NEW YORK — A power failure struck the West Side of Manhattan on Saturday evening, plunging subway stations into darkness, stalling trains, stranding people in elevators and for a time leaving parts of Times Square without its customary bright lights.
The utility Con Edison said that about 42,000 customers were without power, mainly on the West Side. The Fire Department said the failures stretched from 72nd Street to the West 40s, and from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River.
“Unfortunately, we do not have an estimated restoration at this time,” Con Edison said. “Our crews are working as quickly and safely as they can to restore service.”
The New York City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said on Twitter that there had been a “major disturbance” at Con Edison’s 49th Street substation, and that the utility was working to fix it. He said the A, C, F, D and M subway lines were affected.
The Fire Department said it was responding to a transformer fire at West 64th Street and West End Avenue. There was also “smoke in multiple buildings” on the West Side, the department said, and it was responding to “numerous” reports of people stuck in elevators. It did not say whether the fire was connected to the cause of the failure.
The crowds were larger than usual in Times Square, where buildings were dark Saturday even after the famed billboards came back on. The Broadway League, a trade association for producers, said the power failure was affecting several theaters, causing delays in admissions.
Images on Twitter showed darkened subway stations and inoperable traffic lights.
“We’re getting reports of power outages in station complexes throughout Manhattan,” the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Twitter. “We’re working to identify causes and keep trains moving.”
Fadela Elferdaousy, 42, of Queens, was stranded at the Columbus Circle subway station. She had planned to take the A train home when the power outage occurred.
“I saw all these crowds,” Elferdaousy said. “I was wondering what was going on.” At first she thought something happened at Trump International Hotel and Tower, she said.
Police officers waved people out of the Columbus Circle subway station around 7:30 p.m. The Shops at Columbus Circle was evacuated shortly after.
Police officers and civilians worked together to direct traffic while firetrucks and ambulances screamed down side streets. Two young women posed for a selfie in the middle of 46th Street before an officer rushed over and chastised them, saying, “Ladies, this is not the time.”
Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was campaigning in Iowa for president, said that the mayor had been briefed on the blackout and that the Office of Emergency Management was responding.
The failure came on the 42nd anniversary of the 1977 power failure that plunged the New York skyline into darkness, triggering widespread looting and arson. That blackout caused an estimated $310 million in damages and was sparked by lightning strikes in Westchester County.