Times Square really did become a sort of Crossroads of the World this afternoon, as hundreds of tourists and area workers piled into the streets and pedestrian plazas to watch the Great American Eclipse. Some folks were armed with special glasses, welding goggles, and homemade pinhole cameras, while others simply put on regular sunglasses, sat on the steps by the TKTS booth and hoped for the best.
"It's so hard to not look up without glasses on. It's so tempting, especially as it starts to get less bright, you're like, it's not so bad," Bed-Stuy resident Tripp Brett told Gothamist, noting that he'd been on the hunt for glasses but turned up empty. "It's been pretty hard. We've been approaching couples trying to purchase their extra pair." Still, Brett said, watching the eclipse with so many other people was an experience in of itself, even if he couldn't look at the sun. "I'm just hoping to see what it's like when it starts to get a little darker in the middle of the day, with everyone in a big group. It's a pretty cool collective experience," he said.
Brett Savaglio, a video journalist who works in the area, said he hoped someone would lend him a pair of glasses around the eclipse's peak at 2:44 p.m. "I'll see it some way or another. Humanity will show itself today," he said. Indeed, the lucky few who managed to snag glasses seemed to be sharing with folks who were less prepared. "We found this great woman and have shared hers a couple times to take a couple peeks," Tripp Brett said.
Yvette and Somaya D. from Long Island made their own pinhole projector to safely view the eclipse. "7-Eleven was sold out, Best Buy was sold out, 1 day overnight shipping was too much, so we figured we'd just do this," Yvette said. The duo used a cereal box, tape, aluminum foil and a pin to construct their viewer, using instructions from the NY Times' website. "Through the hole you cut through you can see the reflection of the sun through it," Somaya said.
Before the moon made its move, people weren't sure what to expect from the eclipse. Yvette said she was hoping to see "something that's cool and different from normal sun, some celestials, some stars maybe." Aidelyn Fernandez, who was in Times Square with her coworkers on their lunch break, was hoping for chaos. "I kind of wanted to see it get completely dark, blackout, but we probably won't be able to see that because we have to go back," she said.
Unfortunately, New York wasn't in the path of totality, and some people were disappointed when the eclipse finally hit its peak. (See Chicagoist for those excellent eclipse photos.) "I was misinformed. I thought 70 percent meant it was going to get 70 percent dark, so I expected nighttime," Gianfranco Lentini, who lives in Washington Heights, said. Jorge Eich, who is visiting from Gemany with his family, said after seeing a total eclipse, a partial could not compare. "I've seen a total eclipse. That's 15 years ago, that was impressive. What we'll see today? That's not so exciting," he said.
Times Square probably wasn't the ideal spot to view the eclipse—for the most part, during its peak, the sun hid behind a cloud, and skyscrapers in the area blocked the view. Plus, it's Times Square. "I don't think I ever expected to be looking at an eclipse stuck in Times Square," Andy Garland, who watched the peak with his coworkers, said. But it was jarring, in a fun way, to see the sheer number of people who crowded the sidewalks as they stared into the sun. "Everybody's standing still so it's not as hectic as it normally is," Ryan Parrish, who works with Garland, said.
The eclipse is cool but all the people at a standstill in Times Square might be cooler. pic.twitter.com/RkoMbDG1Oz
— Rebecca Fishbein (@bfishbfish) August 21, 2017
In fact, some found the people-watching even more impressive than the eclipse itself. Karen and Craig Clarke, who are visiting New York from Scotland, didn't bother looking at the eclipse, but they did enjoy staring at the New Yorkers. "We found it interesting how all the offices evacuated. We found that fascinating to watch, being tourists," Karen Clarke said. "Everyone just ran out of the buildings."