The day after Hurricane Sandy blasted the city, Larry Kata went to check on his uncle, Richard Leporin, who lives in Howard Beach.
“I found him upstairs shivering with his cat and a flashlight, because he had no power,” Kata said. “The water was six and a half feet high in his house.”
“The water was coming in so fast,” Leporin recalled. “I went downstairs and I saw the refrigerator floating in the kitchen. I thought about the electric. I said to myself, ‘I’d better get out of the water.’ I went upstairs and lay down on the sofa with the cat.”
Luckily, Kata helped the 80-year-old Navy veteran get to safety before anything happened to him.
Now, without electricity, heat, or hot water, Leporin and his cat have taken up residence with Kata in West Babylon, LI. He said he has some concern about leaving his property unattended because of possible looters, but added that there isn’t much left to steal. And he’s been coming back to clean up the mess left behind.
Piles of debris sat outside his Howard Beach dwelling last Friday and Leporin, assisted by Kata, was still working on the massive job of cleaning out his flood-ravaged home.
Still, he remained in good spirits, thankful for the possessions he was able to save — including his deceased wife’s ashes, family photos including their wedding portrait and some model boats that he built.
Leporin lost nearly everything on the first floor of his home, the contents of his garage and woodworking shop and his car. The house was cold, and a damp smell permeated the air. Leporin was dressed in several layers of clothes, wearing a knit cap and carrying a flashlight as he carefully walked through the space where he has lived since 1960.
“There was a wall here, and when my wife passed away, I made a memorial, real nice, and I had her ashes and everything here,” Leporin said as he pointed to a barren, dirt-covered area. “I’m 80 years old. I never did harm to anyone in my life. I’m not the only one. There are people who are worse off than me.”
Leporin said he hasn’t gotten any disaster assistance or services. The only help he has received is from family. And despite the long road ahead, he has no intention of moving out of Howard Beach.
“I’m not alone,” Leporin said. “It’s not like I can go to the corner and say to my neighbor, ‘Look what happened to my house,’ because he has the same thing.”