4 years ago on July 13th, 2019
West Midtown is plunged into darkness 42 years to the day after the 1977 blackout
Although it was nowhere near as serious, a blackout caused a short disruption in Midtown and was simply an inconvenience in comparison to the '77 blackout. The effect of the outage was magnified due to the region it impacted, from west Midtown up to Lincoln Center and down into Hell's Kitchen. The density of people packed into that area at 7pm on a Saturday rivals the populations of many small cities.
At its peak, ConEd reported 73,000 customers without power, but the term "customers" is a difficult one to pin down when it comes to power distribution. Sometimes it refers to an entire office building, and sometimes it refers to individual apartments, so the total number of people impacted is always much higher.
The biggest impact was on the MTA system, which was plunged into darkness even though the third rail used to power trains was still electrified. Videos taken by passengers showed trains full of riders emptying into dark stations and many of the elevator rescues during the power outage took place in the subway system.
Above ground, traffic lights were out at Midtown intersections, some Times Square billboards went eerily dark, and Broadway shows, theaters, and a Jennifer Lopez concert at Madison Square Garden were all canceled, and the attendees poured out into the streets. Despite NYPD Commissioner O'Neill's assertion after the fact that 100 traffic officers were dispatched to the blackout area, city residents were still seen directing traffic in dark intersections hours after the beginning of the power outage.
Power began to be restored by 10pm and all areas were back online just before midnight, falling far short of the 12 hours of darkness the entire city experienced in 1977.
ConEd CEO John McAvoy described the failure of both the primary and backup protection systems at a power substation at 64th Street and West End Avenue, leading to power outages once the system was interrupted by a subsequent substation at 49th Street.
The city had harsh words for Mayor de Blasio, who was pursuing a presidential run in Iowa, where he had been polling at zero to one percent among likely Iowa voters. His Midwest trip left a vacuum of leadership that City Council Speaker Corey Johnson had to skillfully stepped up to fill. Johnson took to Twitter and provided level-headed and informative updates throughout the night that earned him praise while de Blasio was still searching for a last-minute red-eye flight out of Chicago.