Midtown Manhattan Blackout: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know


As night fell on the city that never sleeps, a large section of Manhattan was experiencing a blackout Saturday. Power was out all over much of midtown Manhattan in office and apartment buildings, hotels and restaurants. Subways and traffic lights lost power. And major tourist centers, including Rockefeller Center and Times Square, were largely dark save for locations with generators.

ConEd, the electric company for New York City, said Saturday night that more than 73,000 customers were without power, primarily on the west side of Midtown Manhattan. ConEd chief John McAvoy said six electric networks went out after a problem with one of the ConEd stations’ transformers in Midtown. During a live press conference with McAvoy at around 10:30 p.m., some power was restored. He said all power should be back on by midnight.

It was 86 degrees in New York City when the power went out. All the lights of the city were back on before midnight.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the blackout was more than an inconvenience; he said it was a “dangerous situation.” He said that massive traffic disruptions and subways out is “unacceptable” and called out ConEd saying the system is designed to prevent more than one sub-station or electrical network from going out at any one time. Cuomo said the New York State Police and the National Guard are on standby in the event the blackout lasts longer than the expected six hours. Cuomo said “this can’t happen again,” on a live cable news show.

The New York City subway system had massive disruptions to service on the A, C, D, E, F, M, 1, 2 and 3 train lines in Manhattan in both directions. And transit officials warned people to “avoid below-ground subway stations.” Trains that were stuck when the power went out were moved into stations.

The New York Fire Department responded to numerous calls of people trapped in elevators.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office early on reported the outage was as a result of a “manhole fire.” The mayor says the “disruption is significant.” But other reports indicate there was one or possibly two transformer fires around West 49th and 63rd streets that may be the cause of the outages.

De Blasio, who had been on the campaign trail in the Midwest, is on his way back to New York, his press secretary tweeted at around 10 p.m., three hours after the first outage report.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers did what New Yorkers do; banded together. Some even directed traffic. And Broadway, where theaters usually have a 8 p.m. curtain, were darkened just after 7. Some performers took the stage to the street for grateful fans.

A Carnegie Hall concert that was shuttered inside the hall also took the performance to the street.

“I guess this is what they call a New York moment. After being trapped on the F for an hour because of the power outage I emerged to see dark restaurants & traffic lights, civilians directing traffic, & an evacuated Carnegie Hall concert happening in the street.”

Here’s what you need to know about the Midtown blackout of 2019:

1. The First Power Outage Reports Came in Around 7 p.m. Saturday Night

ConEd says there are 42,000 without power on the west side of Manhattan. ConEd initially said it was “responding to extensive outages on the west side of Manhattan. We will share more information as it comes in. Thank you.”

An hour later, the utility updated its social media.

A ConEd outage map initially showed 24,000 without power but now the utility says it’s more than 60,000 as of 10 p.m. But that number refers to sites; buildings and addresses and does not include the power disruption to the subways, traffic lights, and the obvious shuttering of electronic access and egress points, elevators and the like.

The New York Police Department says people should monitor ConEd’s Twitter feed.

“@ConEdison responding to power outages on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. NYPD and @FDNY are continuing to respond to calls in the area, thank you for your patience. Follow @conedison for more information.”

2. The Mayor of New York First Said a Manhole Fire Was the Cause & His Office is Working With Police & Fire as the Blackout is Widespread

The office of the mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “.@NYCEmergencyMgt is working with the NYPD, FDNY and city agencies to respond to power outages in Manhattan due to a manhole fire earlier this evening. Disruption is significant. We’ll have further updates soon — please follow @NotifyNYC.”

The mayor, who is a 2020 presidential candidate, was on the campaign trail when he was told about the blackout. His press secretary tweeted a few hours later that de Blasio was on his way back to the city. And not long after he returned, and power was restored, he tweeted:

De Blasio promised a full investigation into the cause of the blackout.

3. The NYC Subway System is Also Without Power & Dozens of Train Lines Affected & Tens of Thousands of Riders Stranded

When the power first went out. the transit system tweeted:

“We’re getting reports of power outages in station complexes throughout Manhattan. We’re working to identify causes and keep trains moving. More information to come.”

By 9 p.m., transit officials were cautioning people to avoid underground stations.

There are however constant updates from NYC Subways on service disruptions. It’s tweet thread is routinely updated.

Meanwhile, in Midtown west, in a neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen, a man takes it upon himself to direct traffic.

4. Times Square & Rockefeller Center Are Affected as Well as Large Swatches of Midtown

The outage were first reported more than an hour ago, at around 7 p.m. and appear to be in Midtown and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. That would include Times Square.

“Well this is something. Apparently there’s a blackout in midtown Manhattan. MSNBC is back on the air thanks to a backup generator, but most of 30 Rock is dark. Started feeling like I was in a post-apocalyptic movie as I made my way outside. (The streetlights are all out too)”

“Blackout at Rockefeller Center, NBC! We are running on generators!”

5. The Blackout Comes on the Anniversary of the Massive 1977 Blackout in New York City That Lasted 26 Hours

13th July 1977: A restaurant with only liquor left after the New York blackout. (Photo by Brian Alpert/Keystone/Getty Images)

Forty-two years ago to the day, on July 13 1977 some 9 million were affected by a massive power outage in New York City. Then it was a lightning strike and subsequent transmission failure.

The blackout lasted more than 26 hours. And it was a very hot day, as this reporter lived through it.

Now, decades later, it appears a blackout has hit Manhattan.

“Power out in all of Hell’s Kitchen area and apparently east to Rockefeller Center. Also eerie it’s the anniversary of the 1977 NYC Blackout”