LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Life after Hurricane Sandy has taken a uniquely sad twist for a Long Island man who said he is being forced to live out of his backyard as he struggles to get back on his feet — nearly 10 months after the storm.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday, Chuck Burgio, 53, of Lindenhurst, had been living in hotels for months thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but last week the federal money ran out and he was told to pack up and go.
Thus, he has been cooking, sleeping, working out and even bathing in his own backyard. His home was gutted by Sandy and he does not have the funds to repair it.
Burgio’s backyard is furnished with a chaise lounge, an air mattress, a waterlogged blanket, and a soaked pillow. He said his barbecue grill, also in the backyard, is the only item that survived Sandy.
Scant feet away, his home remained ravaged since Sandy swooped in off the Lindenhurst Canal and roared down South 5th Street like a locomotive.
“I was staying right to the end,” Burgio said. “When I saw that water coming down the street – lights going in and out — if I had stayed in that house, would have lit up like a Christmas tree.”
Burgio, who lives alone with his companion dog, Chico, got out safely and then filled out forms for help.
“It wasn’t easy, he said. “You had to go to them. They weren’t coming to you. I finally got into a motel.”
He slept in motels for 10 months, but last week, his federal aid abruptly ended.
“FEMA pulled the plug on me,” Burgio told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “They said, ‘Okay, that’s it, we’re not paying for the room. You better get out tomorrow, check-out time.'”
With no other options, he moved his belongings into his backyard and his garage, which friends set up with temporary electricity and heat lamps.
A neighbor became upset with Burgio’s living situation and publicized his plight.
“She took a picture of me sleeping on a chair,” Burgio said. “She saw the way I was living and she wasn’t happy. She came over and said, ‘Chucky, you’re not going to live like that as long as I’m alive.'”
And since then, neighbors have begun unexpectedly showering him with generosity.
“Another fruit salad from this little girl,” he said as a youngster brought him a treat. “Thank you, honey. Thank you so much.”
Burgio has had a health setback. He took a bad fall.
“They did a CAT scan – a bad injury – and we found something else,” he said. “I’m all bandaged up, but I’m going to get through it – don’t you worry.”
The “something else” was kidney disease. As a result, Burgio could no longer work as a Teamsters Union trucker.
So for now, he repairs lawnmowers inside his garage and calls it a journey of recovery.
“I met all strangers through this whole ‘trip’ and they all did so much — you have no idea — and God bless them,” Burgio said.
Burgio’s neighbors have offered showers and toilets. Catholic Charities has come by with food, and a local nonprofit has been trying to get Burgio reinstated at a FEMA hotel.
FEMA said it cannot comment on specific cases, but also said it was never the intention of the government to house Sandy victims indefinitely.
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