Blast at Con Edison plant in Astoria lights up the Queens sky

Blast at Con Edison plant in Astoria lights up the Queens sky
Screenshot of video courtesy of Frazier Newton
By Mark Hallum and Robert Pozarycki

The Fire Department is responding to a reported transformer explosion at a Con Edison facility in Astoria that caused a freaky blue light over the skies of the city and flickered lights across the borough.

The incident occurred at about 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 27. According to the 114th Precinct, the reported blast happened at the Con Edison plant in the vicinity of 20th Avenue and 31st Street.

The NYPD tweeted that a transformer exploded at the Astoria plant, and that the fire is under control. The Fire Department later reported that there were no injuries “and no fire.”

City Councilman Costa Constantinides, who represents the area, tweeted that there were no known injuries or outages in the area resulting from what he stated was a “generator explosion.” Asked by a resident if they should leave, he said that there was no evacuation order.

Shortly after the incident occurred, Queens residents experienced a brief dimming of the lights and witnessed a bright blue aura in the night sky.

Lucy Ablasy and her daughter live a block away to the south and thought it was a fire at first. She said they did not hear an explosion.

“It looked like an alien was shining in our window,” Ablasy said. “My son lives in Flushing and even he saw it.”

Astoria resident Frazier Newton lives close to the plant, and shot video of the event.

“I heard the bang, the lights flickered and whatever, and then I came out to see it,” he told TimesLedger. “You could see [the light] was blinding. When I was taking the video, I was covering my eyes, it was that bright. I could feel the heat.”

Newton said that he didn’t hear an explosion, but rather a “weird humming or buzzing,” which was evident on the video.

The lights were visible from multiple vantage points across the city, and people took to social media to share images of the occurrence.

At 11:05 p.m., Con Edison sent out a statement explaining exactly what happened.

“There was a brief electrical fire at our substation on 20th Avenue and 32nd Street in Astoria shortly after 9 p.m. this evening, which involved some electrical transformers and caused a transmission dip in the area. Con Edison crews responded with FDNY. Con Edison has been in contact with officials at LaGuardia Airport, which switched to backup generation at the time of the transmission disturbance. All power lines serving the area are in service and the system is stable. Con Edison is investigating the cause of the incident.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris was among the spectators at the scene. He saw the blue light from his house, then walked down to investigate.

“Thankfully, it seems nobody was seriously injured. The NYPD, the FDNY did a great job in getting this under control… It looked a lot scarier than it was,” Gianaris told TimesLedger at the scene. He added that the state will likely “assess what happened, how it happened and what went wrong, but that’s an autopsy for tomorrow.”

“We just want to make sure everyone’s safe,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, LaGuardia Airport was forced to close for a time due to a power outage, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted. The Federal Aviation Administration reported that flights have resumed with delays.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.