Manhattanhenge 2012

New York, NY, USA

Sunset on 42nd St

Setting sun hidden behind cloud, Manhattanhenge

New York, NY, USA

"Get off the street. Get. Off. The. Street." The big cop was sounding increasingly exasperated. Each time the lights changed and the traffic thinned, a small crowd of people, cameras in hand, would dart out into the middle of E 42nd St, and desperately snap pictures of the colorful sunset, just visible between the buildings. On the Tudor City Place bridge behind them, a dense knot of people wielding long lenses and videocameras pressed against the railing, waiting their moment. A squirrel scampering out of a nearby park stopped in surprise at finding its path blocked, then darted under a parked car, probably shaking its head in bewilderment.

Manhattanhenge or the Manhattan Solstice is a twice-annual alignment of the setting sun with Manhattan's city grid. On four evenings a year, the setting sun is supposed to nestle neatly between the skyscrapers as it touches the horizon. May 30th was the first of the year's 'full sun' alignments, in which the complete disk of the sun is visible squarely between the buildings; the previous day's 'half-sun' alignment had been blotted out by an inconsiderate thunderstorm.

Despite the anticipation, however, the weather once again failed to oblige. The sunset was colorful, but at the crucial moment the sun slipped discretely behind a bank of cloud over New Jersey, depriving the camera-toting hordes of the hoped-for ball of fire framed by the silhouettes of Manhattan's tall buildings. It was pretty enough, but ultimately a non-event. The crowd drifted away, the sky darkened to night, and the cop and the squirrel went on about their business.