Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Delivers Remarks at NYS Stands with Puerto Rico Breakfast

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100 SUNY and CUNY Students and Nearly 20 Skilled Labor Volunteers to Deploy on June 17

Follows Governor's Call for an Investigation into the Federal Response to Puerto Rico in the Wake of Hurricane Maria

Governor Cuomo: "They turned their back on American Citizens. They never said I'm sorry. They never said we'll fix it. They never said we understand and now we're going to respond. Eight months later they're still in the state of denial. Well we're the state of New York and we don't except your state of denial."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at the NYS Stands with Puerto Rico Breakfast in New York City before marching in the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The Governor today announced the first deployment of SUNY and CUNY students, as well as labor volunteers, as part of the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. On June 17th, approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY students and nearly 20 skilled labor volunteers will deploy to Puerto Rico. This initial deployment of volunteers will embed with the non-profit rebuilding organizations All Hands and Hearts, Heart 9/11, and NECHAMA, cleaning, restoring, and rebuilding homes. Students will deploy to 2-weeks and earn college credits. UNICEF USA has committed $500,000 to support this effort. More information is available here.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on Governor Cuomo's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of remarks is available below:

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Gracias. Gracias. Donde estan las boricuas? I can't hear you. Donde estan las boricuas? Well I am so excited to be here and today is so, so important on so many levels. First, we have a really great group and it is a sign of the love for the Puerto Rican community that we have this outpouring of support because this parade is different. This parade is different.

Let me start with Robert Mujica who is the highest appointed Puerto Rican ever in state government. There are two positions, the Secretary and the Budget Director, and I talked to Rob, I said, which one do you want? He said I want the one that controls the money. That's what he said, Rob. And he has done a fantastic job. As he said, this is personal what happened in Puerto Rico. It's personal to all New Yorkers and it was personal to Rob and he's done a great job in providing leadership. Let's give him a round of applause.

We have our great Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul here. We have Gil Quiniones and all the utility companies that made us so proud. NYPA and ConEd and National Guard and PSE&G and New York State Electric and Gas and Central Hudson, let's give them all a round of applause.

We have our brothers and sisters in the labor movement who came together. Randi Weingarten and Gary LaBarbera and Jill Furillo from the nurses and Tony Utano. Everyone came together to help. We have our great Public Advocate Tish James, let's give her a round of applause. Luis Maldonado who's done a great job organizing this parade under very tough times. We have a great grand marshal, Esai Morales, let's give him a round of applause.

A lot of people tell me I'm good looking like Esai Morales. What do you think? Yeah, I don't think so, I don't think so. Let me say this about today's parade. Today in many ways it's bittersweet for me because there are two different messages. First we celebrate. We celebrate what the Puerto Rican community has done for New York. We celebrate the progress of the Puerto Rican community in all aspects of our society here. You look at the elected officials and the growth in the number of representatives from the Puerto Rican community. First Puerto Rican elected to the New York State legislature was who? This is a test in Puerto Rican history. Gerson knows. Oscar Rivera. Rivera, like Jose Rivera.

1937. 1937. But look at how far we have come and look at the number of elected officials and the talent of our elected officials. Look at Marcos Crespo and look at Nydia Velázquez and look at Rubén Díaz and look at Carlina Rivera and look at Ritchie Torres. We have made tremendous, tremendous progress and we now have Puerto Rican representation all across the state and that's the way it should be. So let's give a round of applause.

We have seen growth and contribution all across the board. What Lin Manuel Miranda has done. Let's give him a round of applause. Lin Manuel really has done such a beautiful contribution to the arts and government and communication and he's a worldwide phenomenon. So we celebrate that. We celebrate the resiliency of the people of Puerto Rico who have never given up. Who have never asked for more than decency and help. The character of the Puerto Rican people who have been abused by this country but still act with total grace and responsibly and have risen above the injustice that has been done to them. Let's give them a round of applause.

We celebrate the closeness of all New Yorkers to the Puerto Rican community because this state came together as a family with their brothers and sisters of Puerto Rican descent and there is not a place where I have gone, there is not a person that I have talked to, upstate, downstate, whatever religion, whatever ethnicity, who hasn't said we have to do everything we can for the people of Puerto Rico. New York stands one hundred percent united for the people of Puerto Rico.

But there's a second message also today. We celebrate much, but we also stand and march in defiance today. We march and stand in defiance at the gross, obnoxious injustice that this country has done to the people of Puerto Rico. It is, thank you, it is inexcusable how this nation responded to Hurricane Maria. Now, I was in the federal government for eight years under President Bill Clinton. I did the emergency assistance when I was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I know what this nation can do when it wants to perform. I know what this nation has done in emergencies in this country and I know what this country has done for emergencies in other countries. I went to Haiti, I went to the Dominican Republic, I went to Ecuador when we went to help those counties in need. We did more help, better help, fast help for other countries than we have done for Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. And the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens. It's not a different country and there are no second class American citizens. 

The lack of response. The disrespect. The lack of humanity. The lack of caring. The lack of concern. The ease with which they did it, is frankly disgusting and disturbing. It's a symptom of a federal government that believes in a sense of division. That believes people who are immigrants are bad. Who believe that people with different color skin and different languages are an offense to this nation. And what they did to Puerto Rico was a symptom of that - anti-American because they turned their back on American brothers and sisters. They turned their back on American Citizens. They never said I'm sorry. They never said we'll fix it. They never said we understand and now we're going to respond. Eight months later they're still in the state of denial. Well we're the state of New York and we don't except your state of denial.

When I say a national embarrassment - under President Bush we had Hurricane Katrina, do you remember? Hurricane Katrina was another example where the federal government just disregarded people in need. Now they were poor people, they were people in public housing, they were largely minorities, and the federal government said during Hurricane Katrina, well we don't respond as if it's a priority. You know how many people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina? 1,800. Do you know how many lost their lives by the latest death toll in Hurricane Maria? 4,500 people. Where is the outrage? Where is the accountability? Where is this federal government saying, I understand? During Hurricane Katrina they were called to task. And there were hearings and there were reporters and there was a whole review of what happened to Hurricane Katrina. But when it comes to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the silence has been deafening. Where is the same outrage? Why are we treating the people of Puerto Rico differently than we treated the people during Hurricane Katrina? There is no answer. And we have to demand the same accountability from this federal government. That's why when Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez stands up and she calls for a federal commission to study what happened in Puerto Rico so there is truth and accountability and we know what happened and why it happened so it never happens again, we stand in solidarity with the Congresswoman. We want that commission. We want the answers. We want to know why 4,500 people lost their lives. We want to know why the federal government doesn't even know how many people died.

But we see the signs, and we also march in solidarity because New Yorkers we look back but we look forward and we say, going forward Puerto Rico has a long road ahead of it. There are many, many issues that have to be resolved. There were many issues that were existing before the storm that were just exacerbated by the storm. And while we cursed the darkness and we want answers and we want to make sure that kind of disrespect never happens again, we are equally committed to eh road going forward. We know that Puerto Rico cannot rebuild on its own. They don't have the resources. They're not getting the help from the federal government. Somebody has to step up. Somebody has to say, here I am. I'm your friend. We are family and when somebody in the family needs help we are here. And those people and that place is the state of New York. We're going to step every step of the road to recovery with the people of Puerto Rico. Our effort this summer that Rob talked about, I want you to take very seriously, because while we're doing everything we're doing on a major scale - power, restoration, the donations etcetera - we're going to go to Puerto Rico this summer. And we're going to do it from the ground up. We're going to rebuild individual homes. We're going to rebuild the infrastructure in individual towns. Our brothers and sisters in the labor movement are going to be there. The laborers are going to be there. Randi Weingarten and the teachers are going tobe there. We're going to have hundreds of students from SUNY and CUNY, and the SUNY and CUNY students are going to be providing personnel. But, it's something for all of us to participate in.

I was talking to my daughters they said, Dad what are we going to do on our summer vacation? I said, we're going to go to Puerto Rico. They said, oh great, I can work on my tan. I have a problem with tan lines. I said, no, no, no. We're going to really work and we're going to rebuild homes and we're going to show our love and we're going to show our support in the truest way we do, which is by showing up. New Yorkers, we are not talkers, we just don't talk a good game - we're about action, we're about delivery, we're about making things happen. I'm in government not to talk about what other people should do. I'm in government to show what people can do when they come together, organized by a government. And that my friends, is what we're going to do this summer. We're committed to two agendas. 1) Holding the federal government accountable for what they did, learning the lesson so that it never happens again, and 2) rebuilding Puerto Rico not just to what it was, but a Puerto Rico that is better and stronger and more beautiful than ever before. We will do it together. Que viva Puerto Rico. Que viva Puerto Rico. Que viva Puerto Rico. Thank you. 

Now, it gives me great pleasure to introduce a true leader, a true champion. As you heard from Rob, we went down on the first plane that could go down to Puerto Rico right after the storm. And they said to us, you know the first flight is going to be a little bumpy, a little scary because there are still storms in the area but we know that you want to go down right away. But I'm a little crazy and I don't care about the storms. Its part of my job description, you have to be a little crazy to be governor. I go into storms when everybody is leaving the storm. So, I called two people. I called Marcos Crespo and I said, do you have any problem with the air flight sickness, anything like that? He said, oh I'm not crazy about flying in general. I said, well we're going to fly into Puerto Rico and it may be a little bumpy, and he said I'm in. I then called Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. I said, we're trying to get into Puerto Rico. She said to me, Andrew I don't care if we have to take a boat, if we have to swim, if we have to fly, if we have to parachute - I want to be there as soon as we can get there. She has been leading the way ever since. She is leading the way in Washington. She's our champion. She's our voice. She's our advocate. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

Congresswoman Velázquez: Good morning everyone. So, we heard the story and we're thankful to know that affirmation of American citizens. As a nation, we have been the beacon of hope to so many. We failed fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. And so, when Secretary Carson came before the financial services committee, it was the day when President Donald Trump issued [inaudible] saying Puerto Ricans are lazy and they want everything done for them. I was walking into the financial services hearing, and I couldn't believe what I saw. And I grew angry. And the one in the hot seat was Secretary Carson, so I sent a message to the President. I said to Mr. Carson, tell the President of the United States that the most fundamental responsibility of any President of this country is to show up when natural disasters strike. And Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico September 20. We went there the day after, two days after - the President of the United States showed up almost three weeks later. Not to say to the people of Puerto Rico, I will do everything within my power. I will show the people of Puerto Rico the power and fury of the federal government. No. he didn't say that. Instead he threw paper towels at the people of Puerto Rico. And you know what? Chief of Staff invited me to go with the President. God is good. I developed a respiratory infection. I didn't accompany the President. And you know what, he was lucky. Because believe me, if I was there in his presence and he had done what he did, I do not know if I would be standing here - maybe I would have been in a jail.

So every day we see and we are witnesses to a President who is a disgrace and an embarrassment to this country. So, last night my sister called me from Puerto Rico. My sister, her husband is Belloni Concert. She called me last night, eight months later crying that she got the power back. So, to the utility workers, to the teachers, to the nurses, to the construction workers, to all the volunteers from the state of New York, from the bottom of my heart, there is no way for me to describe how grateful I am to you. But you know what? This happened for one reason. In New York, we take care of our neighbors. That is our motto. But it takes leadership from the top and that is our Governor Andrew Cuomo. Historically there is a special bond between Puerto Rico and New York, and in the darkest days of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, New York has been there. Governor, thank you. You have been a champion at a time when the federal government and this President have been absent. Thank you so very much.

When we landed in Puerto Rico two days after Maria, and then we took a helicopter to tour the island, he didn't stop. He was talking and talking, the Governor saying this needs to happen. These are the kinds of steps we need to do. This is what the federal government can do. And you know what, I want for everyone to understand, this was not a trip to go to Puerto Rico to check with the Puerto Rican community here in the state of New York. When I went back to Washington and things started to unravel and we saw the lack of empathy of this President and every hurtle put in the way. First, how long it took us to pass a disaster relief package for Puerto Rico. Second, not direct grants for Puerto Rico, but loans. And then it was the Governor calling me back, do this Nydia, I was the Secretary at HUD. This can happen. This can be done. They should not short change Puerto Rico. When I came back with the Governor that I expressed at the press conference was that the Puerto Rico that I grew up in no longer exists. And that is true, it means it's going to take a lot of resources. It's going to take a lot of work. And this government must be held accountable. We are the voice for Puerto Rico. We know how the federal government has failed Puerto Rico. It's there for the world to see.

So, when we discovered that 4,645 people have died. How many of them died after Maria because of the lack of response from this government? Puerto Ricans are proud citizens. There is no distinction under our Constitution as to what the responsibility of our federal government is when we need to assist fellow citizens. If Puerto Ricans are good to go and fight in our wars to defend and protect the freedoms we enjoy, then we our good to demand the responsibility of the federal government to make Puerto Rico whole.

So, let me close by saying we know what's going on. The real question is, what are we going to do about it? So, get up. Get up and get out. Ready set to vote and go out to vote. Go out to vote. Don't get mad. Get even. Get even with this President. And let that show in the power of the Puerto Rican community right here in New York. Get out and vote. And now I want to introduce another incredible, young Puerto Rican leader. You know, I don't know how long I'm going to be here.

But I think that the most important legacy for any public servant is to be able to look back and say, we paved the way for a new field of leaders. And an incredibly, young, brilliant Puerto Rican champion is my friend and brother, Marcos Crespo.

Assemblyman Crespo: [Speaking in Spanish] For those of you who are bilingually challenged, I just said hello. If you didn't know, I was born in Puerto Rico, [Speaking in Spanish]. If you know your Puerto Rico town themes, you know that means I was born in Guayama, raised in Arroyo. I'll never forget that Friday, September 22, joining the Governor that morning flying into Puerto Rico. Because that was mommy's birthday and I hadn't heard from mommy like many of you hadn't heard from my family. I didn't know how mommy was doing, what was happening. Previous storms that I lived through in Puerto Rico, my town got flooded. We're in a coastal community. Mommy's house is right next to el Rio Nigua. And I had no idea what was happening. The closest I got to being with my family was traveling there with the governor. And we talk a lot about the first flight in, but understand that wasn't the first flight into Puerto Rico that I joined the governor.

Well before the Hurricane Maria hit, Governor Cuomo organized many of us to go down there during the economic crisis to help Puerto Rico with its healthcare needs. To fight for Medicaid parity, to fight for better healthcare services. It was Governor Cuomo who took us there to meet with a number of agricultural leaders to talk about how we can work together. It was Governor Cuomo who came to SOMOS years before Maria hit to open an office that Betty Enriquez runs to help Puerto Rico businesses with the New York market and New York businesses with the Puerto Rico market.

There's so much more that is involved in this effort of New York standing for Puerto Rico. Well before Hurricane Maria hit and I too want to take this opportunity to thank all of the elected officials. If you're an elected official, please stand up right now. All of my colleagues in government who did so much in their community, Puerto Rican or not, to raise resources, to collect goods, to send donations. They did an amazing job and I'm grateful to my colleagues in government.

I too want to thank the heroes, the men and women of our labor unions and all of the organizations that went down there. You heard Nydia mention them all, the teachers and the nurses and all the healthcare professionals and the construction workers, the utility workers, every single member of an organized labor union who are, understand, under attack. They're under attack, they're being undermined and there are powers in the country that want to see us undo the strength of our labor movement and yet, they were the first ones on the ground, they were the first ones using resources, they were the first ones servicing families. Thank you. [Speaking in Spanish] not only the workers but they're family members who had no idea what they were going into, suffering with them. Thank you.

I'm supposed to close down, but you know, with a crowd like this you get really excited. I'm going to close it down. I'm standing between you and the parade but I do want to say this, over the last couple of days I've been asked this question. Over the last couple of days, I've been asked, what has Governor Cuomo done? What has New York State done? Well let me answer that for you. If you don't know, let me help you answer that question to others who ask you. First and foremost, while the President of the United States was golfing in Florida, as others were twiddling their thumbs and winds like never seen before were devastating our family members, Governor Cuomo was mobilizing and moving and getting things done. Not playing golf, not talking about it. Getting things done.

When somebody asks you what has Governor Cuomo done, well let me tell you. Because we talk about those numbers—4,645 lives and counting. Understand, that number would be bigger if not for the lives saved by Governor Cuomo and New York State teams that went down there to restore power, to provide healthcare, to help families, to send food and medical supplies, there would have been more lives lost. What has Governor Cuomo done? He saved Puerto Rican lives. And when somebody asks you, what has Governor Cuomo done? What has New York State done? Well let me tell you something. While everybody else has moved on to the conversation about the latest tweet or the latest international incident, Governor Cuomo is still organizing us. Just yesterday, we had a meeting of the New York state roundtable to fight for Puerto Rico, talking about what more can we do? We have plans to go back in this summer. While others have moved on from the conversation, Governor Cuomo is still championing Puerto Rico and its future because that's what New Yorkers do. So when somebody asks you, what has New York State done? What has Governor Cuomo done? Look at them dead in the eye with a straight face and say, he has done more than any other executive, than any other leader, than any other elected official. He's done more for Puerto Rico than anyone else in this country, That's what he's done. What have you done/ that's the question. That's the answer.

[Speaking in Spanish] That responsibility falls on us. Because leaders lead, but there have to be soldiers willing to stand in the back lines, in the front lines, willing to fight and mobilize and do what we need to do. And so I leave you with this. As my Bronx Borough President, and I talked about his weekend and you'll see us wearing our shirts today, three's a simple message. Three R's that we want you to take away and march with today. The first R is to remember. Remember. The second R is to register. Organize, register. And the third R is to resist. And if we do that, we can get this done.

Say it with me: Remember. Register. Resist. And never forget that if not for the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the ongoing commitment, many more Puerto Ricans would have lost their lives. I don't know if mommy would be standing, but I know she's there fighting like so many others, and Puerto Rico's future will be bright again because of friends and because of leaders like Governor Cuomo. Enjoy the parade!

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