Mr. Obama brought the spotlight to people still without power and hugged many of those trying to rebuild their lives. He also emphasized unity, nine days after a divided America gave him a second term.
"During difficult times like this, we're reminded that we're bound together and we have to look out for each other," Obama said from a Staten Island street that was demolished by the storm. "And a lot of the things that seem important, the petty differences, melt away."
The president took a three-hour tour of the damaged areas, starting with the hardest-hit regions. His helicopter flew over Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, including the waterfront community of Breezy Point, where roughly 100 homes burned to the ground in a massive wind-swept fire.
Superstorm Sandy killed at least 120 people and left many homeless. Thousands are still without power, two and a half weeks after Sandy hit.
Mr. Obama was joined on the tour by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, also flew up with the president.
Cuomo said this week that he would request $30 billion in federal aid to rebuild.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said he couldn't comment on Cuomo's request because the administration hadn't seen the details. He said the government will continue to do everything possible to cut red tape and help affected communities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.