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Surgery bills force Bayside couple to sell Xmas house

A Bayside couple who annually decorates two homes with more than 70,000 Christmas lights and hundreds of ornaments will be forced to scale back their holiday endeavor this year after one of them underwent a brain operation last month, forcing the pair to sell off one of their houses.

Robert Sibrizzi and Joseph Degaetano begin planning their massive Christmas decoration scheme in the spring of each year. But Sibrizzi, currently out of work, was not able to use Degaetano’s health insurance for the removal of a brain tumor because his partner’s place of work does not insure same−sex couples.

The couple, who have an adopted 4−year−old daughter, were forced to sell their home of six years and move next door into the home of Degaetano’s mother. Sibrizzi said their annual Christmas display at 33−20 and 33−24 205th St. in Bayside will now be restricted solely to the latter of the two homes.

“There will have to be less this year because there’s only one property,” Sibrizzi said. “Before we had two garages, the fronts and backs of two houses and the insides of two houses. This year it will be just one house. It’s going to be cut in half.”

Sibrizzi has been putting on a Christmas light show since he lived in the Bronx during the early 1980s. He and his partner have decorated his mother−in−law’s home since 1996.

Last year they put up 500 decorations and 70,000 lights on the two homes. But they will only decorate Degaetano’s mother’s home with an estimated 100 movable statues and 30,000 to 40,000 lights this year.

Sibrizzi, now 46, has suffered debilitating seizures since the age of 11 following a childhood incident in which he fell and struck his head. On April 20, doctors at Long Island Jewish Hospital removed a tumor on his right temporal lobe and he has not had any seizures since.

But state laws prevented Sibrizzi from using his partner’s health insurance to pay for the operation, which was also not deemed as life−threatening. New York state currently only allows shared insurance for same−sex couples who were married out−of−state.

“Right now, we’re hoping for the law to pass, so I can get coverage through Joseph,” Sibrizzi said of the state Legislature’s upcoming vote on gay marriage.

The costly procedures have forced the couple to move their belongings to Degaetano’s mother’s home next door. Sibrizzi said the home will be up for sale in a few weeks.

But he said their Christmas decorations, which cost the couple $1,200 per month in electric bills, will light up their current abode on Thanksgiving and remain on through the New Year. This year’s display will include an elaborate computer system hookup that will involve thousands of flashing lights, 10 trees, a huge rooftop cross and music.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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