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Emily GirschAug 10, 2018, 1:34 pmAug 10, 2018, 4:46 pm

Puerto Rican, Hoboken mayors discuss hurricane recovery

Hernández Ortiz: ‘We are fighting with the government, FEMA’

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HOBOKEN – Mayor of Villalba, Puerto Rico, Hernández Ortiz met with Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla on Friday to discuss hurricane recovery, as part of a mayoral exchange program. With a long way to rebuild after Hurricane Maria, the mayors discussed how the city of Hoboken was able to recover after Hurricane Sandy.

It's been almost a year since Hurricane Maria devastated much of the island of Puerto Rice, destroying homes, businesses, and roads and leaving thousands without power or water. Ortiz said the greatest need is rebuilding homes and roads and restoring power to many who are still in the dark. He said he found the federal government's response to be slow and inadequate.

"There is a lot of work that has to be done," Ortiz said. "We are fighting with the government, with FEMA."

Bhalla visited Villalba, one of the hardest hit regions, in May and witnessed the devastation firsthand he said me the island has the same advantages they can use to leverage more in government aid.

"Our goal here is to try to uplift the people of Villalba," Bhalla said. "They have major hydroelectric power that provides energy for a region to Puerto Rico. They have natural resources. They really stand out as a contender for federal funding for recovery efforts."

Hoboken Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro's parents are from Puerto Rico and she still has family there. She said it will take a collaborative effort to restore the island to what it once was.

"I said it in Puerto Rico and I said it to the Red Cross and I said it to our governor: If each municipality adopts one town, we can be a huge resource," Chaparro said.

Bhalla said Sen. Cory Booker's office will also be meeting with the Ortiz on Friday, and they have also reached out to Sen. Bob Menendez, the Department of Energy, and FEMA to make connections within the federal government.

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