On Saturday, here in the American epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, as large protests against police brutality raged throughout the city, some New Yorkers gathered to watch a sunset. For some, it was the main event, for others, a brief respite.
It was the second Manhattanhenge of the year, and the sun was scheduled to set in perfect alignment with the street grid of Manhattan at 8:13 p.m. Meaning that if you looked across, say, 42nd Street from east to west, the blazing sun would magically fill the space exactly in between the buildings on either side of the thoroughfare, an annual phenomenon that takes place over four nights.
But like a lot of plans made in 2020, it didn't go as planned — at the last minute a bank of clouds appeared right on the horizon, and it was ruined. The next pure "full sun" Manhattanhenge event will take place on July 12th.
Turnout this year along 42nd Street was, unsurprisingly, much lighter than usual, but there were definitely a few hot spots. Along Tudor City Bridge, traditionally the most coveted spot for grizzled Manhattanhenge professionals, the perfect dead-center position was snagged at 4 p.m. by a wily fellow named Peter, who claimed to have come all the way from Germany for the occasion.
At another prime viewing spot, the Park Avenue Viaduct near Grand Central Terminal, the NYPD twice kicked off clusters of sun-worshippers, though officers gave the viewers a couple of extra minutes to get a few more shots.
Last week—before the protests but well into the pandemic—astrophysicist Jackie Faherty (of the American Museum of Natural History) told Gothamist there's a small comfort in the event. "The Earth moving around the Sun has no idea about the situation on the ground. Astronomical events carry on regardless of what humans are doing. The sun rises and sets as it always does."