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Kathy Hochul Says New York Subway Suffered 'Unprecedented System Breakdown'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 8/30/2021 Darragh Roche
Kathy Hochul smiling for the camera: New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media during her swearing in ceremony at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York on August 24, 2021. Hochul said New York City's subway experienced an "unprecedented system breakdown" on Sunday. © ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to the media during her swearing in ceremony at the New York State Capitol in Albany, New York on August 24, 2021. Hochul said New York City's subway experienced an "unprecedented system breakdown" on Sunday.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has said the New York City subway suffered an "unprecedented system breakdown" overnight that affected half the system and forced some passengers to self-evacuate.

Services resumed on Monday following a power surge in Queens on Sunday night that saw many of those on the city's subway left in the dark and reporting they were stuck on their trains.

Hochul held a news conference early on Monday to address the issue, calling the breakdown "unacceptable" and telling subway riders that system had "failed" them after some passengers had to walk through the tunnels in order to escape.

"Last night, one half of the New York City subway system experienced an unprecedented system breakdown," Hochul said on Monday morning.

She explained that two power plants and generators went offline at around 8.25 pm on Sunday while at the same time energy company Con Edison lost an electrical feeder for a short period of time. Losing that feeder resulted in a voltage dip across the city.

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The governor said that 83 trains had been affected by the outage and five were stuck between stations.

Hochul said there were two organized evacuations but two others were "self-evacuation", meaning passengers took it upon themselves to leave the trains.

These evacuations caused an hour and a half delay as Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers had to make sure nobody was on the tracks before service resumed.

"We never ever want riders to do that," the governor said. "It is dangerous and it caused a delay in the restoration of power. The tracks are dangerous and the last train was re-platformed."

She said there was particular concern for those riders on the five trains stuck between stations, with between 500 and 600 people affected.

"This is a scary situation. Something we don't want New Yorkers to ever have to experience again. And again, I say this was unprecedented. The confluence of events that led to this had never happened before to our knowledge," Hochul said.

"Let me be very clear, last night was not acceptable," she said. "If you are one of those riders, or people relying on safe transport, the system failed you."

The governor said she was ordering a review of what happened but there was "no indication of malicious actions."

Service was affected on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and L lines from about 9.30pm. Hochul said the system has back up and running by around 1.30 am. Some riders reported walking through the dark subway tunnels in order to get out.

Con Edison said that the power surge had been caused by a fire in Long Island City on Sunday, while Hochul has said the exact cause will be investigated.

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