If you happen to be in Manhattan today and the skies are clear at sunset, take a look west as the sun goes down. Thanks to the island’s famous grid system of streets there are two days of the year, May 30 and July 11, when the sun sets right smack in the middle of each east-west street.
Because the broad Hudson River runs along Manhattan’s west side, you can see the sun almost all the way to the horizon. It’s amazingly dramatic as the reddened sunlight floods through the narrow, high-walled streets of Gotham. For me, it always marked the official beginning of the New York summer.
If Manhattan ran perfectly north-south, Manhattanhenge would fall on the equinox, marking the start of spring and fall. But the island tilts about 30 degrees to the northeast and the grid system is aligned with the island, not the compass. To be sure, New Yorkers talk about east, west, north, and south as though those compass points aligned with New York streets and avenues. Just what you might expect of the citizens of this famously self-centered metropolis.