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New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative launched

By on March 12, 2018

SAN JUAN – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced an initiative to help Puerto Rico “build back stronger and more resilient” in the wake of hurricanes that struck the island in September.

According to a Friday release, New York officials will join with members of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council and the Building Trades Employers’ Association of New York City to comprise a Tactical Assessment Team that will be deployed to the island in mid-April.

The team will then work with the Puerto Rican government and non-profit organizations to develop a roadmap for rebuilding “a stronger and more resilient island.” The team will develop the work plan by conducting site visits; meeting with non-profits; and working with Gov. Ricardo “Rossello’s team, unions, and members of workforce development initiatives.

In early June, teams of SUNY and CUNY students and workers from the construction and building trades are slated to arrive to work with non-profits to implement the rebuilding roadmap. “These teams will enhance the capacity rebuilding non-profits by mucking and gutting homes, suppressing mold, and repairing and strapping roofs.”

A job training program will also be begun by the construction experts for the local workforce. To lay the groundwork for the hundreds of student volunteers, a SUNY Maritime team will be deployed in late May to connect with non-profits and transport supplies.

In addition, UNICEF USA has committed up to $500,000 to support the governor’s initiative. The release lists the following organizations as contributing to recovery efforts in varying capacities: All Hands and Hearts, Carlos Beltran Foundation, HEART 9/11, Habitat for Humanity NYC, Hispanic Federation, Partnership for NYC, Tidal, St. Bernard Project and Team Rubicon.

Cuomo said New York has been helping the island since the hurricanes hit, and “with the launch of this latest effort, we will deliver the workforce needed to build back homes and communities across the island stronger than ever before.”

“Our New York Promise to Puerto Rico is this–we will help them rebuild. We will help them recover. We will help them create resiliency. And we will never, ever forget. Unlike the federal government, whose approach is little more than throwing paper towels into a crowd, today we announced a new sustained initiative that will have a lasting impact,” New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says in the release.

“As the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the hemisphere, SUNY has the unparalleled knowledge and infrastructure required to help build safer, more sustainable, and resilient communities in Puerto Rico. With our five medical centers, three teaching hospitals, College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany, and SUNY Maritime College, along with a student body of exceptionally bright and compassionate students more than 430,000-strong, SUNY stands ready to build on our already significant support of the recovery effort in Puerto Rico, and as an example of the innovative role higher education can play in disaster recovery,” SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said.

The release further quotes Louis J. Coletti, president and CEO of Building Trades Employers’ Association: “The Building Trade Employers Association and its most experienced contractors in providing disaster recovery planning and assessment, Turner Construction, Lend Lease, Plaza, and Skanska…look forward to helping the residents of Puerto Rico return to their homes.”

Cuomo’s office says that at the governor’s direction and “led by the New York Power Authority,” more than 450 utility personnel “working on power restoration in the San Juan metro area have restored power to the more than 300,000 customers in the area” since November.

“The NYPA-led New York power restoration team”–which includes personnel from Con Edison, Orange & Rockland Utilities, National Grid, PSEG Long Island, Avangrid, and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.–”is now beginning preparations for reassignment to Caguas, an area still in need of power restoration support on the island, and one of the areas hardest hit by the storm.”

In December, 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 for Puerto Rico. The plan identified needed investments in “housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture and others.”

New York Gov. Cuomo calls US treatment of Puerto Rico unfortunate

The report, created by the Energy Resiliency Working Group, recommends $17 billion in power system repair, resiliency and modernization investments in Puerto Rico.

New York utility officials serve 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 island’s power system.

The release also quotes Carlos Mercader, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, as saying: “The island is better off today because of the support of New Yorkers. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New Yorkers came together to deliver the assistance, support and advocacy we need to rebuild. But the work is not yet finished. Puerto Rico has a long road ahead, and Governor Cuomo has made it very clear that New Yorkers will walk with Puerto Rico every step of the way.”

The release adds that along with 4,400 pallets of supplies collected from 13 New York donations sites, the state has deployed more than 1,000 personnel and equipment:

  • 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
  • Four 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
  • Two Department of Environmental Conservation drone pilots

Supplies distributed include:

  • 3.2 million bottles of water
  • 3.1 million individual baby wipes
  • 1.9 million diapers
  • 321,830 feminine products
  • 101,520 containers of baby food
  • 91,164 canned goods
  • 64,400 bottles/pouches of juice/sport drinks
  • 13,275 flashlights
  • 8,600 solar lamps
  • 5,440 first aid kits
  • 1,181 water filtration systems
  • 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, visit the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ webpage.

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