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Cuomo: Sandy put Ground Zero site in peril

Seawater floods the Ground Zero construction site in

Seawater floods the Ground Zero construction site in New York as a result of Hurricane Sandy. (Oct. 29, 2012) Credit: AP

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday described unprecedented scenes he said he witnessed in downtown Manhattan on Monday night, saying officials at one point feared for the integrity of buildings at the Ground Zero site.

"I've been involved in disaster mitigation all across the country when I worked in the federal government and I've seen all types of disasters . . . I have to tell you what I saw last night in downtown Manhattan, what went on in the South Shore of LI, were some of the worst conditions that I have seen," he told reporters.

"The Hudson River in downtown Manhattan was literally pouring into the Ground Zero site with such a force that we were worried about the structure of the pit itself," he said, adding that the Army Corps of Engineers' national underwater team is on its way to assess damage both to the site and other buildings. "We need them very badly."

The governor said the amount of water and the acceleration and rising of the river was "really frightening."

"When I tell you the Hudson River was pouring into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel like a river at high velocity; so it was a frightening sight -- and while the Hudson River was coming over from the west, the East River was coming over from the east," he said. "The East River was past First Avenue!"

Cuomo said the city would have to think seriously about ways to buttress the city's aging infrastructure in light of the increasing frequency of extreme weather patterns. "This city doesn't have experience with this type of weather pattern and this type of situation," he said.

"We have to find ways to build this city back stronger and better than ever before to make sure that if there is another situation like this -- another weather pattern like this -- we are more prepared and more protected than we have been thus far."

Cuomo said he spoke twice with President Barack Obama and spoke with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about accelerating the return of Wall Street. Shortly before 1 p.m., officials said the New York Stock Exchange would reopen Wednesday.

With Maria Alvarez and Zachary R. Dowdy

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