Governor Cuomo Launches Statewide Empire State Relief & Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico

Governor Cuomo: “To our colleagues in our federal government, I humbly suggest that at this time, instead of arguing with football players, instead of obsessing with how to take health care from the poor in this country, why don’t we put the politics aside and focus on helping Americans in desperate need. And those are the people of Puerto Rico.”

Governor Launches Statewide Donation Drive for Nonperishable Goods at Strategic Locations – Including Citi Field in Partnership with New York Mets

Jennifer Lopez, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Cesar Perales Serving as Co-Chairs of the Effort

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Jennifer Lopez, one of several Co-Chairs for the initiative

Earlier today, following his visit to Puerto Rico to deliver emergency supplies and see firsthand the widespread damage and devastation from Hurricane Maria, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico. The effort brings together a wide range of civic, business and industry partners to provide needed services, goods and funds to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild, and provides opportunities for New Yorkers to contribute to the relief efforts. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Charities Bureau will monitor the fund to ensure the organization follows all necessary rules and regulations governing the solicitation of funds and distribution of resources. JetBlue has committed to $1 million as an in-kind contribution to transport the customers and cargo for relief efforts. Governor Cuomo is the honorary chair of the effort, with Jennifer Lopez, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Cesar Perales serving as co-chairs.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below.


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Thank you. Thank you. Let’s give a big round of applause to Jennifer Lopez for her dedication. To Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who’s been a pioneer on so many fronts, and she once again has stepped up to the plate in a big way, and we look forward to her leadership. Let’s give her a big round, thank her for what she’s done. Assemblyman Marcos Crespo came down to Puerto Rico. He’s going to be coordinating all the effort from the New York State Legislature, and we thank him. Let’s give him a round of applause. To Cesar Perales, to my colleagues from City government, my colleagues in State government, to the labor leaders who are here, we thank everyone for coming on short notice. And to the National Guard who’s here once again, and came down with us to Puerto Rico. They do a fantastic job.

We know, we know about the devastation on the island. We know about the danger that’s impending on the island. We know how much destruction has been done. And how hard it is going to be to rebuild Puerto Rico. We also know that given the financial pressures that the island was under before, it makes the task even more difficult. And we also know Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, these are isolated places by definition. You can’t call the neighboring states to send in resources. It’s very hard to get everything there as we’re seeing now trying to get things on planes and trying to get the logistics set up on the ground. So we know the challenge is what do we do about it? And how do we do it and when do we do it? Now in New York, we’re going to do what New York does. Right? We come with a legacy, we come with a set of values and priorities, we come with a certain DNA, and we do what we do.

Supplies donated for Puerto Rico Relief Effort

First, is New York cares. For New Yorkers, this is personal because the Puerto Rican community is part of the family of New York. I’m from Queens, I grew up with the Puerto Rican community and the culture in their homes, with their families. This is personal. And we care on a very profound level. Second, we show up. And that’s what the trip to Puerto Rico was all about. When you care, you show up and Nydia, Assemblyman Crespo and I were on the first plane with two planes full of emergency supplies because that’s what you do when you care – you show up. Third, you act. You do something about it. You’re there in spirit, you’re there with good wishes, but you’re also there practically. And you also make things happen. And that’s what today is all about. Acting, organizing, mobilizing and doing it smartly and doing it intelligently and doing it quickly.

We are going to announce today and put in place today a statewide collection and financial contribution effort. The amount of people who want to help is overwhelming. But we have to marshal that desire to help and we have to do it smartly and we have to be organized about it. So we have a website that goes up today,, which will have collection points all across the state where people can drop off donations. They will be managed by the National Guard so we’ll make sure they are secure locations, we want to make sure whatever we collect actually gets there. There will be a list of items that the island needs, there’s a difference between people want to contribute and what the island needs. Everybody wants to do something but we have to do what the island prioritizes as their list of needs so that will be on the website also.

Devastation on the island, generators await delivery

The National Guard will collect the items statewide, they will bring it here to the Javits Center which will be the central point of collection. The National Guard will organize that. I want to thank 32 BJ and Hector Figueroa, they’re going to help organize the stockpile of the material that is here. We will then transport it with the help of the Guard and JetBlue, which is donating $1 million of services to transport the goods to the island. I want to thank President of JetBlue, Robin Hayes and the entire JetBlue team. They took us down and I want to thank them very much. Financial contributions, the Partnership and Kathy Wylde will be setting up an organization with Cesar Perales to handle financial contributions. Kathy pledges a minimum of $1 million from the Partnership for that fund. The attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is going to help expedite setting up that fund and he will also police to make sure there aren’t other scam organizations that get created and we want to thank him very much. We want to thank Jeff Wilpon and the New York Mets who are going to be doing collections at the games and we thank them very much, let’s give them a round of applause. Supplies for schools and students of many of which were decimated, will be organized and contributed by the teacher’s union not just in New York, but across the country and we want to thank Randi Weingarten for her leadership on that.

Medical supplies, which are desperately needed, are going to be managed by this effort also. We’re going to set up an adopt a hospital program and 1199 and Greater New York Hospital association and Ken Raske and HANYS is going to be in charge of that. So let’s give them a round of applause.

Governor Rosselló and NY Governor Cuomo

Governor Rosselló is aware of all of our actions and he is very thankful. And it’s a source of hope for the island. One of the things that Nydia remarked on after our trip and Marcos as well, just showing up gave the island a sense of hope. They knew they weren’t alone and they knew there were people who cared and there were people who were going to work to make a difference. And these contributions and the consistency of our effort and the urgency of our effort, continues to communicate the same thing, so Governor Rosselló wanted me to send his thanks. But let’s remember the context of this effort. I am proud of what New Yorkers are doing. I encourage other states to do the same thing, but this is going to be a long, hard road for Puerto Rico. And this is a situation that is going to require billions of dollars in assistance, and real capacity provided to the island, and that’s going to have to be done by the federal government. Now, Puerto Rico needs help and needs it urgently. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and we have to remember that. People from the U.S. Virgin Islands are American citizens. And what this country is very good at doing is providing aid to people in need. We just were very helpful to the people in the state of Texas and in Florida and I’m proud to do that. We know well what it’s like to need help. We went through 9/11 and we all remember how many people were there for us, and how many states showed up for us. As Governor, I have worked very hard to honor that commitment in the reciprocal. If any state needs help, New York is going to be there for them, because they were there for us.

Devastation on the island

But we have to help Puerto Rico with the same urgency that we’re helping Texas and Florida and the other parts of this country that need help. When our congressional delegation goes down to Washington this week, we’re going to have Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Congressman Serrano, and the entire delegation, speak with one voice. And it is a powerful delegation, and their message is simple: Puerto Rico needs help, it needs federal help and it needs it now. And look, to our colleagues in our federal government, I humbly suggest that at this time, instead of arguing with football players, instead of obsessing with how to take health care from the poor in this country, why don’t we put the politics aside and focus on helping Americans in desperate need. And those are the people of Puerto Rico.  And I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, a Republican, you’re liberal, conservative, you’re short, you’re tall, you’re from the East Coast, you’re from the West Coast – Americans go first. We can save lives if we act and we should.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez

As Nydia said, the Puerto Rican community is very strong and they are very resilient. I actually was there during Hurricane Georges, which was also devastating. I believe this will wind up being worse, but this was also devastating. I was the Housing and Urban Development Secretary at that time. I was working for the Clinton administration and the federal government sent us down right away and I actually worked with Governor Rosselló, who was governor of Puerto Rico at the time. That governor is the father of that Governor Rosselló. I don’t want to get into father, son governor comparisons. I hate that topic in general, but I can tell you this, after Hurricane Georges, you saw the strength of Puerto Ricans and you saw them stand together and the resiliency and the spirit and the energy and the dedication and you’re going to see it again. I can tell you this, this Governor Rosselló has the skills and the leadership and the head and the heart to manage this crisis. He just needs the help and that is what New York has to deliver – from New York and the federal government, we have to deliver the help and that is our charge and our mission. Our pledge to Puerto Rico is it’s going to be a long road to recovery, but New York is going to walk that road with you every step of the way and our goal is not just going to be to rebuild. We’re going to build a Puerto Rico that is better than ever before. That is what we’re going to do.

As we say in New York, nosotros somos mas que amigos, somos hermanos y hermanas, somos uno, somos uno, somos uno. Let’s get to work. Thank you.