Many students live in waterfront houses on Fairfield Beach Road. But most don’t end up homeless less than two months into the school year.

The residents of the stilt-supported “Pawn Shop” house, located at 2155 Fairfield Beach Road, found themselves in that exact position last Wednesday when extremely high tide waters severely damaged their house’s structure, deeming it “unfit for human inhabitation.”

The boys were evacuated from the house “in an army convoy truck to the Grape” and returned by themselves an hour later, according to Justin Notoro ’06.

“The town said we were lucky it [the house] didn’t fall down while we were sleeping,” said Thomas Smith ’06.

He said that town officials who looked at his house believed it could collapse into the Long Island Sound the following night.

Another resident, Greg Gargiulo ’06 said, “I feel at a loss. I don’t really know what to do with myself.”

“The damage was a result of years of neglect,” said Notoro.

Some of the support beams were already bent, he said, and all of the concrete foundations were completely displaced by the water.

“The house was creaking while we were sleeping,” said Notoro. “You could feel it move”.

The boys said it has been doing that all year, but the night of Oct. 12 was the first time it became seriously noticeable.

The boys’ landlord, John Kusej, has a grace period to fix the house. Two structural engineers in conjunction with the town were hired to fix everything according to regulation.

The boys said they lost two staircases, a fence, their driveway, and part of their senior year.

If the house is fixed in “an adequate grace period,” the boys will move back in. Kucej has offered them the option of voiding the lease and receiving a refund.

But what has he been providing the homeless tenants in the meantime?

“Absolutely nothing, not one single thing,” said Notoro.

Kusej, who has not offered to pay for any of the boys’ lodgings, has not returned two phone calls seeking comment.

“He pulled up [last] Thursday night and said ‘there’s nothing wrong with the house,” said Smith, “despite the fact that inspectors repeatedly told us not to go back in. There was a sign that said ‘unfit for human habitation’.”

Gargiulo said “Kucej hasn’t handled the situation like we would’ve wanted a landlord to in a troubled time like this.”

The boys, who were “kicked out” by James Gilleran, Chief Building Official for the town of Fairfield, along with the Health Department, could have been arrested for trespassing if they were to re-enter the premises.

The house itself became a liability for the town.

Gilleran said the house was no longer condemned and in the midst of repairs. The boys could move in as soon as the gas and water mainlines gets hooked back up, he said.

Repairmen at the house were unwilling to comment beyond their statement that “repairs are going well.”

“Pretty dangerous,” Gilleran said of the exposed mainlines that were first buried in the sand and then hanging out.

The water mainline needs to be winterized or else it could freeze when the temperature drops, he added.

But because of how close the “Pawn Shop” is to the ground, Gilleran said, “If we get a big storm I don’t think that house will be there.”

The house is located in a “V-Zone,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A V-Zone is a spot on the beach that gets a lot of wave action, “a point that is pretty much unprotected,” said Gilleran. “There’s lots of activity under their house, and this was a pretty small storm.”

“You can’t underestimate the force of water and what it could move,” he said, noting the Category 3 hurricane that hit Fairfield Beach in 1938 and wiped out 17 cottages at the end of the private road.

The homeless roommates have been sleeping at friends’ houses, each scattered in different locations.

“Everyone has been very generous,” the boys said, noting they were thinking about having a benefit party if they were able to reoccupy the house.

“If we move back in, we’re not paying for a single day we weren’t there,” said Notoro.

“We used to joke around about stuff like that,” Gargiulo said. “We never though it’d be a reality.”

His advice to future Fairfield Beach renters is to “know what you’re getting yourself into, and “be aware of what damage a storm could do when you’re right on the water.”

“Renting off-campus is often students’ first dose of the ‘real world’, said Dean of Students Mark Reed. “Therefore, they have to plan for it as such.”

“Accidents and other emergencies will always occur,” said Reed. “What students should do is take steps to plan for and control what they can to the best of their ability.”

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