Obama: Sandy recovery 'not going to be easy' (+video)
More than two weeks after Sandy struck, many are still struggling. On Thursday, President Obama visited New York to survey the damage and comfort some of those devastated by the storm.
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The storm also caused a surge in new claims for U.S. jobless benefits last week and weighed on factory activity in November, providing early signs of how heavily Sandy could hit the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Sandy: Chronicle of an unrelenting storm
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Survey from the sky
After arriving at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, the president and other officials boarded a helicopter and flew over storm-ravaged neighborhoods including the Rockaways, Breezy Point and Coney Island before landing in Staten Island.
With power generators roaring in the background in a part of Staten Island still lacking power, Obama entered a white, disaster recovery tent run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), greeting people in line.
At a Small Business Administration tent where business owners apply for low-interest loans, Obama chatted with one woman and hugged another, staying with her for several minutes and posing for photographs.
"Thank you guys for the great work," he told workers, noting that volunteers had come from around the country. "Dallas. San Juan. We got the whole country represented here." To a group of FEMA volunteers, he said, "Proud of you guys."
Disaster victims are increasingly frustrated at the lack of electricity, shortages of gasoline and bureaucratic obstacles to recovery.
"It's nice that the president has come, but he is not seeing half the devastation that hit this community two weeks ago," said Lianne Aponte, 25, a few blocks from where Obama spoke. "It's all too little too late, you know. We needed our president here when this first happened, when we were freezing at night and the neighborhood was flooded."
She and her husband, Alex Bogomolmik, 31, said they had to swim to their car as a 10-foot (3-metre) wave barreled toward their home. "Thirty more seconds and we wouldn't have made it to the car. We would have drowned," Bogomolmik said.
Before Obama arrived, a small army of federal, state and local law enforcement walked mud-caked streets as vehicles hauled away debris. Construction crews fixed cracked streets and weary neighbors worked with volunteers to fill dumpsters full of water-logged furniture and broken shards of sheet rock.
On Roma Avenue, Peter Testagrossa, 72, a retired concrete contractor, sighed as he trudged through the blown-out remnants of his two-family home, which he shares with his daughter Angela and her four kids. Everything below waist level was destroyed.
"Look at the beautiful bathroom I built for my wife, with my own hands," he said, gesturing towards a storm-damaged mess. "I got in a terrible fight with my daughter this morning. She wants to rebuild. But I don't want to. I love this house. I built everything in this house."