Spontaneous Performances Erupt Around NYC During Sunday's Massive Blackout

Rebekah Sager
July 15, 2019 - 8:27 am

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NEW YORK — A power outage may have crippled Manhattan Sunday evening, but it didn't break the spirit of New Yorkers, and visiting tourists. 

As Broadways audiences and concert-goers spilled into the streets, spontaneous eruptions of improvisational performances could be seen and heard around the city. 

The temperature was in the low 80s as the sunset, but not as steaming as Manhattan can get in July, challenging the city's power grid.

Power went out early Saturday evening at much of Rockefeller Center, reaching the Upper West Side and knocking out traffic lights.

A big cheer went up among Upper West Side residents when power flickered back on at about 10:30 p.m. For hours before that, doormen stood with flashlights in the darkened entrances of upscale apartment buildings along Central Park West, directing residents to walk up flights of stairs to their apartments, with all elevators out.

Police directed traffic at intersections as pedestrians and bikes weaved through the dark.

The outage comes on the anniversary of the 1977 New York City outage that left most of the city without power.

Most Broadway musicals and plays canceled their Saturday evening shows, including "Hadestown," which last month won the Tony Award for best musical. Several cast members from the musical "Come From Away" held an impromptu performance in the street outside the theater for disappointed audience members.

The outage also hit Madison Square Garden, where Jennifer Lopez was performing Saturday night. Attendees said the concert went dark about 9:30 p.m. in the middle of Lopez's fourth song of the night. The arena was later evacuated. And at Penn Station, officials were using backup generators to keep the lights on.

Both Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts were evacuated.

When the lights went out early Saturday evening, thousands of people streamed out of darkened Manhattan buildings, crowding Broadway next to bumper-to-bumper traffic amid emergency vehicle sirens and honking car horns

Electricity was restored to customers and businesses in midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side by about midnight.

Con Edison CEO John McAvoy said a problem at a substation caused the power failure at 6:47 p.m., affecting 73,000 customers for more than three hours along a 30-block stretch from Times Square to 72nd Street and Broadway, and spreading to Rockefeller Center.

The exact cause of the blackout would not be known until an investigation is completed.

Associated Press contributed to this story.