New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, January 19, 2009

True North

I am usually up before sunrise, but not typically on the streets until somewhat later. With sunrise even earlier much of the year than it is mid winter, I rarely see a site like that which I witnessed heading east on Prince Street Saturday morning at 7:47 AM.
Something few New Yorkers know is the angle at which Manhattan deviates from north-south (or that is deviates much at all). New Yorkers believe Manhattan's avenues run north-south and crosstown streets run East-West, but there is only a casual relationship between true north and the avenues. It is extremely useful, however, to think of orientation in Manhattan in that way.
With the establishment of the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, which established an orthogonal grid north of 14th, avenues were run parallel to the long axis of Manhattan, not actually north-south. The deviation from true north is significant - 29 degrees to be exact - read the New York Times article here. This does not prevent, however, seeing sites like that in the photo. One of the most interesting phenomenon in the city is the occurrence of Manhattanhenge, a biannual occurrence where the setting sun aligns with the crosstown streets of Manhattan's main grid. On these days, the Sun fully illuminates every cross street from river to river during the last fifteen minutes of daylight, with the setting sun's center exactly on the street’s center line. I saw this for the first time May 28, 2007 - see my photos and article here.
If you are familiar with View of the World from Ninth Avenue (see photo and story here), you know how extraordinarily ethnocentric New Yorkers are. How important is magnetic north really? Perhaps what we have is 29 degrees of irrelevance and we should more correctly say is that magnetic north deviates from Manhattan's center line which every New Yorker knows points true north. :)


Virginia said...

Gorgeous shot. Wow. Well done Brian.

lucklys said...

if i ever found myself up that early, the last thing to go through my head would be to take some pictures. unless i had to be up that early anyway...

beautiful shot with the sun streaming like that. it's like it's trying to push the buildings apart.

jfrancis said...

The Miracle . . .
Those mighty wings
settled softly
on Hudson's
forgiving breast.

Vogon Poet said...

Beautiful shot and absolutely interesting post. Could you please activate the link to the New York Times article? Thank you!

ChickenUnderwear said...

Manhattanhege even has its own Wikipedia entry. But I can't get my spellchecker to like it.

I once watched the sunrise from the Brooklyn Bridge. It passed between the levels of the Manhattan Bridge and a passing Brooklyn bound Q or N train cast a shadow on us.

Rupert StClair Photography said...

I agree with Lucklys - the last thing I'd think to do is to grab the camera and snap the morning sun. I'd probably squint and bow my head at that time. Great shot though! :o)

Brian Dubé said...

Virginia, Lucklys, ChickebUnderwear, Rupert - Thanks
Vogon - Thanks and I added the NYTimes link.

Babooshka said...

Fabulous catch to go with the interesting text.