New York City was hit with widespread power outages Saturday night, while Mayor Bill de Blasio was a thousand miles away in Iowa chasing presidential aspirations.
Making matters worse, as tens of thousands of people in the Upper West Side and Midtown neighborhoods were dealing with the blackout, which knocked out traffic lights, stalled elevators and shut down many subways, the Democratic politician expressed no urgency in returning to the city he was elected to lead.
In effect, de Blasio was phoning it in, taking a wait and see attitude as he attempted to manage the crisis over the phone and via social media.
“I’m going to get more information in the next hour or so,” de Blasio told CNN’s Ana Cabrera. “And we’ll adjust my schedule accordingly, depending on what I hear.”
After all, if he’s going to be forced off the campaign trail, it had better be necessary.
“What we want to do is get down to the bottom of how long it’s going to take to fix it, and get that word out to people immediately,” he added. “And then we will be able to give them bigger instruction.”
The blackout was the result of what Con Edison reported as a “major disturbance” at a substation on West 49th Street, which was reported to be a fire.
Update: West 49th ConEd substation had “major disturbance”. ConEd working on fixing it.
These subway lines are currently down: A, C, F, D, M on the West Side.
Some subway stations without power. Trains are being held in station. MTA working to get folks out elevators.
— Corey Johnson (@CoreyinNYC) July 13, 2019
Electricity was restored later in the evening, according to Fox News, with Con Edison CEO John McAvoy telling reporters at a news conference that 73,000 customers were affected by the outage.
Needless to say, people were thrilled as a tense, uneasy scene instantly transformed into a celebratory mood.
— Rob Bennett (@rob_bennett) July 14, 2019
When asked by CNN about how the city prepares for power outages, de Blasio said they prepare “all the time,” but offered no details. Instead he downplayed having to face such a scenario.
“I have to tell you, blackouts have become rare in New York City,” he replied. “I’m hopeful again this is something that will be a limited duration, but no, we used to have a fair number of them. And lately, certainly in the six years I’ve been mayor, they’ve been rare in the scheme of things.”
— Kristi Thomas Boyce | She/Her (@yokizzi) July 14, 2019
CNN noted that the blackout comes on the very day of the New York City Blackout of 1977, where much of the city lost power for over 24 hours.
The mayor did stress that it appeared to be a mechanical issue and not foul play, and did the same on social media.
The blackout is between W 42nd St and 72nd St, from the Hudson River to as far as 5th Ave. NYPD has confirmed that there’s no foul play. This was a mechanical issue. NYPD & FDNY are currently responding to people with the most urgent needs, especially those stuck in elevators.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) July 14, 2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was none too pleased that de Blasio was essentially missing in action during the crisis, as he blasted the mayor for not being present to deal with events — both politicians are Democrats.
“I can count the number of times I leave the state basically on my fingers,” Cuomo said during an interview with CNN, which had just noted that de Blasio decided to return.
“Mayors are important. And situations like this come up, you know. And you have to be on-site,” Cuomo added. “I think it’s important to be in a place where you can always respond. But look, everybody makes their own political judgment and I’m not going to second-guess anyone either. I do my job the way I think I should do my job and I leave it to others to do the same.”
Here’s a sampling of social media responses to the short term power outage that began when it was still daylight:
I guess this is what they call a New York moment. After being trapped on the F for an hour because of the power outage I emerged to see dark restaurants & traffic lights, civilians directing traffic, & an evacuated Carnegie Hall concert happening in the street. #nyc #Blackout pic.twitter.com/3p9UWtRrel
— Briallen Hopper (@briallenhopper) July 14, 2019
— Asal Helmsly (@AKHelmsly) July 14, 2019
Found the cops!! And more civilians directing traffic.
— Dana Meredith Lerner (@officialDML) July 14, 2019
— Derek Turner (@DTurnerMedia) July 13, 2019
— Ariella Axelbank (@AlleiraKnablexa) July 14, 2019
— Lil S. (@ThatGirlLil) July 14, 2019
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