STATEN ISLAND — An artist is building chairs from driftwood and placing them on Staten Island beaches to commemorate the 24 people who lost their lives in Hurricane Sandy.
Artist Scott LoBaido has built 18 of "The Empty Chairs" memorials and plans to finish the rest before the three-year anniversary of the storm on Oct. 29.
"This is something that hit us super hard," LoBaido said. "Staten Island lost more people than any other county. We lost more people than anybody on the East Coast."
For each person who died, LoBaido will create a unique chair including the victim's name and picture — or just the name if he couldn't find a picture online. He continues to install them at beaches closest to where they died.
The artist added a sign telling passersby what the project is about and asking them not to sit on the chairs.
"I hope they take a look at that sign so they know what it is and take a look at the name and know that we can't forget," LoBaido said.
"Not only can we not forget these poor innocents, [we can't forget] their families that are still reeling."
Among the victims for whom LoBaido has already created memorials include Brendan Moore, 2, and his brother Connor, 4, who died after the flood waters swept them away on Father Capodanno Boulevard; Artur Kasprzak, an NYPD officer who died saving his family from the storm; and Leonard Montalto, who was found dead in his Oakwood home.
LoBaido started the project last week after he returned to the borough from a six-month tour painting American flags across the country. It is modeled after similar "Empty Chair" memorials across the country.
While he said he didn't ask for permission, LoBaido said the Parks Department gave him the OK for his project.
The Parks Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
He said he's gotten positive responses from some of the family members since he put up the chairs and he hopes that they serve as a temporary memorial until Staten Island gets an official one in the future.
"I figured this is right here, let me do something," he said. "It's a small gesture, but it's nice to make art to maybe brighten somebody's day."