Federal disaster aid for residents of Bay Ridge who were pummeled by the Aug. 8 tornado is being held up until President Bush, who is on vacation in Texas for the rest of the month, decides whether he wants to release the funds.
Gov. Spitzer formally requested disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday — and called for swift action by the federal bureaucracy.
FEMA inspectors did make their own damage assessments on Aug. 13 and sent a recommendation to the president. But the buck has stopped — and apparently stalled — there, according to FEMA spokeswoman Barbara Lynch, who said the rare tornado may not have generated enough media coverage to get the president’s limited attention.
“Higher-profile cases seem to move a lot faster,” said Lynch. “This situation didn’t get the media attention it warranted.”
Lynch said agency inspectors were “just flabbergasted” by the millions of dollars of damage caused by the tornado — whose 136 mile-per-hour winds destroyed or damaged hundreds of cars and dozens of homes in the area around 67th Street between Fourth and Seventh avenues.
But if the president shares that flabbergasted feeling, he hasn’t expressed it yet. A call to the White House was not returned by deadline — and Spitzer’s office hasn’t heard a thing yet, either.
“All we can do is urge the president to act,” said Paul Larrabee, a Spitzer spokesperson. “We are working to expedite this process and to bring the urgency of this situation to the attention of the White House.”
Residents waiting for aid better not hold their breath. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty applied for federal help after the very-high-profile bridge collapse on Aug. 1 — but the White House only released the funds on Aug. 21.
For Brooklyn residents rendered roofless by the storm, a three-week delay would be too long.
“This is ridiculous that help is so slow to come,” said Hassan Hakmoun, who last week was busy moving his relatives out of their damaged house at 339 Bay Ridge Ave. “We all pay our taxes, but the government doesn’t like giving it up.”
The president will remain on his Crawford ranch through August.