerto Rico, or more accurately has not done for Puerto Rico. And the plain truth is that this president and this Administration have been abusive to the people of Puerto Rico and have treated them like second class citizens. Period. When the United States wants to respond and when the United States wants to be helpful, nobody's better than the United States. Look what we did in California, and Texas and the Carolinas and then compare that to what we did to Puerto Rico. This is not the American way. Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the New Deal for the United States, came to Puerto Rico and FDR said to the people of Puerto Rico, "My friends and my fellow citizens. My friends and my fellow citizens, I'm going to bring the New Deal to Puerto Rico as fast as I bring it to the continental United States." That's the American way.
And while I am sure the people of Puerto Rico take the federal actions and the federal abuse personally, they should remember this is a president that revels in spreading division and anger and hate. This is a president whose political mantra is divide and conquer - he does it everywhere. He does it in Puerto Rico; he does it in New York; he does it in California; he does all across the country; he does it all across the world. But we must fight it every way, every place. The federal government had approved a $20 billion fund from HUD for Puerto Rico. Only about $1 billion has been released - $1 billion. And this conference, "Si no es ahora, cuando." If not now, when? If not now, when?
And my last point is this: The Congress of the United States will decide if this president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. But, at the same time, it is clear what he did to the people of Puerto Rico, and it is clear that he is guilty of abusing his power. It's clear that he's guilty of acting unethically. It is clear that he's guilty of acting through discrimination and guilty of bias and guilty of immoral actions and guilty of un-American conduct by what he did to the people of Puerto Rico. We have the transcript - we have the transcript, and the transcript details the loss and pain of thousands of Puerto Ricans. And this president has no defense. At the end of the day, justice will be done. In the meantime, you will always have New York as your champion: We were there on the first day, and we will be there on the last day. You have my word. Somos familia. Enjoy the evening.