NY sends help to U.S. Virgin Islands for Hurricane Irma cleanup

ALBANY — New York is sending National Guard troops and State Police to the U.S. Virgin Islands this weekend to help with the cleanup after Hurricane Irma destroyed much of the Caribbean islands.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement of resources for the islands after touring hurricane-ravaged areas there on Friday.

He said 100 members of the New York Army National Guard and 30 members of the New York State Police will help with security in St. Thomas.

"We've obviously been watching on TV what you've been going through," Cuomo said during a news conference in St. Thomas with local leaders. "Frankly, the reality of it is much worse than it has been portrayed by the media. But everyone in New York is concerned."

The one-day trip by the Democratic governor and his aides came after New York had already sent National Guard troops and supplies to Texas and Florida after hurricanes ripped through parts of the states in recent weeks.

Cuomo said the Caribbean islands have been devastated, and Kenneth Mapp, the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, invited him to visit. Mapp is a Brooklyn native and was a New York City police officer.

More U.S. Virgin Islands residents were born in New York than another state in the nation, Cuomo's office said.
Mapp said the visit will help "get the word out to the wider American community that the people of the Virgin Islands need help. We're asking you for your help."

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the island on Thursday.
Cuomo, who planned to return to New York on Friday night, said the assistance from New York would not come at the expense of any needs in the state.

"Right now we have a relatively quiet time in that regard in New York so we have deployed to Texas, Florida and the Virgin Islands," Cuomo said in NY1 on Friday morning from Westchester County Airport before he left. "God forbid, something happens in New York, we'll have them on the first aircraft back."

New York City supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, a major campaign contributor and former mayoral candidate, donated use of a private plane for trip, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi said Cuomo's office sought guidance from the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethic, and it "determined that based on the emergency situation and circumstances this donation was permissible under the relevant state laws and guidelines."

The trip comes amid political speculation that Cuomo may consider a run for president in 2020 as he seeks a third term next year.

Cuomo spoke on MSNBC about the trip to the Virgin Islands and was asked if he has aspirations for the White House.

He said he is only focused on New York and his re-election bid.

"I love what I’m doing. I’m focusing on being the best governor in this state," Cuomo responded. "I have a re-election next year, and as you know, I’m a linear guy. I focus on one thing at a time."

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