President Barack Obama vowed Thursday that his visit to New York to survey the damage left by Superstorm Sandy would not be his last, and once again expressed his commitment to New Yorkers that the federal government is here for the long haul.
The president joined state and local officials during his tour of devastated areas in Queens and Staten Island while also getting an aerial view of the wreckage 17 days after Hurricane Sandy slammed the area, killing dozens of people across the state and knocking out power to millions of people, many of them Long Islanders.
Obama spoke after his three-hour tour of the storm-wrecked areas, reminding New Yorkers of the pledge he made to New Jersey residents two days after Sandy that “we are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete.”
“During difficult times like this we’re reminded that we’re bound together and we have to look out for each other,” Obama said. “We focus on what binds us together and that we as Americans are going to stand with each other in their hour of need.”
The president also announced that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan would be the federal government’s point man in discussions with state and local officials.
Obama made a mention of Long Island when he acknowledged how many residents are suffering after Sandy unleashed its wrath, spawning record-breaking storm surge and creating havoc by downing hundreds of trees and electric poles, which led to the blackout that left more than 1 million LIPA customers without power.
Obama met with several New York residents still reeling from the storm, including Damien and Glenda Moore, who lost their two young children when strong waves swept them from Glenda’s arms in Staten Island the day Sandy hit.
The president spoke with the heartbroken parents and expressed “heartbreak over what they went through.”
“They’re still obviously a little shell-shocked,” he added, “but they came here in part because they wanted to thank all the people that have been supportive of them,” including a New York Police Department lieutenant who stayed with the parents and comforted them during the agonizing hours while police were searching for their kids’ bodies.
One city resident whose home was flooded by the storm wasn’t sure if she would get insurance money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and expressed hope that those in Washington, D.C., would send some relief their way.
“If they could bail out the banks, they should bail us out, right?” Lily Wu told The Associated Press. “I mean, all of us paid more than half a million dollars for these homes. They’re going to be worthless after this.”
Obama was joined on the tour by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Cuomo, who reportedly will ask for $30 billion in federal aid to rebuild the state after the storm, thanked the president and said New Yorkers will come out of this tougher than before.
“Together, Mr. President, we will not just rebuild New York, we will build back better than ever before,” he said.