Eric Sanderson pictures New York — before the City
400 years after Hudson found New York harbor, Eric Sanderson shares how he made a 3D map of Mannahatta’s fascinating pre-city ecology of hills, rivers, wildlife — accurate down to the block — when Times Square was a wetland and you couldn’t get delivery.
Armed with an 18th-century map, a GPS and reams of data, Eric Sanderson has re-plotted the Manhattan of 1609, just in time for New York’s quadricentennial.
Before becoming the center of the Western cultural universe, Manhattan was Mannahatta, “Island of many hills,” in the language of 17th-century Native Americans. Using computer modeling, painstaking research and a lot of legwork, Wildlife Conservation Society ecologist Eric Sanderson has re-envisioned, block by block, the ecology of Manhattan as it was when Henry Hudson first sailed into the forested harbor in 1609.
The Mannahatta Project presents the eye-popping fruits of Sanderson’s research, from the now-flattened hills of the financial district to the river otters of Harlem. The project’s astonishing visualizations are realized by computer-graphics wizard Markley Boyer, and encompasses a book, a website and a 3-D map — a sort of Google Earth of ancient New York. Plaques around town will commemorate a lost creek or habitat. Far more than a mournful look back at what has been irrevocably paved over, the Mannahatta Project is designed to inspire ecological sustainability for New York and for other cities.