US President Barack Obama has praised New York’s toughness on a visit to some of the neighbourhoods worst-affected by Super Storm Sandy and appointed an official to co-ordinate the rebuilding effort.
Many residents are still struggling to recover 17 days after the storm devastated the Northeast and left 110 people dead.
“I’m very proud of you, New York. You guys are tough. You bounce back,” Obama said on Thursday during a visit to Staten Island, where 23 of the storm victims died.
Obama said the city clearly had “some long-term rebuilding” to do and used his Marine One helicopter to scan the Rockaways and the Breezy Point neighbourhood of Queens, which also saw particularly heavy flooding during Sandy.
He named Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan as the pointman on federal assistance in the storm’s aftermath and pledged to return “to make sure” that his administration had “followed through” on rebuilding commitments.
“There’s still a lot of clean-up to do. People still need emergency help. They still need heat. They still need power. They still need food. They still need shelter. Kids are still trying to figure out where they’re going to school,” Obama said.
“And we are going to make sure that we stay here as long as people need that immediate help.”
Pockets of Staten Island and other coastal fringes of New York remain without heat and light more than two weeks later.
‘We need help’
Visiting a federal aid centre in Staten island, Obama was met with yells from a crowd of about 100 people.
One young woman at the centre to get basic supplies said her house had been on the beach but was now gone.
“We need help. He should have been here a long time ago,” she said after talking with the president.
Obama was joined by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among other officials.
As anger mounted around New York against utility companies that have yet to restore full power, Obama called out “the insurance companies and some of the other private sector folks”.
“We need you to show some heart and some spirit and help us rebuild as well,” he said.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Obama “made clear that restoring power is an absolute priority, and he continues to make that clear”.
Carney said the White House had put forward $1.5bn for recovery efforts, including $600m already approved for direct assistance.
“We will continue to work with the governors on ongoing recovery efforts, including supporting their efforts to develop appropriate long-term housing plans for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed,” he said.
Meanwhile, shippers loaded 12 foreign-flagged tankers with 3.18 million barrels gasoline, diesel and other fuels to
help relieve shortages by November 20 at ports from Maryland to Maine.