NEW YORK —
Among them was Patti Snyder, who grew up on the block and never left. Her brother, Leonard Montalto, lived down the street. Two days after the storm, when his body was found amid the ruins of his home, Snyder knew it was over.
"That's when we knew we weren't going to rebuild at that point," she said. "It just took everything out of us."
Monte was standing in the middle of his flooded home the day after Sandy, ankle-deep in toxic sludge, when he realized his house was beyond saving. He walked out and hasn't gone back in since.
He still can't bring himself to approach the side of the house where his good friend, John Filipowicz, used to show up with a six-pack of beers and burgers to grill after work. Filipowicz died, along with his son, in the basement of their home.
"I am not the person that I was because of what happened," Monte said. "I have trouble with everything. ... I have trouble with just being a person."
The residents of Oakwood Beach are still working out the details of their buyouts but rest easier knowing they'll receive the pre-Sandy value of their homes — enough to set up somewhere far from shore.
Monte grew up poor in Brooklyn and always vowed to give his two daughters a home they could be proud of. Twelve years and more than $500,000 later, he had transformed his bungalow into a beautiful, slate-gray home with a widow's peak at the top. On clear nights, he'd sit on the second-story deck and watch the lit-up Staten Island Ferry crossing the bay.
Now the swimming pool that he worked so hard to afford has been overtaken by nature. Minnows dart among seaweed and algae in the murky water. Halloween decorations that adorned the house last fall are still lying on the patio.