In the classic Simpsons episode “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” town villain Monty Burns forced Springfielders to purchase more electricity from his power plant by blocking out the sun with a large, mechanized disk. Nothing like that would ever happen in real life, of course, but something kind of like it is already unfolding on the southern border of Central Park, where a slew of new luxury skyscrapers catering to the world’s wealthiest billionaires are destined to cast long shadows across the park at certain times of the year:
At New York’s latitude, explained Michael Kwartler, the president of the Environmental Simulation Center, a New York City nonprofit that creates shadow assessments, buildings cast substantial northerly shadows throughout the day in colder months. At noon on the winter solstice, for example, those shadows reach twice a building’s height and fall due north before stretching to 4.2 times its height in a northeasterly direction, 90 minutes before sunset.
That means the shadows of the larger of these planned buildings would jut half a mile into the park at midday on the solstice and elongate to around a mile in length as they angled across the park toward the Upper East Side, darkening playgrounds and ball fields, as well as paths and green space like Sheep Meadow that are enjoyed by 38 million visitors each year.
There is one major difference between Burns’s sun-blocking disc and these sun-blocking luxury towers: What Burns did was illegal.