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SI Restaurant Owner Tries To Rebuild Business In Sandy Aftermath

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A Staten Island businessman was hit with a one-two punch when he lost both his home and his restaurant in Hurricane Sandy. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

In its heyday, Toto's Restaurant in Midland Beach drew crowds during the breezy summer months for its popular horseshoe tournament. The family-run business was a meeting place for food and family for decades.

All of it was wiped out by Hurricane Sandy. Nearly three months after the storm, owner John Toto still can't believe the damage.

"In the course of two hours, your entire life gets turned upside down," he said.

Floodwaters took out the restaurant's first floor, destroying everything inside. Power lines came down. Sand from the beach across the street piled high, and the restaurant's entire parking lot literally sank under the pressure.

It took more than a month to remove all of the sand. Some of it is still there. The rest of the work has been slow going because of what Toto calls a frustrating lack of coordination between a host of city agencies and utility companies responsible for damage to the street and power lines.

"All the engineers for the different agencies met down here," he said. "Con Ed, DEP, DOT, Verizon. And everyone has a plan finally to make this thing work, and they all want to make it work. But it's, who goes first?"

Turns out, Con Edison went first, fixing the badly damaged utility poles. Toto expects the DOT to step in sometime next week and begin work on the street repair.

Like many of his neighbors, Toto's home, located just a block away from the restaurant, was so badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy that it wasn't worth rebuilding.

The house has already been demolished, and Toto said he's been so busy focusing on rebuilding his restaurant that he hasn't had time to process the loss of his home.

"It could have been worse, and that's how I look at it," he said. "I try to be positive."

So far, Toto said he hasn't received any money from FEMA or from his insurance company for his restaurant or his home because he had no flood insurance.

Still, he said, he's trying to remain focused on the future. He hopes he can reopen his restaurant sometime this summer.

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