Gov. Cuomo Launches The NY Stands With Puerto Rico Recovery & Rebuilding Initiative

Published on April 30, 2018, 4:47 pm
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, deploying a Tactical Assessment Team of state experts and labor, non-profit, philanthropic, and academic partners to evaluate reconstruction needs and to develop a comprehensive rebuilding roadmap for communities in need.

The Assessment Team’s findings will inform the strategic deployment of approximately 500 SUNY and CUNY students, as well as skilled workers from the building and construction trades, beginning in June. The Governor convened a roundtable with local partners and Tactical Assessment Team members to launch the new initiative and to discuss New York State’s ongoing efforts to help Puerto Rico build back better. The Governor then toured a neighborhood in Toa Baja where volunteers are already working to repair flooded homes.

“There are too many residents in Puerto Rico living in temporary homes that will not withstand this year’s fast-approaching hurricane season,” Governor Cuomo said. “As our federal government continues to flounder, New York is taking action to deliver critical housing assistance, resources, and the workforce needed to accelerate rebuilding efforts and construct more resilient homes for residents throughout Puerto Rico.”

The Tactical Assessment Team includes members of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, the Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York City, SUNY, CUNY, as well as expert staff from the Executive Chamber, Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. The team also includes leaders from philanthropic and non-profit rebuilding organizations active across Puerto Rico, including UNICEF USA, Buena Vibra, All Hands and Hearts, HEART 9/11, Hispanic Federation, Team Rubicon, the Carlos Beltran Foundation, and the St. Bernard Project.

The Tactical Assessment Team will develop the detailed work plan to inform future rebuilding efforts by:

  • conducting site visits to distressed neighborhoods and homes across the island;
  • meeting with smaller, grassroots non-profits already working on the ground; and
  • working with Governor Rosselló’s team, unions, and members of workforce development initiatives to help identify the island’s greatest needs and incorporate solutions into the work plan.

UNICEF USA has committed to underwriting the cost of the team’s deployment and has committed up to $500,000 toward the broader home building initiative. The multidisciplinary team is critical to the New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Effort, and the overall Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort launched by the Governor in September immediately following the storms.

SUNY, CUNY and Skilled Labor Volunteers to Deploy in June

Once the rebuilding roadmap is complete, New York will mobilize hundreds of SUNY and CUNY student volunteers, and skilled trade workers from the building and construction trades to embed with non-profit organizations on the ground to help rebuild homes across Puerto Rico. A SUNY Maritime team will travel to the island in late May to transport supplies, connect with the nonprofits that students will engage with, and prepare for their arrival.

The skilled trades men and women will address rampant unemployment across Puerto Rico by establishing workshops to train local residents. This boot camp effort will enable more hands to help rebuild homes, while supporting the local economy.

Approximately 500 SUNY and CUNY students are expected to participate in deployments which will run roughly 2 – 4 weeks beginning in June. The students will participate in cleaning, restoring and construction homes, while also completing an intensive applied learning curriculum to ensure an enriching academic experience and earn college credits.

In April, the Governor wrote a letter to FEMA urging its immediate approval of Puerto Rico’s request for an unconditional extension of the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program. On April 18, Governor Rosselló requested the third extension, from May 15 through June 30, 2018, allowing children in displaced families to finish school. Additionally, Governor Rosselló requested to remove the narrowed eligibility requirements to allow the residents who were determined to be ineligible at the April 20 review to remain in the program. After pressure from officials like Governor Cuomo, FEMA granted Puerto Rico’s request to broaden the eligibility requirements on Friday, April 20. However, they only extended the program until May 14. FEMA claims they will continue to work with Governor Rosselló’s team on another possible extension.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló said, “On behalf of the people of Puerto Rico, thank you very much to Governor Cuomo, who has supported us since the day after Hurricane Maria hit the Island. Once again and more than seven months after the catastrophe, he reaffirms his commitment to the Puerto Rican people with this assistance program.”

Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Marquez Garcia said, “Our community restoration work is far from over, and thanks to continuous support of Governor Cuomo, we have welcomed an expert team that will develop a plan to enhance our efforts to rebuild neighborhoods in Toa Baja and beyond. I want to thank all of New York’s residents, businesses and organizations who have provided resources and support over the past several months. This is exactly the kind of collaborative work that alongside the canalization of ‘Rio La Plata,’ will give Toa Baja’s families the peace of mind and the security of strong and reliable housing; and the socioeconomic development of the region.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “I commend the Governor for his continued support for our friends and family in Puerto Rico. As we saw with the recent island-wide blackout, the island still has a long way to go before their infrastructure is secure and ready for future storms. I am proud to work with Governor Cuomo and Governor Rosselló on this latest initiative to bring CUNY and SUNY students to rebuild the island for course credit. This valuable experience will enrich the lives not only of these students, but of the millions of residents living throughout Puerto Rico.”

NYPA President & CEO Gil Quiniones said, “The New York State utility contingent, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, has been on the ground since Hurricane Maria first landed and began ravaging the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. New York Power Authority electricity experts are now advising the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority and its partners on grid stabilization and restoration. We are pleased that additional volunteers and skilled teams from New York trade organizations and various universities will be joining the rebuilding efforts. We will build back better together.”

Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “Millions of individuals on the island are counting on us, and we will deliver. We will deliver results not just for Puerto Rico, but also for the State of New York and all the Puerto Ricans who call New York home.”

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez said, “Immediately after Maria made landfall, the Governor called me and we flew there together to assess damage and deliver supplies. The magnitude of this once-in-a-generation humanitarian crisis demands a long term, sustained response. I am proud Governor Cuomo has remained a steadfast partner as we work to rebuild the Island more resilient and stronger for the future. New Yorkers share a profound bond with Puerto Rico and we will continue to aid our brothers and sisters until the Island is made whole.”

Assemblymember Marcos Crespo said, “The ongoing situation in Puerto Rico is unlike anything this country has experienced, and the failure of the federal government to lend critical support to our fellow citizens has been a disgrace. The leadership Governor Cuomo has shown since day one is exactly what our brothers and sisters need to recover and rebuild. By launching this next phase, New York is sending a clear message to the world that we remain committed to transforming the island and rebuilding communities to endure future storms, and that together we can rebuild Puerto Rico stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said, “The Governor’s NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative will bring hundreds of SUNY and CUNY volunteers to help recovery efforts this summer, providing much needed strength and energy to boost the workforce and accelerate efforts on the island. The launch of this initiative not only provides students with hands-on experience in their fields of study, but it will lend critical support to our brethren in Puerto Rico. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership for bringing this strategic program to fruition.”

UNICEF USA President & CEO Caryl Stern said, “In the wake of the storm that hit Puerto Rico, our decision to partner with Governor Cuomo’s New York State effort was based on how impressed we were with the approach he was taking and the fact that he was one of the first to actually put his boots on the ground in Puerto Rico, asking how New York could best help. We are equally excited to support this second phase of reconstruction – to welcome hundreds of New York student volunteers this summer to increase work capacity and fast-track our rebuild efforts. Not only is it critical to the island’s children and families as we work with Governor Cuomo and all of our nonprofit partners to remove mud and debris from homes, but as important, it is empowering young people to take responsibility to be part of the solution. It is the ultimate kids helping kids solution, which is at the heart of what UNICEF is all about. Thank you Governor Cuomo!”

All Hands and Hearts Founder & Chairman David Campbell said, “It is a fundamental American value to help those faced with adversity, and Puerto Rico still needs our help. I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo to extend the long-term support to our neighbors, our family, and our friends. All Hands and Hearts will work with the Governor’s Tactical Assessment Team to evaluate damage, as we look forward to incorporating the brainpower and strength of New York’s youth when the student volunteers join us this summer. Together, we will continue our presence on the ground until residents across the island can lead a quality, wholesome life once again.”

Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater NY President Gary LaBarbera said, “When Hurricane Maria struck and devastated the island of Puerto Rico, New York answered their call for help. As the Governor continues to deploy resources and personnel down to aid Puerto Rico’s rebuild efforts, the state has shown a clear commitment to help our brothers and sisters in need. Our skilled workforce is proud to be a part of these efforts as we work to build resilient homes and businesses throughout Puerto Rico that will stand strong against what Mother Nature may bring in the future.”

Building Trades Employers Association President and CEO Lou Coletti said, “It has been months since Hurricane Maria devastated communities in Puerto Rico, and families across the island are still picking up the pieces. Neighborhoods are in dire need of help as they rebuild homes and reestablish businesses, and under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has been there to lend a hand every step of the way. I am proud to join Governor Cuomo and all of New York during this rebuilding effort, as our skilled laborers and contractor expertise work to ensure that Puerto Rico stands stronger than ever before.”

32BJ President Héctor J. Figueroa said, “The residents of Puerto Rico have a friend in New York Governor Cuomo. Governor Cuomo’s initiative will bring the island’s rebuilding capacity to new heights by delivering a strategic roadmap to guide recovery efforts, the strength and personnel needed to see this plan through, and the energy of student volunteers and skilled laborers to rebuild homes one by one. We commend Governor Cuomo for his steady support since Maria hit the Island. The scale of the disaster, the indifference of Trump and the debt crisis call on all of us to support Puerto Rico. Together, we will establish a more resilient island that will last for generations.”

Restoring Power to Puerto Rico

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo directed the New York Power Authority to immediately deploy a 10-person team comprised of highly-specialized utility experts to assist Puerto Rico with power restoration and stabilization efforts. The members, who have expertise in controls, relay and protection, system planning, operation planning, generation and transmission operations, have been working with PREPA to assess the grid and identify persistent problems. They are making recommendations for repairs and improvements that will help to prevent power outages, help to ensure that there are redundancies in the system, and ultimately improve resiliency of the grid.

At the Governor’s direction and led by the New York Power Authority, New York previously deployed a contingent of more than 450 utility personnel to help restore power to the San Juan metro-area, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of the total electric demand in Puerto Rico. The New York contingent of utility workers, who worked on-island since November, included personnel from NYPA, Con Edison, Orange & Rockland Utilities, National Grid, PSEG Long Island, Avangrid, and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.

This New York utility contingent fully restored power to the more than 300,000 customers in the San Juan metro area. The NYPA-led New York power restoration team then assisted with restoration in Caguas, one of the areas hardest hit by the storm.

Building Puerto Rico Back Better

In December, Governors Cuomo and Rosselló, and members of the New York Congressional Delegation released a Build Back Better Assessment Report that called for a $94.4 billion federal aid package to help Puerto Rico build back stronger. The plan identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture and others. Together with $487 million for public safety and first response and $9 billion for long-term recovery management, the total funding need is $94.4 billion.

Governor Cuomo also established the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Working Group and released the “Build Back Better” report with recommendations on how to rebuild and transform Puerto Rico’s power system into one that it is more resilient, efficient, advanced and less dependent on fossil fuel imports that cost Puerto Ricans more than $2 billion annually. The report, created by the Energy Resiliency Working Group, identifies and recommends a total of $17 billion in power system repair, resiliency and modernization investments in Puerto Rico.

In addition, New York utility contingent senior officials are serving on the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Transformation Advisory Council, an advisory group formed to develop a long-term vision and execution plan for the transformation of the power system in Puerto Rico. NYPA’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Lurie and Sanjay Bose, vice president of Central Engineering at Consolidated Edison are the New York contingent members that will serve on this council along with nine other senior energy experts.

Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort 

New York has deployed more than 1,000 personnel and distributed 4,400 pallets of supplies collected from 13 donations sites across the state:

Personnel deployed include:

  • more than 450 New York utility personnel, more than 50 Tactical Power Restoration experts, and 15 damage assessment experts;
  • 132 National Guard Military Police;
  • 125 National Guard Engineers;
  • 60 National Guard soldiers;
  • 4 Black Hawk helicopters;
  • 14 Airmen;
  • 156 Volunteer Physicians, Physicians Assistants, Nurses, and Nurse Practitioners;
  • more than 70 Port Authority personnel;
  • more than 130 State Troopers;
  • five-member logistical support team from the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services;
  • 2 Department of Environmental Conservation drone pilots.

Supplies distributed includes:

  • 3.3 million bottles of water;
  • 7.8 million individual baby wipes;
  • 2.3 million diapers;
  • 592,730 feminine products;
  • 117,210 containers of baby food;
  • 194,014 canned goods;
  • 82,640 bottles/pouches of juice/sport drinks;
  • 15,275 flashlights;
  • 8,600 solar lamps;
  • 7,310 first aid kits;
  • 1,181 water filtration systems;
  • more than 155,000 miles of utility cable, 7,600 splice kits 1,485 cross arms and 50 transformers for power restoration efforts;
  • more than $1 million in critical medication and supplies for San Juan, Vieques, Culebra and other locations, in partnership with GNYHA and the Afya Foundation.

For more information about the recovery and relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico, and to learn how you can assist, please visit the Governor’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands website here.

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