What’s in the stars for New York City?

Apparently you can make an astrological chart for anything with a birth date and time, including cities. Why should they get left out of the fun? Someone over at’s New York site decided to ask professional astrologer Shelley Ackerman to consult the stars about what’s on the horizon for the Big Apple in 2013, and she delivers. Delivers a bunch of  vague nonsense and statistical probabilities, that is. I’ve picked apart her non-claims below the jump, but you can read the whole silly thing here.

On New York City’s overall character:

Shelley Ackerman, a professional astrologer for the past 21 years, consulted an astrological chart for the Big Apple based on the city’s birth time and date — midnight on Jan. 1, 1898, which was the moment the five boroughs were officially united under the umbrella of New York City.

“That moment had Jupiter in Libra rising, which gives a certain ongoing cultural stamp to the city and ongoing luck…That’s the big spiritual gift of New York, and that’s not ever going to change.”

Name a city that doesn’t have a “certain ongoing cultural stamp,” whatever that means. Also, “ongoing luck?” If NYC is so lucky, explain 9/11. It’s easy to say that something non-specific will never change—if you can’t pin down what it is, how would you ever know if it changed? Nothing testable here, and definitely nothing worth taking seriously.

NYC's star chart
Ackerman’s astrological chart for the city of New York. Yep.

On who will replace Mayor Bloomberg:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is one prospective candidate for the Democratic ticket, and Ackerman said Quinn’s birth during the cultural revolution of the 1960s — July 25, 1966, to be exact — gives her an edge over the competition.

“We’re in a similar energy as we were in the mid-’60s,” she said. “It’s a revolutionary kind of energy. She’s very emblematic of the time.”

Jupiter will also move into the sign of Cancer around June, which typically bodes well for women, Ackerman added.

As of writing this blog post, Quinn has not yet declared candidacy, though she has a significant lead over other potential and declared candidates in polls conducted last year—polls Ms. Ackerman also has access to. Hmm.

On the other hand, former MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who is mulling a run for mayor on the Republican ticket, is experiencing the second return of Saturn in his astrological chart, which Ackerman described as a time when karma kicks in.

“If we’ve earned it, we get it,” Ackerman explained. “It can be a very trying time, but it could also be a time when you reap what you’ve sown, good, bad and indifferent.”

So, whatever he gets, he’ll deserve. Got it.

“With Lhota, he is more of a throwback, so the question will become on election day, are New Yorkers up for a throwback or are we up for something new?” Ackerman said. “In general, the trend is we’re going for something new.”

Well, Bloomberg can’t be elected for another term, so whomever is elected is guaranteed to be new. Note that throughout this section Ackerman never actually make a claim about who would win, though she strongly suggests Quinn.

On changes in food and culture:

Ackerman said the second half of 2013 will be an excellent time for city’s culinary scene, and New Yorkers can expect a slew of new restaurant openings in the last six months of 2013 and moving into 2014.

That will help support the city’s economy, which Ackerman expects to do better in the later months of the year as well.

And some time in April, Ackerman said the city can also expect to move in a new direction culturally. An innovator or two should appear around that time and make a big difference in the city’s cultural conversation.

Finally, some testable claims: First, NYC should have significantly more restaurant openings in July through December of 2013 (and continuing into 2014…isn’t that cheating?) than in January through June. Second, the city’s economy should be doing better in toward the end of the year. Some things to consider, though, before giving Ackerman any credit if her predictions turn out to be correct: whether more restaurants generally tend to open in the second half of the year (and January) and the fact that the economy generally does better toward the end of the year due to holiday shopping. Plus, it’s possible that a bunch of restaurants slated to open this year have posted opening dates.

As for a new cultural direction and innovators showing up in April: First of all, what does that even mean? We could keep an eye on that month, but confirmation bias would lead us to see anything culturally interesting happening during that time as support for this prediction…while ignoring similar happenings in other months. So, the only way to test this would be to a) find a way to define cultural direction change, then b) check for indicators every month and see if April has more or stronger ones than any other month.

These coasters are a lot prettier than that goofy chart above. Plus, I predict that they will keep your table free of condensation!
These Surly-Ramics coasters are a lot prettier than that goofy chart above. Plus, I predict that they will keep your table free of condensation!

On the Yankees’ opening game:

Although Ackerman declined to predict the success of the overall season, she said the Yankees’ season opener on April 1 at 1:05 p.m. against the Boston Red Sox looks like it will be “something joyful to celebrate.”

“The chart for the opening day is exhilarating,” she said.

Testable: will the Yankees beat the Red Sox in the season opener?  But, would a sports analyst, someone familiar with players and statistics, make the same prediction? Also, you can make a star chart for a baseball game. Anything with a birth date and time!

On the city’s infrastructure:

…The city should also use 2013 to shore up its infrastructure, which had its various weaknesses fully exposed during Hurricane Sandy, Ackerman said.

Pluto figures prominently in New York’s chart for 2013, and that planet signifies all things underground, meaning the subways, electrical systems and structural foundations, Ackerman explained.

Its presence indicates that New York should be focusing on solidifying its roots before another disaster strikes, she added.

I don’t think you need to be a professional astrologer to suggest that shoring up infrastructure in the wake of a natural disaster is a good idea. It would be more useful to predict the next disaster—and with specific date, location, and magnitude, please, not just that there will be one; otherwise, you’ve just got time on your side. Also, Pluto? Not a planet.

In short, Shelley Ackerman gives us a few testable claims, but nothing that doesn’t already have statistics—or logic—on its side. The rest is vague nonsense open to interpretation. Are changes in store for New York City this year? Probably–aren’t there always?

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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  1. Anne, I read your article while I was at work in Manhattan. I predicted that I would take 3 subways back to Brooklyn, stop at the supermarket and then arrive home at around 7 pm EST.
    Currently I am standing in the middle of a swamp in Louisiana.
    Predictions made in/about NY NEVER COME TRUE.

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