New Dorp Beach Residents Say Obama's Visit Lifted Their Spirits

By Nicholas Rizzi on November 15, 2012 7:08pm 

NEW DORP BEACH — Residents of New Dorp Beach devastated by Hurricane Sandy said Thursday's visit by President Barack Obama lifted their spirits.

Obama touched down at Miller Army Air Field, where he thanked volunteers at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center before he talked to residents on Cedar Grove Avenue and Center Place whose homes were ripped apart by the storm.

Bruce Randall, 51, an artist whose home was severely damaged, said he told the president the visit was just what the neighborhood needed.

"I just said, 'You're leaving an aura through the neighborhood and that's what we need,'" Randall said. "We need that and with it I think will come good things."

Randall said Obama came up to him and his wife in front of their damaged home and asked them about what happened during the storm.

Obama also promised they would get assistance repairing their home.

"He said, 'We're going to help,'" Randall said.

In a brief speech after the visit, Obama vowed to help the city rebuild and recognized the many in the region who still do not have electricity, heat and hot water.

“I came up here right after the storm...and I promised 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.

For Dominick Traina, 66, whose more-than-40-year home on Cedar Grove Avenue was completely decimated by the hurricane, the visit from Obama was encouraging.

"I said to him, 'I'm just so happy that you're here. It's great having you here, that you came here to look at this,'" Traina said. "It picks you up a little bit. It helps."

"He felt the pain we were in," Traina added.

His wife, Sheila Traina, 64, handed the president a letter two of her granddaughters wrote.

Obama gave Traina a signed letter to give back to her granddaughter, thanking them for the letter and promising to help.

"We're glad that he showed up...showing support and a little encouragement," Sheila Traina said.

Elected and city officials who toured the streets with the president echoed similar sentiments about his visit.

"You should have seen the spirits uplifted," said Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican. "The president did a very, very good job and you know I've been very critical of this administration but I can tell you today I was very proud of him.

"The way he spoke to individuals," Grimm continued, "it wasn't a photo-op and I'm proud of that."

The president also met privately with Damien and Glenda Moore, the parents of young Brandon and Connor, who died after being swept from their mother's arms during the storm.

“I had the opportunity to give some hugs and communicate thoughts and prayers to the Moore family," Obama said. "Obviously I expressed to them, as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through."

After the tour, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly commended Obama for meeting with the Moore family and for coming to Staten Island.

"Just the fact that the president's here, it means so much to Staten Island and to New Yorkers," Kelly said.

And even residents who did not get to see Obama outside of his motorcade said they were pleased the president showed up in the neighborhood.

"I'm glad he came down here," said Larry Rizzo, 58. "We could use all the help we can get and to put a little spotlight on the area and to show the wonderful job that everybody has been doing."

During his speech, Obama promised that he would be "coming back in the future" to follow up on his commitment to rebuild the neighborhood.

He also named Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to serve as the federal leader for the rebuilding effort. Donovan was previously head of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

"We thought it'd be good to have a New Yorker who's going to be the point person," Obama said.

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