NEW YORK – President Barack Obama encouraged Staten Island, N.Y., residents yesterday when he visited the New Dorp Beach area of the borough, a place hit extremely hard by superstorm Sandy.
The president arrived in Miller Field, a former Army base located behind New Dorp High School, around noon, where he met with FEMA and American Red Cross workers assisting in the relief efforts.
After a short meet and greet inside the tents where many New Dorp residents have received aid over the past few weeks, the president then worked his way up to the nearby Cedar Grove Avenue, where he met with families whose homes were destroyed by Sandy.
"I was shocked," Bruce Randall, whose home was destroyed by Sandy, told The Christian Post. "I knew he'd be coming down the street. I knew he'd be walking and talking to people, but when he got out [of his car] right here, we were the first house. I was speechless until he came over [to us] and then I got my speech back."
Obama briefly met with Bruce and his wife, who described their experience to him and also explained to the president why they chose to stay in their home during the storm.
"He asked me about the house and I told him that we stayed," said Randall. "He asked me why and I told him that we had an art collection to save. [And I also said] I sail, and the captain doesn't go down with this ship, the captain stays with the ship, that's the safest place, and we felt even though the house was going down around us the best thing was to stay."
Randall told the president he was prepared with a life raft and life jackets in case they were completely washed out.
The area was also visited by New York Senator Charles Schumer, who expressed his gratitude toward the president for his visit.
"I was so glad that he came," Schumer told reporters. "Because [these] people have water front homes in New York, [many] think oh, these are fancy people, and obviously these are hard-working people."
"We talked on the plane about coming up with a plan where when FEMA doesn't cover enough for homeowners, to come up with a way to help more," continued Schumer. "We talked about Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie working together so we have both Democrats and Republicans on the same page. We made a lot progress today."
He also spoke about the recovery work that still lies ahead.
"This is going to be a big job," he said. "We're going to need far more money than is allocated right now. We're going to start on it early. Our goal is to try and submit a supplemental bill for December 31."
Schumer hopes to strike when the iron's hot. He stated that over 50 senators have asked him how they could help the recovery, and his plan is to learn the needs of all the local officials quickly and utilize his resources as fast as possible.
Part of that plan means housing residents. Initially, trailers were given to Staten Island victims shortly after the storm hit, but were taken away because they were not equipped for cold weather. Schumer proposed sending trailers equipped for the cold in the near future, but local George Reed challenged him with another idea.
"The thing that would satisfy that need is military tents because you can heat them. That's all that people with kids are asking for is some place to go at night that's warm," Reed told The Christian Post.
"People [who lost their homes] need a warm place to go," Reed added. He had hoped the government would have more specifically addressed the needs of the community during the president's visit.
Schumer promised Reed and others that he'd look into it and provide some relief to those New Dorp residents who wish to remain close to their now uninhabitable homes.