Obama Visits Storm-Ravaged Areas in New YorkMandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By JAMES BARRON
Published: November 15, 2012
Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
“I’m very proud of you, New York,” the president said after meeting with emergency workers on Staten Island. “You guys are tough, you bounced back just as America always bounces back. The same is going to be true this time.”
The president — flanked by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — said he wanted federal officials to work with state and local leaders, both in New York and New Jersey, “to come up with a game plan for how we’re going to be able to resource the rebuilding process.”
“It’s going to require everybody to focus on getting the job done,” the president said. “We’re going to have to put some of the turf battles aside, we’re going to have to make sure everybody’s focused on doing the job as opposed to worrying about who’s getting the credit or who’s getting the contracts and all that stuff that sometimes goes into the rebuilding process.”
Mr. Obama toured Staten Island on a day of thin, almost hazy sun, a bright contrast to the ominous, slate-gray sky just before and just after the storm hurled a wall of water against the coast. He flew to Kennedy International Airport and boarded a helicopter that took him over the Rockaway Peninsula and over Breezy Point, a waterfront community where more than 110 homes were destroyed in a fire on the night the hurricane tore through. Some homes there now have plastic sheeting where the roofs used to be.
Mr. Obama’s helicopter went on to Staten Island, where he landed at Miller Field, a former Army Air Corps installation in the New Dorp section of Staten Island that has become a center for efforts to rebuild.
The storm killed more than 100 people as it churned up the East Coast, with most of the deaths in low-lying sections of New York and New Jersey. But it exacted a particularly high toll on Staten Island. Of 43 deaths attributed to the storm in New York City, 23 were on Staten Island. But the storm also left millions without power and thousands in need of homes.
On Thursday, the president stopped at a federal disaster recovery center, where a group of about 200 residents cheered as he arrived. He chatted with the Staten Island borough president, James P. Molinaro, and other officials. Later he stopped at a Small Business Administration tent and greet a line of disaster workers from FEMA Corps, an AmeriCorps program started in 2009. He also visited a food distribution tent.
In one tent, the president shook hands and hugged some people. Some volunteers told him they were from Texas, others from West Virginia, others from other states. “We got the whole country represented here,” the president said. “We’re proud of you guys.”
The president left one tent and encountered the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly. “You’ve been busy,” the president told the commissioner after they exchanged handshakes and bear hugs.
He also met with Damien and Glenda Moore, whose young sons — Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2 — were swept away as the storm closed in. Ms. Moore had packed them into her car and was trying to leave Staten Island for Brooklyn, but the car stalled. Ms. Moore climbed out, holding one child in her arms and the other by the hand. The police said at the time that she lost her grip when she was slammed by water.
“I expressed to them as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through,” the president said. He said they were “still obviously a little shell-shocked,” but he said they wanted to thank those “who’ve been supportive to them,” especially Lt. Kevin Gallagher of the New York Police Department, who the president said had “made a point of staying with them and doing everything he could so ultimately they knew what had happened with their boys.”