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Sandy Victims Come Together Six Months After Devastating Storm

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 30, 2013 8:12am

MIDLAND BEACH —  Tom Cunsolo knows he'll never return to his Midland Beach home.

“My footing is all compromised, the back of the house is sinking, the top has got a twist in it,” he said. “We know it needs to come down.”

On Monday, exactly six months  after the storm decimated neighborhoods along the coast of Staten Island, Cunsolo, 52,  still has been unable to rebuild. He said many other residents were in the same situation.

Cunsolo, who started volunteer aid group the Midland Beach Alliance and works with the Staten Island Community and Interfaith Long Term Disaster Recovery Organization, said people outside the stricken neighborhoods don't know residents are still homeless.

“They don’t know,” he said. “From the outside, everything looks fine. When you open the doors, you see.”

Residents and volunteers came together at Father Capodanno Boulevard and Midland Avenue to hold an interfaith vigil to commemorate the anniversary Monday.

“It’s important that we don’t forget, just because it’s six months later, there are people not in their homes,” said Donna Graziano, organizer of the Cedar Grove Community Hub.

“We must not forget and remember six months have gone by and we’re still the same.”

With songs from Occupy Sandy volunteers, speeches from residents and aid providers, residents came together to celebrate the work they’ve done so far and also remember the toll Sandy took on the neighborhood.

“It was a communal gathering to recognize it's been six months,” said Karen Jackson, who works for Project Hospitality, one of the organizers of the vigil. “It’s a long time, yet we’re going to be at this for years."

For Jeanine Tiplady, 38, whose first floor and basement in her Grimsby Street home was completely flooded, the vigil was a way to thank her local church for helping her get through the past six months.

Tiplady had to rent a home in Tottenville until the day before Easter, when she was finally able to move back into her Midland Beach house.

“It’s a sign from my mom that everything was going to be OK,” she said.

Cunsolo said uncertainty with FEMA guidelines and insurance companies withholding money has made it difficult for residents to rebuild.

He said that most of the attention the borough received directly after the storm has left, and people have forgotten the victims of the storm.

“Nobody knows,” he said. “When this first happened everybody was down here. But they don’t know what’s really going on down here.”