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Cuomo says to expect "long term" recovery after Sandy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, told reporters he spent a “frightening” night monitoring storm devastation in lower Manhattan at a briefing addressing short term repair efforts and long term weather concerns.

Cuomo spent Monday night traveling lower Manhattan, including the Ground Zero construction site where water was pouring in at one point. He says he saw many scary sights, including the Hudson River streaming into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel at the tip of Manhattan, and the Hudson and East Rivers rising up and converging in downtown New York.

“It was really frightening,” Cuomo said.

As the lengthy flood recovery begins, the governor says the most devastating news of Sandy’s effects is the death of 15 New Yorkers in the storm.

“My guess is, if anything, that number is going to get larger,” Cuomo said.  

Cuomo and Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota say many subway stations remain underwater, including South Street Station, where water is up to the ceiling.  Power is down on commuter lines as far north as Croton–Harmon in Westchester, and as far east as New Haven, Connecticut.  And there’s been flooding on the Long Island Rail Road.

City buses, largely undamaged, were to resume on limited schedule, with fares waived through Wednesday.

Wall Street plans to re-open for business Wednesday, but power will likely be out for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers for several more days.  Electricity was knocked out to 90 percent of customers on Long Island.

Cuomo says he has asked the chair of the New York State Public Service Commission to monitor the Long Island Power Authority, which he says has a “poor track record” for restoring electricity on a timely basis.

The governor says New Yorkers should expect a “long term recovery and reconstruction” after Sandy, and he says the structure of New York city’s transportation system may have to be redesigned. For instance, he says a transformer exploded Monday night when the seawater hit Con Edison electrical equipment.

“When hot electrical equipment hits cold salt water, that is bad combination,” Cuomo said. “That is a design flaw for our system now, if you anticipate these extreme weather conditions.”  

And the governor says extreme weather occurrences are becoming more common.

“That is not political statement, that is a factual statement,” Cuomo said. “Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.”

Cuomo says after the devastation experienced upstate by storms Irene and Lee last year, and now Sandy downstate this year, no weather pattern would shock him at this point.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.