Sandy May Be Costliest Hurricane To Hit East Coast

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Superstorm Sandy cost the city and local businesses some $20 billion dollars.

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Sandy was one of the biggest hurricanes ever to hit the Atlantic Coast. It may also turn out to be the most expensive. Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would seek a staggering $42 billion in federal aid to rebuild. This comes after New Jersey's governor said the storm would cause his state nearly $30 billion. NPR's Joel Rose has the latest on Sandy's steep price tag.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Even before Sandy made landfall four weeks ago, the damage estimates were measured in the billions of dollars, and they've been rising steadily ever since. Two weeks ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo turned heads when he suggested the state would ask for more than $30 billion in federal aid. Now, Cuomo is openly comparing the storm to the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history: Katrina.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: I think you're going to have a very strong case on the numbers that Hurricane Sandy was more impactful from a specific housing economic development point of view than Hurricane Katrina.

ROSE: Governor Cuomo emerged from a meeting with New York's congressional delegation today with lots of numbers about Sandy: 11 tunnels flooded, two million customers without power, 265,000 businesses affected. But the number that caught everyone's attention was 42, as in $42 billion. As what Cuomo is asking Congress to appropriate to help New York rebuild from Sandy and to prepare for the next megastorm.

CUOMO: The taxpayers of New York cannot shoulder this burden, and I don't think it's fair to ask them to shoulder this burden. This state and this region of the country have always been there to support other regions of the country when they needed help. Well, we need help today.

ROSE: Cuomo points out that Congress allocated hundreds of billions over the years to help Florida and the Gulf Coast recover from past hurricanes. And he's not the only governor looking to the federal government for help with the recovery from Sandy. Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his state suffered $29 billion worth of damage in the storm. Christie, who's a Republican, and Cuomo, who's a Democrat, say they're planning to work together on a bipartisan request to Congress. But that may still be a tough sell in the midst of contentious negotiations in Washington over how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff and reign in the federal deficit.

TAD DEHAVEN: The idea that Congress is just going to send $40 billion to New York and not ask any questions is absurd.

ROSE: Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. He doesn't blame Governor Cuomo for aiming high. But DeHaven questions whether all of that spending is really necessary for the region's recovery.

DEHAVEN: If based on the price tag, he's probably going to be including a lot of extras that one could probably quibble with whether it's, you know, truly a result of the hurricane or if it's using the hurricane as an excuse to pay for things that you'd rather have Uncle Sam pay you for.

ROSE: DeHaven suspects Cuomo's request is the beginning of a negotiation with Congress. Though, Cuomo says the damage estimate from Sandy is only likely to go up at this point, not down. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

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