Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a team of state emergency management officials arrived Friday in Puerto Rico to provide aid to the hurricane-ravaged island.
Cuomo, speaking at a news conference at Kennedy Airport before his flight, said he was traveling to the U.S. territory at the request of Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, who reached out with a “governor to governor” plea for assistance following back to back hurricanes that have left the island of 3 million U.S. citizens without electricity and running water.
“He didn’t have to ask because in New York we are family with the Puerto Rican community and with family you don’t have to ask for help,” Cuomo said, standing in front of a JetBlue plane that the company donated for the trip.
Cuomo, surrounded by a delegation of national guard troops, elected officials and engineers, said the primary focus of the trip is to lend technical support to help rebuild the island’s power system.
Cuomo said the plane was stocked with large-scale generators to help provide power to hospitals and communication centers and supplies including 36,000 bottles of water, 10,000 meals and 500 flashlights.
The delegation traveling with Cuomo includes 10 engineers, planners, technical supervisors and translators from the New York Power Authority and two drone pilots from the Department of Environmental Conservation, all “to assist with the assessment and reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s power grid,” the governor said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said earlier this week it could take up to six months to restore power to the entire island.
Cuomo was joined on the trip by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and state Assemb. Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx), and other top state officials including New York Power Authority president and chief executive Gil Quinones, state Budget Director Robert Mujica, and Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino.
“Anything this state can do for Puerto Rico, we will do,” Cuomo said.
The delegation was scheduled to fly back Friday evening, Cuomo said, adding that additional national guard troops and Black Hawk helicopters were ready to be deployed in the coming days.
Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress, said she shared in the despair of those who have been unable to reach relatives on the island, noting that days after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico she has still not had success in getting hold of her family.
Velazquez said Friday’s trip brought a “message of hope” to Puerto Ricans, signaling “that in the darkest moment we are going to be there.”
Last week the governor traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands for a day to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and offered relief in the way of emergency personnel to help with search and rescue missions.
Cuomo, who is frequently floated as a potential Democratic presidential contender in 2020, traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands at the invitation of the territory Gov. Kenneth Mapp, a former NYPD officer.