ALBANY – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is stepping into a national role to help Puerto Rico as it assesses the damages caused by hurricanes that have ravaged the island, while criticizing President Donald Trump’s priorities.
Cuomo, who has long been rumored to have presidential ambitions, flew to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, on Sept. 22 after being invited by Gov. Ricardo Rossello to survey the damage. Top officials from the New York Power Authority made the trip with Cuomo to help their counterparts in Puerto Rico restore electrical service after Hurricane Maria made landfall last week as a Category 4 storm, knocking out the island’s entire power grid and killing at least 10.
Hurricane Maria came on the heels of Hurricane Irma, which had already left hundreds of thousands on the island without power. On Sept. 21, all federal courthouses on Puerto Rico had been shut down by Hurricane Maria, as were the federal courts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to The National Law Journal.
Flanked by entertainer Jennifer Lopez on Saturday, the Democratic governor announced a statewide effort to raise money and emergency supplies for Puerto Rico. Lopez, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, pledged a $1 million personal donation to the relief efforts. The Partnership for New York City—a business group co-chaired by Citigroup Inc. CEO Michael Corbat and Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO and co-founder of Blackstone—announced that it also would contribute $1 million. JetBlue Airways said it would donate $1 million worth of flights to ship supplies to Puerto Rico. The state’s major labor unions will also be collecting medical and school supplies for the battered island.
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, D-New York, and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, D-Bronx, are co-chairs of the effort along with former New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales, an attorney who was co-founder of LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Charities Bureau will monitor the fund, according to the governor’s office.
Cuomo, who until recently did not criticize Trump by name, told reporters Monday at a business event in Bolton Landing that rather than focus on the “hubbub” around football players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, that the Republican president should be using his Twitter to draw attention to areas affected by recent storms.
“Tweet, ‘Let’s all go volunteer and help Florida, let’s all go help Texas.’ Tweet, ‘Let’s all go make a donation and help the people of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico because they are American citizens.’ That would be a great tweet,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo’s remarks came after he criticized Trump for failing to address the crisis in Puerto Rico, which could be made worse if the Guajataca Dam on the northwest portion of the island fails. Residents below the dam, which was damaged in the storm, were ordered to evacuate Sept. 22.
In an interview with CNN on Sept 23, Cuomo said the issue of kneeling during the national anthem is secondary to the possible humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.
“That is a conversation that I think is frankly irrelevant or at least secondary to a conversation like what’s going on with Puerto Rico right now, where people are suffering, people may be dying. You want to use the power of the White House? Use the power of the White House to help Americans in need, now. Puerto Ricans are Americans.”