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Biden’s Plea After Seeing Ida Damage: ‘This Is Code Red’

Of the 50 deaths attributed to Hurricane Ida, more than half of the deaths, 27, were recorded in New Jersey. In New York City, 13 people were killed, including 11 in Queens.

A woman looks over damage to a neighborhood caused by Hurricane Ida on Monday, August 30, 2021 in Kenner, Louisiana. Ida made landfall yesterday as a Category 4 storm southwest of New Orleans. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS)
Scott Olson/TNS
(TNS) - President Biden on Tuesday visited a New York City still licking its wounds from Hurricane Ida’s wrath, speaking with locals in hard-hit sections of Queens before issuing an urgent plea for action to combat climate change.

“This is Code Red,” the president, clad in his Ray-Ban Aviators, said as he was joined by local politicians near a low-lying residential section of East Elmhurst, where he had crossed puddles and greeted locals. “The nation and the world are in peril.”

Of the 50 deaths attributed to Hurricane Ida, more than half of the deaths, 27, were recorded in New Jersey. In New York City, 13 people were killed, including 11 in Queens.

Six days after an unprecedented deluge drowned the city, turning subway tunnels into rivers and basement homes into deadly traps, Biden expressed hopes that the growing climate hazards can be blunted.

At the same time, he predicted that dangerous storms are only going to worsen and said the nation must listen to scientists and brace itself for global warming’s impact. He said he thinks even climate skeptics are beginning to reckon with reality.

“The evidence is clear: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives and our economy,” the president said. “And the threat is here. It’s not going to get any better.”

The monsoon last week marked the second record-setting rainfall to hit New York City in the final weeks of this summer, delivering more than a dozen deaths and millions of dollars in damage to a city that’s not built for hurricane-level storms. In a single hour on Wednesday, more than 3 inches of rain descended on Central Park, obliterating the previous high of just under 2 inches an hour just a week prior with Tropical Storm Henri.

Officials have stressed that warming of the atmosphere is creating a new normal, but last week’s calamity appeared to catch New York City flatfooted. More people were reported dead in the city than in New Orleans, which faced the full brunt of the storm but is reinforced by new levees erected after Hurricane Katrina.

As Biden spoke, crowds nearby hung over a fence and held blue placards with the words “Biden: Climate Emergency Now!” The White House has faced criticism and protests from the left for moving too slowly to curb the carbon emissions that are heating the earth.

Biden’s speech, though light on specifics, seemed intended to express intensity on an issue that has long been viewed by Democrats as dire.

“I know these disasters aren’t going to stop,” the president said in his 15-minute speech. “They’re only going to come with more frequency and ferocity.”

Biden touted his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and his “Build Back Better Recovery Plan,” which includes clean energy provisions.

Along the way, he tried to tie new green projects to job creation: Even as he stressed the threat climate change poses to the nation’s economy, he suggested that work to build solutions could juice the labor market.

“I think of one word when I think of climate change: Jobs,” Biden said. “Good-paying jobs.”

As the president described eco-friendly careers with $50 hourly wages, someone in the crowd shouted : “That sounds great!”

Before delivering his remarks, Biden had bounced from house to house on in an alleyway between 87th St. and 88th St. in East Elmhurst, shaking hands and hugging residents. At one point, a group of union workers in hard hats showered the commander-in-chief with cheers.

During the visit, the president joined a crush of high-powered New York politicians, including Gov. Hochul, Mayor de Blasio, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The whole tour lasted just shy of an hour and spotlighted a particularly battered block.

Saida Magidi, who has lived there for seven years, said some five feet of water submerged the first floor of her home last week. She expressed appreciation for Biden’s visit but said she hopes he backs up his talk.

“It’s nice to see him, but we want to see action,” Magidi, 48, said. “Is he going to do something for the people?”

The president has taken some steps. He approved a major disaster declaration for parts of New York City, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pump out direct cash relief to storm victims.

De Blasio — who has faced fierce criticism for not issuing clearer warnings before Ida rolled in last week — praised Biden for signing off on the declaration.

“I appreciate him coming here. I appreciate even more that he signed the disaster declaration that will now allow real resources to flow into the hands of New Yorkers,” de Blasio said during a briefing at City Hall Tuesday morning.

Schumer also promised congressional efforts to deliver public assistance to those affected, including grants of up to $36,000 per person.

The president said it’s America’s duty to support communities like the one he visited, as he spoke in an asphalt alley in a working-class neighborhood.

“This is America, where I’m standing right now,” Biden said, drawing a line between East Elmhurst and other hard-working pockets across America. “It’s about time we step up. They’re always the first ones who are hurt and last ones to get help.”

©2021 New York Daily News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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