Massive NYC Blackout Happens on the Anniversary of 1977 Blackout

Photo by Bryan Alpert/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images

A large section of Manhattan in New York City is currently experiencing massive power outages that have left large sections of the city without power.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the power outage is the result of a “manhole fire.” and that “disruption is significant.” The New York Daily News reported that the cause is believed to be a “transformer explosion and fire around W. 64th St. and West End Ave”. According to Con Edison, the company that provides electricity to New York City, there are currently 42,000 residents in the Westside of Manhattan without power. The neighborhoods affected include Theater District, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Upper West Side.

There are people stuck in elevators, Madison Square Garden has gone completely dark during a Jennifer Lopez concert, and The New York City subway system has disruptions to service on the A, C, D, E, F, M, 1, 2 and 3 train service in Manhattan in both directions.

The 2019 NYC power outage occurred on the 42nd anniversary of the disastrous 1977 New York City blackout. This 1977 incident which left the entire city dark with the exception of southern Queens, parts of the Rockaways, and the Pratt Institute and resulted in widespread looting, vandalism, and arson.


The 1977 Blackout Caused Chaos Across The City

Photo by Bryan Alpert/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At 8:37 EST on July 13, 1977, lightning struck the Buchanon South substation on the Hudson River and the Sprain Brook substation in Yonkers, leaving millions of New Yorkers without power. The blackout couldn’t have come at a worse time for the city, which was in the midst of a widespread economic downturn, a brutal heat wave, and the “Son of Sam” serial killer saga.

The blackout was the catalyst for 2 days of non-stop crime and vandalism. New York City turned into a battleground with 31 neighborhoods being overrun with crime. As The New York Post described it, “The streets got so bad that soon, even the looters were being mugged.”

In Crown Heights, 75 stores on a 5 block stretch were looted. 35 blocks of Broadway were destroyed with 134 stores being looted and 45 of them set on fire. According to Time, some notable events during the looting included a Bronx dealership where “thieves drove off with 50 cars valued at about $200,000.” and two incidents in Bedford-Stuyvesant where “cops caught one man with 300 sink stoppers and another with a case of clothespins.”

It wasn’t just the looting, more than 1,000 fires broke out across the city. There were also over 1,700 false alarms called into the fire department. In some cases, when the firefighters showed up to the false alarms, they were pelted with rocks. At one point, two entire blocks on Broadway were ablaze. The fires caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Unbelievably, there was only one homicide amidst the violence. Dominick Ciscone, a Brooklyn teenager was shot and killed on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens. His murder remains unsolved.

When it was all said and done, 1,616 stores were looted, 1,037 fires were set including 14 multiple alarm fires, 4,000 people had to be evacuated from the Subway system, 550 police officers were injured in the mayhem, and over 4,000 looters were arrested which is the largest mass arrest in New York City history. A congressional study put the total cost of the damage at around $300 million ($1.2 billion in 2017).


How The 2019 Power Outage Compare?

The 2019 power outage pales in comparison to the disaster that was the 1977 blackout. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the scope of the blackout reaches between “W 42nd St and 72nd St, from the Hudson River to as far as 5th Ave” and according to ConEd is has affected approximately 42,000 people.

There have been no reports of looting or arson as of yet, though there are several reports of people being stuck in elevators, with one user posting his predicament on Twitter.

In addition, several traffic lights on W 42 st – W 74 st and 5th Ave – 12th Ave are currently out, posing a minor threat to motorists in the area. Also, Carnegie Hall went dark which led the performers to take their show to the streets.

The 2019 NYC power outage isn’t happening in the midst of a brutal summer and the economy is doing pretty well right now so the chances of a widespread crime wave are pretty small. Also, according to videos posted on Twitter, the power seems to have been restored in several parts of Manhattan already.

Con Ed is reporting as of 10:13 EST that most customers will have their power back at Midnight.

There really is no comparison to the disaster that was the 1977 blackout and this minor hiccup in service in Manhattan. This recent power outage simply demonstrates that New York City is in much better shape today than it was in 1977, and instead of turning on each other, New Yorkers are banding together.