header images Baruch College Weissman Zicklin School of Business NYCdata
2 - Brooklyn Bridge (c) Jeff Greenberg-NYC & Company, Inc.jpg
 

10.VI.B

New York City's (NYC)
"Night of Terror" Blackout - 1977

 
 
1977 NYC Blackout
Photo Credit: The New York Times
 
     
 

Dubbed as ‘The Night of Terror’ by Time Magazine, the 1977 Blackout revealed the crippling effect of an economic recession on the city’s poor in the course of a single night. At approximately 9:21 PM on a hot and humid July evening, lightning struck four times over NYC. The lightning strikes came one after another, hitting some of Con Edison’s vital Power lines. Within a few minutes, power lines of neighboring electric companies “tripped out”, preventing them from supplying much needed electricity to Con Edison. By 9:41 pm, lights went out in all five buroughs of NYC and crime peaked in several areas of Harlem, Brooklyn and the South Bronx.

During the 1970’s, the United States entered an economic recession due to an interruption in the supply of foreign oils and rising inflation. New York, one of the states most affected by this economic downturn, was on the verge of defaulting on many of its financial obligations. To alleviate the situation, New York was forced to cut funding for many of the City's services, putting further pressure on struggling families and individuals that relied on them. As unemployment increased, crimes of desperation began to increase as well. This built up of social and economic frustration was evident on the darkened night of July 13, 1977. Looters rushed to the murky streets smashing shop windows and stealing furniture, clothes and electronics wherever they could. Close to 4000 arrests were made, however many more escaped without any repercussions. In addition to looting, abnormally high levels of fires were being reported. On that night alone, the NYC Fire Department fought over 1000 fires, all while dealing with twice the usual number of false alarms.

The events that took place on the "Night of Terror" were in huge contrast to the northeastern blackout that occured a decade before. It showcased the dramatic effects economic hardship can potentially have on human behavior. Although some violence that occured was expected, considering the social climate of the seventies, many NYC neighborhoods remained peaceful and neighborly. For example, Greenwich Village residents came out of their homes, forming an impromptu festival, were they shared stories and listened to battery powered radios. They came out to witness a rare sight: the city without power.
 
     
 
Sources:
blackout.gmu.edu
nytimes.com