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Power Partially Restored to Lux Hotel After Hundreds Evacuated

By  Nikhita Venugopal and Alan Neuhauser | April 15, 2013 8:09am | Updated on April 15, 2013 12:54pm

MIDTOWN — It was lights out at one of Midtown's legendary ultra-luxury hotels early Monday morning.

The New York Palace Hotel suffered an hours-long blackout that left roughly 1,200 guests stranded without electricity, water, or access to their rooms after a broken water main flooded the building's basement and damaged a backup generator, forcing dozens to seek other accommodations or wait out the outage in the hotel lobby, sources said.

"It was awful, awful," said guest Claus Hommelhoff, 56, a stockbroker on vacation from Denmark, who was relocated from his room at the hotel to the Omni Berkshire, one block away. "I arrived here after 12 o'clock, and there must have been 13 fire brigades outside. It was really a big mess. People were sleeping on the floor."

The hotel, which is undergoing renovations, initially lost power sometime between midnight and 1 a.m., said Brian Honan, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. Electricity was restored to much of the building after 6 a.m., he said, but the 55-story building was still experiencing sporadic outages among its 813 guest rooms.

No other buildings were affected by the outage. No one was reported injured, and 30 guests were ultimately relocated to hotels nearby.

Accounts differ over what exactly caused the blackout, which occurred after the hotel was disconnected from the city's power grid, and subsequently sustained damage to its backup generator.

Honan, in a telephone interview with DNAinfo.com New York, said the hotel started using its generator after a "power line was damaged in the neighborhood due to construction that was not ours, off our property."

Con Ed spokesman Bob McGee, however, said that no power lines in the area were damaged or cut. Instead, about 4 p.m. Sunday, the New York Palace, which had already been experiencing electrical problems, requested to be disconnected from the city's grid to go on backup power and troubleshoot the issue.

"They were having problems on their side of the meter," McGee said.

"We didn't have any outages. So whatever happened, happened on their equipment on their side of the meter, and they decided to disconnect from our network and go on backup generation. Our power in that whole area was unaffected."

Meanwhile, since 3 p.m. on Sunday, a broken water main had been cascading water into the hotel's basement and the East Access Tunnel, according to alerts issued by the city's Office of Emergency Management. Hours later, sometime after midnight, that water came in contact with, and incapacitated, the hotel's backup generator.

"The generator went down temporarily due to the water," Honan said.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection, which maintains the city's water mains, did not immediately return a call for comment.

The New York Palace opened in 1980 as the Helmsley Palace. A range of TV shows and movies have shot scenes at the hotel, including "30 Rock," "Gossip Girl," "Law & Order," "White Collar" and 27 Dresses.