NEW YORK CITY — Hours before the brunt of Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit, the powerful storm had already sent trees crashing to the ground, toppled fences and shattered street signs.
A construction crane nearly collapsed after it was pummeled by gale-force winds at West 57th Street and Sixth Avenue, while in Park Slope a massive tree crushed a silver Honda on Garfield Place between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The facade of a building on Eighth Avenue and West 14th Street collapsed, and windows were knocked out of the first floor of a building housing the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The city had received more than 1,000 reports of tree damage in parks and on streets as of 5:45 p.m. Monday. About half the reports were for downed trees, half were for other damage, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a 5:45 p.m. press conference.
The NYPD warned the public not to call 911 about downed trees unless they were a threat to lives.
A Queens man, 30, who was struck by a tree in Kissena Park, was the only fatality as result of the storm as of Monday evening, according to police.
Bloomberg warned the public to stay indoors to because conditions were expected to become more dangerous as the night progressed. "Winds of this magnitude can pick up something in a moment’s notice and throw it right at you very hard, and it can be fatal, "Bloomberg said at a 5:30 p.m. press conference. "If you absolutely don’t need to be outside, don’t take the risk."
A jogger was hospitalized after she was struck by a falling tree limb near Prospect Park, Bloomberg said. "Fortunately she is going to be OK,” Bloomberg said. The woman was not inside the closed park, but she was near it, Bloomberg said.
"When you run under trees, whether they're trees in the street or trees in a park, it is very dangerous with the wind," he said, adding that tree limbs are likely to break off because they still have leaves on them, which makes them collect water and add weight.
In Harlem, a tree squashed a car just outside of Jackie Robinson Park at Bradhurst Avenue and 149th Street about 5 p.m on Monday.
"It was a snap and then a crash. It was mad loud," said a man who gave his name only as Steve and who lived across the street from the accident. "The wind was crazy and that tree was already dead. I'm not surprised."
Delia Gubelmann, 24, a makeup artist who also lives across the street from the accident, said she came down to get her laundry and saw the large trees swaying in the wind and thought to herself that one of them might fall.
"It sucks for those people," she said pointing to the car. "I'm just happy no one got hurt."
Residents took to Twitter to report damage, posting pictures and warnings of broken out windows, blocks closed to traffic and toppled newspaper boxes. Among them was Park Slope City Councilman Brad Lander, who tweeted a photo of a tree that fell on his house and his neighbor's. "Alas, this is our tree," he wrote. "Fallen on our house & nbrs. Everyone ok. Will be off Twitter a while. Can't tweet own emergency."
In Gowanus, a corrugated metal fence near the Carroll Street bridge was blown to pieces, sending metal flying into the street. A downed tree in Brooklyn Heights didn't stop storm watchers from visiting the promenade overlooking the East River.
Damages were expected to mount through Monday night, with 90 mile per hour winds bearing down on the city and a storm surge and full moon expected to push flood waters into low-lying areas.