JULY 15, 2019


Thomas Urbain/AFP

"Where were you when the lights went out?"

A question New Yorkers repeatedly asked about the night of Saturday, July 13 -- like they did decades ago after a wider blackout.

The power failure this time was partial; it was limited to the Upper West Side. The Eastern side of 5th Avenue, like Saint Patrick Cathedral was lit up, while across the street Rockefeller Center was out, as was Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue all the way to Lincoln Center on 65th/Broadway where the popular fountain was dried and an open air free concert by a Harlem choir -- the last in a Summer Swing series -- had to be cancelled.

In an interconnected metropolis, traffic stopped everywhere, East, West, North and South. An initial trickle of loaded buses stopped. Police cars diverted cars at 57th Street, ushering them westward to 9th Avenue while ponderous drivers returned to the same former spots of no mobility.

Walking was the main, if not only, option. Pedestrians explored new neighborhoods while finding their way back home after finding out that it was the most welcoming spot at the time.

Interestingly, there was no open anger. New Yorkers took it in stride, and visitors seemed to treat it like a puzzling tourist attraction.

Certain Manhattanites answered in their own way the question: "Where were you..." on Saturday evening.

They were in the Hamptons.