NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — On a stormy night forty years ago, New York City was plunged into darkness. It happened when lightning struck electrical equipment resulting in a blackout that lasted 25 hours.
The darkness was filled with thousands of crimes, but only one was a homicide.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, many New Yorkers still remember where they were on July 13, 1977 at 8:37 p.m. when a lightning strike hit a power station in Westchester County.
Two more lightning strikes followed, knocking out the back-up lines. About an hour later, New York City went dark.
“It was scary. I lived on the fifth floor with my wife, and she was pregnant,” one man said.
Trains and subways were halted, airports closed, and a game between the Mets and Cubs was called early.
It was a dark time, not just because the power was out, but because of fires that were intentionally set as well as looting and violence.
Cops said it was ‘step 1′ of the looters’ plan — a flaming diversion to draw police and firemen to the scene leaving looters free to operate elsewhere.
“Twenty-five years I’ve been in business. I got wiped out in one day. The cops were standing in front of the store with me, thirty policeman, they’re just taking out the stuff. All the furniture, just standing there, they couldn’t do a thing about it,” one business owner said.
“We’ve seen our citizens subjected to violence, vandalism, theft, and discomfort. The blackout has threatened our safety, and has seriously impacted our economy,” New York City Mayor Abraham Beame said at the time.
In spite of the thousands of crimes that took place during the blackout, there was only one murder. As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reports, it remains unsolved to this day, but police are holding out hope that might change.
Dominic Ciscone was with his brothers and a few friends setting off fireworks at the corner of Court and Nelson in Carroll Gardens, and didn’t see the bullet coming. He was struck in the back.
“It was horrible,” his cousin Joan said, “He was a good kid.”
More than 3,000 people were arrested that night, but the killer slipped away.
“People wouldn’t talk. You know people don’t talk,” Joan said.
Cold case murders are never really closed, and the NYPD will sometimes use anniversaries to try and generate tips — which it did last month in the Ciscone murder, but his cousin is realistic.
“What exactly is going to happen 40 years later,” she said.
Temperatures during the blackout surged into the 90s.
“It was hot, really hot, cause we live on the fifth floor and the roof, the tar is really hot,” Henry Cintron recalled.
Finally, 25 hours later the lights came back on, and illuminated just how the city changed so quickly.
Thousands of people were arrested, and a congressional study a year later put the damage at $300-million.