In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew—which has claimed nearly 900 lives in Haiti since it struck the island nation on Tuesday—Mayor Bill de Blasio laid out a series of steps his administration has taken to support relief efforts.
The mayor called the aftermath of the hurricane a “difficult moment” for Haiti and the Haitian-American community, saying that the situation reminded him of Haitians’ suffering after the 2010 earthquake. He noted that the damage is still being assessed and that there are “hundreds of lives lost and probably many more that we’ll learn about.”
“Because it was in a nation that still is feeling the effects of the earthquake, still has not recovered from that horrible episode, it is so much worse and, you know, I want all of your listeners to know that our administration at City Hall stands by the Haitian-American community and all the people of Haiti who are suffering right now,” de Blasio told Radio Soleil, a radio station based in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.
NYPD officers are already in Haiti providing support and more officers from the Haitian American Law Enforcement Fraternal Organization are on their way to Haiti as well, according to de Blasio.
He also said he’ll be informing the city’s more than 300,000 employees that they can voluntarily deduct from their paychecks to contribute to relief for Haitians in the wake of the hurricane. Employees will be able to make the deduction either as a one-time donation or on an ongoing basis.
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit organization that supports public programs through private partnerships, has also identified relief organizations to which individuals can contribute online. De Blasio also said Councilmen Mathieu Eugene—a Haiti native—and Jumaane Williams are among elected officials mobilizing relief efforts in the city.
“We have such a huge, important Haitian community here,” de Blasio continued. “We feel such closeness to Haiti. And we want to make sure that we’re helping in every way that we can.”
Haiti’s death toll has reached 877 since Tuesday, with the Haitian government anticipating that at least 350,000 individuals need some type of assistance. And the storm has claimed at least nine lives in North Carolina and Florida. President Barack Obama has also declared states of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
The mayor has ties to a number of figures in Haitian-American community. Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, then a Democratic district leader, was one of the earliest backers of his mayoral bid—a favor de Blasio returned in 2014 when Bichotte sought state office. In 2013, then mayor-elect de Blasio named Elsie Saint-Louis, executive director of Haitian-Americans United for Progress to be a member of his transition team to select the city’s next mayoral administration.
He also earned the ire of the Dominican-American community in the city—who booed him when he marched in the Dominican Day Parade last August—when he blasted the Dominican Republic in June for deporting Haitian workers.
De Blasio previously said he would reconsider traveling to Michigan Sunday to campaign on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, due to the storm, but said today he still plans to go.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced that the state will be establishing donation sites in communities throughout the state to which people can contribute supplies, money and other resources to relief efforts. The state has also set up a website to connect New Yorkers with international organizations and is coordinating with the federal government and relief organizations.
Chief Master Sergeant Brian Mosher of the 106th Rescue Wing at Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton will also be serving as the senior enlisted advisor for the Joint Task Force dispatched for Hurricane Matthew disaster relief response. The governor also dispatched a team of New York’s emergency management experts to Southern state Emergency Operating Centers.
“Whether in the United States or in the Caribbean, New York is doing all we can to help those impacted by the storm and we will continue those aggressive efforts in the coming days and weeks,” Cuomo said in a statement.