Manhattan Power Outage Forces MSG Evacuation, Lights Out On Broadway

MSG Blackout
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– MSG Blackout
A general view of 8th Avenue and Madison Square Garden as a massive power failure hit parts of Manhattan, in New York, July 13.

A power outage crippled the heart of Manhattan Saturday night just as Jennifer Lopez was hitting the stage at Madison Square Garden and Broadway shows were set to go on, sending audiences spilling into the streets, knocking out Times Square’s towering electronic screens and bringing subway lines to a near halt.

Con Edison and New York City officials said electricity was restored to customers and businesses primarily on Manhattan’s Upper West Side just before midnight.

The New York City Fire Department said a transformer fire at West 64th Street and West End Avenue affected hundreds of thousands of customers along a 30-block stretch from Times Square to about 72nd Street and Broadway.

The fire started just before 7 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

The outage also hit Madison Square Garden, where Jennifer Lopez was performing. 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.

Lopez announced that the interrupted birthday concert is rescheduled for Monday (July 15), and fans will be able to use their tickets from Saturday’s concert without exchanging them.

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.

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.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that although no injuries were reported “the fact that it happened at all is unacceptable.” He said the state Department of Public Service will investigate.

He later added the outage poses a safety risk.

“You just can’t have a power outage of this magnitude in this city” Cuomo said. “It is too dangerous, the potential for public safety risk and chaos is too high, we just can’t have a system that does that, it’s that simple at the end of the day.”

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.