Standing in Staten Island on Thursday amongst Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and others, President Barack Obama praised government officials on Thursday for their “outstanding” response during the aftermath of the disaster that Hurricane Sandy left in New York and New Jersey.
“It’s going to require everybody to focus on getting the job done,” said President Obama. “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,” he added
President Obama stressed that FEMA’s main function would continue as a recovery process and would not focus on rebuilding. The president wants to assign that task to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. In the meantime Mr. Obama promised that he would work “with the members of Congress to do everything we can to get the resources needed to rebuild.”:
On the federal level, because this is going to be such a big job, I wanted to assign one particular person who would be in charge from our perspective, who would be our point person — because FEMA basically runs the recovery process, it doesn’t focus on the rebuilding. For that, we’ve got to have all government agencies involved. Janet Napolitano has done a great job with respect to DHS, but we thought it would be good to have a New Yorker who is going to be the point person. And so our outstanding HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan, who used to be the head of the New York Housing Authority — so he knows a little bit about New York and building — is going to be our point person. And he’s going to be working with the mayor, the governor, the borough presidents, the county officials to make sure that we come up with a strong, effective plan. And then, I’ll be working with the members of Congress to do everything we can to get the resources needed to rebuild. And I have every confidence that Shaun is going to be doing a great job, and so people should feel some confidence about that.
Despite criticisms that FEMA lacked an appropriate response to some of the hardest hit areas, the president gave a backhanded warning to the private sector and insurance companies: (bolding is mine)
Let me just close by saying this: I had the opportunity to give some hugs and communicate thoughts and prayers to the Moore family. They lost two young sons during the course of this tragedy. And obviously, I expressed to them — as a father, as a parent — my heartbreak over what they went through. And they’re still obviously a little shell-shocked.
But they came here in part because they wanted to say thank you to all the people who have been supportive of them. They in particular mentioned Lieutenant Kevin Gallagher of the NYPD, who, when they knew that their sons were missing, Lieutenant Gallagher made a point of staying with them and doing everything he could so that ultimately they knew what had happened with their boys and were able to recover their bodies, and has been with them as a source of support ever since.
That’s not in the job description of Lieutenant Gallagher. He did that because that’s what so many of our first responders do. They go above and beyond the call of duty to respond to people in need. And so I want to give a shout-out to Lieutenant Gallagher, but I also want to point out, the Moores, even in their grief, asked me to mention Lieutenant Gallagher, and that says something about them as well.
(7:04)And that spirit and sense of togetherness and looking out for one another, that’s what’s going to carry us through this tragedy. It’s not going to be easy. There’s still going to be, believe it or not, some complaints over the next several months. Not everybody is going to be satisfied. I have to tell you the insurance companies and some of the other private sector folks who are involved in this, we need you to show some heart and some spirit in helping people rebuild as well.
According to WBUR’s Here and Now it has been governmental agencies that New York residents affected by the storm are most disappointed with :
The Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA, is facing criticism for its response to the storm, and on Tuesday, LIPA chairman Mike Hervey announced he would step down at the end of the year.
But some city officials are saying the problems extend beyond the power company. They’re criticizing the federal response to Sandy.
New York City Councilman James Sanders represents the Rockaways. His chief of staff Donovan Richards told Here & Now his district was abandoned when Sandy hit.
“FEMA did not arrive in a timely fashion, nor did the Red Cross,” Richards said. “If it wasn’t for everyday citizens coming out and giving us a hand, the Rockaways would be in a shape that is unfathomable.”
Richards said that FEMA didn’t arrive until last Thursday, and he says the agency initially set up in an area that was inaccessible to poorer residents.
“Every 24 hours that goes by, we get into a more desperate situation so FEMA has to respond quicker. I know we have a billion things to do but in a low-income area with 30 percent of the people on some sort of income subsidy we need them to move fast and move now,” Richards said.