Blast at Con Edison plant in Astoria lights up the skies and flickers lights in Queens

The blue aura from a transformer explosion in Astoria on Dec. 27 could be seen for miles.
Screenshot of video, courtesy of Frazier Newton


The city was freaked out by a transformer blast at a Con Edison facility in Astoria on Thursday night 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 QNS. “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 is 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.”

But at 4:27 a.m. on Dec. 28, Con Edison further described the event as an “electrical fault on the 138,000 volt equipment” that “caused a sustained electrical arc flash that was visible across a wide area.”

“The affected equipment was isolated to a single section within the substation,” the statement noted. “Con Edison has restored all major transmission lines associated with this event and is in the process of investigating the root cause of the failure.”

State Senator 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 QNS 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 resumed a short time later with delays.

This story was updated on Dec. 28 at 8:30 a.m.

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