Widespread looting in New York City continued into the daylight hours yesterday in the aftermath of the blackout. The violence erupted in all boroughs except S.I. and left hundreds of stores with merchandise stolen and miles of streets littered with glass and debris. The heaviest hit areas were the primarily black and Hispanic neighborhoods of Harlem, East Harlem, the South Bronx, the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn and Jamaica Queens. Also East Flatbush, Brownsville and Flatbush in Brooklyn. One police officer was shot in the leg. One looting suspect was shot and killed by a Brooklyn merchant in the Fort Greene section. One Harlem youth was shot dead and another wounded after they looted a liquor store. Many police reported coming under sniper fire.
For most of yesterday, the police maintained a force of 11,000 officers and supervisors to cope with the robberies and thefts. However, at the height of the disturbances yesterday, between midnight and 4:00am, the police were able to muster fewer than 8,000 of their 25,000 officers and supervisors. 10,000 who were not on vacation or sick leave failed to comply with the Commissioner’s order to report to duty immediately.
A sergeant in Brooklyn said many policemen disregarded the order because they were ‘disgruntled” over working condiditons.
Even as Mayor Beame was decrying “a night of terror” at a noontime City Hall news conference, roving bands of youths and adults were breaking into stores carrying off food, furniture and television sets. Looters did not confine themselves to small appliances or even furniture. In the Bronx, an automobile dealer said a steel door and window in his showroom had been smashed and 50 new cars driven away.
The city obtained permission from Federal judges to temporarily reopen the Tombs prison in Manhattan and at least one juvenile jail which had been closed by the courts because of their decrepit condition.
Bu 10:40pm last night, slightly more than 25 hours after the massive power failure began – set off by lightning strikes north of the city – all of the utility’s 2.8 million customers were back in service. Sections of lower Manhattan and the Upper East Side were the last to light up in a day long series of neighborhood power restorations.
As looting continued in downtown Brooklyn, Harlem and the South Bronx, arrests passed 3,300 and city lockups were jammed to overflowing. Fires set by arsonists raged in several areas, the worst in Bed Sty. 55 total fires were classified as severe.
As the lights came back on in neighborhood after neighborhood last night, sustained cheering in the streets was the common reaction as tensions abruptly eased and reports of looting and vandalism dropped off sharply.
At the Ace Pontiac Showroom on Jerome Avenue in University Heights Bronx 50 new cars were stolen.
Officer Gary Parefsky of the 30th Precinct in Harlem said that while tyring to arrest looters, he and other officers came under fire from guns, bottles and rocks. “We were scared to death,” said the 30-year-old policeman. “Anyone who says he was not is lying. The blue uniform didn’t mean a thing.” “They couldn’t understand why we were arresting them. They were angry with us. They said: I’m on welfare. I’m taking what I need. What are you bothering me for.”
excerpt from S Raab NYT 7/15/77