Sandy's devastating triple threat of high winds, storm surge and lashing rains forced Con Ed to cut utility service to lower Manhattan, toppled the arm of a crane at its midtown perch and caused the death of a Queens man who was killed when a tree crashed into his home.

"Con Ed shut down power Monday night to the southeastern tip of lower Manhattan, affecting about 6,500 customers because floodwaters breaching the seawall could damage equipment and cause lengthy repair delays, said spokesman Allan Drury.

"Seawater from the storm surge is threaten[ing] to flood the underground electrical delivery system. . . . The shutdown will help avoid extensive damage to both company equipment and customers' equipment. And that will allow us to restore power more quickly once the storm passes," Drury said.

Sandy's surge was expected to push water levels to a record 11.7 feet over flood stage in lower Manhattan, said state Director of Operations Howard Glaser, an aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Shortly before 4:30 p.m., Bloomberg's office retweeted The Weather Channel, saying the level had reached 11.25 feet, surpassing the 11.2 feet set in 1821. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported Monday night that seawater was entering the subway system in lower Manhattan.

In midtown, as Sandy churned toward New York City, the storm's gusts toppled the boom of a construction crane atop a luxury high-rise at 157 W. 57th St., leaving it hanging precariously from the edge of the building.

Developers said One57 aims to be Manhattan's tallest residential building, at 90 stories. Police cordoned off the blocks around it and shut off utilities in the area to prevent fires in case it fell. They also evacuated some nearby buildings, including Le Parker Meridien.

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"The crane seems to be well-secured to the building. The only part that is in danger of falling, we think, is the boom. If it would fall, the street is being kept clear," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The cause of the crane's collapse at the building near Carnegie Hall and Central Park was under investigation Monday night. Bloomberg said the details of what happened will have to wait.

"Why it happened at this point, nobody knows. You don't need to have somebody going out there to find out why. You don't need to lose a life to get some information that isn't going to be useful for the moment. Later on we certainly will be able to establish that," he said.

In the city's first fatality connected to Sandy, a 29-year-old man was killed when a tree crashed into his Flushing home about 7 p.m., police said.

The facade of a building on Eighth Avenue just north of 14th Street that had cracks in the wall fell to the sidewalk, but it appears no one was hurt, fire officials said.

Every path into and out of Manhattan was cut off Monday, including all bridges and tunnels, as well as trains and the subway system. Thousands of residents in low-lying areas, from the Rockaways to Battery Park City, were ordered to evacuate.

Schools were canceled Monday and Tuesday, as well as the New York Stock Exchange. The Great White Way also went dark because of Sandy.

Bloomberg said city government workers were expected to report to work Tuesday.

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"It'll take a day or two to recover," Bloomberg said earlier in the evening, before the brunt of Sandy was to bite the Big Apple. "I'm sure there'll be some things that will take into the weekend to recover."

Cuomo and Bloomberg throughout the day repeatedly implored residents of flood zones to evacuate so they wouldn't endanger the lives of rescuers.

"As the winds start building this afternoon, it gets more and more dangerous to go outside. And so you're sort of caught between a rock and a hard place," Bloomberg said.

"You should have left, but it's also getting to be too late to leave."