Hurricane Sandy Takes Deadly Toll on Staten Island's Vulnerable Seniors
MIDLAND BEACH — Hurricane Sandy took a terrible toll on Staten Island's seniors, many of whom lived alone and were unwilling or unable to leave their homes during the monster storm earlier this week.
The modest Hunter Avenue bungalow of Patricia Bevan, 59, who was found floating in a pool of water in front of her home, was strewn with dozens of action DVDs Friday given to her by family members for the holidays.
They included Earth Day, and each of the DVDs were marked with a small message.
“To Grandma, Happy Valentine’s Day. Love your grandson Christopher,” one said.
Neighbors remembered Bevan as a friendly woman who was constantly out walking with her tiny dog.
“She was pleasant. She would talk to other people’s dogs. She’d bring her dog to visit your dog,” said George Guzman, 65.
The deaths came as a shock to neighbors as they cleaned what was left of their Mid Island homes, adding yet another tragedy to the events since Sandy struck.
Police are still searching for more possible hurricane victims. The current death toll on Staten Island stood at 22, the NYPD said Saturday.
On Kiswick Street, Eugene Contrubis, 62, was found Tuesday in his home, after having apparently drowned. Neighbors said he was a friendly and gregarious man who tended to his backyard until his mother died three years ago.
He kept to himself after that, neighbors said.
“He didn’t speak after that,” said Larisa Yulis, 57. “I didn’t see him very often.”
Yulis said she didn’t even think that Contrubis was home when Sandy hit.
“It was dark in his house on the night of the storm,” she said. “I heard no screaming from his house.”
Not all of the seniors killed during the storm drowned on their own. George O’Regan, 79, slipped and fell in the darkened stairwell of New Lane Seniors Center at 70 New Lane in Clifton while delivering a prescription to a fellow tenants during a blackout on Wednesday.
Cops found him unconscious about 3 p.m. that day. He was taken to Staten Island University North Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
Officials at the center remembered him as an enthusiastic volunteer who frequently helped out in the kitchen.
“He was more a staff member than a volunteer,” said one staffer at the complex.
During the storm, several elderly Staten Islanders tried to escape the onslaught of the rising tides, but tragically lost their lives in the attempt.
When the water began to rise Monday on Naughton Avenue, Anna Gesso, 62, tried to head to higher ground with her neighbor, Giuseppe Lafata, 49.
Lafata said that both of them had tried to drive uphill, but their cars became waterlogged and they were forced to flee back home.
“I screamed for her to get away from her car and her house and come to me, but she refused,” he said.
There was no response from her door Tuesday morning, prompting Lafata, who grew concerned, to call police. Cops confirmed Lafata's worst fears early Wednesday — Gesso had drowned in her home.
Lafata, who knew Gesso for 20 years, remembered her as a kind neighbor who took pride in her immaculately-painted green home and blue Oldsmobile.
“She liked clean," he said. "Clean house, clean car.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees or 30 below," he added. "she had to clean.”
Other neighbors up and down the block said that Gesso was well-known in the neighborhood.
“She was a good person. She was a very good friend to the whole block,” said R. Demirovic, 62. “Everybody, they say we miss her.”