President Barack Obama. (Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - President Obama took an aerial tour Thursday of the damage Superstorm Sandy inflicted on New York, making his first visit to the Big Apple since disaster struck the East Coast 17 days ago.
Obama visited New Jersey days after the storm but had put off coming to New York out of concern that a presidential visit would result in police and other first responders being shifted away from dealing with the recovery effort.
Speaking from a ravaged neighborhood in Staten Island, Obama reiterated his commitment to help the region recover from the storm and said he was appointing Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to serve as his point-person on the longer-term recovery effort. Donovan is the former head of New York City's housing authority.
Obama said the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - the government agency tasked with immediate disaster response - is not done.
"There is still a lot of cleanup to do. People still need emergency help, they still need heat, they still need power, they still need food, they still need shelter," Obama said. "Kids are still trying to figure out where they're going to school. There's a lot of short-term, immediate stuff that needs to be dealt with."
Obama's visit to New York comes after New York Gov. Mario Cuomo announced this week that he'd request $30 billion in federal aid to rebuild damaged areas, upgrade the city's power grid and build oil and gas pipelines to help prevent the sort of fuel shortages New Yorkers are experiencing in the aftermath of the storm.
Obama made no mention of the Cuomo plan, and White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment, because the administration hasn't received details of that request.
Obama said he was committed "to coming up with a game plan for resourcing the rebuilding process."
"We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete," Obama said.
The president met with first responders and families who lost loved ones in the storm.