Puerto Rico is reeling after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last week. The storm caused significant damage and it will take weeks — maybe even months — for power to be restored.
As Puerto Rico's 3.5 million residents await assistance from the federal government, New York is lending its support. Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the U.S. territory Friday. The state's initial relief mission delivered thousands of supplies to the island, including 34,000 bottles of water, 9,600 ready-to-eat meals, 3,000 canned goods and 10 large generators.
Sixty members of the New York Army National Guard, four Blackhawk helicopters and 50 state troopers are on standby and could be deployed to Puerto Rico to aid with the recovery, according to the governor's office.
But that's not all. On Sunday, Cuomo announced a larger initiative — the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico. The campaign will be co-chaired by actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and former New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales.
The fundraising effort has already benefited Puerto Rico. Lopez pledged to donate $1 million. JetBlue will provide $1 million in flights to deliver supplies and volunteers to the island.
An important component of the state's program is the Puerto Relief and Rebuilding Fund, which will be spearheaded by the Partnership for New York City, a leading business group. Donations will be solicited from businesses to support the relief fund. The proceeds will benefit several Puerto Rican organizations, including Caritas de Puerto Rico, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, and Centro Para Puerto Rico.
More information about the initiative can be found at ny.gov/puertorico.
Cuomo also announced a statewide donation drive to encourage New Yorkers to contribute much-needed supplies for Puerto Rico. The items requested include baby wipes, batteries, bottled water, diapers, feminine hygiene products, flashlights and portable lanterns.
The state has designated drop-off sites for each region. There are four in New York City: Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan; Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building in Brooklyn; Jamaica Street Armory in Queens; and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.
The other drop-off locations are:
• Western New York: Connecticut Street Armory, 184 Connecticut St., Buffalo
• Finger Lakes: State Police Zone Station, 1155 Scottsville Road, Suite 400, Rochester
• Southern Tier: Binghamton Armory, 85 West End Ave., Binghamton
• Central New York: Sen. John J. Hughes State Office Building, 333 E. Washington St., Syracuse
• Mohawk Valley: Utica State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica
• Capital Region: Empire State Plaza, Main Concourse in Albany
• Mid-Hudson: Yonkers Armory, 2 Quincy Pl., Yonkers
Each collection site is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Medical organizations are partnering to assist Puerto Rican hospitals with health care needs. 1199SEIU, a leading union representing health care workers, the Greater New York Hospital Association, the Healthcare Association of New York State and the New York State Nurses Association will send health care professionals to Puerto Rico.
The groups will also determine medications and medical supplies that are needed in Puerto Rico and provide assistance as the island's health care system recovers from the storm.
New York Power Authority employees are already in Puerto Rico to help assess damage to the island's energy grid. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will send staff to assist in other areas.
The governor's office said 45 aviation employees will be deployed to San Juan International Airport and other airports in Puerto Rico. Additional personnel will help restart operations at the Port of San Juan and 10 members of the Port Authority Police Department will assist with search and rescue efforts. Four emergency medical technicians from the Office of Emergency Management will be deployed to the island.