Superstorm Sandy took Lenny Montalto’s life and his home, but the postal worker’s spirit endures in Oakwood Beach on Staten Island, neighbors said.
A makeshift memorial — scalloped bricks in a circle with an American Flag and eagle — is all that remains where 176 Fox Beach Ave. in Oakwood Beach — once stood.
It’s a reminder to those who remain in the block ravaged by the storm of the happy-go-lucky 53-year-old Montalto, who hosted barbecues, and family gatherings and played guitar there, according to his obituary.
“He was a great guy,” friend and neighbor Bobby Rosita, 70, told The Post this week. “Always happy, always talking. His daughters come every anniversary and put a candle [at the memorial] and hang out a little while,” the retired telephone company worker said.
Rosita, who knew Montalto “since the ’90s,” said he was with the doomed postal worker about an hour before all hell broke loose on Oct. 29 a decade ago.
“I was with Lenny and we walked down to the beach about 6:30 that night and the water was way out. It wasn’t raining. It didn’t look that bad,” Rosita recalled. “We walked back and I said, ‘Lenny, God forbid something happens, when you leave [your house], blow the horn so I can get outta here.’ I never saw him after that.”
When the water broke Rosita’s basement door, he made a run for the attic “and I stayed there for the whole flood.”
Montalto ordered his three kids to leave. He stayed home to make sure the water pump was working. Family members found his body in the basement where he had been trapped.
“It was like a whirlpool here,” Rosita recalled.
Rosita can’t believe it has been a decade since Sandy essentially wiped his block — below Hylan Boulevard — off the map. Fellow Fox Beach Avenue residents John Filipowicz, 51, and his 20-year-old son John, also perished. Their bodies were discovered locked in each other’s arms.
A number of homes were purchased by the state at their prestorm value.
“Nothing’s here. There used to be 165 houses here that’s not here no more,” Rosita said. Now, there’s maybe 10?”
Asked why he didn’t take the buyout, Rosita said, “They didn’t give me enough money.”
As for his own plight? “It is what it is. I don’t think it’s going to happen again in my lifetime,” Rosita predicted. “Sandy, I had water up to the top of the window. It went right over my garage. That was it.”
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