Families Adjust to Life in Hotel After Sandy

Three weeks after Sandy, one hotel on Staten Island remains filled with evacuees and recovery workers, and guests who may not leave until after next year are slowly adjusting to a temporary new life there. 

At the Hilton Garden Inn, where people driven from their homes by dangerous waves and flooding are taking refuge, everyone has a story.

Jo Ragusa, 82, has been at the hotel since the day before Sandy struck. Her home on Father Capodonno Boulevard in Midland Beach was washed out by the storm.

"We have to stay until after Christmas," she said. "They told us the place won't be ready until maybe sometime in January." 

For high school senior Jack Urbanek, being driven out of his home by Sandy is no excuse not to do his homework, so he brought along his keyboard.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time, with college applications and the school play... but I think I'm making it through," he said.

The Urbaneks' home in Jersey City was damaged by the storm, and the family is riding it out at the Hilton Garden Inn while repairs are being made.

"Thursday was a week in the hotel," said Jack's mother Judy Urbanek. "Before that, we were in our office for a few days."

Hotel owner Richard Nicotra said most of his hotel is full of people who were somehow touched by Sandy. The response he's received is overwhelming.

"We're getting checks and letters from around the world, like a $25 check from someone in North Carolina today, who said, 'I don't have a lot of money but give it to someone staying there,'" he said.

"Sometimes we're gruff and sometimes we may be not so polite," admitted Jack Urbanek's father Walter. "But when it comes to something like, everyone just seems to gel together and help each other. It's really amazing." 

Sandy will continue to be top of mind at the Hilton Garden Inn for some time. On Monday night, it hosted a dinner for Sandy victims; next week, there will be a benefit dinner to raise money for storm victims. 

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