The president's helicopter flew over the Rockaways in southern Queens and the southern shore of Staten Island, where some areas were still under water. Obama landed in New Dorp, a neighborhood separated from the Lower Bay by New Dorp Beach and Midland Beach.
In New Dorp, Obama met local residents and relief workers at a disaster tent managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He met privately with Damien and and Glenda Moore, whose two young sons, Brandon and Connor, died during the storm when they were swept from their mother's arms.
The president visited a street heavily damaged by flooding and made some brief remarks outside the boarded-up St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India.
Obama said that FEMA's main task is providing emergency assistance.
"As you can see, as you travel around parts of Staten Island, as we flew over parts of -- other parts of the city and the region that had been impacted, there is still a lot of cleanup to do," he said.. "People still need emergency help. They still need heat. They still need power. They still need food. They still need shelter. Kids are still trying to figure out where they're going to school. So there's a lot of short-term, immediate stuff that has to be dealt with."
He added that officials must also begin to think about the future of coastal areas.
"But what we've also already heard is that there's going to be some long-term rebuilding that's required," Obama said. "You look at this block and you know that this is a community that is deeply rooted. Most of the folks that I met here have been here 20, 30, 50 years. They don't want to see their community uprooted, but there's got to be a plan for rebuilding, and that plan is going to have to be coordinated, and they're going to need resources."
Obama promised to return to the area to make sure everything possible is being done.
He said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will coordinate the administration's relief efforts. Donovan is a native New Yorker and former head of New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
FEMA currently has 7,000 employees in the area hit by Sandy and has established 65 disaster relief centers.
Most residents welcomed the president, although a young woman picking up supplies at the FEMA tent told a reporter Obama should have visited Staten Island sooner.
New York's two U.S. senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, traveled with Obama from Washington on Air Force One. He was joined in Staten Island by federal, state and local officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.