Obama to Visit Storm-Ravaged NY Next Week

The visit will mark the president's second trip to the Sandy-ravaged tri-state in three weeks

President Barack Obama will travel to the New York area next week to view the recovery from Sandy and thank first responders, the White House announced Friday.

The president is set to make the trip on Thursday.

Obama visited the Jersey Shore last week after Sandy pummeled the tri-state, telling storm victims: "We are here for you and we will not forget. We will follow up to make sure you get all the help you need to rebuild."

At the time, Mayor Bloomberg said he told Obama's chief of staff that the city "would love to have him, but we've got lots of things to do."

On Friday the mayor said "we've made significant progress since then and we're happy to have him."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced the creation of the Empire State Relief Fund, intended to help residents repair and return to homes flooded and damaged when the storm hit last week. He says the best temporary housing is permanent housing and it's cheaper in the long run for taxpayers. 

Robert De Niro, Michael J. Fox, Whoopi Goldberg and other celebrities along with pro sports stars, are filming public service TV announcements to raise money for the fund. 

Hundreds of thousands are still without power throughout the region, and the storm is estimated to have cost tens of billions of dollars in damage.

Nearly 200,000 customers still don't have power in New York City, Westchester and Long Island, while New Jersey has more than 221,000.

Bloomberg also announced a Sandy repair program, called NYC Rapid Repairs, aimed at getting as many people as possible back into their homes by year's end. Starting Tuesday people with storm-damaged homes can go to a city restoration center, get a Federal Emergency Management Agency number and sign up. Then a contractor will go to the person's home, assess the damage and "within a short time, the work will be done," Bloomberg said.

The city Sanitation Department announced Friday that will resume picking up paper, cardboard, metals, plastic and glass for recycling Sunday. The collections were suspended after Sandy so the city could repair some recycling centers and assign sanitation workers to pick up storm debris. Regularly scheduled Monday recycling will be picked up this Monday, though the day was originally scheduled as a holiday in observance of Veterans' Day.

Cuomo has also announced that some public transportation would return to the Rockaway Penninsula.  Subway service will resume on the A line to Howard Beach on Sunday. From that station, a shuttle bus will run to Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, Cuomo said. The A train will also start splitting on Sunday, some running to Lefferts Boulevard and others going to Howard Beach.

Homeowners, renters and business owners in Brooklyn with insurance-related issues from Sandy can meet with representatives from New York state's Department of Financial Services in Canarsie from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The mobile command center will be at the parking lot Holy Family Church at 9719 Flatlands Ave. 

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Venderhoef announced a new Federal Emergency Management Agency center would open Saturday at Provident Bank Park in Pomona. It will be open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and after that, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, until further notice. 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that New Jersey was on the verge of returning to some sense of normalcy. By next week, most schools would be open and outages will be minimal. He said he believed most of New Jersey would have power restored by Saturday night.

"Life will be back, for most of New Jersey, to normal by Sunday," he said.

Parts of the storm-battered Long Beach Island will be reopened for residents and renters at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, Christie said. The Holgate section of the barrier island will remain closed because it is still unsafe, Christie said.

Obama's visit to New York will be his first since his reelection Tuesday. Last week, Obama's New Jersey visit began in Atlantic City, which lies on a barrier island and was cut off from the mainland during the storm. He greeted Christie, and together, along with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, they took a ride up the coast in the presidential helicopter.

They flew north to Point Pleasant Beach, looking down upon sand-blown neighborhoods, wrecked homes and waterlogged streets.

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