(NEW YORK) — Thursday, on his first trip to New York City after superstorm Sandy walloped the Northeast, President Obama met with the parents of the two young boys — Brandon and Connor Moore — who died after being swept out to sea.
“I had the opportunity to give some hugs and communicate thoughts and prayers to the Moore family,” Obama said of Damien and Glenda Moore. “They lost two young sons during the course of this tragedy. And obviously, I expressed to them, as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through. And they’re still obviously a little shell-shocked.”
Obama said the resiliency and generosity of the Moores, who had lavished praise on New York police Lieutenant Kevin Gallagher “for staying with them and doing everything he could so that ultimately, they knew what had happened with the boys, and were able to recover their bodies, and has been with them as a source of support ever since.”
“That’s not in the job description of Lieutenant Gallagher. He did that because that’s what so many of our first responders do,” he added.
“I’m very proud of you, New York,” said the president, “You guys are tough.”
Sandy, which hit the Northeast on Oct. 29, has left more than 100 people dead, thousands displaced and billions of dollars of damage.
On Thursday the president saw the storm’s destruction in New York first-hand, visiting with victims and volunteers at a FEMA disaster recovery center in one Staten Island neighborhood. (There were more than 40 deaths in New York City alone from Sandy, half of those on the borough of Staten Island.)
The White House announced Thursday it has already approved more than $600 million in direct assistance to individuals. The president also announced he had assigned Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, a former New York City housing commissioner, the job of coordinating the federal government’s long-term response to Sandy’s devastation in the New York and New Jersey region.
“We thought it would be good to have a New Yorker be the point person,” Obama said on Staten Island following a tour of the recovery efforts.
The president made the announcement following an aerial survey of parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, including Far Rockaway and Staten Island, flying over sand-covered streets and destroyed homes piled along beaches.
He also saw the Breezy Point neighborhood, home to many of the city’s firefighters and police officers, where more than 100 homes were leveled in a raging wind-whipped fire that spread even as flood waters rose.
“There are still going to be complaints over the next several months,” the president said. “Not everybody is going to be satisfied” with the pace of recovery. The president asked “insurance companies and some of the other private sector folks who are involved in this … to show some heart and some spirit in helping people rebuild as well. But when I hear the story of the Moores and I hear about Lieutenant Gallagher, that’s what makes me confident that we’re going to be able to rebuild.”
Obama was accompanied by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary Shaun Donovan.
New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, also joined Obama for the trip aboard Air Force One to New York.
Days after the storm Obama took his first trip to see the damage, touring New Jersey’s hard hit shoreline with Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. Just six days before the election, Christie, one of Mitt Romney’s most high profile surrogates, praised the president for his oversight of federal emergency efforts. Christie thanked Obama, adding the two had a “great working relationship” and Obama “sprung into action immediately.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire