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Post-Sandy, Massapequa residents deal with mystery holes

Lisa Sileo points at her driveway which has

Lisa Sileo points at her driveway which has cracked since superstorm Sandy, there is also a small hole on the property which formed and has since been filled with sand in Massapequa. (Dec. 27, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

Something has been happening under the Massapequa properties of the Sileo and Pereira families since superstorm Sandy and no one can tell them what -- or why.

The Division Avenue neighbors are dealing with their share of storm damage, including water-warped walls, damaged boilers and flooded cars.

But a puzzling new problem has been unearthed: A 3-foot-deep hole opened up in each of their front yards, both discovered in November when someone unwittingly stepped through the ground and lodged a leg in soil.

The situation resembles one in the Rockaways, where in November about a dozen holes appeared on properties after Sandy. In that case, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection determined the holes were caused by damage to private water and sewer lines.

But both Massapequa families said they have no clue what caused their holes.

"The holes are in the same spot in each yard," Pauline Pereira said. "It can't be a coincidence."

Oyster Bay Town, in which Massapequa lies, suggested that improperly filled cesspools could be to blame for the holes. But the families said they're not aware of cesspools beneath their homes. The town does not track cesspools, and Nassau County property cards don't show cesspool history.

Nassau said cesspools are the property owner's responsibility. And the county's sewer line, it added, is "within the roadway right of way, not on the resident's property."

An engineer from Pereira's insurer came Wednesday to view her property's hole but had no immediate feedback. "He's just taking pictures, like everybody else," she said.

The families said they can't afford to investigate or fix the holes, especially not after covering other Sandy damage.

Lisa Sileo, 45, said she has spent hours calling Sandy and legal helplines, to no avail.

"Everyone keeps passing the ball," Joseph Sileo, 55, said.

Oyster Bay has told both families that the town is not responsible for damage on private property, which officials reiterated to Newsday. The Sileos' insurance company said it cannot cover their damage.

After falling into the hole in his yard, Sileo filled it with sand as a precaution, but there is evidence of a larger problem. His driveway is buckling as if the ground is trying to push through. His lawn is warped, dipping at some points and collecting rain as never before.

"Everything is getting all wavy," Lisa Sileo said. " . . . I just don't know what it is."

The hole next door in Pereira's garden, now covered with a chair to keep her sons, ages 8 and 18, from falling in again, is about 1 by 3 feet wide, reaching several feet back toward her house.

"It keeps getting deeper," Pereira, 39, said. "I told my husband we can bury him and three other husbands in there."

The families are determined to solve the mystery.

"If it's nothing, that's great," Pereira said. "If it's something, I need to know."

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