With more than 40,000 New Yorkers hit by a power outage Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio faced a national campaigner’s dilemma: stay on the campaign trail or return home to deal with the emergency.
When first asked by CNN around 9 p.m — a few hours after the blackout began — whether he was planning to return to New York from Waterloo, Iowa, the Democratic presidential candidate said he was still weighing what to do.
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“I’m going to get more information in the next hour or so, and we’ll adjust my schedule accordingly depending on what I hear,” the mayor said.
By 10 p.m., de Blasio had made the decision to return to New York, according to his press secretary Freddi Goldstein.
“.@NYCMayor is on his way back to New York City,” Goldstein tweeted.
Earlier, De Blasio told reporters he was in touch with police and emergency management commissioners and ruled out “external influences” as a cause for the outage.
The New York Fire Department said a manhole fire caused the outage that left subways cars stalled and elevators stuck.
“.@NYCEmergencyMgt is working with the NYPD, FDNY and city agencies to respond to power outages in Manhattan due to a manhole fire earlier this evening. Disruption is significant. We’ll have further updates soon — please follow @NotifyNYC.” de Blasio tweeted earlier.
De Blasio directed New York’s Public Service Commission to investigate the cause of the blackout and to prevent “an incident of this magnitude from happening again.”
“While fortunately no injuries occurred as a result of this incident, the fact that it happened at all is unacceptable,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio later confirmed on Twitter that there was no malicious reason for the blackout.
“NYPD has confirmed that there’s no foul play. This was a mechanical issue,” de Blasio wrote.
Power went out early Saturday evening at the Rockefeller Center, with the blackout stretching to the Upper West Side. At the outage’s peak, Con Edison officials said they were working to restore electricity to 62,000 people and businesses.
At 10:30 p.m., Con Edison said power was being restored “on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and we’re estimating most customers will be restored at midnight.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo needled de Blasio for the hesitation in returning to the city, saying he “could count the number of times I leave this state basically on my fingers.”
“Look, mayors are important and situations like this come up, you know and you have to be on site,” Cuomo said on CNN.
The blackout occurred on the 42nd anniversary of the 1977 outage that left millions without power.