Less than 24 hours after NBC 4 New York's report of a Long Island man living in his backyard because his house was flooded out by Sandy and federal aid expired, neighbors and officials are stepping up to help the beleaguered storm survivor.
Chuck Burgio, a 53-year-old unemployed Teamster battling cancer, has been living in his Lindenhurst backyard since last week -- that's when federal aid ran out and he could no longer afford to live in local motels. His actual house was flooded by Sandy 10 months ago and remains gutted -- there's no floor, just standing 2-by-4s and exposed piping.
"I've been in the backyard right here, getting bit up by mosquitoes and gnats," he said.
Things started picking up Monday night, when a good Samaritan dropped by with a gift of $500 and a promise to rebuild Burgio's entire house for free, prompting a stunned Burgio to declare "I'm going to have a heart attack."
But the neighborly help was just beginning: on Tuesday, nonprofit volunteer Michele Insignia came with news that the Lindenhurst group Adopt-a-House was using its Facebook page to raise money for Burgio.
"No one deserves to live like this, not when you had a completely normal life and 10 months later, you still can't even get that life back," said Insignia.
Neighbors also left gift cards and helped secure a hotel room to replace the FEMA-funded room he lost last week.
Lindenhurst's deputy mayor promised to help secure long-term disability benefits for Burgio. And a private lawyer has promised to help fight Burgio's bank for the release of $90,000 in flood insurance money tied up since Sandy.
"Chuck got to that point where he felt he had no other options, and that shouldn't be the case," said Deputy Mayor Kevin McCaffrey.
Officials said there are many other Sandy victims still struggling to rebuild their lives, and Burgio's story illustrates government aid isn't getting to some fast enough.
"The money's there, but it has not filtered down to where it needs to be right now," said McCaffrey. "We are frustrated it hasn't reached the people that it needs to reach."
Sandy dumped 4 feet of water in Lindenhurst and devastated much of the neighborhood.