Obama tours Staten Island, taps Shaun Donovan as ‘point person’ for rebuilding

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After touring the damage in and around New York City today, President Obama announced in his remarks on Staten Island that Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, would serve as the administration's "point person" for the region's rebuilding efforts.

“He knows a little bit about New York and building,” Obama said.

Donovan previously served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The president praised the work being done by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and by Health and Human Services secretary Janet Napolitano, but said those efforts had been mostly focused on relief efforts, and that Donovan's focus would be on the rebuilding process.

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"He's going to be working with the mayor, the governor, the borough president, county officials to make sure that we come up with a strong, effective plan,” Obama said.

How the region rebuilds, and how much the federal government contributes to those efforts, have emerged as central questions as the city turns its attention to the next phase of the recovery.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who joined the president for a helicopter tour of the damage in Breezy Point and the Rockaways, has said he'll request the federal government fully reimburse the $30 billion in estimated damage to New York State.

Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters aboard the president's flight to New York that the administration had yet to receive a formal request to that effect.

"Well, we can't comment specifically on that plan, as we haven’t seen it, but the administration continues to provide all available resources to support our state and local partners, as well as affected families," Carney said.

Obama was joined on the flight from Washington by senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who jointely requested $1 billion in immediate assistance at a press conference in Washington yesterday. 

The president received cheers upon arriving in Staten Island, where he visited a FEMA and Small Business Administration tent with Rep. Michael Grimm, offering consolation to some displaced residents and posed for photos with FEMA workers and volunteers, according to pool reports.

"We've got some work to do and I want you to know I'm here to do it," Obama told a crowd outside a boarded-up church called St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India Inc.

"I came up here right after the storm, was on the Jersey side, and I promised to everybody that I was speaking on behalf of the country when I said we are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete, and I meant it," he said later, in his remarks. "So I’m going to come back today, but I’m also going to be coming back in the future to make sure that we have followed through on that commitment."