Cuomo, in Aid Appeal, Cites Broad Reach of Storm

New York Times -- by Thomas Kaplan and Raymond Hernandez

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, making a case for tens of billions of dollars in federal aid, declared on Monday that Hurricane Sandy had been “more impactful” than Hurricane Katrina, the deadly storm that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Hurricane Sandy, which arrived in New Jersey and New York on Oct. 29, “affected many, many more people and places than Katrina,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters at a news briefing. He said the comparison between the two hurricanes “puts this entire conversation, I believe, in focus.”

Mr. Cuomo said the recent storm would cost New York State nearly $42 billion, and he huddled in his Midtown office with the state’s Congressional delegation, as well as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester County executives, to strategize on lobbying Washington for financial assistance.

Mr. Cuomo acknowledged that more people had been killed by Hurricane Katrina, but said that Hurricane Sandy had had a greater economic impact because of the dense population in the New York City area. He said Hurricane Sandy had destroyed or damaged more units of housing, affected more businesses and caused more customers to lose power.

Mr. Cuomo said he believed it would cost nearly $33 billion to pay for storm cleanup, including more than $15 billion in New York City, and an additional $9 billion to prepare for future storms. Aides to Mr. Bloomberg said he was expected to meet with House and Senate leaders on Wednesday.

Some of the amounts in the aid request were staggering: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which totaled its damages at $4.8 billion, said it would cost $600 million just to repair the South Ferry-Whitehall Street subway stop in Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Bloomberg and the New York lawmakers, mindful that President Obama and Congressional leaders in both parties are preparing for difficult negotiations on a deficit reduction plan, acknowledged that their request would not be easily won.

“This will be an effort that lasts not weeks, but many months,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat.

Yet several Republicans in the Congressional delegation predicted that their Republican colleagues in the House would be more accommodating to the state’s request for aid now that the governor has presented a plan that lays out the needs of the city and state in stark terms.

“This is a bare-bones request,” said Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican whose district includes areas on Staten Island that were devastated by the storm. “This is not based on want. It is based on need.”

Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island, agreed, saying “there’s nothing exaggerated” in the governor’s aid request. “We have to convince Congress that this is an absolute necessity,” he said.

Several lawmakers are pushing to have Congress approve additional disaster aid before it adjourns this year, arguing that any urgency to deal with the matter now will almost certainly fade as the weeks pass and lawmakers turn their attention to other matters.

“It has to happen, as far as I am concerned, now,” said Representative Nita M. Lowey, a Democrat from Westchester who is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “This is an emergency.”

A spokesman for the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, declined to comment until the White House has submitted a request for supplemental funds to pay for disaster recovery efforts.

But Mr. King said Mr. Boehner had committed to providing money to New York State and New Jersey without demanding spending cuts that would offset the appropriations. (New Jersey estimates its cost at nearly $30 billion.)

And Mr. Cuomo, who has not been to Washington since taking office nearly two years ago, invited Mr. Boehner to come see the damage himself and offered to travel to Capitol Hill to lobby the speaker.

“I understand the fiscal pressures that Washington is under,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I also understand the fiscal pressure that New York is under. And I know that the taxpayers of New York cannot shoulder this burden, and I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to shoulder this burden.”