Obama: LIers 'going through really tough times'

President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left)

President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left) chat with a man at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center on Staten Island. (Nov. 15, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

President Barack Obama toured storm-damaged areas of New York City Thursday, pledged to support New Yorkers through the recovery process, and named a top aide and son of the city to coordinate redevelopment with officials in the region.

The president landed at Kennedy Airport before noon, took a helicopter trip over the heavily damaged Rockaway peninsula and landed on Staten Island to tour a relief center at Miller Field in the New Dorp section.

Accompanied by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the state's two U.S. senators and other officials, Obama then walked through a devastated area of New Dorp and stopped in front of a damaged home for brief remarks.

He spoke about the "extraordinarily difficult times" that Staten Islanders were living through, and "the people of Long Island who are going through really tough times."

Cuomo has said he will seek $30 billion in relief from the federal government.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) spent about 40 minutes with the president on Air Force One on the way to New York and came away convinced he would support their efforts for federal funding.

Obama said Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will coordinate federal efforts.

Donovan, a Manhattan native, headed the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The president met privately with Staten Island residents Damien and Glenda Moore, whose children -- Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2 -- died the night Sandy hit when they were swept away by floodwaters after their mother's car stalled in high water while she tried to flee. Obama praised the work of NYPD Lt. Kevin Gallagher for staying with the Moore family during the search for the children.

"That spirit and sense of togetherness and looking out for one another, that's what's going to carry us through this tragedy," Obama said.

Daniel Baxter, 23, of New Dorp, was on hand as the president's helicopter landed on a field east of New Dorp High School. He was one of many who said the president's visit was a welcome boost to morale.

"Honestly, if he didn't come, a lot of Staten Islanders would have been angry at him," Baxter said. "This area is pretty Republican, but I believe he came because he cares about Americans no matter where you're from. He's just trying to care for people in need."

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was among the local officials to meet Obama on the ground on Staten Island.

"The president and I spoke on three occasions in the past two weeks," Mangano said, "and I'm encouraged by his commitment to provide the resources necessary to assist the county in rebuilding and recovering from Hurricane Sandy."

With Robert Brodsky

NEW U.S. CHIEF FOR SANDY RECOVERY

President Barack Obama has named Shaun Donovan, 46, a Manhattan native, as the point person on federal efforts for recovery from superstorm Sandy.

TITLE: U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development

EDUCATION: Bachelor's and master's degrees in public administration and architecture, Harvard University

CAREER: Head of New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development before joining the Obama administration. Worked previously as a managing director at Prudential Mortgage Capital Co., in charge of investments in affordable housing loans. Visiting scholar at New York University, where he conducted research into preservation of federally assisted housing. Served as HUD deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing in the administration of President Bill Clinton.

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