Sep 7, 2021
Joe Biden New York Hurricane Ida Press Conference Transcript
President Joe Biden held a press conference with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on September 7, 2021. They discussed damage from Hurricane Ida. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Kathy Hochul: (00:04)
[inaudible 00:00:04] I called the governors of Mississippi and Indiana [inaudible 00:00:10] and they were grateful. Little did I know that one day later we’d be the ones asking for help, that we would have experienced a cataclysmic weather event of proportions the likes of which have never been seen in our State. The volume of water that came down in a one hour period from 8:51 PM to 9:51 PM last Wednesday night broke all the records and literally the records have been set 10 days before. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the definition of a climate crisis. We’re experiencing a climate crisis as we speak. But more than talking about that, it’s a humanitarian crisis.
Kathy Hochul: (00:53)
And you only have to walk down this street as I have many times with our elected officials who care so deeply about the people who live here and throughout Queens and all the other effected communities to know that people that we represent, who put their faith in us are in pain right now, they’re hurting. They look into our eyes and they ask us to help and we will not abandon them. Every one of us here, our elected leaders down from our President to our senators, our Congress members, our assembly members, our mayors, everyone, including our council members, we are here to help. And I am so grateful to President Biden for being so responsive. He called me immediately. He had our great FEMA administrator call me. He called again, “What do you need?”
Kathy Hochul: (01:40)
And after I issued the emergency declaration in the crisis we put forth a request for a major disaster declaration. Now, just about 10 years ago, I was a member of Congress. Nine years ago, we had Katrina, and those of you who experienced that understood that it took from October until December even January before the aid came to our State. People were playing politics with people’s lives back then, despite the best efforts of our leaders here. I’m so proud to say that we’ve never seen a response like we’ve seen from President Biden and his administration and our leadership in the senate and the house representatives. They acted so quickly, and as a result, we have deployed teams on the ground to get immediate assistance to people but this is a short-term solution.
Kathy Hochul: (02:32)
Getting them housing, getting them shelter, getting them rental assistance, getting them the money to help clean up, getting them food on the table. And that’s what President Biden has enabled us to do to help support those efforts. But my friends, we are in this for the long haul. This is not a situation that’s going to go away, and the way I operate I’m acting as if this same event could happen again in 10 more days. That’s the preparedness that we need to have, so this street, this alleyway does not become raging river, destroying the lives of people, their homes, and their futures. It’s an emotional day for all of us to see this, but the chance to see these resilient people and Junior right here, who’s the mayor of the streets. Junior, how are you my friend? Junior is here. Junior is in the house.
Kathy Hochul: (03:19)
We are here to help you and mark our words here today, the President, and none of us believe that we just show up to take pictures and walk away. We are committed to you and the resiliency of this community and this neighborhood. I want to thank every one of you for having the strength. I don’t know where you get it from, because this was one of the hardest hit streets and communities because of COVID as well. Our hospitals were overflowing with people from these neighborhoods just a year ago. So my friends, were not abandoning you.
Speaker 2: (03:50)
Kathy Hochul: (03:50)
We’re here for you and we’ll continue to be here when you need us. And with that, I’m going to give a quick introduction to our Senator, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Who’s been on the ground constantly, and I want to thank her for her leadership as well. She’ll be introducing Senator Schumer and Senator Schumer just from the bottom of my heart as well, thank you. We walked many streets, the three of us walked, Mamaroneck, other communities as well. The two of you are just an incredible team where we’re blessed to have you representing the State of New York. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (04:15)
Kirsten Gillibrand: (04:18)
Well, thank you, Governor Hochul, for being here for being strong in a moment of grave need. I want to thank the President for coming to talk to families. He understands the pain and the sorrow that these families are going through. The resilience they will need to be able to rebuild and build back better as the President has said. He’s here on the ground because he cares and he’s going to make a difference. And I also want to thank our first responders for never missing a beat, for being here every second of every day to meet the need of these communities.
Kirsten Gillibrand: (04:51)
And last, and certainly not least to Senator Schumer as the majority leader in the U.S. Senate, he will be best positioned to make sure families recover. He’s been working since super storm Sandy to make sure that we have better resilience, so that he’s gotten the Army Corps to work. He’s gotten the people to have the resources they need through FEMA, and to address some of the fraud that we saw during super storm Sandy. And that’s why Senator Schumer is truly at the head of being able to support president Biden and getting this done. God bless you all.
Chuck Schumer: (05:22)
Thank you. Well, thank you. Thank you, Governor Hochul, Senator Gillibrand and all of my great colleagues. We are working all three levels of government. And why it’s such a large, impressive anomaly of people get here, because this man came. This man right here came, thank you, without anyone having to hock him, that’s a Brooklyn word or bother him to come. So Mr. President, it is my distinct honor to welcome you to Queens. A bustling borough of over two million new Yorkers with staggering diversity and infinite talent, equal parts passion and compassion. Where’s Donovan?
Donovon : (06:14)
Chuck Schumer: (06:14)
There he is. You being here today, Mr. President is a hallmark of your hands on presidency, not just sitting in Washington, but seeing and hearing people’s trouble and then acting decisively to help. Not the least of which is by promptly approving a major disaster declaration, quicker than any President has ever done and we are so, so grateful. Now, perhaps nowhere else reflects the diversity of New York and our nation then Queens, where hundreds of languages, hundreds are spoken every single day. From Archie Bunker to LL Cool J, to Aquafina, Queens literally has it all. Not to mention some of the best [foreign language 00:07:11], vindaloo, moussaka, [foreign language 00:07:15] and Guinness on the planet. As a Congressman, my district included parts of Queens.
Chuck Schumer: (07:23)
We have LL Cool J, calm down. As a Congressman, my district included parts of Queens, so this community is near and dear to my heart and it pains us so to see and witness the loss of life and property. It pains us deeply to read the stories of neighbors we lost in the storm, Mr. President, less than two miles from where we’re standing. In Woodside, to parents Ong Lama and Ming Ma Sherpa perished along with their toddler son Lobsang Lama as water rushed into their basement apartment. Lobsang was 14 months old, a little beautiful boy gone, gone. The same brutal story repeated itself across New York Ida dumped a record amount of rain. People trapped in their own homes, in a matter of minutes, a place of safety and refuge became a coffin.
Chuck Schumer: (08:27)
Mr. President, we’re so thankful that you’re here, not just to see for yourself, the destruction and damage brought by Ida, but also to deliver the prompt aid we urgently need. This community is hurting. We’ve lost loved ones. We’ve lost homes. We’ve lost small businesses and even small things. The marriage albums, the mementos, the pictures that can never be replaced, no matter how much financial help we’re able get people. It leaves a hole in your heart, a hole in your heart. Now in the short-term, of course, we need the federal aid to staunch the bleeding and rebuild stronger and more resilience than before. And Mr. President, I thank you for heeding my call and that of Senator Gillibrand and the call of Governor Hochul and my colleagues in the New York delegation, many of whom are here, who did such a great job for New York.
Chuck Schumer: (09:18)
Let’s have the congressional delegation a round of applause for them. And we all worked to speedily grant public assistance, which goes to the city and localities, individual assistance, grants, grants, not loans of up to $36,000 per individual, and small business support that will unlock aid to many homeowners in businesses who need it. But my friends, as you know, Mr. President, we cannot stop there. Our climate is changing in ways that are undeniable, that are accelerating, that are caused by humans, that are devastating communities here in Queens and across America with increasing unfortunate frequency. The last time this much rain fell on New York City was just 11 days before Ida, when tropical storm Henri deluged New York City and Long Island.
Chuck Schumer: (10:15)
Only two months after tropical storm Fred ravaged upstate New York. Let me repeat that. In the span of just one week, New York City saw two, two once in a century storms, one week. This is not normal. This is not normal. And that’s why we so urgently need Mr. President you’re big and bold build back better plan. We must attack the cancer of climate change that is driving these destructive storms. That means protecting our frontline communities that bear the brunt of pollution and decarbonizing our economy ASAP, and implementing a just transition fueled by American workers being paid a fair wage. We need to prepare for the next storm and the one following that and in doing so, ensure our investments help create a more resilient New York for this generation and future generations.
Chuck Schumer: (11:16)
Build back better has very ambitious goals, reducing 50% of carbon that goes into the atmosphere by 2030, and 80% clean electricity by that year as well. This is your way, Mr. President, so proud of what you have done. So impressed to boldly and courageously confront the challenges we face, be they climate change, racial and economic inequity or disaster response, and in the process, to build a healthier, a more unified, a more just, and a more robust United States of America. So without further ado, let me welcome the man who will lead us out of darkness of this present moment and help us achieve a brighter future for Queens, for New York and the whole United States of America. Our great President, Joseph Robinette Biden.
Speaker 7: (12:10)
Joe Biden: (12:16)
Chuck, thank you very much. As the old joke goes, my father, Harry would say, “Thank you,” my mother would say, “Who are you talking about?” Look, folks, let me begin by saying, I wish every American could walk down this alley with me to see and talk to the people who have been devastated. Just talk to them. None of them were shouting or complaining. Every one of them were thanking me as if it was something special, I mean this sincerely, that I was here and hoped that we’d be able to do something. This is America where I’m standing right now. These are the people whether it’s in Scranton or Claymont, or anywhere around the world, the country who built this country and it’s about time we step up. They’re always the first ones that are hurt and the last ones that are helped, but that’s not going to happen this time. The group I have standing with may led by Chuck Schumer and your Congresswoman, is this your district?
Chuck Schumer: (13:35)
Joe Biden: (13:36)
Oh, it’s Grace’s district?
Chuck Schumer: (13:38)
Joe Biden: (13:39)
I want to thank her personally for her gumption, the way she’s fought and hollered and fought so hard for all the people in this alley. I really mean it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But that goes for everybody here. And look folks, I want to thank the Governor leader Schumer and Kirsten, I should say Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Meng, and Maloney and Meeks and Mayor de Blasio for being here. It’s not, how can I say this? Sometimes some very bad things happen that have a tendency to bring out the best in a people and a country.
Joe Biden: (14:37)
And I think what people are seeing across this country from the wildfires in California and the far west, which I’m heading to in a couple of days, all the way down in Louisiana and the Gulf where I was a couple of days ago to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to a lesser extent, Delaware to a lesser extent and New York, people are beginning to realize this is much, much bigger than anyone was willing to believe. And the whole segment of our population denying this thing called climate change.
Chuck Schumer: (15:15)
Joe Biden: (15:17)
But I really mean it. Sometimes my mother used to say, “Out of everything bad, something good will come if you look hard enough for it.” Well, I think we’ve all seen, even the climate skeptics are seeing that this really does matter and it’s not just whether or not people who are just trying to get by in these homes in these alleys here, working their butts off [inaudible 00:15:45], it’s people in high towers along the shore we’ll find that as this rain and all this change takes place in the groundwater, the buildings are actually beginning to tilt. 100 story buildings. This goes so far beyond what anybody’s willing to speak to up to now. We just finished surveying some of the damage in the neighborhood here in Queens and early today, we were in the Raritan Valley in New Jersey, which also got badly, badly hit.
Joe Biden: (16:16)
Walking these neighborhoods, meeting the families and the first responders, seeing how folks are doing after this destruction and pain and another devastating storm is an eye opener. The people who stand on the other side of the fences who don’t live there, who were talking about interfering with free enterprise by doing something about climate change, they don’t live there. They don’t live. They don’t understand. And last week, right here in so many other communities, these waves crashed through the streets here, testing the aging infrastructure and taking lives. More lives were taken here then down in Louisiana. [inaudible 00:17:03] say that again. They had over 20 inches of rain. They had 178 mile an hour wind gusts and more lives were taken here and down in Louisiana. And you all saw the harrowing images of stories and families trapped in flooding basements, and struggling to survive.
Joe Biden: (17:25)
Well, you didn’t have to, just go along this valley, talk to the people. I’m sure the press has done that. My message to everyone grappling with this devastation is we’re here, we’re not going home until this gets done. I really mean that. We’re not leaving. We’re going to continue to shout as long as it takes to get real progress here. Folks, we have to take some bold action now to tackle that the accelerating effects of climate. If we don’t act now, I’m going to be heading, as Chuck knows, as the Senator knows, I’m going to be heading from here to Glasgow in Scotland for the [inaudible 00:18:03], all the nations of the world getting together to decide what we’re going to do about climate change. And John Kerry, the former Secretary of State is leading our effort, putting it together. We are determined.
Joe Biden: (18:16)
We are determined that we are going to deal with climate change and have zero emissions, net emissions by 2050, by 2020, make sure all our electricity is zero emissions. We’re going to be able to do these things, but we got to move. We’ve got to move, and we’ve got to move the rest of the world. It’s not just the United States of America. And so, folks, this summer alone communities with over 100 million Americans, 100 Americans call home have been struck by extreme weather. One in every three Americans has been victimized by severe weather, the hurricanes along the Gulf, the East Coast up through this community. And I saw the human and physical costs firsthand, as I said, Louisiana. But Governor, you called Phil Murphy, Governor Murphy, so many leading with urgency and action said enough, enough.
Joe Biden: (19:20)
And there’s not a single request I’m aware of, there may be something that we haven’t signed off on, that we haven’t signed off yet. And here’s the deal, the New York Fire Department, the New York Police Department, the Sanitation Department, and other first responders they’re leading with incredible, incredible courage. Two linemen have been killed trying to make sure we have. And folks, the evidence is clear, climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy and the threat is here, it’s not going to get any better. [inaudible 00:20:00] worse? We can stop it from getting worse. And when I talk about building back better, and Chuck is fighting for my program, our program on the hill, when I talk about building back better, I mean, you can’t build it to what it was before this last storm, you got to build better, so if the storm occurred again, there would be no damage.
Joe Biden: (20:22)
There would be, but that’s not going to stop us though, because if we just do that, it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse because the storms are going to get worse and worse and worse. And so, folks, we’ve got to listen to the scientists and the economists and the national security experts. They all tell us, “This is code red, the nation and the world are in peril.” And that’s not hyperbole, that is a fact. They’ve been warning us. The extreme weather would …
Joe Biden: (20:56)
And we’re living in real time now where we can look around the records and the ruins and the heartbreak from so many communities to feel it [inaudible 00:21:05] don’t understand, you can feel it, you can taste it, you can see it. Precious lives lost in Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, families living in shelters, subway stations flooded decaying infrastructure pushed beyond the limits. Lives and livelihoods interrupted once again. We’re working closely with the governors and mayors and members of Congress and community leaders. On Sunday, I immediately approved the disaster declaration of Governor Hochul to rush federal assistance to where it was needed here.
Kathy Hochul: (21:39)
Thank you President.
Joe Biden: (21:39)
FEMA’s working intensively with State and local officials assessing the damage and mobilizing resources. One of the things I want to thank Chuck for as leader of the Senate, he has helped mobilize State, local and federal. When they’re all working together, that’s when things happen positively. The Health and Human Services Secretary is working with the State to ensure folks on Medicare, Medicaid get the emergency care they need. They’re going to make sure it’s equitable so that the hardest hit, including lower income folks, communities of color and the elderly and the most vulnerable get help and get it first. They are the ones in the greatest need. And there’s much to be done [inaudible 00:22:21] working around the clock on all these critical needs and areas.
Joe Biden: (22:24)
Look, I say to anyone who could hear this, or if this is broadcast, if you need help, please go to disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA 1-800-621-3362, we can get you help now. We can get you help now. And I know these disasters, aren’t going to stop, they’re only going to come with more frequency and ferocity. As I said, I’m working in Congress to pass two important pieces of legislation that this man here is [inaudible 00:23:07] through the Congress for me. The bipartisan plan to modernize our physical infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our power transmission, our distribution lines. How many bridges I just went through in New Jersey that had been over flown by the river? The river has gone higher than the bridges. Having done damage to them.
Joe Biden: (23:30)
My build back better plan with key investments to fight climate change, cutting emissions and make things more resilient. Each dollar we invest, every dollar we raise, a city block by two feet, flood proof power stations, sanitation’s reduction in the buildup of [inaudible 00:23:53] in our forest, installing electrical lines underground rather than overhead saves us $6 for every single dollar we spend to do those things. Because the next time disaster strikes, the flood is contained, the fire doesn’t spread as widely and power stays on. Not to mention, those investments save lives, homes and create good paying union jobs.
Chuck Schumer: (24:17)
Yay. We like union jobs.
Joe Biden: (24:20)
I hosted 56 heads of State in Washington and I pointed out, we were talking about climate change and I said, “I think of one word when I think of climate change, jobs. Good paying jobs.” Each of these things requires a good paying job, not $7 or $12 or 15, but $45, $50 an hour plus healthcare that’s what is needed. And so, folks, Wall Street, not too far from here, acknowledges that if we spend the money and these things we’re going to grow the economy, increase employment. The fire in Oregon sent smoke all the way to the Atlantic. The storm in the Gulf, as you’ve now figured out, can reverberate 10 States away, supply chains and crop production get interrupted driving up costs, devastating industries all over America.
Joe Biden: (25:23)
This is everybody’s crisis, everybody’s crisis. And let me just say again, the fact is that the damage done on the West Coast, which I’ll be heading to, they’ve already burned five million acres to the ground. That’s bigger than the State of New Jersey, if I’m not mistaken. Five million acres and you see it by the smoke and ends up coming over the East Coast. Folks, we’re all in this. It’s about time we stopped the regional fights and understand helping somebody make sure there’s no fewer fires in the West warrants helping people in this alley make sure they’re not flooded.
Joe Biden: (26:07)
And by the way, it’s not just the flooding, I’ll end with this, not just the flooding. Flooding ends up overrunning sanitation systems and it causes disease and people get sick and it’s serious, serious business, so we got a lot of work to do. Again, it’s good paying jobs, we can put the economy back on a path to real growth, but in the meantime, we’re going to save a whole hell of a lot of people’s lives and we’re going to save a whole hell of a lot of money. God bless you all. Let’s get this done.
Chuck Schumer: (26:41)
Mr. President, look at that nice kid with the American flag. Say hello.
Joe Biden: (26:47)
How are you pal?
Chuck Schumer: (26:49)
What’s your name? He can’t hear us.
Joe Biden: (26:53)
How old are you?
Speaker 9: (26:56)
Joe Biden: (26:57)
Oh, you’re getting old.
Kirsten Gillibrand: (26:59)
Joe Biden: (27:00)
By the way, the neat thing about America, every time we end up with a problem going into a serious circumstance, we come out better than we went in. That’s because we’re so diverse. That’s America. Be proud of it. Thank you.
Kathy Hochul: (27:17)
God bless America.
Joe Biden: (27:20)
And don’t jump. All right.
Chuck Schumer: (27:24)
Joe Biden: (27:26)
Thanks. Thanks. I didn’t get to mention all of the names.