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New Yorkers band together to assist natural disaster victims

Citi Field and three firehouses in northern Queens have begun accepting donated goods for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Photo by Carlos Giusti/AP
By Naeisha Rose

Lawmakers, businesses and individuals across Queens and the rest of the city are doing their part to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) is urging President Donald Trump to extend his waiver on matching funds from Puerto Rico for FEMA’s disaster relief. Her district covers Ridgewood, where there is a large Puerto Rican community.

“The aftermath of Hurricane Maria is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. Puerto Ricans are without food, clean water and electricity,” Velazquez said.” We must use every tool at our disposal to channel assistance to the island.”

She traveled to Puerto Rico Monday on a special mission with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to survey the damage and to bring supplies to the commonwealth.

In addition, Velazquez, who was born in Puerto Rico and has family there, is leading the charge in waiving the Jones Act so that supplies can be shipped to the island’s ports without restrictions.

The Jones Act is a Merchant Marine law, which was enacted in 1920 to regulate maritime commerce, according to expertlaw.com.

“The president must waive the Jones Act for one year,” Velazquez said. “Crises like this require swift, decisive leadership and we need the president to finally give this catastrophe the serious attention it deserves. Lives are on the line. There can be no further delay.”

After a week-long wait, Pres. Trump waived the Jones Act on Thursday.

Earlier in the week Cuomo launched an Empire State Relief & Recovery Effort program for Puerto Rico by forming partnerships with the New York Mets, medical organizations, business leaders, electeds and Puerto Rican superstar Jennifer Lopez to collect goods, support rebuilding efforts, and assist hospitals on the island. Lopez announced on Twitter she donated $1 million toward the relief efforts

As of Wednesday the Mets had raised $5,000 to send supplies to Puerto Rico, according to spokesman Harold Kaufman. The team also gathered 34,900 pounds of foods and supplies for Houston and another 39,000 for Florida to help residents recover from the two earlier hurricanes.

The team asked fans who attended games this week at Citi Field to donate supplies at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Left Field Gate and Bullpen Gate for collection, Kaufman said.

Officials from southeast Queens are trying to get their constituents to drop off essential items to police stations in their neighborhoods. For more information call 718-765-6359.

State Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) and other representatives want people to donate new and unopened batteries, flashlights, portable lanterns, diapers, baby wipes, water, hygiene products, and non-perishable items, according to the 103 Precinct.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has sent a 70-member team of emergency personnel and support equipment to assist storm-damaged Puerto Rico. The NYPD, FDNY and EMS personnel were on the ground in the island.

“JetBlue may serve Puerto Rico from the air, but today our focus is on the critical work needed on the ground,” said the airline’s president and CEO, Robin Hayes. JetBlue, headquartered in Long Island City, supplied the two jets to take Cuomo and Velazquez to Puerto Rico at the beginning of the week.

DROP-OFF LOCATIONS

The city has designated the following drop-off sites in Queens for donations:

Engine 316: 27-12 Kearney Street, Queens, NY 11369 (East Elmhurst)

Engine 289/ Ladder 138: 97-28 43rd Avenue, Queens, NY 11368 (Corona)

Engine 307/ Ladder 154: 81-17 Northern Boulevard, Queens, NY 11372 (Jackson Heights)

In addition to donating items, money can be donated to the Mayor’s Fund at nyc.gov/donate and HispanicFederation.org/donate.

You can also text “unidos” to 41444. Message and data rates may apply.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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