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New Year Brings Hope To Sandy-Ravaged Staten Island

Staten Island Flag

A flag shows hope and patriotism this New Year’s Day in Sandy-ravaged Staten Island. (Credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For those devastated by Superstorm Sandy, the new year brings new hope of better days to come – and also an emphasis on helping others in need.

The devastation remained visible in many areas on Staten Island. On Cedar Grove Avenue, it was as if time stood still, with some homes leaning and fractured just as Sandy left them.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams Reports

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported Phillip Traina was out before sunrise on New Year’s Day, checking on his brother’s battered deli and other properties.

“No business. We lost it all. Everything,” Traina said. “Got wiped out – they left the house in the street.”

Traina said the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered his brother about $8,000 for a house up the street, “but the house is gone, gone. He took a beating.”

But while some were languishing in limbo for insurance, loans, and any aid at all, the cavalry coming to the rescue was still visible in many forms, CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported.

On this New Year’s Day, a Red Cross disaster relief vehicle made it through the hardest hit sections of Staten Island, filled with food, water and volunteers doing special deliveries.

“I flew in Dec. 22 – my birthday – and we are here giving out lunches to everybody on Staten Island,” said Dawn Pierce.

She flew in from Charlotte, N.C. She has no ties to the community, and missed her birthday, Christmas and ringing in the New Year with her family to help strangers have a better holiday season.

“They’re just now getting heat and electricity back and their heat on,” Pierce said.

At the Cedar Grove Community Hub, people were spending New Year’s Day under a warm tent with free food. It was all thanks to volunteers such as Tim Chin, who has been spending his days rounding up donated meals.

“I was here last night. We had like 70, 80 residents that were just piled in here. They were watching TV; drinking cocoa,” Chin said.

They were also eating food cooked by Ben Swenson, who has been preparing and serving hot meals for days. Usually, he spends New Year’s Eve partying and New Year’s Day recovering, but not this year.

Now, like so many others, his life has become about helping those affected by Sandy, and he would not have it any other way.

Peter Testagrossa moved to Staten Island in 1962 from Italy, and built a beautiful home. After Sandy, he was relying 100 percent on donations.

“Fifty years of working, for nothing,” he said. “I lost everything.”

But Testagrossa, like so many others, was committed to having a happy New Year. And he will, thanks to the volunteers at the tent.

“It’s the human heart seeing clear what we need, which is each other, like family, sticking together,” said Bill Johnson.

He lost his home to flooding from Sandy, but on Tuesday, he was taking a break thanks to the volunteers too.

Things are far from back to normal, but the neighborly spirit remains.

Have you done anything to help since Superstorm Sandy? Leave your comments below…