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The Blackout from Across the River

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 14, 2019 11:52

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A significant section of Manhattan experienced a blackout of power on Saturday, July 13th; those of us in other parts of New York City observed the news coverage from the comfort of our air conditioned homes.

In the early evening of Saturday, July 13th I had just finished giving my older daughter a driving lesson, and when we came home we heard on the news that there was a power outage in a large portion of Manhattan. We were certainly surprised because in southern Brooklyn we experienced no dip in power. Our lights were on and everything running on electricity seemed to be fine.

Like many other Brooklynites, we wondered if we would also soon succumb to a blackout, but fortunately we did not. Whew. On a hot July weekend day, that would be pretty rotten.

We watched on TV and heard over the radio about the effects of this blackout: subway trains halted in their paths, the casts of Broadway musicals singing a cappella on the sidewalks, traffic lights out, and all kinds of other shocking scenes. Yet the problem was contained to about thirty blocks, from Times Square to the Upper West Side. Thus the rest of Manhattan and the other boroughs of New York City did not suffer: we were the relieved onlookers. We were spared.

But this blackout came exactly 42 years after the catastrophic Blackout of 1977-- what a strange coincidence. And I do remember that blackout.

I was 13 at the time, and the next day I was supposed to take a bus at the midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal and travel up to Dutchess County to attend Girl Scout Camp Henry Kaufman. Due to the blackout, we went to sleep away camp a day later. What did we do at home, in my neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn? We ate all the ice cream in the freezer. We dined on other food that my mom was concerned would spoil. We played outside and ogled the dimmed street lights. It was like a party in my area.

In other parts of Brooklyn, however, there was widespread looting of stores and arson. Bushwick, Brooklyn was particularly badly hit by this lawlessness. In fact, I recall that I had never heard of the Bushwick neighborhood until the blackout looting.

Many years later I reminisced about the 1977 Blackout with a man I know named Jack; he told me about how the store his family owned was wrecked by people looting and vandalizing their store during the blackout. 

I also lived through the 1965 Blackout of early November, but I don't remember it because I was only 19 months old. (My dad told me about how he hitched rides to get home from midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn that day). I missed the August 2003 Blackout of the Northeast because that week my younger daughter and I were visiting relatives in San Francisco. 

Gazing at footage of this relatively small but still irksome power outage, I felt grateful to be in Brooklyn, but I also wondered: why today? Anniversary blues? An eerie link to Manhattanhenge, the night before? A tie-in to other newsworthy events? A gremlin up to mischief?

As the kids say, IDK.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 14, 2019 11:52

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Source: NYT

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