Sandy: Obama Views New York Recovery Efforts

Sandy: Obama Views New York Recovery Efforts

President Barack Obama has vowed to stick with New Yorkers "until the rebuilding is complete" after travelling to New York City to view the ongoing recovery efforts following Superstorm Sandy.

Mr Obama got his first look at the devastation in the city, with a helicopter tour above flood-ravaged and burned-out sections of Queens and Staten Island.

The president's aerial tour also included Breezy Point, a waterfront community in Queens where roughly 100 homes were burned in a massive fire during the storm.

Below the president's helicopter, Marine One, blue tarpaulins covered some homes instead of roofs and debris was scattered across neighbourhoods still drying out after the storm.

After the helicopter tour, Mr Obama met with people waiting in line at an emergency response centre at a high school on Staten Island.

Mr Obama said: "During difficult times like this, we're reminded that we're bound together and we have to look out for each other. And a lot of the things that seem important, the petty differences, melt away."

The White House said about 1,500 people had received services at the centre, one of several in affected areas, as of Monday.

Mr Obama was joined by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The president also took a walking tour of a neighbourhood affected by the storm. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, travelled with the president aboard Air Force One.

Mr Obama travelled to New Jersey on October 31 to meet with Governor Chris Christie and view recovery efforts in coastal communities.

The White House said Mr Obama did not travel to New York immediately following the storm because he did not want to interfere with the recovery efforts. 

One girl collecting supplies at the Staten Island recovery centre on Thursday said Mr Obama should have visited New York sooner.

"We need help. He should have been here a long time ago," she said.

That sentiment was shared by others, including Anthony Gatti, who said his home near the ocean was wrecked by Sandy.

He said: "I think he should've been here a few days ago to see how much devastation we've had here."

Mr Gatti said he was hoping to get a FEMA trailer to live in with his parents while they find a new home. They lost everything they owned in the storm, he said.

"If he (Mr Obama) could do something to make this process with the government a little faster and easier on us, that would be a great thing," Mr Gatti said.

Mr Cuomo said earlier this week he plans to request \$30bn (£18.9bn) in federal aid to rebuild, including for improvements such as the construction of a power grid meant to buttress utilities' ability to find and fix outages.

The aid would also upgrade New York City's fuel supply capacity to help prevent consumer shortages and bring new oil and gas pipelines from New England to reduce dependence on shipping the fuel.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration still has not received details of that request so he could not respond to it specifically. He said the federal government will continue to do everything it can to cut red tape and help affected communities rebuild.