Obama vows not to forget storm victims of superstorm Sandy
BY MATTHEW DALY Associated Press
Friday, November 16, 2012
11/16/12 at 5:06 AM
NEW YORK - President Barack Obama vowed Thursday to stick with New Yorkers still struggling 17 days after superstorm Sandy "until the rebuilding is complete" after getting an up-close look at devastated neighborhoods rendered unlivable.
Obama brought the spotlight to people still without heat or electricity and hugged many of those trying to rebuild their lives. He also delivered a post-election message of unity, nine days after a closely divided America gave him a second term.
"During difficult times like this, we're reminded that we're bound together and we have to look out for each other," Obama said from a Staten Island street that was demolished by the storm. "And a lot of the things that seem important, the petty differences, melt away."
Obama announced that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, a former chief of New York's Housing Authority, will be his point person to oversee long-term redevelopment.
On a three-hour tour, the president encountered many still suffering in Sandy's aftermath and waiting in lines for food, supplies and other help.
He also met privately with parents whose two young boys, Brandon and Connor Moore, were swept away by the powerful storm. Damien and Glenda Moore's children were among more than 100 people who deaths were blamed on Sandy.
"I expressed to them, as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through," Obama said. He said the Moores were "still obviously a little shell-shocked" but wanted to thank the New York City police lieutenant who stayed with them until the bodies were found.
Before arriving on Staten Island, his helicopter flew over Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, including the waterfront community of Breezy Point, where roughly 100 homes burned to the ground in a massive wind-swept fire.
On Staten Island, Obama met with residents waiting in line at an emergency response center at New Dorp High School, where the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Small Business Administration, IRS, Red Cross and city agencies have set up tents to help survivors. The White House said about 1,500 people had received services at the center as of Monday.
People sought refuge from the cold on "warming buses" and the New York Fire Department provided hot showers. Insurance companies also had buses where people went to file claims.
One girl collecting supplies who said her house is unlivable said: "We need help. He should have been here a long time ago." That sentiment was shared by others, including Anthony Gatti, who said his home near the ocean was wrecked by Sandy.
Obama was joined on the tour by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Obama traveled to New Jersey on Oct. 31 to meet with Gov. Chris Christie and view recovery efforts in battered coastal communities. The White House said the president didn't visit New York at the time so as not to interfere with recovery efforts.
Original Print Headline: Obama vows to help storm victims rebuild
President Barack Obama visits Thursday with people on Cedar Grove Avenue, a street significantly affected by superstorm Sandy, in the Staten Island borough of New York. CAROLYN KASTER/Associated Press