Governor Hochul: "We have put off for far too long the necessary investments to protect us from the effects of climate change. And it's not that complicated, my friends. We know where we need to build resiliency. ... To stop this from happening here and flooding homes is what happens on the ground. Do we have the appropriate storm sewers? Do we have the drainage? And these are not the fun projects, but I worked on hundreds and hundreds of projects as a local official. I know how critical they are when the storm comes. ... That's what we're going to do next. It's expensive, it's big, it's bold but it's essential. That's how we can deal with the first line of attack. That's how we go on offense against Mother Nature, and it starts in neighborhoods like this."
Hochul: "I'm also deploying the Department of Financial Services which oversees banking insurance. For these purposes insurance is the operative word. Everybody is going to want to get their insurance claims filed as soon as possible, so I've directed the insurance companies, don't wait, get your claims adjustors out there, pan out, go to the neighborhoods, help out. We have a mobile van that has been deployed to help people literally fill out the forms and make sure they're in the language of the community they're in."
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul provided an update on storm recovery efforts from Staten Island.
AUDIO is available here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good afternoon and thank you for joining us in this hard hit neighborhood on Staten Island. It really is hard to see what people have gone through in the last few days. People were just going about their ordinary lives, people never suspecting that an area like this, this neighborhood in particular would be ravaged by a storm and a raging flood that destroyed these buildings, these homes all the way down to the core and when you walk through and you see attempts to collect family photos and have them dry out so you still have that keepsake of your wedding and friends and children and literally nothing left on the walls, the furniture gone. This is just one example of what a storm can do and it's just hard to see. People's lives have been so deeply affected by this.
I want to thank my partners in government in particular because they have felt this just as deeply as I have, people who have stepped up to answer the call of public service. You think it involves a lot of constituent service and passing bills and getting things done. But then these are your neighbors and you feel it deeply and I want to thank all of for coming out.
I want to acknowledge Senator Diane Savino who brought us here today, letting my team know the devastation on this particular block and there's people who need help desperately so thank you, senator, for what you've done in this event but also for your incredible work that you've done and our state capitol, just a strong advocate for Staten Island.
Also, we are joined by our Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis who truly has been affected a by this as well and is working hard with us and our partners in Washington to deliver the much needed relief money from FEMA so I want to thank her and the other members of the New York delegation for their strong support for my request to get the individual assistance which we expect will be happening.
Also I want to recognize the son of Michael Cusick. He'll be joining us to say a few words. Assemblymember Michael Tannousis will be speaking
Someone who's become a very dear friend of mine is our great Borough President Jimmy Oddo and I told all of them I used to see you at another sad event but an appropriate memorial where we come every year to, the postcards event on 9/11. I'm always so deeply touched by that event but I thank the borough president for his service to this community for many, many years and in extending his hand in friendship to me over my entire tenure, seven years as lieutenant governor and now governor.
Debi Rose, Council Member, will be saying a few words as well. She's been a strong, strong ally and a fighter for the people right on the ground here and we also have someone who will be joining us in the elected ranks I anticipate in the fall, a community leader, Kamillah Hanks is joining us. Commissioner Patrick Murphy from the Department of Homeland Security who has done extraordinary work and with your team we were together preparing for the ravages of the anticipated Hurricane Henri just a couple, 10 days ago, and now to have to come back again and re-engage and just do it all over again, the long nights, the long days, and just the toll it takes on all of us as human beings when we see what happens to the people who are charged with representing and protecting. It's hard but we have the best and the brightest serving us.
I also want to thank an individual who opened up her home to us, Kim and family, and her sister is here, residents of the building right behind us. Kim, what you've done is powerful. You've put a face to the misery, the pain, the anguish that's out there and it emboldens all of us about what we have to do. The urgency we bring to the task to bring much needed aid to you and families, and people are just in pain.
So what do we do? I can't stop Mother Nature trying my best. I fought back storms, put down sandbags to deal with 100-year events from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario to rivers all over the state, tried to fight back Mother Nature when she dumped seven feet of snow on my neighborhood all in a day and a half, stranding people for 36 hours on a highway. So I come here to tell you I'm not inexperienced in dealing with disasters but I also know while we can't stop Mother Nature, we don't have to always be so defensive.
I saw we go on offense. I'm a sports fan. Let's go on offense and do everything we humanly can to be resilient, to be prepared, and when a crisis hits, have better early warning systems for people, particularly people who have been living in basement homes and lower levels that are particularly vulnerable. How do we get the message out to them. Yes, we have the cell phones going off saying a tornado may be coming, but I understand it's human nature to say, there we go again. There they go again. I was literally on beaches on Long Island telling people the reports that I was given, that Hurricane Henri could be as bad as Hurricane Sandy and we need to get people evacuated. I was out there following that direction and it didn't happen. So I understand what happens when a week later, we're telling people the same thing. Get ready, get ready, something devastating could happen, and they all think we're Chicken Little, because it didn't happen last time. We have to fight against that.
That is our fist line of defense, is to fight against that complacency, which is a very natural human reaction to people telling you it's going to be bad again because you say last time it wasn't and I got through it, or I can fight back, I can survive a hurricane.
We have to teach people that this is something that is so powerful, and with the effect of climate change these storms are getting more wicked than ever and we have to do everything we can to let people know, but then what you do during the event, you evacuate, you take care of people in the immediate crisis, and we did a good job with that.
We had hundreds of people evacuated by our first responders, from local officials on up to the state. They did their jobs. They did an amazing job, at risk to their own lives. And that's something we always forget, or many times we forget, they risked their own lives. They could also be swept away - that happened to a State Police officer in Connecticut, swept away just trying to do their job. So let's not forget that they're in danger as well.
But here we are, day and a half after, almost two days after. Now it's about cleaning up and building back, and getting people the resources they need so they can resume their lives and put this bad chapter in the memory books, and tell their grandchildren about it someday. But get back to some semblance of normal. Everybody just wants to be made whole, get back to normal and start putting all their pieces of their lives back together. I understand that. It's very real.
I'm very pleased that President Biden, after my phone call with him and after our submission of our request for assistance, granted the FEMA assistance we asked for, gave us an emergency declaration. There is a longer process involved and we're very engaged and it's something I'm extremely familiar with having sought these declarations many, many times. But we want to make sure that we take care of people in their immediate need and make sure that anyone who needs food or clothing or shelter is responded to, and not just here in Staten Island. I literally just came in from Westchester and I asked what was happening in Mamaroneck. They said people need food. People were asking for food. This is the great State of New York and people are hungry tonight. That can't be the case, I want to call on all of our citizens to help each other out, make sure that our local food banks have what they need and that we have the resources to give to local shelters, make sure everybody in this time of need is taken care of, and then the next step is we do damage assessment. In order to be reimbursed by FEMA we have to give them literally the bill. We have to tell them what the cost of this is and how we're going to work with our local governments to literally go street by street and calculate the cost of what this event has resulted in.
I'm also deploying the Department of Financial Services which oversees banking insurance. For these purposes insurance is the operative word. Everybody is going to want to get their insurance claims filed as soon as possible, so I've directed the insurance companies, don't wait, get your claims adjustors out there, pan out, go to the neighborhoods, help out. We have a mobile van that has been deployed to help people literally fill out the forms and make sure they're in the language of the community they're in - critically important to me. I don't want any barriers to people getting the assistance that's available to them.
Short term, take care of people, property, life, protect. Next step, assess the damage, file for claims, get the money out to people, and then there is the longer term.
I just was just with Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand the last hour and they are committed to working with the Senate, the House of Representatives and President Biden to get the infrastructure money passed in Congress, signed into law and out into communities like this. We have put off for far too long the necessary investments to protect us from the effects of climate change. And it's not that complicated, my friends. We know where we need to build resiliency. Yes, we know about seawalls. We have barriers that we need to take care. We'll get that done.
What we didn't anticipate from our past experiences is what happened here. It wasn't the waves crashing against the shoreline destroying houses in its wake. The danger came from above. It came from the heavens. As a result, we literally have Niagara Falls rushing down here. I live near Niagara Falls. I know what I'm talking about. That's what we're dealing with here, so what that means - to stop this from happening here and flooding homes is what happens on the ground. Do we have the appropriate storm sewers? Do we have the drainage? And these are not the fun projects, but I worked on hundreds and hundreds of projects as a local official. I know how critical they are when the storm comes. If the storm came with that magnitude and the streets could handle the water, him and I wouldn't be standing out here on the street today. That's what we're going to do next. It's expensive, it's big, it's bold but it's essential. That's how we can deal with the first line of attack. That's how we go on offense against Mother Nature, and it starts in neighborhoods like this. That is my commitment to all of you. That is my commitment sure as I'm standing here, and I know that everyone who's going to be speaking joins me to say to you: Let's be ready. Let's not let this happen again. When Mother Nature has a really bad night and takes it out on us, we stand ready to fight back. And we fight back hard, because we're New Yorkers, we're Staten Island. Thank you very much.