“It wasn’t New York City’s finest hour — not by a long shot,” wrote New York, introducing the issue published after the 1977 blackout. Coming 12 years after the first Big One (and 42 years to the day before this weekend’s blackout), it was a perfect encapsulation of the great muddling-through that was life in late-’70s New York. There had been looting, but the cops (mostly) didn’t shoot. There was misery, but also celebration and community. There were unfavorable comparisons to the 1965 blackout, which had been marked by diminished rather than elevated crime. There was inequity — well, that’s always true here. There were villains, notably Charles Luce, the head of Con Ed.
A week later, New York delivered a whole issue about the blackout. One story was about the police: their moderated response — although some described it as helplessness — as the streets erupted. One was a how-to story for next time (hope you stocked up on those flashlight batteries and salty snacks in time for the next blackout in 2003). Another was a profile of the hapless Charles Luce. The liveliest, though, was one that asked 20 politicians and other public figures what, exactly, they think ought to have been done differently. The answers, a few of which appear below, encapsulate the political spectrum of the day (and, pretty much, ours too), and may seem a little familiar as we listen to the gripes about Bill de Blasio’s Waterloo.