After The Storm, Staten Islanders Share The Misery

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    Steve Santo stands in the kitchen of his house on the south side of the New York City borough of Staten Island on Friday.
    Mike Segar/Reuters/Landov
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    Staten Island was devastated by Superstorm Sandy and suffered the highest death toll of all of New York City's boroughs.
    Jim Zarroli/NPR
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    Julie Traina tries to recover some personal items from her parents' destroyed home.
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    New York National Guard troops unload water to distribute to residents.
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    Sheila and Dominic Traina hug in front of their home, which was demolished.
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Much of the worst damage from Superstorm Sandy happened in New York's less touristy outer boroughs.

Some neighborhoods have been changed forever by the storm. Staten Island saw half of the city's fatalities. On Friday, residents sorted through waterlogged belongings and tried to figure out next steps.

Rosemarie Caruso lives a block from the water on the eastern shore of Staten Island. She says there have been hurricanes before and all they brought was a little flooding. She figured she could ride out Sandy.

"So we really thought we'd get a little water, [but] it was major, everything blowing, I mean the water had waves in it," she says. "It was like the ocean came up on land."

On Monday night as the water reached their house she and her husband fled. But later that night she came back.

"And that's when I saw all the boats floating in the water, hitting the cars, hitting the houses," she continues. "It was a very scary sight."

On Friday, an enormous boat sat at the end of her street in a restaurant parking lot.

Caruso's house is uninhabitable. There's no power. No heat. She and her husband spent the morning removing waterlogged furniture and clothes and piling them in her yard.

All over Staten Island, mounds of garbage are growing on street corners and in yards.

Julian Larocca hired a crew of day laborers to scrape the mud out of his neighbors' houses. Houses in this part of Staten Island can sell for millions of dollars if they're on the water. Now the ones on the water are the hardest hit.

"Their houses are totally destroyed," he says. "It's not just from the water, but all the residual from the kerosene and diesel fuel from the boats, that's all you smelled the day after on Wednesday."

For those who've lost their homes, the climb back will be a long one. On Hylan Boulevard on Friday, a mobile rescue station was set up where people could get food and water, charge their phones and register for aid with Lisa Barnett of FEMA.

All morning a slow trickle of people came by, including Maria Deery. Her condo down the road was flooded, and she's sleeping on a friend's couch. She says she has plenty of insurance but she's worried about her near-term future.

An apartment building's contents are placed on the sidewalk during cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. The sign in the window reads, "We will get through this. God bless." i i

An apartment building's contents are placed on the sidewalk during cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. The sign in the window reads, "We will get through this. God bless." Jim Zarroli/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Zarroli/NPR
An apartment building's contents are placed on the sidewalk during cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. The sign in the window reads, "We will get through this. God bless."

An apartment building's contents are placed on the sidewalk during cleanup from Superstorm Sandy. The sign in the window reads, "We will get through this. God bless."

Jim Zarroli/NPR

"What do I do in the meantime; I have to go to work on Monday? Basically I have to go to a friend's house or a relative's house to take a shower," she says, tearfully. "Believe me, there's people in much worse situations, but I guess I need to get something permanent in the near term."

Most people here say the same thing: Other people had it worse. Everyone knows the story about the two Staten Island children swept from their mother's arms to their death as the waters rose.

But there's misery to go around. Bernard Manuel has been sleeping in his wrecked car outside his flooded home. He's heard there are looters breaking into abandoned homes at night. If they show up, he says, he's ready for them.

"Oh then justice will be served," Manuel says, without elaborating. "Justice will be served!"

The man next door shows up to bring Manuel coffee. That's the silver lining behind the worst storm to hit Staten Island in memory: Neighbors are helping neighbors as people everywhere begin to rebuild their lives.

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