NEW YORK — President Barack Obama (pictured center, in hug) 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 living 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.
“We’re reminded that we are bound together and we have to look out for each other,” Obama said from a block in Staten Island that was demolished by the storm. “The petty differences melt away.”
Watch the President in New York here:
Obama announced that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, former chief of New York’s Housing Authority, will be his point person to oversee long-term rebuilding in the region.
The president encountered many still suffering in Sandy’s aftermath, waiting in lines for food, supplies, and other help.
He also met privately with parents who experienced the most unthinkable tragedy – the loss of their young boys, Brandon and Connor Moore, who were swept away in the storm. Damien and Glenda Moore’s sons were among more than 100 people who lost their lives because of the powerful storm.
“Obviously 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 a little shell shocked” but wanted to thank the New York City police lieutenant who stayed with them and supported them until their boys’ bodies were found.
“That spirit and that sense of togetherness carry us through,” Obama said.
Before arriving on Staten Island, the president’s 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 people 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 set up tents to help survivors. The White House said about 1,500 people had received services at the center, one of several in affected areas, as of Monday.
“Warming buses” were available for people to take refuge from the cold and hot showers were provided by the New York Fire Department. Insurance companies including Travelers and Allstate also had buses to take claims.