With thousands of Staten Island residents still without power and facing a long road to recovery after Hurricane Sandy, President Obama put Shaun L.S. Donovan, Housing and Urban Development secretary and a former New York City official, in charge of the federal role in the area’s rebuilding.
The president made the announcement after meeting with emergency workers and taking a helicopter tour of the storm-ravaged areas in New York, flying over Far Rockaway and Breezy Point, where more than 100 homes burned in one night and some houses have plastic sheeting serving as makeshift roofs.
“I’m very proud of you, New York,” Mr. Obama said. “You guys are tough. You bounced back just as America always bounces back. The same is going to be true this time.”
Standing alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, he urged federal, state and local officials — in New York and New Jersey — to set aside jurisdictional concerns and work together on the rebuilding process. Mr. Donovan, a native New Yorker who formerly ran the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, would be there to try to bridge the federal, state and local divide, the president said.
“It’s going to require everybody to focus on getting the job done,” he 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 that stuff that sometimes goes into the rebuilding process.”
The helicopter tour went on to Staten Island, where Marine One landed at Miller Field, a former Army Air Corps installation in the New Dorp section of the borough, which has become a center for rebuilding efforts.
About 200 residents greeted him with cheers during a stop at a federal disaster-recovery center that included a chat with Staten Island borough President James P. Molinaro and handshakes and words of appreciation with Federal Emergency Management Agency workers.
Recognizing volunteers and emergency workers from Texas, West Virginia and other states, Mr. Obama said: “We’ve got the whole country represented here. We’re proud of you guys.”
The president also met with Damien and Glenda Moore, whose sons — Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2 — were killed during the storm when they were swept away by floodwaters.
Mrs. Moore was driving them in the car trying to leave Staten Island for Brooklyn when the car stalled. Worried that the car could flood, she got out and held each child by the hand, but lost her grip when she faced a surge of water.
“I expressed to them as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through,” Mr. Obama said.