On-the-Ground Look at Relief & Recovery in Puerto Rico

Posted on October 20, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo Describes First Relief Flight to the Island

With telecommunication lines down it has been frustratingly hard to find out what’s happening on the ground in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.  Thankfully, we scored and are sharing this just-released JustLove radio episode with its inside scoop from Assemblyman Marcos Crespo on his firsthand experience of the storm's devastation.

Born in Puerto Rico, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo represents the Puerto Rican-populated fifth district in the Bronx and East Harlem. He joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the first relief flight to Puerto Rico just two days after Hurricane Maria tore through the island. 

He shares his witness to the crescendoing crisis with JustLove host and Catholic Charities NY Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan.  Also appearing on the show is Edwin Melendez, Ph.D., Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

Here are excerpts from Msgr. Sullivan’s JustLove radio interview with Assemblyman Crespo:

It was a very difficult thing to see the magnitude of the impact of this storm to see communities completely flooded.

We saw families in kayaks checking on neighbors, kayaking through their neighborhood.

We saw power lines down.

We saw trees down.

It’s a very surreal state.

There is no grid.  There’s no electricity.  Everything is running on generators

Without running water in many communities, it is impossible to do business.

Basic necessities become crucial because they don’t have a working infrastructure.

So even if stores can stock up on meat they can’t run the refrigeration

My mother works for the local municipality and City Hall gave her paycheck but there’s no working bank for her to cash it.

Now, one month after Hurricane Maria devastated the island:

  • More than 80-percent of the island’s electric grid is not functioning
  • 100-percent of residents have either no water or need to boil the water to disinfect it
  • 40-percent of sewage-treatment plans are not functioning
  • Telecommunications are down and 40-percent of residents have no cellphone signal
  • The death toll, initially estimated at approximately a dozen people after Hurricane Maria hit, swelled to 48 and is rising

Catholic Charities NY maintains a strong relationship not only with Assemblyman Crespo and Puerto Ricans we serve throughout the archdiocese of New York but also with our sister agencies in Puerto Rico. 

When the disaster hit, we reached out to help.

We are working with Caritas Puerto Rico (Catholic Charities of Puerto Rico) and we are working with our affiliate, the New York Foundling They have 40 HeadStart sites throughout the island that provide food, education and services for Puerto Rican children and families in need.

“New York Hispanic clergy organizations and so many of our church are in the lead in the initiative and there’s been an outpouring of support with thoughts and prayers,” Assemblyman Crespo says.  “I understand fully the magnitude of this, the response that has to match that magnitude and the monumental effort to help Puerto Rico now more than ever.”

Listen to the full interview on JustLove

JustLove airs Saturdays at 10am and Sundays at 5am EST on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio on The Catholic Channel 129. Featuring interviews with social ministry leaders, thinkers and doers, the program investigates the ideas that shape the Catholic social mission and the deeds that put this mission into practice throughout the country.

Help us help Puerto Rico recover.

Donate by Mail: Make checks payable to “Catholic Charities/Estoy Con Puerto Rico” and address to:

Catholic Charities/Estoy Con Puerto Rico, 1011 First Avenue, 11th floor, New York, NY 10022

Donate Online:  Visit 

On the web form, type “Estoy con Puerto Rico” in the text field below ”Optional: Designate Your Contribution”

Learn more about our recent disaster relief efforts:


Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

For Help Call 888-744-7900