Gov. Andrew Cuomo headed a delegation of New York government representatives, students and other volunteers to Puerto Rico, where the ‘NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding’ initiative has cleaned, restored, and rebuilt 90 homes across the island.
The goal is to renovate 150 homes through the initiative that has gained support from more than 400 student and labor volunteers who have dedicated more than 25,000 hours to the effort.
With two major deployments remaining, New York State will have mobilized more than 500 student volunteers and more than 100 skilled labor volunteers to assist with recovery and rebuilding efforts this summer.
During a news conference held in San Juan, Cuomo — who has visited Puerto Rico five times since Hurricane María hit in September 2017 — said the state has sent more than 1,000 emergency personnel including members of the utility companies, law enforcement agents, healthcare and the National Guard.
“I came down on one trip, we sent, literally, the utility companies from New York State. Con Edison and trucks from across the state. I saw more Con Edison trucks in Puerto Rico than I saw in Manhattan. So the presence was very large and right across the board,” he said.
Cuomo said the state is poised to continue helping in the long run, partnering with nonprofits that are on the ground in Puerto Rico, namely UNICEF, and All Hearts and Hands, and volunteer college students from CUNY and SUNY.
“So we will be here for the long-term. This is a connection of family and this is a connection of love, and that never ends. That connection never stops and we will be there until Puerto Rico is back up 100 percent,” Cuomo said.
He had harsh words for the federal government, of which he has been highly critical since the onset, saying the Federal Emergency Management Agency has fallen short on its work and its efforts post-María.
“What FEMA was doing here on the island was not the federal government’s best effort. They were not prepared. They hadn’t done the work before the event they should have done. They were very slow to their response,” he said.
“And they were basically ineffective and anemic. I said, even in the weeks after the hurricane that the federal response was lacking and that the federal government should be ashamed of itself,” Cuomo added.
During the conference, he made reference to the recent report describing FEMA’s work on the island after the devastation, which confirmed the agency was unprepared.
“Now that the federal government has admitted that their response compounded the problem, doesn’t the federal government owe it to Puerto Rico to finally do the right thing? I think President Trump should apologize to the people of Puerto Rico for the lack of FEMA’s response and the lack of preparedness and the pain and the suffering that they’ve gone through,” he said.
“It was Mother Nature with Hurricane María and that we’ll leave to Mother Nature. But it was Father Trump who compounded the problem by not having an appropriate federal response,” he said. “Now, they should start with an apology, and then they should follow it up with action.”