May 28 is the first date of this year. It’s already past. And July 11, which is upcoming, is the second occasion for it.
SIMON: What is Manhattanhenge?
FAHERTY: Manhattanhenge is a term that we’ve coined, in tribute to Stonehenge, to describe the days of the year where the sun lines up perfectly with the grid of Manhattan. So if you’re standing outside, looking west, on any of the cross streets, you would see the sun kiss the grid just as it goes below the horizon.
SIMON: Now is this an accident, or did somebody plan it that way?
FAHERTY: It’s sheerly an accident. The shape of Manhattan, which was formed by various geologic processes and various other things – that erosion that has happened in the city made this shape, so that the long part of the island is roughly north. So it’s not exactly north. And we’ve got 90-degree angles to the cross streets. And that was all set in place in 1811 when the Commissioners Plan decided this was the best way to structure the city.
SIMON: That’s amazing. (Laughing).
FAHERTY: Yeah. Pretty awesome.
SIMON: I mean, I’m trying to figure the odds of a coincidence like that. ‘Cause if you set out to do that nowadays, it would take a lot of work.
FAHERTY: The other special thing about Manhattan is that it is an island city. It’s a gridded city that’s also an island. So it is flanked on the eastern and western sides by the river. On the western side, it’s flanked by the Hudson River, and you’ve got a long view to sunset. And you’ve got New Jersey. I’m from New Jersey, so I can say, as a complement, it’s really nice that New Jersey does not have a large skyline. So it’s a pretty flat skyline. So because of that, you get a really beautiful view – a long view towards sunset. So you can actually see the sun when it’s setting.
SIMON: Now I’ve been told that Manhattanhenge – because the island’s 28.9 degrees east of true north, this event does not take place on the solstice, right?
FAHERTY: That’s right. So it happens roughly twice. May 28 is the first date of this year. It’s already past. And July 11, which is upcoming, is the second occasion for it.