UPPER WEST SIDE, NY – A blackout hit a large portion of Manhattan’s West Side on Saturday evening, affecting more than 73,000 customers. Subway service was slowed – if not stopped – in all boroughs at one point and people were trapped in elevators.
From St. Luke’s Hospital, which had to switch to backup generators, to Madison Square Garden where a Jennifer Lopez concert was cut short and people evacuated, to Broadway where theaters emptied and impromptu performances broke out on the street, the effects of the outage were felt far and wide.
Emergency workers were sent building to building to check on people on lifesaving equipment and to look for people who were trapped.
There were no reports of injuries or fatalities as of midnight.
Officials tell Patch that there’s no indication that foul play was involved but will still work to make sure that wasn’t the case.
“We have to make sure that this never happens again,” Governor Cuomo said at a news conference. “I’ve seen this movie before,” he added referring to previous outages and substation fires.
The outage struck within three hours of the moment of the 42nd anniversary of the historic 1977 blackout that darkened the entire city. Some neighborhoods did not get power back for 24 hours.
Con Ed Chief Executive Officer John McAvoy said that the power went out at 6:47 p.m. and was centered from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River and from West 42nd Street to West 72nd Street.
“We are in the process of restoration,” McAvoy said at a news conference. Moments later, the lights in the area where he was speaking popped back on.
McAvoy said that the cause of the blackout is under investigation but said it was not a question of too high a demand on the system. He did, though, quickly dismiss as “very unlikely” an assertion by Mayor de Blasio that it was caused by a manhole fire.
The mayor, who was in Waterloo, Iowa for his presidential campaign, tweeted around 90 minutes after the incident started that the city’s Office of Emergency Management was working with other agencies to coordinate the response.
Soon after that he told CNN that he wouldn’t commit to cutting short his campaign swing in Iowa to return to New York, saying that he would gather more information and that his “schedule will be adjusted accordingly.”
Late Saturday night, his office announced he’d be returning to New York.
Governor Cuomo released a statement saying that while no injuries have been reported, “that it happened at all is unacceptable.
“I am directing the Department of Public Service to investigate and identify the exact cause of the outages to help prevent an incident of this magnitude from happening again,” he said.
He also sent in the National Guard to help direct traffic as signals had gone out across the affected area.
The original report was that only about 20,000 customers had been affected but the number steadily grew as the evening moved on.
By 10:20 p.m., Con Ed reported that they had restored power t0 Times Square and some of the surrounding area.
The outages were being reported as far south as West 30th Street. At Madison Square Garden, where Jennifer Lopez had just started performing, the power went out around 9:30 p.m.. The show was canceled and people were evacuated.
The MTA said that the “entire system” was affected – causing stoppages and delays not only on the West Side but also those entering Manhattan from Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Some passengers on the Q were trapped underground for almost 45 minutes.
Long Island Rail Road officials said that anyone with a MetroCard can get on a train for no additional charge at the Flushing, Willets Point, Woodside, Penn Station, Jamaica, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills stations.
Meanwhile, the Port Authority said that while bus service was running as usual but the terminal was on a backup generator and elevators and escalators are not working.
Edward De Wet, 27, who is visiting the States from Hong Kong, was spending his last afternoon in New York City trying to see the Brooklyn Bridge.
It took him three-and-a-half hours to get from the Upper West Side to the Brooklyn Bridge — and he wasn’t sure how he’d get back to where he’s staying.
“It’s quite a far one. I wanted to come see what’s going on here and now I don’t see how I’m going to get back,” he told Patch.
The blackout affected subway service, sending some people over the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. (Photo by Sydney Periera/Patch)
Carrie Haynes, 20, a summer intern in the fashion industry, was trying to get to the West Village from upper Manhattan. She ended up near City Hall when the 6 train stopped running local.
Haynes got word of the outages from a news notification and gave up on the trains to catch an Uber. Pricing didn’t seem unusually high for her, but “it’s taking them forever to get here,” she said.
The Fire Department said that they redirected resources from the other boroughs to Manhattan as they respond to calls, including people trapped in elevators.
“We saw New Yorkers at their best,” Governor Cuomo said at a late night news conference, highlighting the numerous reports of people helping each other.
It could be seen on Broadway, where theaters canceled performances, sending thousands of disappointed out into the street only to find themselves treated to impromptu performances by cast members who joined them
Patch’s Sydney Pereira contributed reporting.