Governor Cuomo Announces More Than 500 Student Volunteers Depart on SUNY Maritime Training Ship for Puerto Rico

May 7, 2018

From the Office of Governor Cuomo

SUNY Maritime College's T.S. Empire State VI Ship Departs New York to Support Local Non-Profits, Lay the Groundwork for Volunteer Deployment in June

University at Albany and SUNY-ESF Students to Join Maritime Cadets By May 20

Latest Effort as Part of the Governor's NY Stands With Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the deployment of more than 500 SUNY Maritime College students to Puerto Rico aboard the Training Ship Empire State VI. The cadets left New York's harbor at approximately 11 a.m. Monday, May 7 and will arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 20 to participate in volunteer service work to help rebuild homes across Puerto Rico. The cadets will work alongside approximately 50 student volunteers from University at Albany and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. This is the latest effort as part of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, and it will lay the groundwork for the deployment of approximately 500 additional SUNY and CUNY student volunteers later this summer.

"Despite the failures of our federal government, New York has been on the ground in Puerto Rico assisting with the island's recovery effort since day one," Governor Cuomo said. "We've sent lifesaving supplies, expert personnel, resources to rebuild, and now some of our brightest SUNY students who will help those still struggling to recover. Whether it's additional support to repair the power grid, helping advocate for fair treatment from the federal government, or bringing the best minds together to help guide the island's recovery, New York will continue to stand with our neighbors in Puerto Rico."

Students will work with local non-profit rebuilding organizations Buena Vibra and Relief4PR in the greater San Juan area from May 20 to May 24. The student volunteers will remove debris and prepare roofs for construction.

The SUNY Maritime student cadets will rotate through their academic and service work in shifts as part of the three-day program, while 30 University at Albany and 13 SUNY-ESF students will volunteer on the island throughout the duration of the volunteer effort.

Once the three-day volunteer service program is complete, the T.S. Empire State VI will resume its full annual summer at sea program, which offers students hands-on education and training they need to work onboard commercial vessels after graduation. Meanwhile, University at Albany and SUNY-ESF students will return to New York.

These efforts will lay the foundation for the deployment of SUNY and CUNY student volunteers beginning in June, as well as skilled workers from the building and construction trades, who will embed with non-profit organizations already rebuilding homes across the island. Approximately 500 SUNY and CUNY students are expected to participate in deployments of roughly 2-4 weeks, earning college credits. This effort also aims to enhance Puerto Rico's rebuilding capacity and to establish a job training program for the local workforce.

This is the second time the 565-foot-long, 17,000-ton T.S. Empire State VI has departed for Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery effort. The freighter, which belongs to the federal government, was deployed to Puerto Rico last fall to house disaster-relief workers. It was docked in Florida and then Puerto Rico for more than a month.

In recent years, the Empire State VI was activated by the federal government to assist the clean-up and recovery efforts following hurricanes Maria, Irma, Sandy, and Katrina. The ship was essential for delivering supplies and housing disaster-relief workers.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, "We are pleased to support Governor Cuomo's NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. It has been nearly seven months since the T.S. Empire State VI and its crew returned home from its first recovery efforts for the island, with support from SUNY and the Impact Foundation. SUNY is proud of The Maritime Academy, its summer at sea cadets, as well as the students from University at Albany and SUNY-ESF, for their relief efforts and hundreds of students who will be in Puerto Rico helping support and rebuild communities working with our academic partners and our fellow citizens in these territories."

Buena Vibra Foundation President Emil Medina said, "While the Empire State VI ship starts its voyage to Puerto Rico, our volunteers will continue to work day in and day out to repair roofs, stabilize homes, and reestablish communities across the island. We welcome the strength, brainpower and energy of these young Maritime cadets, and thank Governor Cuomo for spearheading this initiative."

Relief4PR President Betsy Collazo said, "As we anticipate the arrival of 500 New York students joining our rebuilding efforts in June, the SUNY Maritime ship's departure is welcomed news to volunteers currently stationed in Puerto Rico. We look forward to collaborating with these cadets and preparing for the influx of volunteer men and women in the coming weeks. This comprehensive rebuild effort is exactly what the communities of Puerto Rico need, and I thank Governor Cuomo for delivering the resources, personnel and helping hands to make it all happen."

Congressman José E. Serrano, Co-chair of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee said, "New York continues to step up in the absence of leadership from the Trump Administration. The SUNY Maritime students and training ship heading to the island are just the latest outstanding effort by New Yorkers to help Puerto Ricans trying to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. I thank Governor Cuomo for his continued leadership and focus on helping our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico."

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Co-chair of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee said, "I am proud of the New Yorkers who are stepping up to help Puerto Rico not just recover, but also rebuild for the long term. These students exemplify those efforts and I'm excited to see them participate and lend a helping hand to our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters. I thank Governor Cuomo for spearheading this latest effort. New Yorkers share a profound bond with Puerto Rico and we will continue working together to see the Island made whole."

Assemblymember Marcos Crespo, Co-chair of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee said, "The departure of the Empire State VI SUNY Maritime ship is a significant step forward for the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Effort. Thanks to the Governor's steadfast commitment to our brothers and sisters on the ravaged island, these Maritime cadets will begin the volunteer work that hundreds of additional New York students will join beginning in June. I look forward to the collaborative work of these hard-working men and women as we build Puerto Rico back better than ever before, one house at a time."

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, Co-chair of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee said, "The challenges facing our neighbors in Puerto Rico are real, and effective leadership and cooperation are required to overcome the obstacles and make up for the federal government's failings. Thankfully, Governor Cuomo continues to deliver on the promise we have made to Puerto Rico. These skilled and dedicated volunteers embody New York's sense of pride and community and will work help rebuild and renew the island's infrastructure. New York will always stand with Puerto Rico."

Governor Cuomo established the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort in the aftermath of hurricane Maria, a storm that wreaked havoc on the island 230 days ago.

As part of the effort, New York has sent hundreds of utility personnel, including tactical power restoration experts, and damage assessment experts to assist the island with the repair, and restoration, and stabilization of its power grid. As a result of the New York contingent's efforts along with the work of additional utility mutual aid crews and contractors from the U.S. mainland, power has now been restored to more than 97 percent of the island, however the grid still remains fragile as additional repair, stabilization, and long-term resiliency efforts continue.

In addition, New York utility contingent senior officials are serving on the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Transformation Advisory Council, an advisory group formed to develop a long-term vision and execution plan for the transformation and stabilization of the power system in Puerto Rico. NYPA's Chief Financial Officer Robert Lurie and Sanjay Bose, vice president of Central Engineering at Consolidated Edison, serve on this council along with nine other senior energy experts

The Governor recently announced the initial members of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Rebuilding and Reconstructing Committee which will guide and advance various Puerto Rican recovery and rebuilding efforts that New York has helped launch over the past several months.

Building Puerto Rico Back Better

In December, Governors Cuomo and Rosselló, and members of the New York Congressional Delegation released a Build Back Better Assessment Report that called for a $94.4 billion federal aid package to rebuild a stronger, more resilient Puerto Rico. The plan identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture and others. Together with $487 million for public safety and first response and $9 billion for long-term recovery management, the total funding need is $94.4 billion.

The Governor also established the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Working Group and released the "Build Back Better" report, a comprehensive plan with recommendations on how to rebuild and transform Puerto Rico's power system into one that it is more resilient, efficient, advanced and less dependent on fossil fuel imports that cost Puerto Ricans more than $2 billion annually. The report, created by the Energy Resiliency Working Group, identifies and recommends a total of $17 billion in power system repair, resiliency and modernization investments in Puerto Rico.

Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort

New York has deployed more than 1,000 personnel and distributed 4,400 pallets of supplies collected from 13 donations sites across the state:

Personnel deployed include:

  • More than 450 New York utility personnel, more than 50 Tactical Power Restoration experts, and 15 damage assessment experts
  • 132 National Guard Military Police
  • 125 National Guard Engineers
  • 60 National Guard soldiers
  • Four Black Hawk helicopters
  • 14 Airmen
  • 156 Volunteer Physicians, Physicians Assistants, Nurses, and Nurse Practitioners
  • More than 70 Port Authority personnel
  • More than 130 State Troopers
  • Five-member logistical support team from the State Division of Homeland

Security and Emergency Services

  • Two Department of Environmental Conservation drone pilots
  • Supplies distributed includes:
  • 3.3 million bottles of water
  • 7.8 million individual baby wipes
  • 2.3 million diapers
  • 592,730 feminine products
  • 117,210 containers of baby food
  • 194,014 canned goods
  • 82,640 bottles/pouches of juice/sport drinks
  • 15,275 flashlights
  • 8,600 solar lamps
  • 7,310 first aid kits
  • 1,181 water filtration systems
  • More than 155,000 miles of utility cable, 7,600 splice kits 1,485 cross arms and 50 transformers for power restoration efforts
  • More than $1 million in critical medication and supplies for San Juan, Vieques, Culebra and other locations, in partnership with GNYHA and the Afya Foundation

For more information about the recovery and relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico, and to learn how you can assist, please visit the Governor's Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands webpage

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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