By Hannah Reale

Dark smoke billowed from manholes at 71st Street and Broadway starting around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday because of an underground fire, and led to power outages for hundreds of local residents. A firefighter at the scene reported that it was caused by an electrical problem, speculating that a transformer had blown. Traffic was diverted in all directions. As of late Thursday, 646 ConEd customers in the area had lost power due to the “manhole problem.” By 1 a.m., nine buildings had lost power, according to Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

The smoke “started out light but is intensifying,” wrote Hillary Ellner, who sent the first photo, around 5:40 p.m.

Around 6:10 p.m., firefighters began spraying water at the manhole. Around this time, smoke started coming out of a second nearby manhole, but they did not spray at it. About 30 minutes later, the first manhole’s cover blew off. An NYPD officer at the scene said that it shot 10 feet into the air.

Emergency trucks from Con Edison arrived around 7 p.m., and an NYPD officer at the scene reported that they were trying to fix the problem from nearby entry points.

As of 8:30 p.m., the firefighters had been constantly spraying water towards the manholes and ConEd workers were still trying to remedy the problem. An NYPD officer said that thicker smoke would rise up from the manholes whenever they stopped the flow of water. Power should be restored to customers around 4 a.m. We’ve reached out to Con Edison for more information.

It was the 40th anniversary of the famous 1977 New York blackout.

Photos by Hannah Reale.

Here was the view from a couple blocks North:

The video below was sent to us by Mel Wymore.

smoke broadway

This story has been updated as we learned more information. Thanks to Matt for the tip about the power outage.

NEWS | 19 comments | permalink
    1. K8 says:

      Is the 1 train affected? 2/3? Thanks for reporting!

    2. robert says:

      NYC| Manhattan, NY| 1 Alarm Fire (10-75)| 2061 Broadway| Box 1025- BC transmitting a working fire for manhole fire with heavy smoke & purple K agent needed| NYC112| 17:37

      NYC| Manhattan, NY| 1 Alarm Fire All Hands| 2061 Broadway| Box 1025- BC using all hands for 3 manholes pushing heavy smoke| NYC112| 18:22

      NYC| Manhattan, NY| 2 Alarm Fire| 2061 Broadway| Box 1025- Div 3 request 2nd alarm for multple manhole fires| NYC112| 18:52

      • jezbel says:

        Thank you for keeping us posted. Just got notice from NotifyNYC e-mail: “Con Edison is responding to a power outage in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, including ZIP code 10023. Report power outages to Con Edison at 1-800-752-6633, or if you have a speech or hearing impairment, report outages to 1-800-642-2308” At 9:15 PM Channel 11 say 646 customers in at least 2 buildings are without electricity also time-stamped 9:15PM FYI

    3. Mark says:

      Iro seems nice

    4. Miriam says:

      They used water on an electrical fire!?

    5. Matt says:

      ConEd now reporting a power outage in 10023. Related?

      • Matt says:

        Yup. Just checked ConEd site – 646 customers at that location without power due to manhole problem.

      • jezbel says:

        ConEd power outage directly related to fire underground in 3 manholes. Guessing transformer fire. So far power outage only affects 2 or maybe 3 buildings. Keep your fingers crossed it doesn’t spread through the entire zip code. Also no transportation affected – though traffic had been shut down on B’way in vicinity of W. 70th through W.74th. Should be open (at least northbound by now… 12: 18 AM)

    6. Scooter says:

      I’m a resident on 71 St and my building’s electricity is totally out. Super says it will be tomorrow before it’s fixed.

      • ScooterStan says:


        This “Scooter”, although a very nice and smart fella, and probably very handsome, is NOT “ScooterStan”, the original!

        thank U

    7. Prete says:

      How nice. A power outage to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1977 blackout.

    8. Lois Sloan says:

      Video brought to us by Mel Wymore? Wow, this guy really is all over the place. And he’s got my vote! 👍

      • UWSider says:

        Got your vote for…an Oscar for videography? Wymore’s a vote scrounging wannabe, useless in this emergency excepting to get in the way of NY’s Bravest. The worst kind of rubbernecking ambulance chaser, capitalizing on catastrophe. Shame on him.

    9. FRANces says:

      On that super hot day, the transformers perhaps were
      overstressed and the practice of merchant’s leaving
      their doors open while AC is on could further stress
      already overloaded electric usage.
      Merchant’s SHUT YOUR DOORS.

      • B.B. says:

        Transformers blow for any number of reasons.

        Corrosion caused by salt (used for deicing roads) seeping down. Rats gnawing on wires, age, stress on system, etc…

        Transformers are not replaced until they go, and the average lifespan is around 40-50 years. There is lots of new housing on the UWS and more importantly people in general (not just businesses) are using more electivity.

        Forty years ago air conditioners were still considered a luxury by some. If an apartment had one they likely were well off. Now everyone in a building has AC and some have two or more. That has to place stress on the system.

        New York City’s infrastructure is old, in some cases very much so; as such every now and then something is going to give out.