Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park hosted a celebration for the biannual phenomenon of Manhattanhenge on July 12. The term “Manhattanhenge” was coined by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and America’s most popular astrophysicist. It describes the twice-a-year event during which the sun sets in perfect alignment with the Manhattan street grid. FDR Four Freedoms Park provided a unique and breathtaking vantage point from which hundreds of attendees viewed this enchanting sight.
This summer’s Manhattanhenge celebration at the Park was especially noteworthy, not only for the phenomenon’s beauty itself, but also for the meaningful programming scheduled throughout the evening. The occasion commenced with remarks by FDR Four Freedoms Park’s CEO Howard Axel, who spoke about the Park’s mission to honor and defend the legacies of President Roosevelt and the four freedoms. Mr. Axel also noted that the event helped to kick off the Center for Architecture’s Archtober, an annual month-long celebration of New York City’s built environment. Comments were then delivered by Thomas Krizmanic, Board President of the Center for Architecture, who spoke about Archtober and its connection to Manhattanhenge and the Park.
The evening’s keynote address was given by Caroline Weinberg, co-organizer of the March for Science. Ms. Weinberg discussed the importance of scientific inquiry and innovation, and its relationship to Freedom of Speech & Expression. She connected these issues by linking the debilitating consequences of censorship to the importance of science in the health and economic well-being of the American people. Her moving and impassioned speech helped to illuminate the fact that even a simple sunset can offer a reminder of the legacies of President Roosevelt and the four freedoms, and the imperativeness of preserving and defending those legacies into the 21st century.
Accompanying the night’s exceptional speakers were the delightful sounds of the critically acclaimed Mitch Frohman Latin-Jazz Quartet, which played two 45-minute sets. The area around the bottom of the Park’s grand staircase became an impromptu dancefloor, and visitors of all ages grooved to the incomparable tunes of Mr. Frohman and his band.
Just yards away in the Park’s garden, the Dream Wall NYC was temporarily installed. The Dream Wall is a traveling installation made up of individual constellations that represent the dreams of everyday New Yorkers. Visitors created their own constellations by answering the question, “What makes a better community?” Their constellations were added to the wall, which preempted the Dream Wall’s travelling summer exhibition across New York’s five boroughs.
Miraculously, forecasted rain held off just long enough for visitors to enjoy the event’s namesake. At 8:27 exactly, as dark clouds hovering above the city cleared, the bright orange sun began its westward descent over Manhattan, disappearing into New Jersey and the American hinterland. Revelers were taken aback by the spectacle’s sheer magnificence, as ribbons of bright luminescence needled through towering skyscrapers across the East River. Darkness soon swept over New York, and storm clouds suddenly reappeared, offering a refreshing drizzle for visitors leaving the Park. The serendipitous weather bookended a near perfect evening, during which visitors to FDR Four Freedoms Park took in gorgeous sights and sounds and, more importantly, recognized the importance and indelible impact of President Roosevelt and the four freedoms.