Public Employee Press
Solidarity in San Juan
By ALFREDO ALVARADO
While the Trump administration has dropped the ball when it comes to providing emergency aid for Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people, volunteers from District Council 37 continue to sign up for trips to the island to help their Puerto Rican brothers and sisters struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Members of Dept. of Parks Climbers and Pruners Local 1506 traveled to San Juan in November to lend a hand to the cleanup effort in Puerto Rico’s capital. Crew Chief Eric Gibson led a group responsible for removing branches and debris at Luis Muñoz Marin Park. The park is home of the annual Heineken Jazz Festival. Gibson and his crew, who work out of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, left for the park everyday early in the morning.
Union helps San Juan get back on track
“They would come get us around 6:30 and we would work until 6:30 in the evening,” said Gibson. The members came to the island with their climbing gear, helmets and rigging equipment. “We had a couple of days of very hard rain, but other than that, things went well.”
Gibson’s crew arrived in San Juan on Nov. 8 and returned on the 20th to New York. The following week another crew of Climbers and Pruners arrived. The new crew was assigned to Old San Juan to work on the many mangled trees that crashed against the colonial buildings in the city’s historic district. With its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, bars and restaurants, the revival of the neighborhood is essential to getting the city back on its feet. Major cruise ships full of tourists also stop in Old San Juan.
“It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” said Local 1506 President Ibn Mann. Mann spent most of his time helping out in Old San Juan in his bucket truck. “Those trees are part of the neighborhood, so we had to be very careful,” said Mann, who works at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.
Mann’s group of volunteers included William Conlon, Jr., Brandon Gerdauskas, Terence Schild, Ducep Moreno and Andrew Ascione. “They did a fantastic job working together with the people in San Juan,” said Mann of his crew.
DC 37 members have been volunteering to help in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria slammed into the island on Sept. 20. Lt. Jose Gonzalez, a member of Uniformed EMS Officers Local 3621, arrived on the island one week later. “It looked like a war zone,” said Gonzalez. Another group of DC 37 members from various locals left for Puerto Rico on Oct. 4.
“This is what solidarity looks like,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “These members wasted no time answering the call to help the people of Puerto Rico.”