Obama’s Housing Secretary Post-Sandy ‘Point-Person’

Shaun Donovan, U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, speaks at the Bloomberg Washington Summit in Washington, on May 1, 2012. Photograph by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Speaking before residents of storm-ravaged Staten Island, President Barack Obama announced Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan will be the “point-person” for the federal government’s rebuilding efforts after superstorm Sandy in New York.

“He knows a little bit about New York and building,” Obama said of Donovan, who was the New York City housing commissioner for five years before becoming housing secretary in 2009.

“On the federal level, because this is going to be such a big job, I wanted to assign one particular person who would be in charge from our perspective, who would be our point person — because FEMA basically runs the recovery process, it doesn’t focus on the rebuilding,” Obama said. “For that, we’ve got to have all government agencies involved.”

Donovan will work with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other New York officials to “come up with a strong, effective plan,” Obama said. He also called on insurance companies and private sector leaders to “show some heart” during the recovery process.

Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will remain in New York as long as primary help is needed.  The administration has dispatched thousands of FEMA workers in an effort not to repeat FEMA’s widely-criticized response to Hurrican Katrina in 2005, Bloomberg reported. (Read the full story here.)

Obama’s choice of a Cabinet secretary to coordinate the rebuilding effort is not without precedent — President George H.W. Bush chose then-Transportation Secretary Andrew Card in 1992 to lead the response to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated parts of South Florida, Louisiana and other Southern states.

Obama made the televised announcement after flying over New York’s coastal neighborhoods with Cuomo earlier today. Donovan, Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro and New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also joined Obama in his tour of the area.

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