There are countless photographs of the New York City skyline, and multiple ways to recreate those images. One evening this summer, I went searching for the right location to watch the sun go down over Manhattan. I found the perfect spot at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, Queens. From the park there is a beautiful view of midtown Manhattan across the East River. Here is a photograph that I took of the skyline after the sun had set and the skyscraper windows were twinkling.
We looked up the time for the sunset so that we wouldn’t miss it. The skyline was beautiful even before the sun disappeared, and the longer we waited after the official sunset time, the better the view became. I recommend going on a partly cloudy day. As the sun goes behind the buildings in the distance, the light reflects off the clouds. The view changes minute by minute, making for a spectacular experience. (We’ve now gone several times. Each time the sunset was beautiful and different than the time before. But there was a lot less color to the sky the night the sky was clear.)
One of our visits to Gantry Plaza State Park was at the time of the bi-annual “Manhattanhenge” sunset, also known as the Manhattan Solstice. The Long Island City riverfront is an ideal location for viewing this unique sunset, where the sun lines up with the cross streets of Manhattan as it sets. I captured this picture on that occasion:
Depending on where you are at along the riverfront, you can see a number of Manhattan landmarks. As you look to your right towards the northern part of the East River, the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is in the distance. (It’s not the most picturesque bridge in the city, but still an interesting landmark.) In the middle of the river towards the bridge there is Roosevelt Island, with Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at its tip. (I think I might have to explore this area sometime soon!) Directly across the river in Manhattan is the United Nations. And nestled among the taller buildings spanning the horizon are two iconic skyscrapers: the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
If you have a little extra time to explore, the park has additional features that make it a unique destination. In the previous photo you may have seen a sign glowing red towards the right—that is the vintage Pepsi Cola sign located on the edge of the park in Long Island City. The sign used to be situated on the roof of a Pepsi bottling company along the riverfront. When the old building was torn down to make way for luxury apartments, the sign was relocated to a prime spot in the park. Here’s a close-up view of the sign, which stretches 8 stories above the grass. (And here’s a link to a New York Times article about the sign.)
There are also the gantry cranes located next to the piers. Originally used to load and unload materials from boats along the waterfront, today they are another symbol of Long Island City. Here is a view looking back at one of the gantry cranes from the end of the pier, with luxury apartment buildings in the background.
I took this second photograph of the cranes on another, cloudy evening. This photo shows some of the cranes’ architectural details. As a bonus, Manhattan is across the river in the background.
If you keep your eyes open, you may even find some other unique photo ops. Here, I caught a view of Manhattan once again, this time framed by one of the gantry cranes and some rosebushes.
And a short time later, I spied this tiny piece of railroad track. Most likely it was originally part of a railroad line that transported items between boats and nearby factories. But now it makes for a special photograph, literally the “Tracks to Nowhere.”
What can you do once the sun has totally set? There are numerous restaurants in Long Island City, including several along Vernon Boulevard near the station for the 7 train. On one of our visits to the riverfront, we stopped at the Rockaway Brewing Company to try some local microbrews. I tried their “Black Gold,” a Nitro Stout. It was smooth and rich and creamy. The evening that we visited, the Brewery was hosting a pop-up food venture upstairs above the tap room. It was the perfect place to relax for a while with a beer and a snack after watching the spectacular sunset. Rockaway has an events calendar on their website previewing some of their delicious upcoming events, so check it out! We will definitely visit again.
Getting here by subway? I try to use public transportation whenever possible, and Gantry Plaza State Park is easily accessible by subway. You can take the E or the M to the Court Square-23rd Street Station, the G to the 21st Street-Van Alst Station, or the 7 train to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Avenue.