As the governor of Puerto Rico warned that his island was in the grips of an “unprecedented disaster” from the wrath of Hurricane Maria, New York City welcomed families fleeing the widespread destruction.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was preparing for an influx of Puerto Ricans in the next few weeks and was taking steps to make room in schools for additional students. The mayor, who expects thousands to arrive, said City Hall was setting up special services, including medical care, for the dislocated islanders.
New York City and New York State have been in the forefront of the rescue effort in Puerto Rico, overshadowing the Trump administration’s somewhat muted response to the crisis. Many Americans do not realize that Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents are U.S. citizens, which may account for less national concern about the victims than those that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey left behind.
The largest number of Puerto Ricans living outside the commonwealth is clustered in Spanish Harlem. while the Ridgewood area has the biggest concentration in Queens.
Jennifer Lopez, the Bronx-born singer of Puerto Rican descent, is co-chairing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort and donating $1 million of her own money to the cause.
The state is urging New Yorkers to donate supplies and businesses to give gifts starting at $10,000 to be distributed to local Puerto Rican charities.
As of mid-week, only a small portion of the electrical power grid had been restored, the elderly and the ill were endangered by the lack of air conditioning, and people were lined up for hours trying to get food and cash from ATM machines.
As soon as Maria blew past the island, Gov. Ricardo Russell asked Cuomo to survey the carnage. He flew down Monday on Jet Blue, which is based in Long Island City, as part of a two-plane rescue operation bringing supplies and a show of support. The NYPD, FDNY, EMS and Port Authority rushed to Puerto Rico.
Cuomo chided President Trump for sending out 17 tweets about the NFL protests over the weekend and ignoring the outsized crisis in Puerto Rico. The governor joined a delegation of New York lawmakers who went to Washington to ask for the same level of federal relief that it has given to Texas and Florida.
In Queens, the Mets collected donations at Citi Field, a group of women in Elmhurst staged a “Rumba” to raise money, and an amateur radio club at the Garden School in Jackson Heights offered to relay messages to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean locations.
Kudos to the mayor and governor for standing up where it counts.