Bush restates commitment for government to give $20 billion to New York

Thursday, February 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ President Bush is assuring New Yorkers they can expect the full $20 billion he pledged to help the city recover from the Sept. 11 attacks.

``When I said $20 billion, I meant $20 billion,'' the president told reporters Wednesday as he toured a police command center.

White House budget director Mitch Daniels said earlier this week that money for individual victims would be counted against the $20 billion package, but Bush said his aide misspoke.

``Mitch understands my pledge,'' he said.

After the tour, Bush stood between two stages filled with uniformed police officers and firefighters in a Manhattan hotel ballroom and declared again that he would deliver the $20 billion he promised the state's congressional delegation in the days after the terrorist attacks. Congress appropriated $10.7 billion of the promised $20 billion last year.

``You have this nation's respect, and you'll have this nation's support,'' Bush said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg replied: ``Mr. President, we understand that a promise made is a promise kept. Thank you for sticking up for us. ... We will never forget.''

Gov. George Pataki told the hotel crowd that Bush is ``a great friend to New York,'' and that New Yorkers appreciate his pledge. ``The president is a man of his word,'' Pataki said.

While in New York, Bush attended two private fund-raisers for Pataki, one of them a $15,000-per-person private reception at the mayor's mansion for about 100 guests. The second event, a $1,500-a-plate affair at a Manhattan hotel, drew about 700 people. In all, he helped Pataki raise about $1.5 million.

Bush told the hotel crowd that he identified North Korea, Iran and Iraq as ``an axis of evil'' because he wanted those nations to know the United States will not tolerate the development of destructive weapons to do harm.

``We will not be intimidated,'' Bush said. ``I will not allow nations to hold us hostage, or our friends and allies hostage. ... I don't see many shades of gray in this world. Either you are with us or against us. This great nation stands on the side of good.''

Bush said New York especially needs help restoring infrastructure and rebuilding roads damaged by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he was glad Bush backed up his private assurances about the money with a public declaration. ``Now most people will believe we will get the 20 and they won't play games with the 20,'' Schumer said.