It’s hard to believe, but it was just three months ago when 80-year-old Howard Beach veteran Richard Leporin’s house was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and escalating flood waters and no electricity left him freezing and huddled under a blanket with his cat until his nephew came to visit and rescued them.
It’s taken a lot of hard work, but Leporin said things have gotten much better. He had to gut the water-logged first floor of his house, replacing the wooden beams and all the electrical wiring — something he said took about a day and a half with the help of his nephew and four friends.
“Everything is coming along all right,” Leporin told the Chronicle on Friday. “It’s almost back to normal.”
Leporin received money from FEMA to assist with his losses. He would not specify the amount, only saying that it was enough to be helpful.
With the temperature in his home at a cozy 75 degrees, his utilities restored, part of his home cleaned and repaired and his cat Jasamine, curled up by his feet, Leporin said he feels comfortable and ready to complete the recovery process.
Many in the community are in a similar situation.
George Buonocore, whose family had to be evacuated by the National Guard after Sandy because of a gas leak, has returned home and is wrapping up his storm-related repairs, including fixing damage to his chimney, yard and deck, but that wasn’t all.
“We had to bring in plumbers to change the pipes,” he said. “Everything had to be done over from scratch.”
Buonocore received some money from FEMA and some from his insurance carrier, but most of the repair costs came out of his own pocket, he said.
“I guess you just have to be grateful for what you have and move on,” he said. “What else can you do?”
Herlinde Martinez-Fanizza, along with her husband, Robert, and dog, Moka, are doing their best to return to normalcy. Using the $8,900 she got from her car insurance company for the total loss of her car, which was flooded in the storm, and some cash from her flood insurance policy, along with money out of her own pocket, Martinez-Fanizza bought a new boiler and gutted the first floor of her house, which included her kitchen, living room and bathroom. She also had it professionally cleaned and the mold removed.
“There is still a lot of work to do and there are still papers all over the place, and we’re going back and forth with insurance and cleaning up and assessing the damage, so I guess we’re still in limbo,” Martinez-Fanizza said. “But every day the sun comes up, and we just have to move on.”
She is on a waiting list for a contractor to make the rest of the repairs and is scheduled to have them done in April. Meanwhile, she says she and her husband are in good health and are doing well. Moka, however, has taken to stress eating and put on some weight. “She’s a chow hound,” Martinez-Fanizza said.
Asked if she is afraid of another Sandy-like storm blowing through the neighborhood in the future, Martinez-Fanizza replied, “You can’t live in fear. Life goes on. We just do the best we can and leave the rest in God’s hands.”