New York City blackout of 1977

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The New York City Blackout of 1977 was a blackout that affected New York City on July 13-14, 1977.

Unlike other blackouts that affected the region, namely the Northeast Blackout of 1965 and the 2003 North America blackout, the 1977 blackout was localized to New York City alone and resulted in widespread looting and other disorder including arson.

Cause

The cause of the blackout was said to be a series of four lightning strikes to vital power lines north of the city, the first occurring at 8:37 pm. Mayor Abraham Beame strongly criticized the power utility Consolidated Edison for allowing the blackout to happen. According to director Richard Donner, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth mistakenly believed he had caused the blackout by plugging in a spotlight to a lamppost while filming the movie Superman.

Effects

The blackout came at a low point in the city's history, with New York facing a severe financial crisis, and commentators contrasted the event with the good-natured Where were you when the lights went out? atmosphere of 1965. Some pointed to the financial crisis as a root cause of the disorder, others noted the hot July weather. To add to the gloomy mood, the summer of 1977 was also the time of the Son of Sam serial killings.

The blackout also proved to create a small baby boom; there was a huge increase in New York's birthrate nine months after the blackout.

The police made approximately 4000 arrests, but were still unable to control events. The resulting damage was estimated at $60 million dollars.

By 1:45 p.m. the next day, service was restored to half of Consolidated Edison's customers, mostly in Staten Island and Queens, with Harlem and the Bronx being the last areas of the city to have power restored.

Aftermath

New York's subsequent strong financial recovery in the 1980s and 1990s under mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani did much to erase the crisis of self-confidence of which the 1977 event was perhaps the lowest.

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