NEW YORK — President Barack Obama traveled to Queens and Staten Island in New York on Thursday to hug survivors of Hurricane Sandy, meet with local officials and take a helicopter tour of some of the worst damage wrought by the storm. He promised he would continue to return until recovery is complete.
Escaping the partisan posturing in Washington over how to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” Obama spent the day talking to New York officials and storm victims about the flow of federal disaster aid and the continuing struggle to restore power.
He also met privately with Damien and Glenda Moore of Staten Island. The Moores’ two young children, Brandon and Connor, died after being swept away.
Speaking to residents and first responders in the devastated New Dorp neighborhood of Staten Island, the president assigned his housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, to lead the administration’s efforts in the recovery from Sandy. The powerful storm flooded Lower Manhattan, killed more than 80 people and devastated waterfront communities in several states when it came ashore near Oct. 29.
“There’s still a lot of cleanup to do,” Obama said as he stood in front of a destroyed home on Cedar Grove Avenue in Staten Island. “People still need emergency help. They still need heat. They still need power; they still need shelter; kids are still trying to figure out where they’re going to school.”
Obama traveled to the region with Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats. They were joined in New York by Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an independent, and two of Obama’s Cabinet secretaries, Donovan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The president spoke with and hugged survivors of the storm and met with federal disaster workers and local officials. He visited a tent stacked with cans of soup, granola bars, cleaning products and other goods to be distributed to survivors.
He then walked along Cedar Grove Avenue, where collapsed houses, yards filled with debris and a boarded-up church revealed the extent of the devastation.
“We’ve got some work to do, and I want you to know I’m here to do it,” Obama said to a crowd outside the brick church.
Cuomo has requested $30 billion in federal aid to rebuild devastated parts of his state.