Governor Departs for Puerto Rico with Delegation that Includes NYPA President & CEO Gil Quiniones, Greater NY Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, Assembly Member Maritza Davila, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., Terry Bischoff from Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico, Members of the Red Cross, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Budget Director Robert Mujica
Governor Will Lead Delegation to Survey and Assess Damage in Guánica, Ponce and at the Costa Sur Power Plant to Determine Additional State Assets to be Deployed
Governor Will Provide 800 Blankets, 800 Pillows and 500 Emergency Preparedness Kits to Puerto Rico Residents Impacted by Earthquake
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo authorized the deployment of 115 National Guard to Puerto Rico during the next 90 days to assist in emergency response efforts following a series of earthquakes that impacted the island. The Governor departed for Puerto Rico with a delegation that includes NYPA President & CEO Gil Quiniones, Greater NY Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr, Terry Bischoff from Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico, members of the Red Cross, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Budget Director Robert Mujica. The Governor will also be accompanied by his daughter, Michaela Kennedy Cuomo; her expenses are being paid for personally.
AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of today's event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is below:
Good morning to everyone. I'd like to introduce the people who will be accompanying us to Puerto Rico with the delegation that we're bringing. First you'll hear from - after I make some opening remarks - you'll hear from Assemblyman Marcos Crespo. You'll then hear from Borough President Rubén Díaz. Marcos, Rubén, myself and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez were on the first plane to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria - literally the first plane that landed - so it's a pleasure to be with them again. We have Ken Raske who is the President and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, Gil Quiniones who is the President and CEO of the New York Power Authority who has been doing a tremendous amount of work in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. Big problem has been the power supply and NYPA and Gil have really taken a leadership role, have basically been working since Hurricane Maria. We have Melissa DeRosa who is the Secretary to the Governor, Robert Mujica who is the New York State Budget Director who, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Plata from the New York State National Guard.
We have 115 National Guard who will be coming down immediately to help with emergency services and I want to thank the National Guard who were just a tremendous resource for the State of New York - floods, hurricanes, whatever it is - the National Guard is always ready to help New York and they deploy to other states, other situations in this country and I want to thank them very much for the organization here.
And we have Michaela Kennedy Cuomo who is the supervisor of the Governor and she is here to make sure I stay in line and it's a pleasure to be with her. Michaela also came with me to Puerto Rico on one of the visits for Hurricane Maria.
As everybody knows Puerto Rico has had a series of earthquakes - they had tremors, 20, 25 tremors on a daily basis. There's a report that there was another earthquake this morning, of about 4.9, which is a serious situation. So it wasn't one earthquake - it has been an ongoing series for a number of days. It has not affected the entire island, but it has affected a significant portion of it, and the purpose of our visit is to assess the damage, find out the best way we can help.
We're bringing down as I mentioned 115 National Guards-people, emergency blankets, pillows, meals - there are thousands of people who are in shelters. There's a significant problem with the power plant - remember that the island is still rebuilding from Hurricane Maria, and one of the major issues was damage to the power supply - so we will be visiting the main power plant Costa Sur, will be at Ponce, which is the area that has received significant damage. We will also be in San Juan; we'll meet with the governor. We'll take a helicopter tour over the island to assess the damage, and our point is going to be any way we can help, what do you need, in terms of health resources, mental health resources, structural engineers, power supply, emergency responses.
That's the purpose of this visit, and people should remember the context: Hurricane Maria was devastating to the island. I think this nation should be ashamed of their response to Hurricane Maria. I don't believe the federal government stepped up the way they should. They treated Puerto Rico as if it was a separate country. Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Puerto Ricans are American citizens. They're not second-class American citizens. We don't have second class and third class American citizens. We're American citizens. We're a family of Americans. They're our brothers and sisters. We feel this especially deeply being New Yorkers. The Puerto Rican community is such a vital part of New York. I'm a native New York City boy, Queens. Who grew up with the Puerto Rican community. This is our family. And our family is in trouble. And what do we do when our family members is in trouble? We come together, we pull together and we work to help one another. It's that simple. It's not complicated.
And Hurricane Maria was devastating. The island still hasn't fully recovered and then they get hit with an earthquake and a second. I think this is insult to injury as far as the federal government is concerned. They didn't respond appropriately at Hurricane Maria. The President showed up and threw paper towels into the crowd and now we have an earthquake and continuing tremors and once again the federal government hasn't showed up the way they should. Luckily, New Yorkers have. Their response after Hurricane Maria was tremendous. Millions of dollars donated. Supplies from all across the state. And we will do the same thing here. We'll make sure that Puerto Rico is not left on its own. And frankly, after Hurricane Maria, New York State did what the federal government should have done in terms of thousands of volunteers and people assisting. And we're going to do the same thing here. The federal government, I believe has been asleep during these situations. But, New Yorkers have really stepped up to the plate and I'm proud of them. And I'm proud of the delegation that we have with us here today and I want to thank them all for going down. Again, it is an ongoing situation in Puerto Rico. The reports are that this morning there was another earthquake, not as bad, but the continuing tremors and the continuation of this situation has really brought fear all throughout the island. People don't trust the structures they're in, some structures have cracked, they're afraid the continuing tremors will actually make it worse. So it's a very serious situation and that's why we have mobilized as quickly as we have and I want to thank this delegation for putting aside everything to make this trip, especially the National Guard who put their lives on hold to respond to help other people.
With that, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, my colleague from Albany, the New York State Assembly has been fantastic, the New York State Senate. You'll then hear from Borough President Rubén Díaz what he did in terms of organizing after Hurricane Maria, not just throughout the Bronx but all throughout the state was really nothing short of heroic. But first, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo.
I think everything has been said. I thank my colleagues for their sentiment. You know, last point: the world is complicated now. Issues with Iran, impeachment, all politics, but as complicated as it, is as simple as it is. People who are in government are there to try to help people. The people of Puerto Rico need help. I don't care if you're a Democrat, Republican, what you are. They need help and they are American citizens and American citizens who we love and have a very close relationship with. When members of your family, when brothers and sisters who are American citizens, need help, do it. Do it. Show up. Do what you can. And that's what today is all about and I'm proud to be Governor of New York and I'm proud to be a colleague of Marcos and of Rubén and proud of the Puerto Rican community of New York and I'm proud on behalf of all New Yorkers, all 20 million New Yorkers. I know they all would applaud what we're doing today and they stand behind us and it's my honor to be the Governor of New York today.