Gov. Cuomo, set to make his second trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Thursday, warned that America’s work in helping the battered island is only just beginning.
Predicting years and billions of dollars of work ahead, Cuomo criticized President Trump and others in Washington who have talked about how long the emergency response in Puerto Rico will go on. Trump had tweeted that “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
“When you’re talking about the people of Puerto Rico, you’re talking about Americans,” Cuomo told reporters at Kennedy Airport shortly before he boarded the plane. “We never talk about leaving before the job is done and we never talk about leaving Americans in a critical situation.
“So this emergency operation is far from over. And I don’t know how the President or anyone else can be talking about leaving when it’s been over a month and we still haven’t made the kind of progress that we need to make and you still have millions of people who need urgent help.”
Gov. Cuomo boarded a plane to Puerto Rico on Thursday.
Cuomo — who has been mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate — said his visit to Puerto Rico on Thursday was two-fold.
Cuomo traveled with a delegation to deliver needed water-filtration systems. The state, his office said, also will spend $ 1 million from the Empire State Clean Water Fund to support the purchase of additional water filtration systems in areas that lack access to clean water. His office said the state has already secured commitments from partners including the Partnership for New York City, the Orthodox Union and TIDAL.
Cuomo will also begin distributing 27,000 additional bottles of water.
Meanwhile, the governor also plans to meet Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to talk about the rebuilding and strengthening of the island’s infrastructure once the emergency operation is over.
He likened the situation to what New York went through five years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Once the rescue work was done, the efforts turned to strengthening the state’s infrastructure to better withstand future catastrophic storms, he said.
“This is not a short-term operation,” Cuomo said.
Hurricane Maria strikes Puerto Rico after pummeling Caribbean
Cuomo visited Puerto Rico right after Hurricane Maria hit five weeks ago.
Since then, he has announced an array of rescue operations that have sent medical supplies, equipment and personnel as well as state troopers and other emergency personnel to Puerto Rico in the wake of the storm that left the island without power, phones or running water.
Cuomo also said New York has shipped 3,000 pallets of donated goods, including 1.1 million bottles of water, 1.8 million baby wipes, 1.1 million diapers, 23,015 canned goods, and 10 generators.
Next month, a 28-member Tactical Power Restoration team consisting of engineers and supervisors from the state’s utility companies will travel to Puerto Rico to provide technical oversight in the work to restore the island’s power grid.
Gladys Francisco stands in front of her destroyed home in San Isidro, Puerto Rico on Oct. 17.
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
“We’re going to rebuild Puerto Rico,” Cuomo said. “Let’s start designing now a stronger more resilient Puerto Rico-and that’s where New York wants to help. That should be our attitude and that’s where we can help.
“Let’s design a power system that replaces the old failed power system. Let’s design a new health care system. Let’s design a more resilient Puerto Rico just the way we’re designing a better Florida and a better Texas and a better New York after Hurricane Sandy.”